When I was 25 years old I read a book called “The ABCs of Finding a Good Husband“. At one point in the book the author, Stephen Wood, recommended looking around at the good male friends that were currently in your life and seeing if they could be a potential mate. I stopped reading immediately and threw the book across the room. It was the most unromantic thing I had ever heard of. How in the world were you supposed to fall in love and want to marry a friend? No way. It’s supposed to be like the dramatic meeting of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Or the quirky meeting in Return to Me when Minnie Driver is David Duchoveny’s waitress on his horrible date and she gives him a free meal as he flees the scene. Or the heart-wrenching event of Peeta and Katriss standing on the podium together on Reaping Day.
At the time I read this book, I was a youth minister and was surrounded by some great Catholic young adults and priests (aka awesome Christian witnesses) who were really helping me grow in my faith. (Looking back I realize how blessed I was and thank God for providing me with this. This is a huge key in becoming who God made you to be.) There was one young man in particular who stood out and was my “standard”. Once I met him I knew that there REALLY were good holy men and that I did not need to settle for anything less. I remember saying often,“Why can’t I find anyone like Ben?” (But obviously not Ben because I wasn’t madly in love with him at our first meeting…so obviously he could not be the man I was supposed to marry.)
Over the next year I really prayed about all of this and gave it to Jesus. I also had the awesome opportunity to attend a vocation camp for girls (as I was a youth minister) and later a vocation retreat for women. These provided me an opportunity to meet many different religious sisters and talk with them at length. One of the orders that I met was the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, MI. I was instantly drawn to them. They are all professionals: doctors, professors, etc. and all receive their Masters of Theology at some point. They are stationed in Rome, Germany, DC, etc. I remember talking to them and thinking “Sign me up! They are soooo cool!” Ironically a girl in my youth group was interested in their order, and so I ended up taking her to visit them first in Jackson, MN and then Alma, MN. They were so amazing: holy, down to earth, funny, smart, balanced. But there was one problem: I wasn’t feeling called to join their order. In fact in Jackson, I was praying intensely in front of the Eucharist and just felt the Lord telling me to stay where I was and continue being a youth minister (Are you kidding me Jesus? That is so not exciting!) But I did. I stayed.
A short time later, Ben’s name came to me in Adoration. Little did I know my name came to him also in Adoration. For two hopeless romantics, it was weird to have to consider someone and not “fall in love”. Ben and I both talk about it now and we were the type of people who would become totally infatuated with someone and plan our whole life out with that person before we had even gone on a first date. (I’m sure no one reading this can relate.)
Long story short: we dated for about a year and there was such a sense of peace for both of us. No lightening bolts, no dramatic turn of events – just a real and profound peace that affirmed God was calling us to marry each other. And so we got married!
So if you are discerning your vocation I would tell you two thing:
Five years later and this is third thing I can tell you about vocatons:
BEING MARRIED IS HARD! (Yes! Even thought I am married to the world’s best man – it is still hard!)
So remember how I said that I loved the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, MI? Well one of my sisters is now in that order and just received her new name Sr. Mary Grace. (Funny how God works). As she entered a few years ago it was interesting for me to see that all the “hard” parts of her vocation were upfront. For example: 1) You have to get rid of your material possessions. 2) You have to give up your vanity and cut your hair and not wear make-up. 3) You have to be obedient to community life and follow the schedule and rules put forth by your Mother General (I’m not sure that’s the right term). In short: you are going to have to give up an awful lot and learn to be selfless, humble and obedient.
I think it would be helpful if our culture was this upfront with the sacrifices in marriage. We mask the sacrifices of marriage with “happily ever after.” Yes there are definitely many joys in marriage, but there are many hardships and trials. You find yourself thinking – if I’m happy and things are going smoothly, then I must be doing what I’m supposed to be doing. But if things aren’t going smoothly and things are hard, you think – something must be wrong. I think this is when people start to think about getting a divorce or leaving. You feel that something is not right in your vocation because it’s just too hard.
Once again, I recently took on a weekly Adoration hour. (I’ve tried hard to do this over the past 5 years but with small children I could never stick with it. Then God opened up an hour at 8pm less than two miles from my house.) Over these last few months you know what Christ has reminded me of? And this is the fourth thing I want to tell you: THE THINGS IN THIS LIFE THAT ARE WORTH DOING, THAT MEAN SOMETHING, THAT CHANGE THE WORLD – ARE HARD TO DO. I guess I had forgotten that. Somehow I had totally been missing the fact that Jesus was hanging there on the crucifix every time I walked in the church. That his “vocation” was REALLY hard but I think he would say it was worth it… you know saving humanity! He has really given me the grace to start seeing marriage and family life in a new light. It has been humbling to me realizing how far I have to go in figuring this Christian life out and living out my vocation.
I knew this wouldn’t be short…. Believe me I have cut out a lot of what I wanted to say (editing my words is not my strongest quality). The last thing I want to tell you is this: if you want to understand what is required in the vocation of marriage and family read Bl. Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Families”. I want to quote it here, but I can’t choose a quote – it’s all SO good! It has had an enormous impact on me these last few months as I strive to live out my vocation.
Holy Family, pray for us!
Tisha converted to Catholicism her senior year at Notre Dame. She is a former youth minister and one time sky diver. She is a sister to six lovely women, a wife to one great man, and a mom to three cute kiddos. She resides in the beautiful countryside of SE Minnesota.