When Calls The Vocation

I’m not a big fan of cheesy TV shows, unless I want something to make fun of or watch mindlessly. I’ve rarely watched “The Waltons” and “Little House On The Prairie” has never been my cup of tea but if it’s from Jenette Oke than I’m all over it, at least until the 5th season finale of “When Calls The Heart.”

The main character Mountie Jack Thornton, played by actor Daniel Lissing, was killed in a mudslide leaving his young widow, and longtime love interest, Elizabeth.

The death of “Mountie Jack” came at the end of a season packed with major life events, so it wasn’t in an effort to “liven up” the series. Daniel Lissing chose to not renew his contract with the series, from what I understand.

While I was upset that a character I loved would no longer be part of the show, I can understand an actor’s desire to move on to other things. It happens. It’s one of the best parts of being an actor for many who choose the profession.

What I have trouble making peace with was the choice to kill off the character of Jack Thornton.

From what I understand the production team felt they had a few options:
1) Recast the character with a different actor.
2) Have Jack go to Elizabeth and tell her that his call to duty was so strong that he thought it best to break off their engagement.
3) Have Jack die.
4) End the show.

I agree that recasting would have been a bad choice and if I’m being honest I’m torn over the other options, even though the decision has already been made, because of the reasons given for choosing one over the other.

Their reason for having Jack die was because Elizabeth and Jack loved each other so much that they only way he could ever leave her was through death.

This does not sit well with me, not because it doesn’t happen and not because I wish they would have found another solution.

Because it doesn’t sound like they gave enough thought into what saying “yes” to a vocation over love. Saying “yes” to something bigger than yourself when society says, “you have a great love, you can’t mess that up.”

I would have preferred that the show ended after five seasons, in all honesty.

I may sound like I’m speaking from my “Catholic high horse” on this one but people do break off engagements to enter a religious order, enter the seminary, embark on a career, or anything else that they feel is more than a job (usually meaning that romantic relationships have to end).

What upsets me most about how production decided to handle this particular situation, the show is called “When Calls The Heart,” but it didn’t give enough credit, in my opinion, to a heart’s call to a vocation. The heart can receive more than one type of “call”, and sometimes more than one call at the same time, every situation is different.

I get that everyone tends to fall on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum in terms of storylines, wanting them to end “happily ever after” or “in complete destruction & unhappiness” but more stories should be portrayed in the media, like someone choosing a vocation of service over their own feelings for one person.

Someone once said that once you know someone who became a priest it becomes easier for more people you know to be or become a priest. I think that’s true no matter what the “job” or in this case vocation. Once you know it’s possible for one person you realize it could be a possibility for you too.

Why couldn’t Jack go to Elizabeth and tell her that his call to serve as a Mountie was so strong that he felt it best to break off their engagement? It could have been possible, because it is a reality that should be imitated more often in art.

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The Matter Of Discernment

The matter of discernment puzzles me.

I was 20 before I even heard the word discernment, and then I heard quite regularly at that. It didn’t take long before “discernment” sound like the magic word for some secret society. It annoyed me to no end for a long time.

I’m not much closer to discovering what discernment really means ten years later. Although I have been told on numerous occasions that it’s not a “get out of jail free card,” so I should really stop treating it like one.

Yeah, I’ll get right on that.

It’s one of those necessary evils of life, especially if you’re Catholic, if you ask me.

There seems to be an implication that one cannot possibly find their vocation without some sort of discernment.

While this is more or less true I don’t think it can be expressed in such a cut and dry fashion if people are really going to understand discernment.

I understand that there’s no definite “right” or “wrong” way to discern.

However I’m not sure I’ve ever done it “right,” or at least the best way for me.

I have, however, done what everyone else has done.

I’ve gotten up for the sunrise masses and before class rosaries (mostly).

Gone to prayer groups and Bible studies.

Rarely ever, and I mean ever, missed fellowship or adoration.

Made every retreat possible, even a yearlong SEEL retreat that included spiritual direction.

I even joined a discernment group (albeit for other reasons, at least initially).

And they’ve had great success, although a different definition of success than the secular.

I have the dubious distinction of being a religious sister’s prayer partner for a few months during our junior year (during her final pre-nun years). Just to give you an example. I like to tell people that I helped facilitate her discernment process, because that’s how things happened in my head.

It took me a while to really get that discernment has no timetable. Although it eats on my nerves when people say they’re discerning something and you know for a fact that they’ve been doing it for years. Talk about using discernment as a “get out of jail free” card.

Let’s not even talk about the people who are so certain of their plan because they’ve discerned it within an inch of their lives and then after a day (or what feels like a day) they do a complete change of direction.

Because the mysteries of discernment go both ways, and every which way.

Discernment’s never been my thing, at least not in the same way swimming or encountering unpleasant people seem to be my things.

It would be awesome if God would just speak very loudly and very clearly after a period of prayer and self-reflection.

Unfortunately, discernment doesn’t work like that either, at least not for most people.

Discernment is important. It’s also becoming a lost art in some aspects. Just don’t ask me for advice on it, because I have no idea what I’m doing.

*A similar version of this post was written on August 6, 2014

Get A Job!

At the beginning of my last year of formal education I faced a similar predicament as most of my peers. I had determined pretty quickly that graduate school was not for me; the only post-graduation conclusion I came to faster was religious life was most certainly not for me. I had one choice left.

I needed a job.

A task I failed in such spectacular fashion that it’s only by the Grace of God that I can tell you that there’s hope (and a happy ending) for everybody.

I made the decision to put off applying for jobs until my final semester, something I don’t recommend as a general rule. I knew I was heading into a world of low paying jobs regardless, so why not live in ignorance for a little longer?

I had every intention of going into the entertainment industry, or arts ministry. Neither of which are areas in which your average college career services office can help you with. I think I set foot in career services twice.

Most arts related departments know that they have to fill in the gap. That’s why they have this thing called “lab” or “practicum.” a time when most of the department gets together and discusses work, what you’ve done, what you’re doing, how to do what you want to do. You also spend a lot of time doing seemingly self-centered things, like discussing head-shots and monologue choices (these things do have an actual purpose).

Fall semester of my senior year I had a full load of drama classes. I was also helping put together my classes answer to the Oscars. I was up to my ears in drama, with a capital D. It’s a drama major’s dream, until you’re actually living it.

Living your life at an eleven isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. (Spinal Tap, anyone?)

I decided to put off any auditions or arts related jobs for a while, so I focused on long term service applications, until I printed out a couple. I was finishing my passion project and putting together a production. This “job thing” could wait until after graduation.

Right?

Yes and no.

I think you should know your limits. If you can’t devote adequate time to something you need to let something go. I like having a full plate but I’m not a fan of getting a bigger plate when the one I have is full.

However, my putting things off until I had more time turned into an unintentional gap year; there’s nothing wrong with a gap year, but when you do nothing productive with it you’ve gone from having a full plate to being stuck in a big hole.

I should have taken the advice given to me. I should’ve taken the help that was offered as well. I should’ve taken advantage of the resources around me while I had them.

I should’ve (at the very least) made a resume!

That disability support services office I had a love/hate relationship with? I shouldn’t have had such an “I can do it myself” attitude (emphasis on attitude) when they inquired about my plans for the future.

I went into the job search process assuming everything would all work out, and eventually it did. But people should learn from my missteps.

I should probably also tell you that I’m not that great at interviewing (I’m even worse with auditions) so I could’ve used the extra practice. Yes, I’m saying I should’ve applied for job I didn’t want/didn’t think I’d get just for the interview experience.

Getting a job (& keeping a job) with a disability should be no different than the non-disabled population. Now that I’ve said that, that doesn’t mean that the process is the same.

There are “extras” to consider during the search & application process:
Can I get there?

-If you don’t drive don’t assume that there are transportation options, even if there are they may not be reliable.
Can I perform the duties asked of me with no (or minimal) accommodations? This Includes “other duties as assigned.”

-The ADA outlines reasonable accommodations but I’m leaning “reasonable is up to interpretation. Therefore, look for jobs that keep accommodations to a minimum, as close to none as possible.

Is the workplace accessible for me?

-My current workplace is not accessible for most people with disabilities. When I used a wheelchair full time post-op I had to rely on my coworkers for a lot. We had to set up a mini office downstairs for me to get any work done some days. There are still days when things aren’t accessible for me, but I make do.

Can I handle the workload?

-If you’re prone to fatigue this is something you have to consider. Can you still do your job after a bad night’s sleep? And all that goes along with it?

Is this a job you see yourself in for the long term or the short term?

-If this is a position you see yourself in for the short term don’t stop looking for the long term. That short term may end up being a long one.

Should I disclose my disability?

That’s up to you. There are situations where you should or shouldn’t (as in don’t need to). Don’t lie. Most importantly whatever decision you make don’t let it be motivated by fear.

The ADA has done a lot for people with disabilities but there’s still a long way to go. You may feel like you have to work twice as hard to get half as far as a coworker. That may be true but you’ll be making it easier for the next person who comes in the door.

A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on March 5, 2013

 

Remembering Jack

From a school in Copper Valley, to a legacy of thousands.

As the story goes a group of Jesuits and some of their Sister friends went to Copper Valley to open a school for Native Alaskan children.

60 years later the legacy continues to make a world of difference.

One of the Jesuits from that Copper Valley School decided to walk to Bethlehem in the name of peace.

He and his fellow pilgrims arrived in Jesus’ birthplace on Christmas Eve, or so the legend goes.

(Did you think I meant the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania? So do most people when they hear this story)

That same Jesuit joined me in a buffet line one spring in Seattle and invited me (and my community) to a meal at the local Jesuit residence.

Just like people do every day, except this was only the 2nd time I’ve crossed paths with this Jesuit. Typically, this kind of gesture, although nice, would seem odd to me.

Except for the fact that this Jesuit seemed to possess a level of generosity and kindness of spirit that I hadn’t encountered before, and haven’t since. I knew he meant it.

This kind Jesuit with a boundless spirit and unforgettable sense of humor has touched many, a goal many reach for but very few achieve.

People thought he was nuts. I’m sure there were times he though his own ideas were nuts too. But he went for them anyway.

I laugh to myself whenever I wonder if I’m about to embark on something people think is nuts. Jack would probably be one of those people too, the only difference is, He’d tell you you’re nuts with a smile on his face, then tell you to go for it.

What the Lord can do with a restless spirit is truly amazing, and only something the Lord can do.

I have been truly blessed by his example.

fr-jack-greeting-card

Father Jack Morris S.J.
1927-2012

“Our human task, if you like, is to not flee from the ill-being but to transform it.”
–Jack Morris, June 2012

*A similar version of this post was written on September 28, 2016

Why I: Joined A Discernment Group

Ten years ago I was looking to make a fresh start after a near crash and burn of my academic career & a list of personal issues. (Side note: The fact that I started college more than a decade ago makes me feel kind of old.)

Here’s what’s awesome about going to a university with an active campus ministry:

There’s always something going on.

It’s almost kind of ridiculous how much stuff you can be involved in (or not).

At the time I wasn’t a practicing Catholic, in fact I was still in the recovery from Atheism phase of things, because that kind of journey practically requires a recovery period. I called myself a Christian but I wasn’t ready to “drink the Catholic k00l aid” just yet.

I steered clear of any organized group outside of the theatre department my freshman year and I was reconsidering that plan for sophomore year. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, so I didn’t want to do the same thing.

There are always plenty of things to do in a theatre/drama department as well. There are always “other duties as assigned” (to put it one way) or a friend is working on some sort of project at all hours so if you want to see them it’s best to go to them (and then you end up helping on the same project, somehow). But I didn’t want to be a “drama kid,” at least not exclusively.

At some point during orientation, sometime after neighborhood orientation, I huddled into the campus ministry office with other new students to hear their “sales pitch”. This was some place I wanted to be involved. I knew that from visiting a friend earlier in the year. The how was the part that needed to be determined.

I’m not a try everything once type of girl but that’s pretty much what ended up happening. The first few weeks the only thing I had second thoughts on was solemn adoration; anything labeled solemn or somber means I’ll laugh uncontrollably. I needed to be better versed at adoration before the sound was turned off.

The first group I showed up for (I think) was women’s group. I loved that group. In fact many of the ladies I met thanks to that group I’m still friends with today (maybe I’ll tell you about that someday).

The next night discernment group would be meeting. I had no idea what “discernment” was but I figured it would be similar to women’s group so I showed up.

I probably should’ve looked up what discernment was before I decided to go to the group. But if I did I probably wouldn’t have gone.

Instead of sitting in the lounge area we met in the prayer room. And instead of one of the campus ministers facilitating there were two nuns, from The Little Sisters of the Poor (an order I knew nothing about, but have come to love dearly).

At some point during the hour I realized I was in a room full of ladies who were considering becoming nuns. I was in the wrong place, but I didn’t want to get up and leave (for fear of embarrassment only).

I may have countless sisters these days, but back then I had only known two, and the impression they left wasn’t one of full warm & fuzzy memories.

I left that night thinking I probably wouldn’t go back (because I wasn’t even in the same hemisphere of that life path) but when Thursday rolled around again I did. I’m still not sure why. The funny thing is I kept going. I think I only missed a few meetings during the year, when being a drama kid had to take a front seat.

I even went the night when we’d be saying the Rosary most of the time. When I grasped even less of it than I do now & I had to borrow a Rosary from the spares that someone always seemed to have on hand.

For me it wasn’t about discernment, at least not at first, it was about meeting people who just might be like minded. When that didn’t work out so well it was about having concrete examples of what I might aspire to. Not to mention meeting some religious sisters who were not only nice, but they went out of their way to invest in others.

I will never ever forget that Sister Mary David told me it was perfectly fine to fall asleep during adoration “because the Lord knows you need your rest.”

Never mind that I had agreed to sit up with the blessed sacrament only to fall asleep face down on a futon that was in our makeshift retreat chapel.

My original intent couldn’t have been any more off. However I think I got a lot more out of it than I realize (yes, even now). I made a mistake in judgment but it was one of the best mistakes I could’ve ever made (especially given my history with mistakes).

Even if I have come to have a love/hate relationship with the discernment process.

*A similar version of this post was written on September 4, 2013

Being 25 Years Old

25 years is a quarter of a century, which makes it seem like a long time.

In reality 25 years isn’t really that long of a time span.

I thought 25 would mean being an adult, until I was 25 and then I waited to feel like an adult. Now that I’m a few years past 25 I realize how far from being an adult 25 really is, for most people.

Within the context of organized religion 25 years is basically infantile.

Within the smaller context of religious orders 25 years is nearly unheard of.

I still remember when one of my closest friends told me she was entering a convent. I was still in shock when I started to tell people myself, which was probably spurred on by the shocked look I had on my face for God only knows how long.

People mainly wanted to know two things, how old she was and what order she was going to be a part of.

Naturally skepticism followed, because how many women in their early 20s join virtually unknown religious order?

sistersoflifeprofession

I, in a desperate attempt to be a good friend, felt the need to defend her choice, even while agreeing with everyone else.

Almost 10 years later I’ve gained more prospective on the situation.

I get “it” now, or at least as much as I can without joining the Sisters myself.

I especially have a greater appreciation for what it takes to create and more importantly sustain a ministry.

Happy 25th Birthday Sisters. May God continue to bless you all & those you serve for many more years to come.

vow-019

Let’s Get Spiritual

“Are you mad that God did this to you?”

 I don’t get asked this question a lot, but enough to make me consider addressing it. It’s a loaded question, so I’ll try to keep it as “light” as possible.

My simple answer is, no, I am not mad God did this to me.

However, in the interest of full disclosure there were a few years in my life that I did not believe in God’s existence & was very bitter about pretty much everything. But that’s a story for another day, if anyone is in fact interested in that period of my life.

I am not mad at God for doing this to me.

God may have intended me to have CP but He himself has nothing to do with the after effects from it, like how people react to it. I am not mad at God for other people’s shortcomings. It’s not His fault some disabilities are chosen, because if you’re curious I consider idiocy a disability.

I firmly believe that everyone is created for a reason, for a purpose, and the only way we can find out our reason for being is to be who we were created to be. So if I were to be mad at God for “doing this to me” then I’d really be doing a disservice to myself more than anything else.

To address the “did this to you,” portion of the question, I always want to ask just what do they think was “done to me”? Maybe if they could answer that I’d be able to answer indefinitely if I am in fact mad at God, but I’m pretty sure the answer would still be “No”.

If anything gets me mad its how people treat each other, especially those who use their religious background as a reason to do so.

Jesus isn’t here to let us know just what He’d in fact do, but I’m pretty sure going around being hurtful to others isn’t exactly what He’s have in mind. So let’s just keep the predictions to a minimum and treat people with some decency.

I’m not the most religious person on the planet but I do believe that God doesn’t make mistakes. Therefore, those with special needs & disabilities aren’t mistakes. Anyone who believes differently is mistaken in their thinking; let’s not blame God for faults in someone’s free will either.

I am not mad at God for doing this to me. In fact, some days I would say I’d go as far as to thank God for the life I’ve been given. As often as I’ve had ups and downs in my life, CP related or not, I can’t imagine my life turning out any other way. For that alone I cannot be mad.

I think a card a friend sent me says it best:

smc

*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on March 20, 2012

Proselytizing & Disability

This isn’t exactly a Catholic topic, but there’s three main reasons I wanted to write about it.

  • I like that the Catholic Church isn’t as into proselytizing as other denominations of Christianity.
  • I don’t think I’d be wrong in assuming most, if not everyone, with a disability has a proselytizing story, not unlike prayer related stories.
  • It’s a topic that needs to be discussed from anther, potential, point of view.

I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve been proselytized to. Now I typically listen for 15-20 seconds, if that, plaster on a small smile and nod every once and a while. Then the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher just comes out of their mouth.

The smile & the nod is just an attempt to avoid becoming Peppermint Patti, which doesn’t always work. Yes, I have almost fallen asleep while people are trying to have a meaningful conversation with me.

I hate to say it (well not really) but it’s one of the reasons why I don’t like striking up a casual conversation with anyone I don’t know in public. I know my wheelchair makes me an “easy target” for a lot of things so if I want to avoid being such an easy target I have to be “less friendly.”

I’ve been proselytized to at the public pool and the state fair, and those are just two of the more memorable ones.

Usually I say very little, if anything in return. How can I when I’m not really paying attention? But there are times when I do.

During a state fair an older women using a wheelchair passed me and when were close enough to each other she tried to take my hand (I don’t do that kind of thing so I keep my hands on my rims and pretend not to notice) and said, “You know, someday you and I won’t need these things……”

I responded with “I like my wheelchair, and who I am,” smiled, and went on with my day (hoping I won’t see her again).

Full disclosure moment: One of my biggest problems with Protestant denominations is the emphasis on proselytizing, particularly towards whoever they deem “weak and vulnerable” (which those with disabilities are usually included).

I’m not going to pretend that everyone has my same take on the subject so I’m going to give you my point of view.

One of the biggest issues I have when people proselytize to me is the constant need to compare. It’s a problem I have anyway but add the proselytizing aspect to it and my brain tries to crawl out of my skull until you’re done with your sales pitch.

Most recently, although it wasn’t the first time, nor will it probably be the last, I was compared to Joni Eareckson Tata. Now I’m not going to say I don’t have anything in common with her but I doubt I have as much as in common with her as people thing or that we share the commonalities that people think.

I’ve been told, multiple times by multiple people, that she would be an ultimate source of inspiration for me. That’s a pretty tall order from someone who doesn’t know me and a pretty big burden to put on someone else who isn’t even directly involved in the conversation, nothing against Joni personally.

Think about what you’re going to say before you say it, like prayer, the saints, and in a way miracles, how you say it is more important than that you say it. Individuals with disabilities have a hard time with certain topics for a variety of reasons, which includes but is not limited to, previous unpleasant encounters.

It’s OK to want to share your faith with others but please get to know someone before you start talking about such personal matters that can run so deep. But if you must say something keep it short and sweet and positive. Telling someone to “Have a good day” can mean much more than anything from the “Do you know Jesus?” category.

I Don’t Believe In Miracles

One of the things I always admired, and liked, about the Catholic Church, even when I walked away from it, was their necessity to validate miracles. The main reason being, I believe people overuse the word “miracle.”

I’ll give you an example; I’ve had to relearn to walk multiple times (3 or 4, I think). Each time was during a different phase of life with varying circumstances. The only constants were they were after surgery and it was declared a miracle by multiple people.

Here’s the thing, it only looks like a miracle.

There hasn’t been a single time, during any of those, when I’ve gotten out of bed and suddenly been able to walk without some sort of difficulty during any of those time periods.

That would be a miracle. That hasn’t happened to me.

A lot had to happen in 1 year, 1 month & 1 day (for example) for those first independent steps possible.

The hours of PT.

The hours spent doing an at home PT and hoping you’re doing it right.

The hours waiting for and/or attending doctors’ appointments.

The early mornings.

The sleepless nights.

The pain.

The countless days spent trying to appeal insurance denials.

The hours at the gym because you’ve maxed out your insurance.

The co-pays and out of pocket costs.

The time out of work.

The time away from friends and family.

The prayers.

The hope that tomorrow will be better than today.

Calling someone or something they’re able to do a miracle discounts the hard work they’ve put forth to make this so-called “miracle” happen.

I’m not saying that miracles don’t happen. There wouldn’t be a need for The Congregation for the Causes of Saints, for one thing, if there weren’t indeed miracles. But sometimes we’re quick to “cry miracle” without realizing that it took a lot more than you can imagine to make that miracle happen.

So next time you witness a miracle, take a minute and consider what might be behind that miracle before you make your declaration public.

Remembering Jack

From a school in Copper Valley, to a legacy of thousands.

As the story goes a group of Jesuits and some of their Sister friends went to Copper Valley to open a school for Native Alaskan children.

Almost 60 years later the legacy continues to make a world of difference.

One of the Jesuits from that Copper Valley School decided to walk to Bethlehem in the name of peace.

He and his fellow pilgrims arrived in Jesus’ birthplace on Christmas Eve, or so the legend goes.

(Did you think I meant the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania? So do most people when they hear this story)

That same Jesuit joined me in a buffet line one spring in Seattle and invited me (and my community) to a meal at the local Jesuit residence.

Just like people do every day, except this was only the 2nd time I’ve crossed paths with this Jesuit. Typically this kind of gesture, although nice, would seem odd to me.

Except for the fact that this Jesuit seemed to possess a level of generosity and kindness of spirit that I hadn’t encountered before, and haven’t since. I knew he meant it.

This kind Jesuit with a boundless spirit and unforgettable sense of humor has touched many, a goal many reach for but very few achieve.

People thought he was nuts. I’m sure there were times he though his own ideas were nuts too. But he went for them anyway.

I laugh to myself whenever I wonder if I’m about to embark on something people think is nuts. Jack would probably be one of those people too, the only difference is, He’d tell you you’re nuts with a smile on his face, then tell you to go for it.

What the Lord can do with a restless spirit is truly amazing, and only something the Lord can do.

I have been truly blessed by his example.

Father Jack Morris S.J.
1927-2012

“Our human task, if you like, is to not flee from the ill-being but to transform it.”
–Jack Morris, June 2012

*A similar version of this post was written on October 8, 2012 & October 22, 2014