Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Virtue in Vocation

 If we are serious about wanting to love God, we must be humble enough to find in which state of life, in which role we can both find our emotional and physical needs met while being at the same time able to grow in holiness.

A life where we can give and take,even amidst grave hardship that comes with all vocations, is a tell-tale sign that one has found their vocation.For many, this (not so ordinary) ordinary way is marriage.And in a culture where many a modern man sees no apparent good in this notion,  women remain the guardians of this institution, even if it is increasingly seen only in her raw, unmitgated,and instinctual behavior.
   The need for intimate, covenantal relationships is a real one that is not so easily minimized.Being that it is men who generally exemplify the virtues and trappings of an independent driven nature,often finding meaning in their work as the means of finding satisfaction, they do not *apparently* suffer to the same degree women do in independent situations.
The saying goes that "real woman can do it alone, but a good man won't let her,"and women who find themselves restless would do well to question deeply her relationship with God first.Too often there are causes at work which seek to make us slaves to what is missing in our lives and simply "a man" will not alleviate that anxiety.
In all the soul searching, a healthy woman will find herself at peace with what life brings her and knows she can be joyful because of her faith in the "heaven yet to come."
But you still,even in the year 2014, find more women lamenting their unattached-ness then men.
We see how primal this is desire to nurture is when we read about Adam and how God ordained woman to be his helpmate..because he needed he could attend to the perfection of his work while woman tended to the perfection of him.In that,she finds her fulfillment.She finds her vocation.

While no generality will do justice to the plethora of charisms and inclinations we find within womanhood, even a short look at the history of human behavior reveals that for the everyday woman, her devotion to God is ordinarily most naturally shown when enkindled by a devotion for her husband.As part of her helping him, the everyday woman utilizes her intellectual, emotional as well as physical gifts.She will bring her business mind,her writer's flare, her hospitality, her management skills and  diplomacy.She will use her gifts to glorify God and her man and the human consolation of his affirmation compels her to give her best. But with all her irreplaceable gifts, she also represents the woman,Mary, the mold wherein woman was always oriented to man... who was first oriented to God.

We have all been taught that we are to desire "God alone." 

We aspire to the lofty spiritual ideal of freedom from earthly attachments (even if necessary, those including persons) so that we are *certain* that we are not replacing God with an idol.
Yet that desire for friendship, for companionship,for relationship of the human kind does not go away even for the most sincere and pious of us all.


There must be some reason for this, and I am not so willing to chalk it up to fallen human nature.

The notion of that marriage in our culture as the "attainment of romance" has thrown off the seriousness that this very serious covenant requires. It has made it an idol indeed and indirectly given the notion that, since romance is silly and superfluous, then marriage is also.Therefore, marriage can be done without.It is written off as being for old-fashioned nostalgics who were formed with some archaic remnant of traditional marriage as being the cornerstone for family.

I propose, in approaching the subject of male and female spirituality, that women are much more affected by being in vocational no-man's land.
As women have this keen and nagging need to be assured we are not being used by men for our bodies, men and women both have a deep seated need for permanence and security.

Even the notion so often heard by romantics, "I just want to be loved for who I am" implies that no one wants to be used.It is that built in craving to know what it feels like to be loved for our own sake.
Men by nature may not be as admittedly sensitive to being used in sexual ways, but nonetheless have always quipped that "she is using me for my money..status..popularity..etc."

As the seasons of marital life change and romantic love waxes and wanes and a persisting in efforts at Charity covers all, what is always true is that we know the other senses their commitment to not only you, but to God.And to fail in that covenant has more ramifications than just failing the spouses, but failing God is no little thing.That ideal Christian marriage is what complements human nature so well, what perfects the natural attractions we find in our mates and has the assurance of accountability to God that fulfills that need for security and permanence we all have.

And, when singles realize any future marriage partner must first be accountable to God, they too can relax in that...but they also must adopt the great responsibility of their own accountability to Him as well.Our relationship with Him is primal and foremost, but it is perfected in the outlet we "use" to love God with our whole selves.

These reasons and so many more are why I believe that,contrary to the often repeated consolation -spin that is given to singles,"God is all you need" and "God will supply every need"  or for the more theologically-read, "Maybe you have a vocation to the single life" not want *some* form of commitment to another tangible person is not virtuous or desirable-it is a dangerous illness.

These needs that go unfulfilled do not subside.They are sought out in other unhealthy and even sinful ways- none of which lead to contentment.Even marriage will not ultimately fulfill a soul if the marriage is not based on Christ, but I maintain that it is the intimate nuptial bond that is necessary for us to know what it is to give of our whole selves in the capacity we feel called to-a call that is most echoed through the halls of our weaknesses and best discerned by being self aware and honest about our own needs.For some, that call to nuptials leads the soul to religious life.(I cannot understand how that must feel!)

When the soul truly feels fulfilled and bears fruit for God in that life, they will know they have found their place and their vocation. 

But for those still restless, perhaps they do have a call to marriage but its is not the time yet.Or perhaps their unfulfillment is in fact due to their unrealistic expectations of a spouse.Within marriage unrealistic expectations about matrimony itself threaten and kill many a relationship because one or both expect that person to not be a helpmate on the journey, but begin to juxtapose their spouse into the role only God should fill.
But, although God is the object, charity is the verb and our spouse is the indirect object that benefits from that charity, this in no way trivializes the need for a spousal relationship.We understand how our relationship with God and others work in tandem, not "either/ or" but instead, as usual in catholic thought, "both/and."

When God promises that He will never forsake us, I believe that.But I don't believe that the truth of Gods promises are validated because of the goodness or badness of our circumstances in life.His promises refer to eternal life, and they refer to the promise of His grace to accompany us throughout the hardships in our earthly lives if we ask Him.
The Kingdom here and now does not refer to utopia of nation states or world peace (although that would be nice.) We never stop relentlessly striving for to alleviate human suffering.

But the presence of evil in the world does not contradict God's promises.Rather, it helps us to enter in to our own priesthoods, our channeling of the ordinary into the extraordinary.Our ability to come at the world with love, to plant love wherever we find ourselves in every act and every moment.Our sacrifices that take evil and pivot its effects so that by taking in sin we encounter and using our power to give it back to God,to act with virtue, to place good where there is nothingness-this is where the garden shall flourish.

And this is why we have a deep need for relationships, because we were created as sacramental people.

We crave that what we believe be manifest and made real in the things around us. We have a deep need to give ourselves and for those gifts to be *effective.* So we naturally want to place ourselves where we can have the most impact.Where can we have more of an influence than raising children? Where else can that effective intimacy be met as potently as in the consummation of the relationship that bears the witness to the Godhead Himself?
Just as Mary supported Jesus' work and ministry, that *was*her ministry was to be his helpmate.Women often feel lost without men because they were made to function in conjunction to Him to live out their salvation.This does not mean a woman unattached to a man cannot function in a spiritual capacity by utilizing her femininity in a spiritual way, I only intend to acknowledge the taboo notion that the ordinary way in which women complement men for the cause of creating a third (as in the trinity) is inborn, and not so easily tossed aside by wishful or consoling theology.

There is much talk about the "single vocation," but it is interesting to note that this phenomena did not have any following before the no-commitment,no-fault divorce era of the sexual revolution that left many with no desire for commitment and the rest who did desire it without spouses.
Is this an example of the church taking something in the culture that is undesireable and baptizing it?
Or is this a theology composed and marketed out of a perceived need for it because of the increased forgoing of marriage?

The desire for companionship is one so innate,so inherent, so integral that Christ raised it to a sacrament and thus for the binding of souls to exercise virtue for each other,being ultimately accountable to God.

Where there is no fear of God, there can be no reverence for one made in His image.

Today's absence of the virtues necessary for undertaking a sacramental marriage were taken for granted in previous generations.Virtue makes us capable of and leads us to relationships.Without basic,natural human virtues, our covenants made in hopes of living the sacrament are on shaky ground.Without basic,natural virtues, all of the super-natural virtues have no foundation.

In essence, we as a culture are far from properly disposed for the sacrament of marriage, and disposing ourselves well is-by the very definition of sacrament-a non-negotiable step if we want to absorb its graces.
Men and women are as different in their experiencing of spirituality as any other way I suppose.
A good man inspires devotion in his wife to goodness.He cherishes her but does not spoil.And she is lifted up.
(Women religious choose to serve their calling in devoting themselves under a different authority or headship. )
A godly woman aims to live out her salvation as a loving servant to her spouse.
When woman has found a reason,in a man (or in consecrated life,) that makes her want to throw herself down with fervency at the service of God, he is not the way of God anymore than an icon of the Theotokos is in the way of our devotion to Mary.
A godly man  is a sacramental in himself, and the marital embrace in which they gather in God's name is a sacrament.
With this in mind, we strive to always be vigilant so as to not make idols out of our spouses, but at the same time we cannot become iconoclasts.God uses "flesh" to reach us.To communicate to our own species as human beings..This is as much true in the Eucharist as is the marital embrace.

True marital love can exceedingly excel in charity because it is for most people the surest real, natural, objective and observed reality joined to the supernatural promise of grace that ever was.
With the power of nature behind it and faithfulness of both partners to the good, true and beautiful-a commitment to someone even above the other, God's image can have no greater potency.