when your vocation is a cross

August 3, 2017

“It’s a good thing you weren’t born Catholic,” my husband said. “You would have become a nun.”

We were in the car together, without kids, a rare occurrence. It was shortly after his first detox from alcohol relapse back in October (but not the one that would stick). We hadn’t been speaking very much over the past six months, and certainly not about anything deep. Being in the car reduced the awkwardness.

I thought about what he said. Finally, I replied, “You know, you’re right. I think I’d enjoy being a nun.”

This was maybe not the best thing to admit to one’s husband, that one would enjoy a lifetime of celibacy foregoing marriage and family. He certainly pretended to be offended. However, at the time the prospect was (and is) appealing. While he was in the trenches of alcoholism, I was in the trenches of single parenthood. I had watched him circle the drain, stuffing my emotions way, deep down. I was enduring a tumultuous relationship with my children, who are intense, and need from me much more than I can give.

Give me a life of solitude, of sisterhood, of work and prayer. That would be a much lighter cross to bear.

***

There is a reason I wasn’t born Catholic. I really, truly, might have ended up a nun – and then I would have missed out on all this suffering.

I know that sounds backwards. And honestly, I don’t like how it works. But I have seen consistently in my life that suffering brings me closer to God. It was true in college when I was making my way in the world and my grandparents all died within a year. It was true when I had my heart broken in a devastating way in my early 20’s. And it was true watching my husband lost to addiction.

If it weren’t for this recent suffering, I don’t know if I would have been led to the Catholic Church. But suddenly, my experience of God wasn’t enough anymore. The beautiful thing is, once I began investigating Catholicism, I found such a meaningful theology of suffering.

According to my cradle Catholic friend, “offer it up” is something she heard over and over growing up, to the point that it almost lost its meaning. But for this Protestant girl, the concept was novel and revolutionary: we can give our sufferings to God as an offering. When we suffer, we unite ourselves to Christ in his suffering for us and thereby become more like him.

***

I am writing this today because I’m not in a good place emotionally. I’m fighting a hormonal depression that has caused me to act in ways that I know are not truly me. I’ve done things that I feel incredible guilt over, and yes, shame, mostly in my parenting. The honest truth is that motherhood is a cross for me. I never, ever thought that I would be so bad at it, or want to run from it so much. But God made me a wife and mother, not a nun, and I know that if I allow him, he will bring me closer to his heart through this.

Even though I don’t feel worthy, even though it doesn’t seem like He should want it, I am offering it up.

Posted in: faith, catholic, personal, recovery


Comments on when your vocation is a cross

  1. 1

    From Monica:

    You may not have 10k followers (saw your insta story) but you need to keep writing your truth. Truth hurts, but it makes us human.

    I’ve been struggling too. I’ve been so angry and resentful to God, I’ve told him how mad I am, and then today he showed me another’s suffering and reminded me I am not alone.

    You are not alone. Sometimes motherhood can be my cross too, it’s okay.

    Continue on. Give it up. Start again after each moment of failure.

  2. 2

    From Kathleen:

    It’s so good to know that we are not alone, right? Even though we know that Jesus is with us, God is gracious to give us other humans to walk the road with us too.

    I just read your most recent blog posts and was just nodding along – I could not relate more! I look forward to following along with you. Prayers for your family. <3

  3. 3

    From Rachelle Dooley:

    Hi kapacino (love that nickname)! Your friend Lauren, my co-worker, told me about your blog. This is the first blog I have read and commented on (at 51, I am slightly behind in the social media department). Anyway, I am a dynamic cradle Catholic who really treasures the fullness of truth in the Catholic faith, and I love your 2 recent posts. I look forward to reading your thoughts throughout your waiting process. Already your grasp of suffering is impressive! I grew up in an “offer it up” household too, and I liked the way you said that suffering makes us more like Jesus. Very nice, and much simpler than when I try to grasp it. I like to pray that I will learn what I need to without suffering, but I know that’s not really the holy prayer Jesus hopes to hear because He loves us and transforms us so much during suffering. It seems like He is giving you plenty of opportunities to suffer, and since we know He is LOVE, then it seems suffering must be a way to experience His love and love Him back. I will be praying for you and your family on this journey.

  4. 4

    From Kathleen:

    Hi Rachelle! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I feel pretty special that this is your first blog comment. :) Having a relationship with a devoted Catholic (my best friend) is what led me to embracing the fullness of the Church, so keep living it out! It is so encouraging for those of us on the outside to see!

  5. 5

    From Lisa of Lisa's Yarns:

    I’m a cradle Catholic, too, so grew up with the phrase ‘offer it up’. My mom has always emphasized the importance of taking up your cross. Sometimes (ok a lot of the time) I was kind of enraged by that concept. Because no one enjoys suffering, of course. But it does help to think of it as serving a purpose.

    My heart goes out to you as you’ve been through so much in the past year+. I don’t have children but know enough about parenting to know that having a 3 and 5 year old is really hard, so especially hard when you are doing a lot of single parenting. Just make sure you give yourself a lot of grace and forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made or things you’ve done and said in the moment that you wish you can change. We are all just doing the best we can and it’s really hard. I feel that way and I am not even a parent yet!

  6. 6

    From Kathleen:

    I’m sure that I wouldn’t have appreciated the “offer it up” mentality as a child either! Lol.

    Thank you for the understanding and gracious words. I am definitely in a hard season and trying my best to practice self-forgiveness and just move forward, placing everything in God’s hands!

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