The mercies of the Lord I will sing forever
by Sister Joseph-Marie of the Child Jesus, Incarnate Wisdom, O.Carm.
Every vocation is a unique call of the Lord and each one is called differently. Unlike my Sisters in Carmel, who loved Jesus and felt the desire to belong to him from childhood, I had other plans for my life. Yet, Jesus was pouring out his mercies even from my mother's womb.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the poem “The Hounds of Heaven” by Francis Thompson, it starts out like this:
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter....
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”
Have you ever seen a hound dog pursuing and finding his prey? He gets so excited and aggressive that nothing can deter or distract him. This is where our dear Savior’s Passion enters, in my vocation – and perhaps yours. That intense, infinite love is seeking, pursuing, never giving up until he has caught his “prey” and held us next to his Sacred Heart! Oh, the precious fruits of his suffering!
Perhaps this might describe in some way my own journey in its labyrinthine ways, to Carmel. For all who knew me, I was the most unlikely candidate for the religious life. Whenever there was a pile of fun, I was usually on the top of it. Yet, as I lay in bed at night, after having a good time with nothing lacking, I felt a restlessness, an uneasiness, as if our Lord was saying to me, “well, you can have all this, but...” and he left it unfinished. This happened many times.
At this point, I happily bring in Our Lady, the “houndress” of heaven, if you will. As I look back in retrospect, I see how she was with me from the womb, protecting me from evil and guiding me without my knowing it. My family and I were in a very serious car accident in which we should all have been killed. The police said it was a miracle we were alive. We had just finished saying the rosary, a prayer to our guardian angel and an act of contrition.
Fast forward to my senior year of high school. We were given a holy card with a prayer to Our Lady and it was recommended that we say it each day to know our vocation in life. Since I “knew” mine was marriage, I never prayed it. But then, remorse set in. It won't hurt to pray for the right husband. So I prayed!
My friends and I started looking into colleges but the one we visited left me flat. Then in the second half of the year, we had our senior retreat. I steered away from any of the literature on display on the religious life. But then, at the closing of the retreat, the priest blessed us with the Blessed Sacrament. I cannot even begin to describe that unspeakable grace my Heavenly Father gave me. In an instant, I knew with certainty and clarity, that Jesus wanted me for his spouse. The tears just poured down. I kind of felt like St. Matthew. One gaze from Jesus and he left all immediately and followed the Lord. With my heart and soul bursting with joy, I call myself a vocation of the Blessed Sacrament!
Now, 62 years later, I am celebrating my diamond jubilee. Be sure that when you pray to Mary, you are very explicit in your desire. I know she, too, is swelling with joy and she has given me the most perfect Divine Lover, her Beloved Son! You just cannot put anything over her!
I hope that like St. Paul, I may be an encouraging example for anyone struggling with doubts about a vocation to the priesthood, brotherhood, or religious life and fleeing from it. Pray to Mary and she will take care of it all, in unexpected ways. “Be not afraid” to give yourselves to the Blessed Trinity for the many, many needs of the Church.
The Holy Spirit expresses his vocation “hunt” perfectly in Psalm 139: “Where can I go to hide from your spirit? If I rise on the wings of the dawn... even there your hand will guide me, and your right hand will hold me fast.”