If you've never had the experience of participating in a spiritual discernment committee, I invite you to consider it. After my fifth (and final) meeting with my discernment committee for priesthood yesterday evening, my committee confirmed that they heard my call to priesthood. And that's not even the extraordinary part. The extraordinary part is that, as I prayed yesterday before my meeting, I prayed for total surrender to God's will, and for the faithfulness not to run if that will was something my ego didn't like. My total surrender granted me total, deep, quieting peace. The extraordinary part is that, having let go of my attachment to the outcome of my discernment process, I happened to read (during evening prayer) the story in Matthew about the disciples who wanted to know why they couldn't heal the sick on their own when Jesus so easily could. Jesus told them it was because they lacked faith, and that if they had faith even the size of a mustard seed, mountains would move for them. And I realized at that moment that my mustard seed faith was what had moved the mountain of my ego in order to make a straight path for Spirit to enter and dwell deep within my heart. The extraordinary part is that, despite having a clear sense of call when I walked into the process, my sense of call widened and deepened and became more rooted as the dialogue went on.
The extraordinary part is that, especially in the final two meetings, as I listened to the challenging questions of my committee members, I perceived Spirit doing the asking. And as I offered my vulnerable, open-hearted answers, I perceived Spirit speaking through me. (It's fair to say that I've never experienced God's voice speaking to me so powerfully as I have in my discernment committee meetings, and for a Benedictine who hears God speaking to her through liturgy and scripture and encounters with others all the time, that's saying a lot.)
The extraordinary part is that, despite my Enneagram-three-personality-type's desire to manage a situation in such a way that the outcome is "positive," I was required to relinquish my ability to do that in order to speak plainly and truthfully. I was painfully aware that my deep honesty could at any moment result in the humiliation of my ego, and I spoke anyway. In that total risk of my ego, I realized it was not my ego that spoke, but Spirit.
When I walked out of my meeting last night, I had no idea what my committee members had heard. I didn't know what they would say. My three-ish ability to anticipate the outcome of the process failed me spectacularly. And I perceived in my failure the possibility of God's success--success in finding a way to make use of the quirky instrument that I am.
My committee is passing me on to the next steps of the discernment process, steps that will be challenging in their own ways. What my committee heard may not be confirmed by the next folks I encounter in the discernment process. But what happens next is not my concern.
The most important piece to emerge for me from this discernment process is the profound recognition that my heart--my whole heart--belongs to the one I call God. Whatever comes, I know that I will be faithful to the path God has prepared for me. I won't turn away. This is God's gig, and I am God's beautiful, imperfect instrument.
What song(s) will God choose to play through me for the uplifting, healing, and reconciling of her creation?
The psalms appointed for morning prayer in The Book of Common Prayer today included Psalm 44, and I couldn't help but think of the girls kidnapped in Nigeria with these words on their lips: We have heard with our ears, O God, our ancestors have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old: you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free; for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm give them victory; but your right hand, and your arm, and the light of your countenance, for you delighted in them.
You are my King and my God; you command victories for Jacob. Through you we push down our foes; through your name we tread down our assailants. For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But you have saved us from our foes, and have put to confusion those who hate us. In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name for ever.
Yet you have rejected us and abased us, and have not gone out with our armies. You made us turn back from the foe, and our enemies have taken spoil for themselves. You have made us like sheep for slaughter, and have scattered us among the nations. You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them.
You have made us the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughing-stock among the peoples. All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face at the words of the taunters and revilers, at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.
All this has come upon us, yet we have not forgotten you, or been false to your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way, yet you have broken us in the haunt of jackals, and covered us with deep darkness.
If we had forgotten the name of our God, or spread out our hands to a strange god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. Because of you we are being killed all day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. And as the final words of this psalm come around, I can't help but think that the hands and feet and deeds they seek from God are the ones given by God to me--and you.
Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not cast us off for ever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For we sink down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up, come to our help. Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.
I am struck by this image of St. Catherine of Siena, whose feast Christians celebrate today. She is enormous. She is standing, looking eye to eye with the beholder from slightly above the beholder. She is bold and magnificent and holy all at once. Women just aren't portrayed this way often in the Christian tradition. St. Catherine is considered a doctor of the church. On prayer.forwardmovement.org, she is described this way, "One tends to think of medieval women as silent and passive dwellers in homes and convents. This was far from the case with Catherine of Siena. She exercised great influence in matters of church and state, and hers was one of the keenest minds of her day." St. Catherine was a Dominican, and Dominicans have a special charism to preach. She took her charism so seriously that she dared to confront Pope Gregory XI--and she left having persuaded him to see things from her view. I see in this extraordinary woman a model of bold, faithful, wise, and total devotion to God and God's work. She did not cower away behind medieval expectations of what her role was to be in the world. She stood taller and brighter than all her counterparts, female and male alike, not with self-preoccupation but with a keen vision of the vital part she had to play in the bringing about of God's reign--and God's holy work was done through her. She had the humility to say yes to being extraordinary. In what ways am I called to say yes to being extraordinary? In what ways do I allow my fear to inhibit me from playing my part in bringing about God's reign?