First, a note about vocation: to hear your life's call is to discern your vocation. Consider the Latin root of vocation: voca-tion, voca, vox, voice. To hear a call is to hear someone's voice. But how do I hear God's voice?
What makes this a great question is that there is no straight or literal answer in my case. "God's voice" is a metaphor for the human voice. When God calls me, God isn't picking up a telephone in the heavens. When God calls me (or you, or Jesus, or anyone) God's doing something else. And since God's not doing the same kind of calling that I do, I'm listening to God in a different way than I would listen to someone else.
I shared with the Prior my confidence that the Canon life is one to which I'm hearing God's call. So if God didn't call me on the phone or text me or leave a note on my Facebook timeline or tweet me or comment on one of my blog posts, what did God do to inspire this confidence?
Fact is, it's not just about what God does--it's about what God does in relationship with me. Below I've identified four ways (though not the only ways) in which God "calls" me:
1) Through scripture. The life of a Benedictine Canon is one of prayer with scripture, especially prayer with the psalms. One of the ways I know God speaks through my prayer is that I change. My pace slows. Familiar words and phrases tingle in my skin and subconscious. The words both resonate with me and challenge me, but I am always safe in them, safe to risk opening my heart to them. This safety isn't related to the words of scripture alone, though--they're related to the way I join this community in praying them. Which leads me to the next three ways in which God "calls" me.
2) Through the rhythm of daily life. Benedictines pray a lot. When the bell sounds for prayer several times a day, Benedictines cease all else to pray together. In this regularity, it would be possible to feel trapped or shackled. When I pray during the regular prayer times of this community, however, I feel like I've entered the rhythm of a familiar household. Because all members of this community are held to the same expectation, it becomes a ritual as close to me as changing diapers, preparing formula, or playing with my daughters. It's necessary, it's beautiful, and even when it interrupts, it is a comfort.
3) Through the voice(s) of the community. This may be the biggest piece for me at this point in my life. It is clear that to be part of this community is to be equal to each member in dignity and respect. I am not regarded as lesser because I am a woman. I am not regarded as lesser because I am a lay person. I am not regarded as lesser because I am married. Each member brings her or his own gifts to the community, and those gifts are habitually lifted up, rather than quashed. The way each community member interacts with me demonstrates to me that I stand eye to eye with each one--not the same as any other, but loved and embraced in the same way as every other. God's presence manifests in these beautifully broken people.
4) Through my very body. Over thirty-one years, I have developed a keen sense of when I am safe and at home, and when I am threatened and in danger of harm. As a deeply sensitive body, when I enter a new religious situation or context, my entire self attends to whether my situation is harmful or loving. In this community my guard rests. Last night, when we were physically gathered together as a community, I prayed to the Lord instead of the Lady for the sake of unifying our voices in prayer. That unity did not threaten my devotion to God as Lady, but rather left an open door for that devotion. I trust that in this context that door will not be closed or locked, as it has been in most of my previous religious contexts. In this community, I am able to hold the diversity of the community close to my heart, without fear of it swallowing me into anonymity and dignity-destroying submission.
God doesn't call me the way others usually call me, but God makes her call known. I perceive God calling me to this community inasmuch as this community, like God, challenges me to transcend myself without losing my sense of safety or integrity. This community, also like God, accepts me as I am without first rendering me or others inferior. Finally, the rhythm of this community, like God's rhythm in my life, is familiar, persistent, and rich--like coming home. The call to enter the Canon novitiate is as audible and clear to me as the bell that sounds each prayer hour into being.