It is interesting the stories being brought into my sphere during this time of sabbatical and discernment. Two books stick out due to their recency, Karen Armstrong’s (2005) The Spiral Staircase and W. Paul Jones (2001) A Table in the Desert: Making Space Holy as to spiritual memoirs that speak to transformation within life’s journey and vocation. For Armstrong it was the journey out of the convent into the world, from a young woman who felt she was meant to be a Nun, to the struggles of a young woman in the world blessed with epilepsy and finding her path and voice away from institutional God to some would say a more mystical God. For Jones’ it was growing up as a Protestant becoming a minister in the United Methodist Church, but then having a vocational change to a catholic priest, but more specifically into a Trappist Monk and living as a hermit within the Ozark Mountains. This new vocation had him re-examine the reality of not only the church but the world within a post-Vatican II Catholicism, and Christendom.
One writer running from the institution, the other leaving a strain of protest for the institution originally protested, but finding freedom within them. It is the story of pilgrimage for the one within the interior castle or to the Heart of the Sacred (which I must admit I wrote a fairly decent book, and led retreats on). But why the serendipitous turn to have these works appears within my life now?
During times of discernment whether intentional or unintentional I find that the stories of other believers give encouragement and guidance. When I elected to step away from formal orders within the United Church of Canada one of the guiding decisions was reading John Shelby Spong’s (2000) Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality. While I wrestled with the decision to re-enter academia and change the direction of my vocation at this juncture came from picking up Matthew Fox’s (1996) Confessions: The Making of a Post Denominational Priest and 2012’s The Pope’s War which spoke to a need for ongoing transformation.
So why do I share this with you as the impact memoir can have on one’s spiritual journey. This is something our brothers and sisters within the evangelical and Pentecostal movements have understood with their sharing of testimonies. The challenge as we continue to move forward is what Jones’ put forward in his work of surrendering the material. Jones shares a story of clearing out his files of published works to be a freeing work as he felt it was a release of ego.
This is one of the challenges even within vows of simplicity for the simple fact that our ego’s become one of the hardest things to simplify. But let us spend time to reflect on this for a moment, what a spiritual challenge for an individual active in journeying with individuals and communities to be able to earn accolades and sales but not track or worry about any of it? This is counter intuitive to our social media, me driven culture. Could this be why there appears to be a renewal of mysticism and/or monasticism within the Christianities today?
Would you be willing to surrender your titles, degrees, accolades, etc. to pursue your vocational calling within Christ?
- Bi-vocational Is Not A Bad Word (jimmyproulx.wordpress.com)
- The Story of Trappist Caskets and the Monks of New Melleray Abbey (catholicglasses.com)
- Book Review: Before the Living God, Ruth Burrows (trinitylewisham.com)
- Benedictine Vocations Today (hughosb.wordpress.com)
- Teli community abandons ancestral vocation (thehimalayantimes.com)
- Kazakhstan intends to adopt Germany’s experience for development of vocational training (en.trend.az)
- United Church of Canada to hold mirror to its role in forced adoptions as families push for national inquiry (tyragan.wordpress.com)
- Why Paul? (tyragan.wordpress.com)
- Sabbatical in Year of Faith (tyragan.wordpress.com)
- Vocational Discernment within Community… A Little help (tyragan.wordpress.com)