In a studious mood, March 2009
Lent is a time to think with gratitude about what the Lord has done in our lives, and how we might make a better return to Him. On that note I thought I would offer an update on my studies, apostolate, and vocation.
Studies: This may be a surprise to readers who know me as an author or speaker, but, for the past five and a half years, my primary occupation has been studying theology full-time. This semester is shaping up to be my busiest yet, as I am preparing for comprehensive exams for the S.T.B.—the first of two prerequisite degrees before I can officially enroll in studies for a pontifical doctorate (S.T.D.)—and taking four courses to get a head start on the second prerequisite degree, an S.T.L.
I have been stretching my capabilities to the utmost because, being in my mid-forties and having survived cancer, I just don't want to take more time than necessary to do what I believe I am being called to do, which is to teach theology on a college level. To put it another way, I'd like to get my S.T.D. before I'm eligible for AARP!
I will post prayer requests as it gets closer to the date of my exams, as I will need much prayer, particularly as my ability to make connections through memory is not what I would like it to be (perhaps due in part to post-traumatic stress).
Apostolate: Apart from my studies and helping Beyond Morning Sickness (author Ashli Foshee McCall's outreach to ill pregnant women), the apostolate that is most important to me is spreading the word about my book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints.
It's been a real joy to me to see My Peace I Give You reach not only its target audience—those who, like me, suffered sexual abuse in childhood—but also people who simply want to go deeper into the saints' lives and learn through them what Blessed John Paul II called the Good News of redemptive Suffering. Some of my favorite responses to the book may be found here, here, here, here, and here.
The response to My Peace I Give You from priests and other pastoral caregivers has been especially gratifying. I had hoped that the book would become a resource for pastoral caregivers to help them lead others to the healing grace of Christ. That is in fact what is happening, sometimes in surprising ways. As with my first book, The Thrill of the Chaste, I am hearing that priests are recommending My Peace I Give You in the confessional—though thankfully not as a penance! One priest actually read a couple of paragraphs from it at Sunday Mass a few weeks ago in a beautiful homily that you can download here.
Most encouragingly, I recently heard from the head of a nonprofit that helps former prostitutes and victims of sex trafficking rebuild their lives. She wrote to me, "What a wonderful book! I am going to donate some copies to [my nonprofit] because I think that our women there can benefit by reading your book and recognizing the love that God has for them and the fact that He will never abandon them." I am hoping to give a talk this summer to the women her nonprofit serves, and praying that the Lord will bring me other opportunities to bring the message of My Peace I Give You to current or former prison inmates, sex-trafficking victims, and other members of God's poor.
If you are in prison ministry and would like to invite me to speak to inmates, please write to me. You can also make a donation, which I will use either to give copies of My Peace to priests and religious (so far I have donated about 200 copies) or to help fund a mission trip.
Vocation: Towards the end of my appearance on EWTN's "The Journey Home" last year, I asked viewers' prayers for my vocation.
The reason I asked for prayers is that, since Christmas 2011, I have felt that the Lord is calling me to live the mystery of spiritual motherhood in a celibate vocation at the heart of the Church. I also learned of a vocation called Auxiliary of the Apostolate, founded by Cardinal Mercier in 1917, that seemed to fit the manner of life to which I felt called. The Auxiliary of the Apostolate lives independently in a form of life comparable to that of consecrated virgin—dedicated to the service of God and the Church in prayer, penance, service of her brethren, and apostolic activity, according to her celibate state of life and the spiritual gifts given to her. Unlike the consecrated virgin, the Auxiliary makes a promise of obedience to her diocesan bishop (technically not a "vow," as far as I can gather, but it seems to amount to the same thing).
A year ago, I approached my diocese asking to be called to be an Auxiliary of the Apostolate. The response was encouraging; it was recommended I discern with Auxiliaries. Unfortunately, since then, I haven't found a single Auxiliary in the United States with whom to discern. The U.S. Auxiliaries have no association as far as I can tell, and no website. The only one I have located in the entire country lives in a retirement home and is not in a position to direct a discerner.
I did find an Auxiliary in Europe with whom I was able to meet while traveling there, but she did not express interest in directing my discernment. She did not explain her lack of interest, but indicated indirectly that she did not consider me apt for the vocation because it is "hidden," and I am, well, not hidden.
Now, it could very well be true that in Europe in general, with the continent's history of "worker-priests" and other religious who aimed to be yeast hidden among the flour, the vocation of Auxiliary of the Apostolate is by nature a hidden one. But here in America the Auxiliaries of the Apostolate have in the past included more visible figures such as Mother Antonia, who was the subject of a popular book, The Prison Angel. (I have not approached Mother Antonia about discernment because she is no longer a U.S Auxiliary of the Apostolate, but is now the founder of a religious community based in Mexico.)
So I don't believe that having a public apostolate in and of itself disqualifies me from the Auxiliary vocation, especially since, being that it is diocesan, it's up to the individual bishop to determine whether or not to call a woman to that vocation. However, given that bishops tend to prefer to place someone within a ready-made form of a vocation, and given that I have not found any guidance to live the form of Auxiliary, it is looking like I will have to continue praying for discernment, trusting that God will show in what form of life He wishes me to vow myself to Him.
I am very grateful to everyone who has prayed for me over the years. Every day I pray for all who have helped me. If you have a particular intention for which I might pray, do let me know. Thank you and God bless you.
Interested in saints and spiritual healing? Check out my Patheos blog, Feast of Eden.