Thursday, September 15, 2011
Mourning into dancing
Today--the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows--I am very grateful. It was five years ago on this date, September 15, 2006, that I officially arrived at the monastery to begin my monastic journey. I came as a candidate filled with expectation, hope, doubt, and fear, all loaded into a pickup truck with what was left of my personal belongings. A little over four months later, I was invested a novice.
It seems like such a long time ago, but also just like yesterday. In the weeks leading up to that day, I had been very busy making preparations to come to the monastery: selling my house, selling and/or giving away all my possessions, divesting myself of financial holdings, leaving my job, saying good-bye to many people who would no longer be a daily part of my life. Obviously, family relationships and friendships continue, but in a different way, and we didn't know at that point what that would look like.
Hardest of all, I think, was giving away Dixie, my faithful canine companion of 13 years. It was SO hard. But I did it because I knew God was calling me to this, and Dixie had a good home for the remaining year and a half of her life.
After my house was sold, I spent a few weeks living with my mother in Findlay, Ohio -- to rest, to pray, to take a deep breath. On the morning of Sept. 15, 2006, I went to Mass with my mother at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Findlay, Ohio (where others prayed for and said good-bye to me), packed up the truck, gave my mother a big hug, and drove the five and half hours alone to Saint Meinrad.
Fr. Anthony, the vocation director at the time, met me at the guesthouse and helped me unload the truck--I still remember him riding my bicycle down the hall to park it in the bottom of the stairwell, which made me laugh. Br. Jacob, the socius at the time, showed me where to sit for Vespers, Br. Martin showed me how to set my choir book ... and my monastic life was under way.
That evening, all alone in my cell with my still-unpacked boxes, intense fear and sorrow overcame me. Fear of the unknown, and sorrow over losing so much I had known. In the months to come, there would be more of that. Never in my life had I taken such a risk, done something seemingly so illogical. It was all very unlike me--or the me I thought I was then. I remember lying sleepless on my bed that night thinking, "What have I done?"
But in the five years since then, it seems that God has repeatedly answered me with one good thing after another, saying to me, "Look at what I can do!" Yes, there have been--and will be--challenges. Many of them. But all my expectations have been exceeded beyond imagining, and God has granted me so many wonderful opportunities, showered me with so much grace. The unknown, in the hands of God, builds courage, and though I have certainly mourned losing things I had known, I have gained so much more than I had ever known possible, believe me.
I could not be happier or more grateful, and can only hope to partly return this limitless gift of love through the context of my monastic vocation.
For those of you reading this who may be experiencing an interior nudge in the direction of monastic life, all I can say is: "Come and see." What have you got to lose?
Posted by Br. Francis de Sales Wagner at 7:23 AM