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A reader struggles with lay life after seminary

BY Mark Shea

| Posted 2/22/13 at 12:01 AM

 

He writes:

I find I'm having difficulty keeping myself engaged in my faith, and I thought I might ask you for some advice. I don't have a lot really committed, active Catholic friends since leaving college, and I don't know too many people in a situation like mine.

Basically put, I'm a former Catholic seminarian who has, for two years now, been having difficulty "re-adjusting" to life outside the seminary, at least on the spiritual level. Seminary is designed to make formation and the spiritual life as easy as possible. Sacraments roll of the tables; you're at mass every day, you're living with numerous priests, and there is a pervasive atmosphere where everyone is trying to serve God. So it's neither something you can easily avoid nor something you lack the resources to engage.

Since leaving seminary, I find this is considerably more difficult, which is not something I believe many priests understand. I have an absolutely enormous commute to my job -- I'm on the train 3-4 hours a day -- so I don't exactly have a whole heck of a lot of time to be engaged at my parish, to participate in available ministries, and often barely even to get anything approaching substantial prayer in.

It's driving me crazy. I can still feel God urging me to move, to work, to do the good, and I can't figure out how I'm supposed to make it. I never realized how horrifyingly busy adult life could be (I'm 28), now that I'm working full time and engaged to be married. I'm trying not to relegate my religion to a set of opinions, but I feel that's where I'm headed.

So I'm writing you because you're a busy, married Catholic man who might have some insight on the matter. As a young man coming to advice from someone with much more experience in these things, I hope you can be of some aid.

I’m not a super genius in this department, but a few things stick out as stuff to explore.  First, assume God will meet you where you are and the mode of encounter you experienced in seminary is but one mode of encounter.  So, for instance, it seems like commute time might be a good time for a Rosary or a Divine Office, or both.  In addition, it may be good to pray about moving job and home closer together so you don’t have the long commute.  Now is also a really good time to establish a regular prayer life with your intended, as well as figuring out some way to carve out time, however modest, for exercising the charism(s) God has given you.  He has a way of blessing such attempts with open doors that appear as you walk forward.  Think of it like driving.  If you are moving forward, even a little bit, it’s much easier to turn the wheel.  Finally, don’t forget that these “in-between” times are part of what God uses to ready you for when he will use you.  Paul spent about a decade in Antioch just cooling his heels (as far as we can see) after his big mystical encounter on the Damascus road, his sojourn in the desert, and his meeting with the apostles in Jerusalem.  What was he doing?  Not “nothing”.  He was learning the things he needed to learn as a new disciple so that when the Holy Spirit called him and sent him out on his mission, he’d be ready.  You have some mission too and God will use everything, including this aggravating period, to make you both a disciple and an apostle as you struggle to obey in the here and now.  Your time will come.  Meanwhile, they also serve who only stand and wait.

1. God was all-complete, all-blessed in Himself; but it was His will to create a world for His glory. He is Almighty, and might have done all things Himself, but it has been His will to bring about His purposes by the beings He has created. We are all {301} created to His glory—we are created to do His will. I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God's counsels, in God's world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.

2. God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

3. Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He {302} may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—still He knows what He is about.

O Adonai, O Ruler of Israel, Thou that guidest Joseph like a flock, O Emmanuel, O Sapientia, I give myself to Thee. I trust Thee wholly. Thou art wiser than I—more loving to me than I myself. Deign to fulfil Thy high purposes in me whatever they be—work in and through me. I am born to serve Thee, to be Thine, to be Thy instrument. Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask not to see—I ask not to know—I ask simply to be used. – Blessed John Henry Newman