The Contradiction of Vocation: Choosing to Stay

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tomorrow, a young woman is about to step into a plane, heading back to Bolivia. She'll return to the orphaned, abused, or abandoned girls she loves, to the little town of cows and cobblestone streets, to a language of indigenous vocabulary, to a city of snow-capped mountains, and to a climate of sweatshirts and scarves in mid-August.

Amber with some of the girls of
Hogar Maria Auxiliadora, July 2010
Her name is Amber (here is her blog). She arrived in Bolivia soon after I left and she's returning to spend yet another year there - her fourth year, to be exact. I don't know Amber extremely well. As I said before, we just missed each other when it comes to arrivals and departures. I met her when I came to visit a year after I left and we've communicated occasionally through Facebook, letters and Skype. But I know her well enough to admire her. Recently, during her time helping out with the orientation of the Salesian Lay Missioners this summer, we were able to have a conversation over Skype.

She said something that I immediately wrote down and knew that I had to write a blog entry about it.
"It's definitely a hard thing for people to understand. Mission work or religious life. We have extremely low and challenging moments, but it's something we freely choose anyway and then have the audacity to claim it's our source of joy and fulfillment. That's something that only God's wisdom can explain."

Mission life is not without its difficulties, and neither is religious life. Ask any missioner, ask any Sister, ask any priest or brother.

The mystery is that we stay. Not only that we stay, but that we choose to stay.
We, in religious life, stay despite the fact that the majority are older than us.
They, in mission life, stay despite the stress of new language, of new culture, and sometimes the stress of more work than can possibly be handled.

As everything within us begins to run away, it is God pulling our sleeve, and pulling us back to stay. And every time we encounter a difficulty - whether it be loneliness or overwork - if it is His will, He pulls us back even more.

The mystery is that as the pull becomes stronger, somehow we become happier. We find that He is not actually pulling us to stay, rather He is pulling us closer to Him. We find that it is in the life we live, frustrations and all, that we are most fulfilled. It is contradictory to those that don't understand. It may even seem contradictory to ourselves, yet we know this is what makes our soul come alive, this is what sets our hearts on fire and, most importantly, this is where we most experience God...despite the times we feel lonely, despite the times we yearn for a little time to ourselves, despite the times we are frustrated with our work, despite the misunderstandings, despite the times we look at our suitcases and wonder.

Amber is right. Only God's wisdom can explain it. But it is vocation - it is that same pull that led Moses to keep going on the way to the Promised Land, that led Joseph to stay with Mary despite her pregnancy, that led Simon Peter to not run away during Jesus' trial (despite the denials), that led Paul to continue his work despite the persecutions. It is a pull that has spanned the centuries...yet also a pull that is unique to each and every one of us.


  1. Great way of putting this. Thank you for sharing!

  2. This really set me thinking, Amanda. I love your image of God pulling us by the sleeve and really pulling us closer to into all that is God. Thank you. Sr. Mgte Dc

  3. Thanks for your blog, all of it. As another "young person" discerning with the Daughters of Charity, I've found your journey to be an encouragement for mine. Someday, I hope our paths cross.

  4. Breathtaking - and so dead on! Thank you for sharing this. I can always use a reminder why this life that doesn't make any sense actually makes perfect sense. God bless you!


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