A Late Vocation: “Always we begin again”

The word vocation comes from the Latin word “vocatio," and it means to call; a vocation is a calling. In our time, it has come to mean specifically a calling to religious life but in Latin it is any occupation that someone is called to, has a gift for, or desires to do. But I think there are three parts to any vocation.

Sister Anna-Camille, OSB

There is the “vocatio”--the call. And then there is the “obsculta,” Latin for “listening with the intention of responding when one hears what one is to do.” It is the first word of the Rule of St. Benedict. And finally, there is “respondere,” also Latin--the answer one gives when asked or called. I took a long time to get to yes. I am a living example of the patience and persistence of God.

My “yes” to this particular call began in 2007 when I started coming to the Priory for retreats and programs. Sr. Lucy invited me to become a guest at Oblate meetings. Benedictine Oblates are lay people who make a commitment to a specific monastery or priory to live Benedictine values in their daily lives. Other religious orders use the words ‘third order’ or ‘tertiary” to describe this relationship but it is the same thing. A lay person who is attracted to a particular spirituality and commits to it in a deep and specific way. They become the face, hands, and feet of that spirituality in the world.

I became an oblate in 2010. In response to a desire to connect more deeply with the monastery, in 2014, I became an affiliate oblate, a person who spends more time at the Priory, volunteering and entering into the prayer life of the sisters. I would stay in the Priory itself and so experience the rhythm of the Sisters’ daily lives. I was an elementary school teacher at that time, a job I loved and expected to do until I was truly unable to do it. But God had something else in mind.

At that time, the Priory had begun to offer the opportunity for claustral oblation. This is a practice that dates back to medieval times. An oblate would move into the monastery and live the life of the community without taking religious vows. When I decided to retire and come to the Priory, I thought I was exploring becoming a claustral oblate. But again, the "God has other plans" thing…. 

I was invited to become a candidate on the path to religious life and this time I was ready to say yes. God called and I answered. I made final profession on January 15th of this year, the memorial of St. Placid. It has been life-giving and the greatest challenge of my life. I am in no way retired, and happily I didn’t expect to be. I am on the steepest of learning curves and have been given more blessings than I would have thought I could hold. I am a product of the “slow work of God” as Teilhard de Chardin wrote, and also, every day I remember “always we begin again.”

I started out in the oblate community, and today I am co-director of oblates along with Sr. Raphaela Cady. Our oblate community is a dynamic and vibrant one. We continued to grow even during the years we were locked down due to the pandemic. I have come to believe that oblation is a vocation. Oblates spend time as guests and then as candidates with a Sister mentor and an oblate mentor. They discern their “vocatio” by reading the Rule, meeting with their mentors, and praying. As oblates they bring the Benedictine values of hospitality, stewardship, compassion, and care for others to a world that so greatly needs them.

Each of us has a vocation, a calling, that puts us in right relationship with ourselves, others, and with God. We can experience a new calling as we enter a new stage of life. The important thing is the “obsculta,” the listening with the intention of responding. Many blessings to each of you as you listen for the call of God in your life.

Obsculta: Alert, listening, ready to respond!

Comments

  • Comment posted by Laura Swan on July 16, 2023 at 11:11AM (11 months ago)

    That's how growth happens. We start over and over, hopefully learning along the way. I appreciate how you allow life to be an adventure!

  • Comment posted by Laura on June 30, 2023 at 8:47AM (12 months ago)

    Lovely story. Great squirrels!

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