Friday, September 2, 2011

When I Was a "Secular Sister," I Dressed Like This...



Chapter 12 of my book is Secular Sisterhood. It is my term for women who get stuck in the in-between vocations discernment rut. Usually, they don’t know what’s going on…but it can seem obvious to others. Now you have visual evidence of my own experience as a “secular sister.” I think it was about seven years ago.

Here I am with Fr. Elias Carr of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine in Austria while on a pilgrimage. The female counterpart to a canon is a canoness. If you gave me a veil in this picture, I would be a Canoness Regular of St. Augustine. You can read more about the Canons here, but for now, I want to re-visit one of my favorite topics, which is the secular sisterhood.

Choosing a vocation is an important focus for Catholic singles. The Catholic singles scene has some issues though. One is that it is so easy for pious people to passively choose to remain single...and possibly get praised for it! But, they commonly end up cranky and miserable in the end, especially when they don’t analyze and accept the likely consequences of their actions and attitudes.

Devout women can get stuck in a "nun-like" phase if they are not astute and self-aware. It might sound good on the surface…but something is missing.

Psychologically, the secular sister mindset can go like this, "Well, I don't think I'm called to the convent, although that would be cool, so it's probably marriage, but if I can't find a perfect man, I'll just stay with Jesus and live a nun-like existence." In other words, I’ll sit on this fence.

It's not a proactive, positive way of thinking. It's not even really full discernment of marriage. You aren’t carrying a compass that is pointed in the marriage direction for sure. The approach is passive, fear-based, rigid, and unrelenting in perfectionism. Extreme caution and distrust for the world and other people can lead to stagnation. At the time this photo was taken, I lacked confidence…and well, FAITH!

Thankfully, I realized that...and Fr. Elias was a good person to chat with as I tried to unscramble myself.

The male equivalent to a secular sister is a “Dabbler.” You can read about them on pages 101-102 of the book. Fr. Elias told me that he has met plenty of Dabblers! The phenomenon is real.

By the way, if this blog post could have a soundtrack, it would be “Sitting on a Fence” by the Rolling Stones.