I recently finished Ron Hansen's novel Mariette in Ecstasy. Wow, what a tremendous book. I have written before about his most recent novel Exiles which was superb. But this blows it out of the water. As a Jesuit I recently celebrated the anniversary of my vows, August 15, just around the time when I was finishing the book. These last words of Mariette struck me particularly:
“And still Christ sends me roses. We try to be formed and held and kept by him, but instead he offers us freedom. And now when I try to know his will, his kindness floods me, his great love overwhelms me, and I hear him whisper, Surprise me.”
That summarized my experience of vows, and still encapsulates the experience of seeking and striving and hearing small words here and there, now and then, at his convenience.
I also recently read these words in Kristin Labransdatter, and again thinking about vows I was struck:
“’Tis thus that folk deal with their children now. To God they give the daughters who are lame or purblind or ugly or blemished, or they let Him have back the children when they deem Him to have given them more than they need. And then they wonder that all who dwell in the cloisters are not holy men and maids.”
Indeed, no one wants to give God anyone anymore, sadly, never mind the blemished or extras who are no longer even brought to birth.
And then a little further on:
“For if a man had not any yearning after God and God’s being, then should he thrive in hell, and ‘twould be we alone who would not understand that there he had gotten what his heart desired. For there the fire would not burn him if he did not long for coolness, nor would he feel the torment of the serpents’ bite, if he knew not the yearning after peace.”
The yearning remains, and as long as it does, so does the authentic call coming from God's being to man's inner being, deep calling on deep. Let us continue to pray for vocations.