Please pardon my absence from my blog. The life of one who is discerning Carmel includes: eat, sleep, pray, and work – I’m still trying to fit “blog” into one of those categories. However, this week, on Good Shepherd Sunday, also World Day of Prayer for Vocations, I think I may have found a way to combine my current situation and discernment into a post.
Two days ago, I experienced that not-so-cheerfully anticipated rite of passage of many young adults in the U.S. – wisdom tooth extraction. Well, to say that the actual procedure was unpleasant would not be exactly honest, after all, I don’t remember a bit of the surgery itself. However, I have to admit that holding frozen salmon burgers and chorizos on my face to keep the swelling down has been slightly “interesting,” to say the least.
So you may be asking yourself, why would he be posting on something so totally unrelated to vocational discernment… is this an unexpected side effect of laughing gas?
Don’t worry, the surgery drugs wore off 28 hours ago. Actually, I do find my wisdom tooth extraction experience quite applicable to my continued discernment to the religious life and the ministerial Priesthood. Let me explain.
The reason why my wisdom teeth had to come out was because when God designed my mouth, He deigned to create more teeth than space for them to occupy. This economy of space became clear when my braces were put on a couple of years ago. The wisdom teeth were inhibiting the movement of my other teeth. Over the years, as my teeth have waged battles for primacy and position, the level of discomfort has increased. Thus, I arrived at a point where a decision would have to be made. I could tolerate the soreness for now, but as it increased and the potential for more complicated oral surgery and nerve involvement loomed, it became evident a choice would have to be made. Of course, since I had never experienced a surgical procedure before, I was rather nervous about how it would all play out. I was entering uncharted territory, and was a bit anxious. Therefore, like all major milestones in my life, I sought the advice and prayers of trusted family and friends.
Well, thanks to the prayers of my friends and family and the intercession of St. Apollonia, I came out of the whole experience missing 4 teeth, but nothing else! Now my mouth hurts a little and is slightly swollen, but time will eventually heal it all up.
Now, here is the fundamental similarity between wisdom tooth extraction and vocational discernment.
God gives us each a beautiful life to be shared with others, but most especially with Him and He has a special plan for us. He gives us our family, our friends and many experiences to draw us closer to Himself. Sometimes “extras” (like my wisdom teeth) pop up. It may be people (girl-friends, boy-friends, BFFs) or possessions (money, cars, houses) or experiences (concerts, games, random acts of fun). These extras compete for limited space in our lives. Like my over-crowded mouth, an abundance of “extras” leads to pain and discomfort as the realization that it can’t all fit becomes evident. We need to discern if there is enough room in God’s plan for us of both these “extras” and Himself. If there is then, great, we’ve cleared a major hurdle. However, as is often the case, there isn’t enough room and these “extras” – which may not be harmful in and of themselves, they just don’t fit in God’s plan – like wisdom teeth, have to GO! Like the decision to finally have my wisdom teeth surgically removed, this process is not passive; no it requires actively weighing the benefits and drawbacks, and then making an active choice. Just letting “whatever’s going to happen, happen” isn’t an option. Prayer is an essential element in arriving at a definitive course of action.
Vocational discernment is the process by which we discover what God’s plan is for each of us, what fits in that plan and what doesn’t. Once we discern what has to go, then we need to surrender ourselves over to the Divine Physician who, like an oral surgeon will cut these “extras” out of our lives. After His procedure is completed, we will understandably hurt. We will question ourselves as to why did what we did. We will have to change the way we live. Still, time, prayer and following the Divine Physician’s instructions (which can conveniently be found in the Bible, the Teaching Magisterium of the Church and the Sacred Apostolic Tradition) will heal all the hurt and pain. We’ll be just a couple of teeth (um “extras”) shorter and that much closer to fulfilling God Divine plan for each of us.
I pray that all of you may continue in your discernment of the unique vocation that God has given each of you. May His Will be done!
On this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, may we each say an extra prayer not only for our own vocations, but for those of all who discern.
After my procedure, one of my younger sisters made a lovely prayer card and left it on my computer. She found a traditional prayer to St. Apollonia (an early martyr and patroness of dentistry) for my speedy recovery. St. Apollonia’s intercession has certainly been of benefit to me. Perhaps she may intercede for you as well:
“O Glorious Apollonia, patron saint of dentistry and refuge to all those suffering from diseases of the teeth, I consecrate myself to thee, beseeching thee to number me among thy clients. Assist me by your intercession with God in my daily work and intercede with Him to obtain for me a happy death. Pray that my heart like thine may be inflamed with the love of Jesus and Mary, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
“O My God, bring me safe through temptation and strengthen me as thou didst our own patron Apollonia, through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.”