Catholics like to note that ours is a religion of “both/and” not “either/or.” Mostly that’s a good thing. We value faith and works, Scripture and Tradition. It’s a beautiful richness of doctrine.
But sometimes that Catholic both/and manifests itself as a double-gut punch.
We might find ourselves open to life and childless. We might believe in the sanctity of marriage and be divorced. We might accept the teaching of the Church on human sexuality and experience same-sex attraction. We can feel judged in the eyes of the world on the one hand and in the eyes of our faith on the other.
As a married woman who is whatever is the opposite of childless (child-y? child-ful?), I know I am misunderstood by the world at large. I take solace in the fact that I am living out my vocation to marriage.
But then I read today’s readings which are basically a love letter to the vocation of religious life. I might think to myself:
Hey, it’s bad enough that I have to discuss my intimate life with the check-out gal (Are you guys done?), but apparently it’s all in the service of a lesser vocation.
Why can’t I be blessed with a vow of poverty (Luke 6:20) . . . or silence?
Why didn’t the king desire my beauty? (Psalm 45:12).
Why does Saint Paul say I am doomed to “experience affliction in [my] earthly life”? (1 Corinthians 7:28).
But only for a second. Because I know that just because a vocation to religious life is empirically “the better part” (Luke 10:42) doesn’t mean it would have been better for me. I must need to be sanctified by the affliction. (And, just for the record, Saint Paul, your life wasn’t exactly affliction-free!) It’s okay that this is the path that God has chosen for me, and that He has chosen a different path for someone else. The important thing is that we both “persevere in running the race that lies before us” (Hebrews 12:1) and we meet up at the end: both/and.