Six years, three months, and 28 days ago, I was given the best advice I've ever received.
I met Father Eric while visiting Palmyra, Wisconsin, with Ad Deum Dance Company, volunteering at a camp for kids with special needs. I was on top of the world, and in one short conversation, he turned it all upside down.
I had only stopped by his small, rural parish for a moment to pray. Wherever I went with Ad Deum, I always stumbled upon the local Catholic church (okay, Google-mapped the whole territory two weeks in advance for every Catholic parish within 40 miles and then called parishioners to see if a traveler without a car could catch a ride to Mass), and sure enough, in three years of touring and performing, God opened every door, so I could experience Him at Mass each Sunday.
|St. Mary Catholic Church in Palmyra, WI|
That Saturday afternoon, when I came through the doors of Father Eric's church, he asked about my life. He listened, very keenly, and it felt as if we were old friends, deep in conversation, though we'd just met, and were still standing in the entry way of St. Mary's. I suppose I expected accolades as I summed up the excitement I felt at being a new company member and getting to live out this childhood dream. Instead, Father Eric set a question before me, and though I continued to smile and nod respectfully as we spoke, his question didn't fall safely and innocuously from the air through the slats of the old wooden floor. It struck uncomfortably in my soul, settled in, and echoed alongside similar questions that had been in the back of my mind for some time.
"But what is your vocation?" Father Eric asked.
He seemed to imply it was all very nice that I was young and passionate, enjoying life, and wanting to do good in the world, but could I trust God with a commitment the size of my entire future? When the curtain closes, and the adventure ceases to feel so adventurous, and I find myself alone, away from all the excitement and busyness, what is God asking of me?
Catholics play around with the word "vocation" like preschool teachers pose, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Really, it's just three options: single (purposely single to work in a unique way for God in the world), single & consecrated for service to the Church (priests, nuns, monks), and married (joining souls with another to work in a unique way for God in the world). From these three options, a person can be or do just about anything.
In that brief conversation, both our first and last time to speak in person, Father Eric challenged me to look beyond where I currently was -- only willing to make short-term commitments to various activities and groups, and not really moving with purpose toward any kind of long-term commitment -- and he encouraged me to truly discern what God was asking of me, "and then do it!"
I had already discerned my vocation was to (eventual) marriage, but I wanted an exciting, miraculous love story that would make for a super-romantic retelling.
Father Eric threw all of that under the bus when he reminded me that my vocation wasn't supposed to be the most entertaining story at a party, but an opportunity to live the most fulfilling and meaningful life possible, and it would be the path for my soul to heaven.
And from there, my life suddenly became really easy.
If marriage was my vocation, and the purpose of marriage was to do God's work on earth, so we could experience Him here on earth, with the hope of being with Him forever in heaven, then I just needed to find the person who could help me do that.
I asked myself, "Who is the holiest guy I know?"
As it turns out, God was working on the other side of this picture as well, because even today, Wally says, he has no idea why he asked me out on a date in August 2006. (I know why. It's because I asked God to ask Wally to ask me on a date. Because I was too chicken to ask him myself.)
Six years, three months, and 21 days ago, Wally and I went on our first date.