The imaginary lightbulb hovers over your head. We all metaphorically slap our foreheads wishing we’d had that V-8. We’re thrilled with our secular epiphany that we’re practically skipping along with excitement and trying to share it with anyone and everyone we meet.
In the church, I’ve found that they use different words to describe this sensation: their mission, a ministry, a calling.
It was brought home to me so clearly last year at my Rite of the Elect, signing the book of the Elect. I was called by name. G-d had my name long before I entered my church on happenstance. I was called by name again at my confirmation when I chose my saint.
This past week was my Diocese’s Spring Enrichment. I know I’ve mentioned it before. This week is one of those weeks that fills me with excitement, with dozens of light bulbs popping on, hovering over my head. I’m loving every minute of it. I had a full schedule of fourteen classes. I chose everything with a little help from my friend, and I can’t wait for next year to see the offerings. I don’t think I’ll take fourteen classes again, but I have some ideas of what kinds of classes I want to take now that I’ve got the hang of it.
I spent this week leaving some more of my shell behind. My comfort box is collapsing under the weight of hearing myself and the response to what I’m feeling and saying. My opinions and beliefs aren’t changing but the way I’m explaining and expressing myself is. I don’t expect to agree with everyone, but I do want to be able to have rational discussions.
I took a Pastoral Care and Depression class. I chose this, not because I’m a pastoral care associate, but because I have depression. I’ve had depression all of my life. It is only in my diagnosis and looking back that I can see all of the signs, the symptoms. I asked questions in class, I offered insights. I was able to bring up thoughts about how to support LGBT youth in the church – the heightened abuse, homelessness, and suicide of that age group. I was able to offer what not to say to a suicidal person, and what’s worked for others in that position. I asked about gender identity. Between Social Justice, Everyday Divine, and Pastoral Care and Depression, I found a little niche of note taking.
In the middle of that class, I had a lightbulb moment. I felt a calling. I can’t describe it as anything other than being called. One moment I was taking notes, the next moment, I was thinking how I could bring my experiences to the people who need it in my parish. How can I protect and support people who think that the church won’t be there for them and their struggles, whatever they may be?
This also fit in with the whole theme of the keynote address, taking the history of the church and looking at the aging of the church. The average age in the US is 37, but the average age of white Catholics is 45. In my parish, the ones that I primarily see are older than that. I bring up age because many of the people with the struggles – LGBT equality and issues, depression and mental illness, money – are in the younger demographic, but those caring for them are a bit older. This older group lived in a time (and some still feel this way) of stigmatizing mental illness, of don’t ask, don’t tell, of pink for girls and blue for boys. Much of this is a product of their times. Everyone I’ve met though are exceptionally giving and helpful. It’s not a matter of being unwilling to be supportive, but not knowing how to.
I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m in the older demographic of the forties and being a white Catholic, albeit a new Catholic, but I’m in touch with a younger generation. I have different thoughts about LGBT. I have the experience of having depression, and having been suicidal for a time. I have coping techniques that I can share. I evangelize and witness, but I also ask questions. Apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks. At least I try.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I’m called, and I feel the tug of actually using my experiences to help others. I was told recently to think about this and pray on it, and that is what I plan to do. However, my writing is part of my life and my ongoing therapy and recovery and spirituality, and here are my first thoughts about being called. Sometimes it feels a little overwhelming, but I do know that I wouldn’t be given more than I can manage.
It’s not the first time I’ve been called, but it does seem to be the most important calling because it affects so many others, both in my life and not yet in my life.