We all have a yearning for God in our hearts, even those who claim they are not religious. The psalmist says it this way:
O God, you are my God—
it is you I seek!
For you my body yearns;
for you my soul thirsts,
In a land parched, lifeless,
and without water. Psalm 63:2
According to St. Augustine, our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Many people mistake this restlessness as a desire for created things: success, wealth, power, fame, people, places, or things, but if we have the fortune/misfortune to attain these, we find that our restless yearning remains. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “God alone suffices.”
St. Benedict speaks of seeking God, and it is the only requirement that he specifically names to allow a newcomer to enter monastic life. Monastic life is Benedict’s response to our restless yearning that only God can fulfill.
For me, this yearning took the form of a tug on my heart pulling me forward and out of myself. At the same time, I knew that it was a call to become more myself than ever before. Pope Francis puts it this way: Finding one’s vocation “has nothing to do with inventing ourselves or creating ourselves out of nothing. It has to do with finding our true selves in the light of God and letting our lives flourish and bear fruit… It will be a perfect fit for your entire life.” (Christus Vivit)
God did not give me a game plan, schedule, or agenda. I did not have a to-do list with boxes I could check off: pray – check, go to Mass – check, love my neighbor – check. There was simply that yearning that tugged at my heart and moved me to do all of these and more in little baby steps. Sometimes I stumbled. Sometimes I got disoriented and went the wrong direction. Sometimes I even fell, but always that gentle tug was there, encouraging me and spurring me on.
Somehow, I knew this tugging came from God, but in the back of my mind, I wondered if I could really be sure. I looked outside myself to how others were living their lives of Catholic faith. Before I was willing to tell anyone what I was thinking, I immersed myself in my parish community, participating in as many aspects of parish life that I could. I went on retreats and found a spiritual director, an associate pastor in my parish.
Throughout all of this, the tugging, the yearning to know the God who I believed was beckoning, continued. Eventually, I became brave enough to consider religious life. I became brave enough to talk about it with my spiritual director. I took the first step, then the second, then the third, until I found my Benedictine community.
That is when the sensation of tugging at my heart stopped. The yearning for God that God placed in my heart was transformed into seeking God in fidelity to the monastic way of life, stability and obedience. That is a daily call that never goes away.
By Sister Karen Ann Lortscher, OSB