when sharing my vocation story, i have often describe my early 20s with this statement, “i always thought that after working in LA for a while, that i would return to seattle, maybe go back for graduate studies, maybe meet a nice gal, buy a nice house and season tickets to see the sonics.”
none of those above aspirations happened. i had no idea of what life is as a 23 year old.
in short, i had encountered God in a very different way and my faith was renewed. it all opened up new chapters of life, ministry and purpose. at that point in my life, God was my fascination. still is. as a consequence, my old fuzzy ways of thinking about myself shifted.
back in the late 1980s, in my personal discernment– ultimately to be a claretian priest– i remember a thought that flew around in my mind: “i cannot imagine waking up next to the same person for the next ____ years of my life.” even though over the years i had met and dated a few really great gals, marriage was not attractive to me. i had a great example from my own parents who were ultimately married for 62 years. but that was not who i was.
at that time, i had met some seminarians from the LA archdiocese and we palled around for a bit. i found out that one of their acquaintances in seminary was also dating a young lady. i had by chance happened to meet the sister of this young lady too. i remember one night discussing this dating situation during a few drinks with a group of them. it became clear that the young lady really loved this seminarian– infatuation at least. at which point her sister, who was frustrated with the whole situation blurted out to her, “you can’t compete with God.” she was insinuating that even with the strong emotional feelings between her sister and this seminarian, that it was not enough– he would eventually become a priest because the God-attraction was even greater.
i do not know whatever happened to those two.
during my novitiate year in 1990, a cable tv worker came to our house in LA. our novice-master had an interesting interaction with him that could be summed up: “it’s honorable/understandable that you guys want to be christian ministers; it’s strange/odd/out of the ordinary that you guys choose to be celibate.” when we broke this understanding down at a conference, an observation was that our society sees marriage as an expectation; there must be something “wrong” with those who choose to be single/celibate. this expectation is even stronger in other cultures.
i liked being counter-cultural. still do.
it seems like more and more people are single these days– for various reasons. but being single is also more socially acceptable– or so it seems. i recently read an interesting article about “how to enjoy being single” ( https://psyche.co/guides/how-to-defy-societys-singlism-and-embrace-independent-life?utm_source=pocket-newtab ). the article addresses the consequences of “singlism” and how to be happy in one’s life without a (marriage) partner.
in the article was a notable quote:
“‘Not having a romantic partner at the center of our lives does not limit our lives, it throws the doors wide open,’ Bella DePaulo, a social scientist affiliated with the University of California, Santa Barbara and author of the book Singled Out (2004), told me. ‘Now, instead of prioritizing one person by default, we can decide for ourselves who really matters to us, and live accordingly.’
DePaulo uses the term ‘single at heart’ to describe the people who will find their greatest fulfillment and meaning without a romantic partner. ‘The touchstone for people who are single at heart is authenticity,’ she told me. ‘That means that the usual paradigms will not always prevail. Who knows what we will do with our lives once we truly feel free to pursue what is meaningful to us rather than what is socially prescribed.’ For many people, certain activities, such as traveling, political campaigning or artistic creation could provide all the passion of a romantic relationship.”
for me, it was committing to be with and serve God in community as a religious priest. in our catholic context, this “call” is to be discerned over the years in various ways.
in our particular way-of-being as claretian missionaries, the above observations would ring true. in the style of st anthony claret, we commit our lives in community with other vowed claretians to share the love of Christ that has impelled us. although i am far from perfect in this call, i still desire to live it out. even though my personal weaknesses hinder my own desired efforts to do this, being and serving as a claretian is what i was put on earth to do.
part of my journey is figuring out how best to do this call. this call has been discerned and continues to be discerned. for me, the question has become– what is the Spirit stirring up in my heart? what must i do? what is love in my life? what is “ministry?”
currently, i joke that i’m a claretian priest on sundays and for rest of the week, i am my mother’s son. of course, i am always arthur gramaje– a man, a catholic and a claretian priest. but my work is primarily within the four walls of the house that i grew up in. and with the woman who gave birth to me and now cannot remember my name.
i am still trying to figure out what the Spirit is doing through it all. i guess i will just take one more step forward with the Spirit’s help and guidance and live today the best i can.
Great reflection, BB! I’ve had similar thoughts over my singleness. Clips are alive!
Father Art: That is one powerful expression of why we need to leave doors open: You just never know what good things are ahead. Thank you for sharing this and helping make the case that not all of society’s “expectations” are, necessarily, great ones.
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thanks lanny– yes the Spirit works through open doors and windows. in out best moments, we see it
Hello Fr. Art.
After being together for 45 years Steve asked me on Saturday if I would pra6 the daily rosary with him. I have asked before, I have never pushed and certainly didn’t make it an issue.
Marriage can be tricky ! So this morning after reading your post (I got up early with the dogs, and ancient boxer 13 + ! And our lil Lo from Mexico we prayed the sorrowful mysteries.
I thought of you during the fifth mystery for perseverance.
You are you mothers son during the week but you are her son on Sunday too!
Perseverance is so hard.!
There is no immediate help on the way, the Calvary isn’t com g to save yo7 all and things are likely to decline.
I prayed for comfort, peace and discernment for you Father.
This is the time when you need to pull from as man6 of your resources as you can and have your own quit , me time.
I know it sounds selfish at first but you are not able to poor from an empty vessel.
I pra6 you have the help you need to recharge and keep embracing this part f your life.
Big hugs from P Town!
Pray for us!
Our state is on fire.
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thanks becca. you are in my prayers as well. this time is a blessing to me– in my best moments i am thankful
You are a good son, cousin Art. Having been there myself, taking care of your mom at this stage in her life is a mission in itself and is quite a rewarding experience. You are doubly blessed, Father Art. I pray for your safety and good health in these difficult times.
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you and yours are in my prayers as well