whispered love
the call to set out on a journey




In 1987 I felt the start of a calling, something that is so hard to explain, but which kept at me, and so I went through my priest to my diocesan advisor, and I was assessed in various ways, and as part of that process I was sent to Launde Abbey to explore vocation to ordination as a priest. I travelled there by public transport, then walked the last 6 miles on foot, through wild countryside, on a perfect starry night, when the stars were slung like bracelets on the wintry outline of the trees. It was so pretty.

I arrived at the Abbey in the dark of the night. I truly offered my life up to God at that place. And, far more than I expected, I had encounter with God on that retreat. And a clear voice. Basically I felt God say to me, absolutely in black and white, 'no way' and these simple words: "I want you to grow in Me." It was as clear and certain as anything to me. I had peace about it. And with the benefit of hindsight and the knowledge of all the ways my life has unfolded, I am *so* glad I heard that guidance and was submitted to it. Basically, since then, I have just got on with the journey of my life, and I let go of thoughts of becoming a priest.

But maybe God does not let go of us? Since transitioning, my prayer life has been deeper than ever in my life. So, painfully, has been my conviction of sin. And in addition, the long ago niggle has started again. A friend sent me a cross, and for inexplicable reasons when I wore it to confession and eucharist, I started feeling a purity and a simplicity. A feeling of being true to myself. The eucharist is the heart of my christian life: it is the body and blood of Jesus Christ, being offered as sacrifice, so that I can confess and then be made pure in Him. And I feel a tug and a call again.

To get to the point, I feel deeply attracted to monastic life. Vocation unfolds gradually, and is not something to be grasped. It's something that needs to be recognised by others, I think. Yet the whole prospect of it, unsought, is like the crisp freshness of a beautiful autumn day to me. What I know is, I can conceive of this: being a servant of Jesus, and caring for people in trouble, and subordinating my cleverness, and burying myself in the life of Christ.

That's what I try to do as a nurse.

What I don't precisely know, is how to make sense of the call to religious life, in the life that I live. After lots of exploring, and many stays in convents, I was invited to come and start living in one, with sisters who loved me, and stood by me over the years. But yet once again, at the very point of invitation I felt it wasn't the opening door. I was due to start on Ash Wednesday 2015, but with days to go I just didn't think I could. There were other commitments in my life, and people I needed to care for, and yet I still had (and have) that niggling sense of calling, and of recognising myself in that kind of givenness to God. We just don't have all the answers, but we can wait and pray.

I may be mistaken in my understanding. But I shouldn't be ashamed to respond to what may be the call of God. Because as a Catholic friend once told me, "One thing we can be certain of, is that the desire to please God, pleases God." And I think that's really true.




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