If I had to sum up my experience and call of the spiritual life in one word, I think it would be “openness.” Part of my story is that I spent about 10 years as a young adult away from the Church, and really away from any intentional relationship with God. Funny, I know, especially given that I’ve spent mostof the last 10 years as a Catholic Sister.
The challenge, and ultimately the blessing, of my own spiritual journey has been to break through the self-imposed barriers that kept me from God’s love. It’s hard to explain, but my own growth in humility and love has been to open myself more deeply to God’s love for me, as me, in all my brokenness and beauty. Somehow, it’s easier for me to experience God’s love for others, especially people in need in our wounded and broken world. But me? That’s been a constant invitation to growth, life, and love which has led me in surprising directions well beyond the boundaries and limitations I placed on myself. In the end, it was my response to that invitation that led me to community and life as a Catholic Sister.
In my religious community we have a tradition where you can choose to have a personal motto engraved in your vows ring. When I was discerning to profess my vows as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, the phrase that kept coming to me in prayer was “Live with an open heart.” So that’s what is engraved inside my ring. That’s what I wear each and every day, part of my reminder of my commitment to act justly, love tenderly, and walk in the way of peace.
I found myself reflecting on this call, invitation, and response today as I was revisiting the renewal of virtue ethics in Catholic moral theology as part of my preparation for comprehensive exams later this month. I’m working through texts I’ve already read, but this passage by theologian Charles Curran on the particular Christian virtue of openness caused me to pause in my studies (and write this blog post!).
“Openness is a virtue that many Americans today gladly accept. We talk about the importance of being open and the dangers of being closed. However, being open is much more challenging in reality than it seems. Being open to God (and others) stands in opposition to self-centeredness and self-sufficiency. The person who is closed in on oneself can never hear the promptings of the Spirit. … The Christian has to be open to hear the call of God and seize the opportunity in the midst of all the daily duties, obligations, and distractions of our lives. True openness thus calls for a contemplative aspect to our being that allows us to truly discern the call of God amidst the din and cacophony of the many voices we hear. God comes to us not only in the depths of our hearts but also in the circumstances of our daily lives especially in the needs of others. The spiritual tradition often recommends time for contemplation and retreat precisely so that one can truly be more disposed to hearing the call of God in daily life and acting upon it.” – Charles E. Curran, “Virtue: The Catholic Moral Tradition Today”
My response to God’s invitation cannot be a passive response. It requires intention, presence, and attention in the midst of the very many distractions of our lives.