Lately, I've become jealous of Priests, Sisters, and other vowed Religious. In my eyes, they've got it easy. Don't get me wrong. I know that the path they've chosen is difficult and has challenges of it's own. But, in a way, their life is a luxury. Not in a material way, mind you, but in a spiritual way. When a man or woman takes a vow of chastity and dedicates their life to serving God and others, they become free to focus their lives on prayer and service. The things I try to cram into my daily life, their lives revolve around. Let me explain.
On a typical day, a husband and wife may work at a paying job, care for children or parents, do laundry, dishes, make doctor's appointments, plan for college savings, plan and cook meals, spend quality time with their children, parents, friends and each other, and try to find time for prayer and service. On the other hand, Priests and Religious work, care for aging parents, and have the same housework and health demands that we do but, by design, their lives aren't centered on those things. Their lives are centered on prayer and service. Everything else has to be worked around those two things. Most lay people's lives are structured just the opposite way; with all the activities of daily life taking priority and prayer and service being squeezed in when possible.
Eight years ago I started working part-time at our parish preschool as the Music Director. It was the first time I had worked for pay since my daughter was born which, at that time, was about nine years. While I was initially overwhelmed at the prospect of all that I had to learn and do at my new job, it still felt easier than staying home with my children every day. Why? Because all I had to concentrate one thing when I was there-teaching. At work all I did was teach. I didn't have to flit from one thing to another to keep things running smoothly like I did at home. I didn't have to decide how to divide my time between my children and how to meet their needs. My day was determined by the daily school schedule which ran like a well-oiled machine. Going to work felt (and still feels) like a luxury to me.
So that's why I'm jealous. Because I want my life to be centered on prayer and service too. I want to feel like I'm focused without distraction on what's really important. I want that fresh-from-a-retreat feeling. Do I have to give up on that desire because of my vocation?
In short, no. As I write this I'm beginning to realize how two-dimensional my view of religious and married life is. Priests and religious are as human as the rest of us. They deal with the challenges of distraction, the business of daily life, and, at times, loneliness to top it off. And, married life is a life full of service-service to your husband or wife and, if you've been so blessed, service to your children. As for prayer, my ability to focus on prayer is not limited by my life, it's only limited by my mind. In fact, being a wife and mother has pushed me to rely on the graces God grants through prayer more than it ever did as a single person.
I still wish my life was focused entirely on prayer and service but now, I realize that if it isn't, it's no one's fault but my own.