As my mothers’ casket was being loaded into the hearse after her funeral Mass, one of the Jesuits pulled me aside and said, “I don’t know if this is appropriate, but when the Spirit moves you, you speak. After seeing how you were able to honor your mother and engage people in her faith, I think that – if you’re not in a committed relationship – you should seriously consider the priesthood.”
I thanked him for his words and cracked a half-smile thinking, “Hehe, good one!”
But after all the dust had cleared, the priest’s words rang in my head for several months. After the 2015 New Year I met with the late Fr. Mike Tegeder, the priest in Minneapolis who worked closely with the Native American community and who administered the last Sacrament of the Sick to my mom, and he spoke candidly and openly about discerning my vocation and pointed me in the direction of some helpful priests and religious people.
I began spiritual direction in January of this year. It sounds more formal than what it is: I meet once a month with a Jesuit working at St. Olaf Catholic Church in downtown Minneapolis for 30 to 45 minutes; I ask pressing questions and he generally tells me I’m asking the right questions. The timeframe I set for spiritual direction was a year. By January 2017, I’ll be preparing myself to seek permission to apply to the Society of Jesus, by late spring/early summer of next year, I’ll have an answer and so far, things have been going according to plan.
But it’s not just my plan.
When I got sober and entered into recovery, I took it seriously (this is not my first time at the rodeo). There was a lot of work I had to do so that I wasn’t seeking solutions to my problems in my addictions; I had to surrender to my higher power and meet life on life’s terms, which, is never an easy prospect even if you’re not an alcoholic or addict.
Politically and culturally, I’m left of center and progressive. In addition, my family – as a Lakota tiospaye – has a complicated relationship with Catholicism and Christianity in general. So there are many, well-reasoned and true, factors for me to reject Catholicism and Christianity, given its institutional approach to colonizing my people to say nothing of how it regards LGBTQ people like me. All that is good, right and true.
But the thing about being sober is you accept the will of a power higher than your own desires, politics, and even your own convictions. My mind, quick, full and intelligent as it may be, can reason anything out logically, even my own self-destruction. That higher power is the thing that brought me from the misery of my addictions, at the brink of self-destruction, to sobriety and being of service to my fellows in recovery and in the world. It is the one thing that keeps me sane and sober, even if I never understand how.
So I accepted the realities of my life. I have a wealth of experiences and understandings that can be useful to others. I have gone through the challenges of burying my parents before my 33rd birthday. I have a capacity for compassion and caring. And I have professional skills that can benefit institutions for the good.
Of course, I have always thought I would have a husband and a family of my own to take care of and love. I have always thought that my life would be filled with the joy that comes with meeting someone, growing together, supporting one another and building a life together. I have always thought I would die surrounded by those loved ones.
The reality is that none of those things have come to pass. In fact, the exes and experiences I’ve had illustrates to me that god has pointed my life in a direction of service. Some folks tell me I’m still very young (and I am) and I should wait for the right guy to come along and be patient. That can be as true as my discernment for the priesthood as well.
What I do know is that life is very short and it goes by so quickly. Having the perspective that I’ve been given, I also know that I have a desire to dedicate my life to a greater purpose; it very well could be family, I very well could meet the man of my dreams and set off into a house filled with kids, dogs and frantically coordinating schedules during basketball, football or volleyball season. It could also mean that the church has need of my experiences and perspectives to make it more inclusive, more welcoming, or more defined about how it approaches the vast diversity of god’s people.
All these things can be true. What I know is that wherever I go, I have a responsibility to make the world a slightly better place than when I came into it. I generally think that’s serving a will and a power greater than my own and I think that’s generally for the good.