In May 2017 I made a Commitment to Service. That took a lot of careful thought and discussion with trusted people in my life. What it also required was a great deal of listening, intuition and resilience. As, for all it’s beauty, service can have its emotional hurdles. I started my stage at a time where I was searching for my purpose, in that setting I felt I’d reacquainted myself with the me who had to some degree stagnated.
My understanding of the wide-ranging impact of Service and how it was intended that I carried this forward, was limited to just Lourdes. A nice act. In my formation I discovered that the spring that had been uncovered, had no tap that could be turned on or off when it suited. To continue that faith imagery; I could not afford to waste the water – the purpose which I was searching for became an indelible blue print for life that I had been guided to by Mary Our maternal shepherdess. As I became more aware of the move towards the unfamiliar, the discernment focussed on my dedication, the what’s, why’s and wherefores of what she was asking of me.
It’s one of the misrepresentations of both faith and vocation that they can possessed without acceptance of one’s own fragility and that the strength of either is measured by possession rather than how it is nurtured.
Bizarre as it may sound, it’s an awareness and acceptance of my own fragility and fallibility that strengthens my belief that the commitment to service is my vocation – because the perseverance through the challenges of day-to-day service and the daily decoding of gifts with which I may be presented in varying situations, requires strength of character to at first acknowledge and then place into practice.
Rather perversely, the challenge of living an applied and active faith is all areas of my life is one area of my commitment vow that I remain mindful and focussed on daily. It is an occupational hazard, which I carry with a conviction and fervour; but not alone. At the forefront of my thoughts as I type are my fellow pilgrim Hospitalier, who have offered me the kindness of their own insight.
The sociologist in me wonders if this challenge is systemic of the age in which we live. That which George Ritzer described as McDonalization of Society. The application of this fast food, packaged and consumable model to a wider sphere becomes unmanageable and distorted thus causing irrationality and instability. We’ve gone past the tipping point.
Our Commitment requires a shift in focus in this day to day environment resulting in a certain level of emotional confusion and conflict. How I approach that conflict with the attitude of service and attentiveness to fellowship, shapes how I interpret life. Therein lies the quandary. How do I adapt my service in situations that appear counter-cultural, to foster an environment of trust, willingness and stability.
I have and continue to, to a degree, wrestled with my inability to translate this commitment to my home life. On a few occasions this has resulted in a paralysis of inaction which spiralled and returned me to what had once been familiar. Is that a flaw or failure in my commitment? No, it is a strengthening of conviction to create and build a space in each area of my life for encounter. It is also when I need to reach-out for help. By its very nature commitment is a relationship, strengthened by communication and availability.
That sounds all very dramatic, it’s not intentional. I guess it’s just an expression of frustration that I feel I could do more rather than accepting that God doesn’t make mistakes and that I am acting with the energy and gifts that I have available – with best endeavours. It perhaps a of the Mystery of Faith in itself that this vocation of relationship requires a life long search for encounter and communion between us all as pilgrims. It might be that the beauty of the tapestry not known to us, nor that we have any entitlement to a fullness of understanding; yet we still move forward, endeavouring to make that world more accessible.
Friends – I have often felt apologetic for my inability to articulate this challenge in a relatable way, but understanding this vocation is by the very definition of mystery, unclear or not fully revealed. I will continue trying, I thank you for listening and for reasoning things through with me. I hope one day to possess sufficient verbal dexterity to share my faith with greater flow and fluidity.
Chris is a Hospitaller with Service St Joseph as well as a group leader with HCPT.