I desire penance. I don’t necessarily want to live like a penitent at this very moment, but when it comes down to it, my heart desires to live penitentially.
Let me explain.
Last weekend I went on a vocation discernment retreat with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (SSFPA). I went because I’ve been increasingly confused about God’s will in my life regarding the Franciscan Sisters T.O.R. of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother (T.O.R.s). I decided to visit another community to get some perspective and give God time to speak.
During my time with the sisters last weekend, I kept noticing little differences between the two communities. Things that the average person probably wouldn’t notice. For example, the SSFPA have padded chairs and couches while the T.O.R.s don’t have couches; the SSFPA drink coffee every day while the T.O.R.s only drink coffee on feast days; the SSFPA use condiments whenever, the T.O.Rs only use extra condiments on feast days. These may not seem like extreme differences, but when you’re considering day to day life as a sister in one of these communities these little things make a big difference.*
At first when I noticed these things, I just thought I was comparing everything to the T.O.Rs since I’ve been visiting them for two years and I have nothing else to compare to. But as the weekend went on, I realized that what I really wanted was the T.O.R. way of life. Realizing that intimidated me a little bit, because to say I desire the T.O.R. way of life, particularly when it comes to the differences I mentioned above means my heart has been disposed to desire penance.
The Lord has put on my heart a desire to live penitentially. When I look at the things that the T.O.R.s sacrifice to pray for their spiritual children I can see how I need to make those kind of sacrifices. If I were to enter a community that doesn’t practice as much penance, I would easily allow myself to get lazy. To live a live of penance is to live a life of continual conversion and that is what I desire. The T.O.R. lifestyle would keep me always working on my spiritual life. To quote an article I read while visiting the T.O.Rs:
“The Christian life of penance then consists in this one thing, that man yield himself to the work of salvation which God accomplishes through Christ in his Church.” -Love’s Reply pg.8
This realization has pushed me in the direction of the T.O.R.s again. I am excited to see what the Lord does with this and where He takes me. Please pray for me as I continue to discern the Lord’s will in my life and know of my prayers for you.
*These differences however do not mean that either community is more “right” than the other. Both communities are very much holy and in line with the Church. These differences are just important when coming to understand the charisms each community holds and how those fit in with my personal charisms as it pertains to discernment.