At Confirmation about fifteen years ago, the presiding bishop spoke an unfamiliar yet deeply attractive word—vocation. He told us that it is something we should consider; most of us were called to marriage, some to single life, and others to the religious life or priesthood. He spent a while relating to us the value of the vocation to religious life. To finish his homily he spoke about a few specific groups: Franciscans, Augustinians, Dominicans, and “oh don’t forget” the Carmelites! He advised that we consider this calling for the rest of the day and forget about it until we turned 18 years old.
This advice to forget was probably heeded by some of the confirmation group immediately. Others may have pondered the call for the day and moved on but I never forgot it.
Some months passed and soon I was a freshman at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago. By that time, the vocational gears were still turning but more in the background. Encountering the Carmelites who staffed and visited Mount Carmel, I grew increasingly impressed by their example of the Christian life and their concern for every person they met. One Carmelite who taught me told me, “Kiev [my nickname], you’re going to be a Carmelite.” Soon enough, I was telling my friends that I was going to be a Carmelite. The girls usually told me to hold off and the guys usually didn’t quite get my deep yearning.
College came; I began investigating the call with a discernment group at the John Paul II Newman Center meeting weekly. The options for living out my vocation were at times daunting. At a dinner with Francis Cardinal George, I mentioned that I was 99% sure that I had a vocation. He responded, “Well, what are you waiting for?” Dumbfounded, it took some time to think of a response. After what felt like a minute long pause, I expressed that I wanted to get some more life experiences—to live for myself a while.
Hesitating, stumbling, and striving to know and live a good Catholic life, I graduated and went on to work in Emergency Medical Services. It was a fulfilling time in my life. Making connections with patients, co-workers, students, and trainees—there was still a space in my heart waiting to be filled.
My sister gave me a pencil box that reads, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” I began to talk to a number of vocations directors. I found a group that had a spirituality and devotion that spoke to my heart. The application process began. But, for good measure and to prevent any doubt, I decided to attend the Carmelite discernment weekend at Carith House in Chicago.
That weekend I found that the space in my heart was spoken to and filled. Now, at home in Carmel as a postulant, I care, struggle, and work at being a good Carmelite in the hope of the Resurrection.
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