This post is part of the Catholic Women Blogger’s Network Blog Hop. This month, we’re chatting all about vocations. Join us at Reconciled to You to see all the January posts!
There’s so many awesome things about becoming Catholic. I love to talk about them. All the time. Kind of actually all. the. time.
But there are a few things about conversion that are not so awesome.
Some things are just plain hard, friend. Many of us find that our joy at finding the treasure is made bittersweet by the grief for what we have lost.
Converts often face great trials and loss. We lose close friends, family. We lose support networks, often a whole community. This holds true for Protestants as well as other faiths, and those who previously held to no faith at all. Sometimes, we even lose our jobs.
Now, in the Church, our vocations are much larger than our jobs. We can be called to a religious order, to be a priest, to married life, to parenthood. I love how the Church has such a holistic view of our lives.
But, today, I want to talk specifically about more career type vocations, because so many converts struggle in this area.
For those that were employed (or working toward employment) as clergy, theology professors, or religious educators, this problem can be serious and life-altering. Have a listen to Ken Hensley’s story, below. Ken was a pastor, and experienced serious employment problems after his conversion. Protestant pastors usually get an M.Div. How much is an M.Div or a PhD in theology from a Protestant school worth in the business world? (Spoiler alert: nothing. Absolutely nothing).
It’s a sadly common story. In our own family, our career/vocational matters were complex and difficult enough already, but have absolutely been negatively impacted by our conversion. (Mark’s recent job loss, for the record, was not directly connected to our conversion.) It’s been a hard road for both of us to learn to embrace this our cross – expertise and a terminal degree two fields (theology and philosophy) already gutted by the recession, compounded by a change in tradition that means Mark’s PhD in theology is not nearly as valuable as it was. Sometimes, we feel lost, hopeless, and confused, trapped in a side eddy of a river that everyone else seems to have figured out years ago. Job loss compounded by these complexities when you have kids and are staring down 40 kind of sucks. Thinking about vocations right now? It makes my palms sweat.
But the fact is, we aren’t alone. And if you are a convert with vocational problems, friend, let me tell you, neither are you. You are not the only one who wonders if you will ever put your life back together. You are not the only one who can’t figure out how these tattered pieces are supposed to make anything beautiful.
And more than just solidarity, let me also share with you the hope that I have found in this trial of extended under-employment, then job loss after one short year of relief.
The sun still shines. Notice it.
Financial stress, humiliation, and the depression that comes from personal crises can try to blot it out, but my friend, you can walk free. You are a child of the king who owns all. If you are poor, if you are flat broke, deep in debt and overdrawn, even if you lose your house and your credit, you are only poor as the young child of a Father who is infinitely wealthy, and as a wise parent, provides you with exactly what you need to thrive spiritually.
You are cherished by your Father. Your prayers are heard.
When your trials go on and on, does the sky ever seem like steel, the heavens dark and closed against you? They aren’t. Believe me. God has plans for you, even if it takes years to see. Even if you never do see on this earth, you matter. God hears you and loves you.
You matter and can contribute to the world.
Do you feel isolated? Useless? Can’t give money because you’re broke or time because you are working three jobs and need to see your kids? Remember St. Francis. St. Clare. In fact, remember all those who took vows of voluntary poverty and made a huge impact on the world. The devil wants you to give up, and feel that you can’t make a difference. It’s a lie.
You can grow and even thrive here.
Check out this encouraging read about the spiritual growth that can come through financial catastrophe. My favorite part is when the author talks about finding the grace to embrace humility, not humiliation. It’s absolutely humiliating to suffer financial privation. You feel cut off from the world, separated from normal life and society. You feel judged by every innocent bystander, and you learn not to read political commentary, as so much of it vilifies the poor and assaults your self-worth. As I have (sometimes) embraced my humiliation, I have (sometimes) found a clarity of self that I never really knew before. We are all the same, naked and poor before an all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-loving God. The poor are not less or more, nor are the rich. We all carry crosses; everyone we meet has suffering in their heart and needs kindness and love.
Finally, if you need help, please get it.
Public programs are there for a reason. If things go south and going to the grocery store gives you palpitations, panic attacks, or leaves you sobbing in your car, GET HELP. IT IS OKAY. You may qualify for help with medical bills, food, utility bills, job training, or cash assistance. This can allow you to keep your head above water while you find your way forward. It’s a humiliating – or humbling – step, but Catholic social teaching is clear: we as a society are responsible to feed the hungry. If you can’t buy food, don’t feel guilty. Get the help. You are doing what needs done to take care of yourself and your family. And ignore the politics.
The takeaway? Our circumstances change in a heartbeat, just like our very lives. What lasts is faith, hope, and charity. You don’t need any money, status, or shoes to seek those.
Finding your vocation as a convert
Most converts can go on with their lives – if you’re a software engineer, a businessy type, an astronaut, etc., keep on keepin’ on, friend.
But if you were clergy or a seminary prof? It’s going to be tough for a while. It might be hard to get your new vocation sorted out. Let me know if I can pray for you. I’ve included some resources below that I hope are helpful.
- Coming Home Network Vocation Support. The Coming Home Network exists to provide support to converts in all areas of life. This section of the website is specifically for clergy and other non-Catholic religious personnel who are on the road home.
- Landed, by Randy Hain. This book by a popular Catholic author has 100% 5 star reviews on Amazon and I’m planning to buy one! Has anyone read it?
- Saints and Social Justice: A Guide to Changing the World by Brandon Vogt. This book looks amazing; so far I have only flipped through it. Catholic social teaching both encourages us to change our world and to accept help when we need it.
- Serving the Church Through a Second Vocation – getting ordained later in life. This is something that Protestant clergy will sometimes do, though many find their way as lay people.
- There is a huge free virtual Work at Home Summit coming up at the end of January. The organizer is Caitlyn Pyle, a gal who was fired from her job in 2011 and has since built her home business into something amazing. Caitlyn plus more than 45 other experts are offering 6 days of free seminars on working from home, including Landing your first work-at-home job (with Angie Nelson), and Identifying your work-at-home strengths (with Rosemarie Groner). Click here to register.
And if you want, please download the free worksheet I worked up to help center yourself and make a plan to move forward from trials.