Itâ€™s 3am on a Wednesday night. The dark stillness of the house is interrupted by a logging truck thundering through the trees past my house, roaring toward a clear-cut somewhere in the pitch-black hills, its empty trailer clanging behind. By the time they have arrived at the landing to pick up the logs, it will be dawn. Their work day has already started and so has mine.
I live with my brother and his wife and their eight-month-old twins. My sister-in-law has watched them alone all day, so my brother and I take the night shift to give her a semi-full nightâ€™s rest. My nephew has just had his second wake up. He has acid reflux, so the only remedy he and I have worked out over the last several months is to change him first, feed him to push down the acid, and then hold him upright, against my chest, his head on my shoulder, and pace the floor until it all goes down for good. I call it the Long Walk. Half asleep now, my nephew reaches for my neck, searching for the cord of my Brown Scapular. Since he discovered it about two weeks ago, he has become obsessed with it and looks for it whenever I am holding him. If he gets to it before I do, he pulls it out of my shirt and sucks on it until it is a sopping piece of brown wool.
Lately, this nightly Scapular bath makes my stomach sink. After visiting the Carmelites in February, I discovered with an odd feeling of calm that I had found my place in the Church. It wasnâ€™t what I expected. There were no jubilant tears of joy at the threshold of the pre-novitiate house or rays of sunlight streaming through stained glass. It was a freak snow storm after a clear morning. At prayer, one of the friars went the wrong way around the prayer stalls and everyone had to stand up to let him through. He walked a quiet gauntlet past his smiling brothers and at that moment I knew. The feeling was subtle but profound. In that instant, my discernment was no longer about where I was supposed to be but had become about what I will learn from sharing my life with these men. My nephewâ€™s penchant for teething on Our Lady of Mount Carmel reminds me again and again that I have, for the time being, turned down the offer of a lifetime and decided to postpone my application to the pre-novitiate until next year in order to stay and help support my brother and his family. I keep wondering if my decision was Godâ€™s will or mine. Jesusâ€™ words in Matthew 10:37 ring like an accusation in my ears:
â€œHe who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Meâ€ [More]