Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Revisiting the Fence

A cloistered nun told me, some years ago, that my life for God in the midst of the world was more difficult than hers. At the time, I didn't think that was possible. I did not have to rise every morning at 5:30, show up in chapel when a bell rang, and spend most of each day in silence.

In the twenty-five years since Sister said this to me, I've gained a better idea of what she meant. I believe she was saying that the framework of my life was one in which it was difficult not merely to live, but to live for God. Which is, after all, the point of life... to live for God.

The life of a nun would be impossible for me, because I don't have grace for it. Sometimes, however, I long for the framework of such a life. I long for physical structure to securely fence me in and keep me from getting sidetracked by things that are unimportant, frivolous or even sinful.

In the midst of a society that finds the very thought of living "for God" repressive, fanatical, and politically incorrect, I find myself not securely fenced in, but camped out and living on the fence. I don't intend to embrace the world's standards, but in my attempts to blend in with the rest of society, sometimes I just might find myself compromising.

The fence is where I settle in to watch a PG-13 movie while trying to close my ears to the language and my eyes to "those scenes." It's where I enter a party determined not to gossip, but wind up laughing along with those who do. It is where I know I'm to stand up for Christ, for life, for morality, for biblical truth - yet I pull back for fear of what others might think. In a monastery, questionable movies would not be seen, and speaking ill of others would be frowned upon. Distressing news items wouldn't be matters for debate, but for prayer. God would be the center, there, of everyone's life.

I realize that religious life is not utopian; I do know this. But I would love to live within a structure where prayer times are scheduled, outward distractions are minimal, and God is never forgotten. The world is crazier than ever at this point in time (yes, I realize that's an understatement), and sometimes I would love to just hide away from the insanity. But my call is not to do that. My call is to live for God, love others for God, and pray for God's loving will to reign over all.

My call is to step off the fence and live fully, not just partly, for God.
"Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach." (Mother Angelica)

"Great saints have often been made out of great sinners, but not one was ever made out of a wimp." (Peter Kreeft) 

"You cannot be half a saint. You must be a whole saint or no saint at all." (St. Therese of Lisieux)

"Do not be satisfied with mediocrity." (Pope St. John Paul II)

"You want to do something for the Lord.. do it. Whatever you feel needs to be done, even though you're shaking in your boots, you're scared to death... take the first step forward. The grace comes with that one step and you get the grace as you step." (Mother Angelica)

"Why don't you give yourself to God once and for all... really.... NOW!" (St. Josemaria Escriva)

This is a repost from our archives. It is linked to Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for 'It's Worth Revisiting Wednesday.'   


  1. What a beautiful post and a beautiful image! As a Third order Franciscan (Humilitas) I feel you have read my heart. As a child of maybe 9 or 10 I can remember spending the entire summer mastering balancing snd walking the top rail of the fence that lined a horse Paddock on our farm. I literally had to take a double take when my husband posted this. Somehow, was that actually me? I felt the same about your words. What comes to mind is at the end of each rail was the post where I could stand firm and rest. (Sunday)and that smaller maple trees lined the fence. I often reached out and grabbed a tiny branch or leaf and it steadied me(holy inspirations) I almost never fell.
    Again, I thank you, I will persevere now hopefully with the confidence of,that child I once was. (At least for the monent)

    pax et bonum!

  2. This is me exactly. The wish for more structure in living for God and without all the distractions. But I live in the world too, and must realize this is my call however hard it can be.

  3. Thank you for an inspiring post. The second Mother Angelica quotation really spoke to me today! I need to stop being a wimp too!

  4. YES! I just wrote a post about this similar topic of how to live a contemplative life when you are not called to the cloister. It really feels like a tug of war at times but my spiritual director reminded me that this is part of the spiritual life and it is building up perseverance in me.

    1. I know that tug of war, and I like what your spiritual director said about it; that it's building up perseverance. Thank you for sharing that!

  5. Im there with you on the fence. I have a similar desire though I know a consecrated religious life is not my vocation. You might want to consider being tertiary in one of the orders. From what I've gathered by your blog you seem like a perfect third order Dominican. But you have to discern for yourself where your personality best fits. God bless.

    1. Thanks, Manny. There are opportunities with a number of the orders, and isn't that a blessing! I find echoes with many (probably with all, in various ways), and am grateful to be part of a small group in formation.


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