Does Career Success Impede Our Holiness?

By a Leonie’s Longing Contributor.

Most of my life I have had a certain disdain for wealth and luxury.  I would catch myself looking down on those with big houses, nice cars and name brand clothes.  I grew up poor the majority of my childhood and I was proud of where I came from and the challenges I had to overcome.   When I converted to Catholicism and eventually entered the religious life, the value placed on poverty and shunning luxury fueled my belief that pursuing wealth was diametrically opposed to a holy life.  After leaving religious life, I worked in jobs that I was underpaid and overqualified for. Pursuing a secular career that paid well with opportunities for upward mobility seemed too worldly a pursuit and an obstacle to my vocation.  Alongside me, I had friends, who, like myself, graduated from expensive Catholic colleges with massive student loan debt, follow a similar path.  It seemed working for the Church in some capacity was the goal, regardless of the low pay, and secular well-paying careers were avoided.  As the years went by, I started to question these choices.  Why do devout Catholics (particularly women) pursue low paying jobs they are overqualified for?  What was influencing this and is it healthy?  Is this what God wants?

In the Catholic tradition, we are taught the virtues of poverty and detachment from earthly goods.  This especially becomes prominent in religious life in the Vow of Poverty.  As we detach from earthly things, we are taught that this allows us to attach to God and “store up treasures in heaven”.  The benefits of wealth, such as luxury, convenience, and comfort, are looked down upon and seen as obstacles to our walk with Christ.  The concept of the Prosperity Gospel that we hear of from some of our Protestant brothers and sisters is close to the exact opposite of how we view our faith in relationship to money.  In fact, our tradition holds that suffering (including financial hardships) are opportunities to rely on the Providence of God and sometimes are directly given to us to grow on our paths to becoming saints. And this skepticism of wealth and success, especially if we have come from religious life, can guide our decisions in career paths, financial choices, and lifestyle.

Yet, with all this being said, the million dollar question is (no pun intended), have we swung the pendulum a little too far?  Are we taking something neutral or even good, and shaming it?  To be clear, I am not saying working a fulfilling but low paying job is wrong.  Or that the teaching on detachment is erroneous.  This is more a challenge to evaluate our views on wealth and career success.  Negotiating pay, investing to build wealth for the future, purchasing a home (yes, even as a single man or woman), pursuing a promotion or career change for better pay – these are not bad things.  And so, I challenge anyone reading this, if you find yourself in a job that you are overqualified, underpaid, and living paycheck to paycheck, I encourage you to reflect on your approach to your career, to success, and to wealth.  Do you find distorted thinking, shame, guilt, or scrupulosity at its foundation?  If you can move up in your job, why aren’t you?  If you can get better pay, why not?

If this message strikes a chord with you, I recommend researching professional development learning opportunities to develop and upgrade your skills, learning from inspirational figures such as Dave Ramsey, Tony Robbins and Matthew Kelly, and finding a career counselor to address what’s been holding you back (National Career Development Association is a good place to start).  LinkedIn is also a fantastic resource for networking, workshops and keeping up to date on trends in the workforce.  Remember that as lay Catholics, we are not barred from success, nor are we forbidden to become wealthy and enjoy our success.  Poverty or wealth does not determine attachment to goods – our love, generosity, and pursuit of God determines this.  It is up to you how you decide to live that out.

Medical Records and Other Exciting Subjects

By Belva Mulvahil

Hello Everyone,

This is a public service announcement about medical records. This is especially for anyone entering the convent or returning to lay life but it’s just darn helpful in general.

GET YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS

KEEP YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS

Why do I say this?

Your medical records are important. Maybe you’re young and healthy. Great! You still need to know how healthy you are right now. Then  in 10 years you can compare the old and new.

You may think, hey it’s the modern era! Everything is electronic. Doctors talk to each other. I am GOOD.

Well, you might be wrong.

Specialists sometimes don’t send things or share things. I have a dermatologist who still uses paper files (in 2019!) and as a result NEVER sends info to my Primary Care Physician (PCP) even though I’ve signed a release multiple times. It’s weird, but that’s the way it is.

If you move, your PCP doesn’t share things with your new provider unless you ask. Some offices will charge you a lot to get copies of your records. Maybe you won’t have the login information to the online portal. Or your doctor may have a retention and disposal policy where they destroy records after X (not very many) years.

Why does this matter?

Many people have to get a physical, etc as part of the application process to enter religious life. Let’s say you’re in the convent for 6 years, return to lay life and struggle to get on your feet. Then you find a job, move to a new town and go to the doctor again. Do you have a medical history to give the new doctor? If you entered the convent before electronic medical records were widespread, time is of the essence. Try to get those records before they are destroyed!

Also, you may have gone to the doctor while you were in religious life. Do you have those records? Probably not. You should contact that doctor / those doctors now to get your files up to date. 

If you had a thyroid test done in 2008 and you called that doctor today, they might say “we’ve destroyed everything older than 2011.”

Last year in the United States there was a scare about measles. How do you know if you were vaccinated for measles? How do you know if you had the measles booster? You could only be sure if you had your medical files available to you.

I am super thankful that I just found a box in my basement with old medical records. I left it with my family when I went to the convent and it was given back to me sometime after I returned to lay life. Thank goodness!

What’s the takeaway message here?

If you’re discerning and/or preparing to leave for the religious life, find a trusted person with whom you can leave your files.

If you’ve come back to lay life, see what you have. You can’t change the past so if your records aren’t great, try to not get too sad or frustrated with yourself. If you are missing things or have gaps, try to contact those providers as soon as possible.

If you’re a superior in a religious community, please make a medical records release form part of the exit process. Please contact the community doctor and find out what he/she needs so that the sister who is leaving has her medical history.

Have you had any problems with this? Do you have any great insights or tips to share? Please leave a comment below!

Review of a Dissertation: The Impact of Leaving the Convent on a Woman’s Perceived Relationship With God

Reader Michaela reviews the dissertation ‘The impact of leaving the convent on a woman’s perceived relationship with God as viewed through the lenses of attachment and divorce,’ by Jennifer Cabaniss Munoz, 2018.

In this approachable and novel dissertation, Jennifer Munoz approaches the effect that leaving the convent has on a woman’s perceived relationship with God. Writing in 2015, Munoz not only shines a fresh light on the effect leaving religious life has on a woman, but pierces right to the most important effect leaving can have: an effect on a woman’s perceived relationship with God. “It defies belief,” she writes, “that a woman who entered a community and a way of life with such an understanding of what she was undertaking, and committing herself to it whole-heartedly, would find it irrelevant to her relationship with such a spouse when she makes the decision (or is forced) to leave that life.” (58)

Attachment theory and divorce are the primary frames of reference Munoz draws upon to explore the affect that leaving has on relationship with God. Although divorce is not a theologically accurate lens through which to view leaving the convent, it proves to be an apt lens psychologically. Firstly, consecrated life is understood as being the bride of Christ, as having a special way of relating to Him. When a woman leaves religious life, she makes a shift from consecrated to unconsecrated and leaves behind a special way of relating to Jesus. Secondly, the grieving process following the shift in relationship exhibits a similar pattern of protest, despair, and reorganization. The paradigm of divorce provides insight as to why leaving the convent is so difficult, but it doesn’t quite explain the diversity of difficulty with which women handle the situation. To explain this Munoz turns to attachment theory.

Attachment theory describes the relationship between a person and their attachment figure, the person who serves as a safe haven or caregiver in a time of distress. Expectations around such a relationship are formed during childhood and these expectations are known as an attachment style, which is secure or insecure (preoccupied, dismissing, or fearful). This attachment style influences how a person interacts with other attachment figures later in life including God or a spouse. Much like the example of divorce, acknowledging an insecure attachment style toward God requires standing in the truth of the human emotional experience instead of turning toward idealizations. “[I]ndividuals can simultaneously have an intellectual belief, keeping with the tenets of their faith, that God is in essence the perfect caregiver – omnipresent, all loving, forgiving, and faithful – and yet struggle with a deeper emotional sense that he is perhaps none of those things, but is rather much more like the human caregivers whom they have experienced.”(151)

Whether a woman has a secure or insecure attachment style can affect her capacity to handle the transition of leaving. For example, a woman with a secure attachment style would be expected to recover more quickly from the transition because the struggle will primarily be establishing a new identity and way of relating to God. For a woman with an insecure attachment style, in addition to establishing a new identity and way of relating to God, she might struggle with feelings of having been abandoned or rejected by God. At the end of the dissertation Munoz suggests a few potential therapeutic interventions that can assist in the transition including narrative therapy, emotion-focused therapy, and collaboration with spiritual direction.

Even if the particular theme of this dissertation doesn’t quite fit the reader’s situation (it didn’t quite fit my own), the series of topics covered throughout are thought provoking and can help identify areas of growth to be had and healing to take place. These topics include passage lag (“determining which habits, customs, and elements of one’s training as a
religious to retain in one’s new role as a laywoman, and which to reject as no longer relevant” (34)) internal working models, grief, and examples of various emotional struggles and identity struggles associated with leaving. Lastly, I would like to mention that this dissertation is written by someone who gets it. She herself had to leave a religious community due to medical difficulties. She dedicates the dissertation “To ‘Marie’ and all those who struggle.”

 

Note: I was able to access a copy of this dissertation through ProQuest Dissertations and Theses on a guest computer at a local university.

The Rejected Bride

By Esther Caswell, reprinted with permission from her blog.

Jesus, we need to talk. Like the prophets of old or the Psalmist, I need answers to my complaint. My heart is racked in pain. I need you to answer me. Hope in you becomes my instrument of torture in this regard. Please apply the salve of truth.

Who are you to those who heard our cry as Bridegroom and who innocently followed you, who left everything behind and prostrated themselves before you giving you everything, these ones who entered your Church believing it was a Mother, a place of belonging only to be told in your Name that they were excluded, unfit, unwanted and unredeemable? Those who were tortured during lonely nights and told in the day to keep their selves tucked in and their brokenness hidden, that their love would cause harm. Who were told that any love they needed would come from you alone and reminded through correction how they ought to sit and stand and kneel when they pray? Who were told to spare the dramatics of tears in your presence like Eli told Hannah of old? Those who only wanted you and were told by the “voice of God” that they were not enough? Whom do you choose Jesus? What of these rejected? Are they like those who came to the wedding banquet improperly clothed and are now subject to wailing and gnashing of teeth? How is it that thieves, prostitutes, and public sinners are promised your Kingdom but these tossed away? And when they are tossed away because their white knuckles could no longer hold the death grip, who is there to catch them? They are regarded with suspicion and punished by all for falling off a pedestal that somehow the Church needs. Even the divorced woman in the back pew is better understood because we can all allow husbands to be weak.

How many now to prove their worth to you by a strange kind of “forced labor” for your Church, their own private Gulag, through work is their salvation? Some hold themselves to even higher standards as if all the good work and prayer could somehow wipe out the shame of being unwanted by YOU. Others already feeling the condemnation, fall the other way in despair hoping to find something that will numb the pain of this rejection. Like soldiers back from war they are mentally tortured by making sense of what does not make sense, by trying to find the God they only wanted serve.

I do not make this appeal to anyone but you because you know those of which I speak. You know well. Can you please tell me your heart breaks too? Please tell me, Jesus, that this is not you! Jesus, come to all those who have been wounded by your mediators. Come to those who find it hard to breathe in the presence of innocent enthusiasm for you because to them it represents the way the pain began. Come to those who cannot trust themselves or your voice in them because that place has been broken. Because they did and it led to their demise. Come to those who feel like they asked for a fish and were given a snake. Jesus, come to those who even still have made attempts to come to you and were turned away like a disease that can be caught.

Jesus, Abba, Holy Spirit: Tell me this is not who you are! Please I beg you, make it clear. You are God, I will follow no other but if I may claim my intimacy with your cross as my authority and remind you who you are. You are the God for the weak and abandoned who forgave the thief as you died. You defend the orphan and the widow, and Lord please your rejected bride! Jesus, I need you to go find them in their places of darkness and shame. I need you to bath them and clothe them. I need you to restore the integrity of your name. I come like Esther before the King. Jesus please, act on their behalf.

You and I both know there is no other way. You have to go yourself or send your Mother. No one in your Church seems to understand these ones and perhaps it is because they do not want to admit the Bride is broken because they will need more Faith in you.

Book Review – You Need a Budget

You Need a Budget by Jesse Mecham

Reviewed by Onie Woolahan.

Studies show that the vast majority of people in the Western world do not learn how to handle money when they are growing up. And if your experience was anything like mine, you did not learn about handling money in religious life (poverty, right?). Therefore, chances are high that when you returned to lay life, you were not any further along in learning how to manage money.

You Need A Budget is a great tool for anyone looking to get a better handle on finances. 

I’ve read things here and there about budgeting, finance and investing. Many of these books are similar and tell you to save your money, cut up your credit cards, have an emergency fund, etc. But this book is different and I really liked the perspective that the author brought to this topic. The main point he makes over and over again is that you know what’s important to you and therefore your priorities with money can only come from yourself. He encourages you to first think about what’s important in your life and use your money to do those things.

In areas of my life such as career and relationships, I’ve come to realize that I need to ponder my goals and strategize what I need to do to get there. But for some reason it had not occurred to me to think about my money in this way. It’s a great paradigm shift and I am excited to see what happens as I put these ideas into practice.

I really enjoyed this book and I think you will too. It’s easy to read, very positive and has information that can help people in various stages of life.