The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Discerning a Call to Religious Life?

Why go to when you can go to Yes, that's right--a matchmaking service for Catholic religious orders.

It is not much different than any other personals site: You fill out a profile, check off some interests, roll the dice. They give you a list of religious communities that fit your criteria. Whether you want to live a prayerful life in a monastery baking bread all day, be a globe-trotting missionary priest, or work in a parish right here in America, they can find a community that suits you.

They also offer to send your profile information to the vocations contacts of those communities, if you so wish.

According to the website, there has been an increase in the inquiries about religious vocations over the past year. One main reason for that is the internet--folks who are bored at work can simply start browsing (like me). You can stick your toe in the water ever so casually. In the recent days of old, you'd have to talk one-on-one with a priest or nun or write a letter to a community to get the ball rolling. That's altogether too serious. Too intimidating.

I think they can stand to fine-tune this site a bit--the criteria focuses on logistics such as the kind of ministries that appeal to you and the geographic location. There might be some value in selecting for the charism or political stance of the group a bit more. I tried it out and found the US Army Chaplains in my list, with the motto: FOR GOD AND COUNTRY. Um . . . I'll pass. However, I can understand that maybe it is better to leave that level of discernment to the individual than to a computer.

Or maybe they are wise to stick to mechanics to avoid stepping on any landmines. Image the kind of shit they'd stir up to label some of these orders as, "Wacko Conservative Throwback to the 1300s" or "Government Overthrowing Liberation Theologians." We all know which is which, anyway.

To be honest, I've been drawn to the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, as I have been quite impressed with the priests I have known at my parish. The Latin American missionary priests have always been my heros. This was true back in high school and it is true now. I also admire the small-town, farming community priests. The Precious Blood blend both! Yet they didn't appear that high on my search list. I got Maryknoll, the Camboni Missionaries, some assorted Franciscan orders and a bunch of others I didn't really know. Interesting that Holy Cross scored high--I went to a Holy Cross high school and always felt drawn to them, even though education at the high school level has never appealed to me (they do other things, though).

I admit to being turned off by the larger orders that seem more institutional, like the Jesuits and Maryknoll, despite the fact that both of those orders are some of the best witnesses to justice in our Church and I respect them both immensely.

I ended up with a list of 79 potential community matches, and that was after narrowing my search criteria substantially. That is a bit much to wade through. I'd rather have 3 choices to pick from and make the best of it.

The Vocation Netowrk also conducted a very informative Vocation Trends Survey, with all sorts of interesting nuggets of information. The main concern for women is the potential time away from friends and family. For men, it is celibacy and issues of personal freedom. Folks over age 50 seem more drawn to a monastic lifestyle, while younger people would rather be out in the world. In the 2009 survey, more men than women said that wearing traditional religious clothing is important, which bucks a trend which generally has it it with women preferring that.

So, you are asking, am I considering a religious vocation? While I won't say 100% no, I can't imagine not raising a family or marrying. If I had two lives to lead, sure, I'd lead one of them as a priest or brother. I am also finding out that my lifestyle as a Catholic Worker is so darn close to the life of a member of a formal religious community that I'm not sure what the benefit would be of changing--I guess I wouldn't have to hold an outside job or worry about health insurance. And with a priest there is also the issue of presiding over (some of) the sacraments. But overall, all my searching has just led me to believe that my calling is right in front of me.

Anyway, I like the site. It doesn't help you figure it all out or show you a big billboard lighting the way to your destiny, but it provides a sounding board, links you easily to information, and gives you an easy way to start some preliminary searching without doing something as obscene as actually contacting a community to make a formal inquiry.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Building Block Meals

I love being creative in the kitchen and coming up with new concoctions. I am also a very simple cook. I like having basic building blocks to work with.

Sometimes I just like to cook up a large batch of something and just eat off of it all week, mixing and matching whatever I have in the fridge. I am still ever-so-impressed with my purchase 25 lbs of whole-grain rice for just under $18. It is not that hard to cook up a batch and just keep it at the ready. It is cheap and I have whole-grains in my diet on a regular basis--that's called being strategic with time, nutrition and finances.

Rice by itself doesn't do the trick, though, so it goes into things and things go into it--I may spoon it into soup, lob it onto a burrito, fry it up with an egg and some veggies, or just mix things into it. One of the best meals is to take this rice, some cooked ground beef and add hot sauce. Even better if I can saute in some peppers and onions, too.

The other day I added the contents of a can of salmon (wild caught) to the rice, and then chopped up a garden-fresh red tomato.

I live and often eat with vegetarians, so keeping dishes separate can be beneficial for them, as well.

Today's meal? Rice with a pile of bacon, some skin-on baked potato pieces and some cherry tomatoes. All mixed together in bacon juices. It takes like something I spent hours cooking, when in reality I just took a bunch of leftover and out laziness just brought them all to work together in one bowl.