>It is very tempting (for me at least) to compare Religious and married life. It is both amusing to see the similarities, and frustrating to see the differences.
The main frustration, and in fact it is the only frustration, is that family life is not explored by the ‘experts’ more like monastic life, or at least it is not clearly grasped as a slightly different expression of the identical impulse. The impulse I see grounding both callings (and they are both callings) is to serve a community in community with God’s help.
If anyone can come with a better definition I would love to hear it.
The schedule kept at my household is simple: morning prayers at 0630, breakfast by 0650, one son off to the bus by 0730, the other driven by me to daycare, and then at work by 0815. Returning home to lunch by about 1145, alternating between 20 minutes of silent prayer or 20 minutes of exercise in different days, lunch at 1205, back to work by 1245 or so. End of day goes: leave work at 1715, pick up both children at daycare, dinner by 1745 (and God forbid it is one minute late – and we will have multiple meltdowns from the boys), first round of chores. Evening prayers normally around 1900. More chores. Hopefully a little TV+email (yeah I multitask) and bed by 2300.
This is nothing exceptional, of course. In my own little world I would probably drop the need for chores (oh to go back to the good ol’ days of oblates and serfs), and the children would be self-cleaning like my oven – but basically this is the pattern everyday of the week. Weekends don’t vary much, with the exception of actually going to school and work, etc.
Sticking to this routine requires a large amount of commitment and faithfulness all around. And trust: there is a need to know that one’s partner will be there tomorrow again, to take up the slack again, to be a helper again.
One definition of love in a marriage is simply the unconditional guarantee that I’ll here tomorrow. No matter how hard today was. No matter how filled with unloving moments. No matter how many thoughts of freedom through escape to some mythical island full of coconuts with pop-tops. Instead: back again – for more. More what? More crying to God for help to begin to attempt to be loving to this person, this event before me wherever I am and for the grace to apologize when I am not.
It should be unnecessary to see the lack of any substantial difference between the life consecrated through marriage and that consecrated to Religious life. And, as I have repeatedly emphasized, it should be unnecessary to point out that both patterns are subtended by the life consecrated through baptism.
What else is there for a Christian to do but to respond as lovingly as possible to what God brings to their life, with charity, gentleness, patience, and with an eye out for God’s hand – to mimic God through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit?
There’s some need to unpack the ideas above, but here’s the gist: there is only this life, a gift from God. This life which God creates and recreates in His image and likeness. One life to live, though ‘life’ is a complex unit – it is comprised of my social history (thanks friends and enemies!) plus my biological history (thanks Mom!) plus my psychological history (which is where society blends, for better or for worse, with my biology) plus a pinch of Holy Spirit BAM! to add some spice to the soup.
Only one life, to turn and re-turn to. One common life. Common like air is common, because it is the same one that everyone has, nothing special. Common, also, like liturgy is common, the same for all participating.
One life, one faith, one baptism, one Lord and Father of all. One life: treat it as if it was a priceless vessel of the altar (read RB 31).