It is truly delightful when Monica conveys that she grasps a concept, a way of understanding, which is not concrete, such as in daily routines. We have often experienced that Monica understands concepts better than she is able to express them. For example, she shows empathy and thoughtfulness and faith that are not easy, like some skills, to learn. But generally she struggles grasping concepts, such as if-then scenarios, or time sequencing of events, and these have to be illustrated with repetition in order to be grasped. Again, the struggle may be more in her expression of the idea than in her ability to function in a given situation.
In recent months, prompted somewhat by conversations with her peers about boyfriends and girlfriends, we have addressed the concept of vocation with Monica. She has shown lovely interest in the topic and peacefulness in her expression of understanding.
First mom and dad talked between themselves and discussed how they could convey their thoughts to Monica. Then we told Monica we wanted to have an important discussion with her, and we went to a quiet place in the house to sit down together.
Her dad started with the big picture of the word vocation. It’s like voice. It’s like vocal chords – the part of your body that makes the sound when you talk. Vocation means ‘a call’. Then we talked about how God called Monica to life. We talked about how God is calling Monica to live a way of life pleasing to Him. He wants her to love Him and love people. He is calling her to a life of love. Monica does love God and she loves people. So now what? How is God calling her? How does she live out her own call from God?
There are many kinds of callings that Monica has already seen. We pointed out her friends, Fr. Tim, Fr. Frank and Fr. David are called to be priests. Mom and Dad are called to be married. Her friend, Sister Miriam, and family friends in Nashville are called to be religious sisters.
Monica has friends who are priests.
Mom and dad had a vocation to marriage.
So what life might Monica be called to live? Well, Monica might be called to be a religious sister. We found out about a religious order in France that accepts women with Down Syndrome. Monica was excited to watch a video about them. But she doesn’t speak French! So we might keep looking for another order here.
Monica was very engaged in the conversation. She was suggesting ideas. She knew her older sister and one brother had responded to a calling to marry. Their vocation was marriage. But another older brother has the vocation of a single person.
We talked about the fact that sometimes people cannot do some things. We have neighbors who cannot drive, we have family members who cannot eat wheat. We talked with Monica about her need for help and guidance. She already understood that marriage is a call to be open to having children, and to promise complete love to one person for your entire life. She already knew that with Down Syndrome she could not have children, but that this was just who she is. We discussed that because of her situation it seemed that she was not called to marriage.
We also talked about dating. In her workplace and in some social settings there can be a lot of drama about boyfriends and girlfriends. Monica had seen a number of times when her friends were hurt or confused by this drama. She had seen it affect employees at work and cause employment repercussions for some friends. We talked about dating as being an important step for finding someone to marry, but if she did not plan to marry it might confuse boys to go on dates with them. We all agreed, it would be better for her to let any interested boys (or men) know that she was not looking for a boyfriend, she wanted to have many close friends.
Monica might be called to be a single woman. What is the vocation of a single woman?
The expression of your vocation is different for each person, but some things are the same. We are called to pray. We are called to be kind. We are called to love each other.
What are some things particular to Monica’s calling?
Monica is called to pray everyday. That means talking to God, spending time with God. In the bathroom by the mirror is a little morning offering prayer. Monica probably doesn’t say the whole prayer, but it triggers her to say Good Morning to God and to tell him that she is giving him her day. Around lunchtime, she can say the Angelus. She may not remember at work, but we are surprised when she reminds us on the weekends. This helps her recall that Mary said ‘Yes’ when God called her to become the mother of Jesus. At meals, Monica thanks God for the food. At nighttime, we pray together and ask God forgiveness for anytime we were not loving.
Monica is called to be an aunt, a really wonderful aunt. We asked her ‘How do you do that? She responded…She can read stories and play games with the kids. She can teach them how to play nicely. She can show the kids how to clean up. She can teach them how to do chores…. What are some chores you can teach? She knew right away: washing dishes, drying them and putting them away. Sweeping the floor. Picking up the toys. She can help them learn to be quiet sometimes.
Monica is called to be a great daughter. She can listen when we talk to her. She can share meals together and help with the chores. She can tell us about her day and her ideas.
Monica is called to be a great sister. She has an older sister and four brothers! She can be their friend, have fun with them, and show them encouragement when they need it.
Monica is called to be a good member of her church. She can help as an usher. She can put away the Novena booklets on Saturdays. She is called to follow the rules, like not disturbing others in their jobs or prayers. She participates at Mass by saying the prayers and singing.
Monica is called to be a good neighbor. She can pick up trash if it gets blown around. She can help shovel snow or rake leaves if a neighbor needs help. She delivers the notes to the neighbors when we have the block party or Christmas caroling. Monica can always wave and be friendly when riding her bike past neighbors.
Monica is called to show compassion. Monica does this by writing cards and letters to people. Monica send notes to cheer people up. She tells them she is praying for them. (and she is!) She tells them ‘Get Well’ or ‘Congratulations’ or ‘God Bless you on your First Communion’ (or Baptism, or Confirmation).
Monica is called to do her work well. She is called to do her work for God. This means at her paid job, at her home chores, in her volunteering. We asked Monica…”How do you do your work well?” She was enjoying the discussion…. It means do the job the way you were told. It means start your work right away, don’t put it off. It means focusing and don’t let your phone distract you. It means finish the job that you start. It means putting everything away when you are done.
After talking about this concept, Monica showed a new calmness about who she is. It was great to have her sit and brainstorm these ideas with us. She is very happy to live as God is calling her to live.
We have a new prayer we are saying every Sunday after dinner. Here it is:
Gracious God, through Baptism You have sent me to continue the mission of Jesus by sharing my love with others. Strengthen me to respond to Your call each day. Lead me to choose the way of life You have planned for me. Open the hearts of all to listen to Your call. Fill all with Your Holy Spirit that we may have listening hearts and the courage to respond to You.