The Commoner: A reflection on Vocational Discernment

The Commoner: A reflection on Vocational Discernment

While tending his father’s herd, Don caught gaze of a beautiful young lady and felt his heart leap out of his chest. As if to clasp his dear life before it passes away and like a homeless hungry boy madly pouncing at a piece of bread, he rushed towards her. Greeting her upon arrival, he tasked her with curios conversation. He asked for her name, where she came from and whom her father was, questions to which even her simple one word answers impressed and left him helplessly burning with desire to follow her closely, know her intimately and love her dearly. She liked him back, saw something adorable in the little commoner and invited him “Don, come and see,” and he left everything and followed her[1]. They spent some time together, best moments of his life as yet. They grew fond of each other, drew closer and more intimate by each day. Donna was her name, the daughter of King Donius. The two fell deeply in love and decided to take things a step further; but Don was yet to fully understand royalty, how to live and behave like a prince. 

King Donius, a wise ruler in his own right, upon hearing of the promising relationship between his daughter and Don, invited the boy to make simple promises of fidelity to his daughter, ones that she herself was not obliged to reciprocate until a later date[2]. In addition, Don made a commitment to join hands with Donna to complete the lengthy process of incorporation of suitors into the royal family. The ceremony was perfect in everything except the formalities of making the royal pledges. Royalty takes no chances at surprises making sure that all that is said and done is in accordance with tradition. Don rehearsed in advance and on the special day recited a formula prepared for him word to word except only his name, signature, place and date. Even when the official posed personal sounding questions like, “Don, what do you desire?” his response read some bold statements given him from the same formula. If he were to respond freely, knowing the young man, he might not have uttered the same lines. Such are the lessons as learnt from antiquity; as the recruit slave’s response to the question “what do you stand on” which he answered, “sand,” is far off the mark from what a champion among gladiators, after years of taming would sound, “sacred soil…”[3] Don would one day learn to love and with his own life honor his Master. A free spirit, the boy whom taming and confining to court life was never to succeed without killing his passions followed Donna and lived apart from his family learning princely manners and traditions of royalty. Guardians entrusted with his care and training spoke well of him and recommended him for various honorable duties and responsibilities among princes and courtiers. These he did well and earned the love and respect of many in the kingdom.

Time passes and people learn truths which they cannot help but confront head on. Being a prince, unless born of a King, is not only about being in love with a princess. With time one learns that becoming a prince is a process of self-denial, renunciation of one’s first nature. It is the suppression and submission to a higher calling. It is a love and service of not the particular but rather the more universal[4]. Each day in the life of a prince is a pouring out of the self to fill oneself with another, intellect, will and liberty included[5]. One learns to think and feel[6] with tradition, to speak and act contrary[7] to first nature in order for an agent more cultured to manifest and articulate the way of the kingdom.

The more he made progress towards royalty and away from his commonness, the more Don began to miss himself. He loved the people but the people loved the prince, not Don as such. True to himself, he always took any opportunity to have a taste of commonness and made his point to share his real desires with those who had the power to allow a part of him to live. Donna, however, loved the boy she met out in the woods, not just the promising prince living an absurd life under the wings of the guardians of her Father’s Kingdom. Where, prior, they used to spend whole days out in the woods chasing after rabbits, catching birds and butterflies, playing hide and seek in the wild, singing common songs and reciting freelance poems, days after their engagement were spent making fine discourse with the learned at court and proclaiming royal decrees at market places  and town squares. Oh how they missed their casual relationship. A prince was the way they could be together according to tradition. Only the common man willing to renounce his commonness could be elevated to prince, for a princess cannot stoop low. Tradition, law and its guardians would not have it otherwise regardless of even the princess personal preferences.

Don grew weary of being at court without himself nor his family to identify with. His spirit was fading, dying and suffocated. Even when he tried to salvage his little identity, hunting deer and herding the royal beasts, the guardians could not have him entertain such fantasies. Time drew nearer and word came backed by recommendations from the guardians, that a royal wedding would be arranged in three years’ time; Don must have himself ready to marry the princess by then. He was excited; finally the full title of prince would be bestowed on him, he would then be free to do what he wills, as he will and how he wills it. He rushed off to see Donna and spent eight full days with her under the direction of one of the old sages whose humility and wisdom ever struck deep despite his fading life. Towards the end of their time along, Donna knowing how deluded Don had remained, a boy stuck in his past and over expectant of his future,  she posed a question at him “Don, are you happy? What do you really desire?” She was not interested in the rehearsed responses which all her past, present and future suitors in their courage and delusion would dull her untiring, ever listening ears with little sincerity; but she sought honesty, true love and not mere sacrifice. She counseled him to go home for some time, meet his people and bid them farewell before eventually embarking on the last test to princely office. Only then would he know the truth of what he was letting go of if he thought himself ready to become other than his fellow commoners. Every man who after travelling long but on the wrong path, in his pride feels shy to admit until he finds the humility to revisit his origins, the spirit with which he set off with.

As was per custom, princes entertain and spoil themselves to wine and women as they celebrate their gallantry. Don over the years was not been spared from some of these pleasantries. Gentility of royalty never betrays weakness to common thirsts and cravings, yet only known to those privileged enough to catch the noble man in his hour of sleep, he is often trodding the streets in the dark uncovered like the destitute. Such princely indulgencies Donna knew and despised. Her grace, patience and tolerance was beyond good and evil[8], filled with the wisdom to “let them grow together until harvest time” which explains how lost men survive among a few celebrated select.

Among the maid servants of the court, Donna was elated by one beautiful common girl whose heart was pure and mind innocent. She noticed how the little girl’s simplicity awakened the conscience of her boyfriend, a common boy lost among nobles. Only this girl made him doubt and question his commitment to princely life. Unlike the rest of women he met at court, she was the only one he could be himself around, share his struggles and interact respectfully with. With her he would sneak out, go to places, have fun and laugh like a commoner though in his mind she was never his to touch let alone to violate as princes in their pride and exaggerated manliness would without remorse, for he respected and loved her. Her person stood in the way of everything he had learned to love and value over his many years at court. Several times his love and respect for her tempered by the guilt of betraying Donna and the feeling of unworthiness, led him to push her away but their paths kept crossing. All of his defenses melted in her sight, betrayed by a fool’s smile. Her name was Lynda and her friends, knowing how her relationship with the fiancé of the princess would turn out a scandal if exposed, tried dissuading her but she was stubbornly graced with a true love that knew no fear, that simplicity mocked by many as naivety. Donna’s love and jealous for her boyfriend drove her to learn all these developments, yet still, her wisdom filled her, rather, with happiness and joy to know that her love lives, regardless, in the arms of another. She even watched out for and protected them for many were the prying eyes at court and, on everywhere, many despiser quick to condemn. So, towards the end of the eight days as she advised Don to visit his family, she also asked Lynda to take time off, go home and rest for a while despite it being the middle of the year when the winter is coldest[9].

On a beautiful summer day, Don set out to visit his people as advised him. The news he brought threatened to eclipse the wonderful day and kill a girl but love was not to accept defeat on such a one as on any other day. He looked into her clear eyes with his wet, full of involuntary tears, as he struggled to let the words out, a sword into a pure heart. She smiled at him and knowing what troubled him reached out for his hand, drew it towards her heart and softly whispered in his ear, “Don’t please say it. Just go ahead, for it’s already done. God willing you and I will have a family together; otherwise a prince you shall be.” And here he thought she was simple all this while. That was the moment when glory and honor gave way to love and truth. By the time Don reached his family the message had changed from farewell to homecoming. No more a prince to be, Don once again became a man. He left the palace with nothing but his precious Lynda for a wife and the gift[10] Sheldon his priceless son. After nearly a decade of royalty, his down-going reached its lowest point, in the eyes of the world he hit rock bottom, a shame and scandal to the “many too many.”[11] Contrary to this humiliation emerged in a split second Don’s conversion to holiness and happiness,[12] the affirmation of the true values and not a veiled scam. Back home with his family he lived as himself again, humble, happy and satisfied to be loved by a few for whom he truly was. His friendship with Donna even grew stronger and livelier for the Don she knew and loved lives once more.

To be continued…

[1] The Church invites candidates to religious life to discipleship, to encounter Christ on the Mission

[2] Simple and perpetual, a scholastic commits himself to the Society but not the Society to him.

[3] Spartacus, Sand and Blood: the Arena is sacred soil where great men rise and fall fighting for honour

[4] General Congregation 35 of the Society of Jesus: universality and availability to mission

[5] Sucipe, The prayer of Saint Ignatius: a pledge of total surrender to God

[6] Sentire cum Eclesia, thinking and feeling with the Church is a mandate to all Christians, GC 32

[7] Agere Contra, Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius: doing the opposite of one’s natural inclination

[8] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

[9] Out in the cold one is bound to seek warmth and winter is generally the opportune time for conception

[10] Atipaishe (Shona) means “The Lord has given us,” an acknowledgement of a gift, sign and mission from God

[11] Herd morality sees only what lays open, base, superficial and inferior not deep enough

[12] Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

The Common Priest

Tawanda Chamba is a freelance writer, independent researcher, and commoner. The is a father of one and husband on one.

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