During my novitiate year in the Congregation of Holy Cross, I had the opportunity to take my first ever 8-day silent retreat. Its purpose was to help us prepare our souls for the momentous step of asking the congregation to receive our vows of poverty, consecrated celibacy, and obedience. It was in that time spent in close conversation with Jesus that I wrote this song, ‘Else.’ Although the song’s lyrics are very personal to my own walk with Christ, I share it on this vocations blog in the hopes that its message will resonate with the experience of many people who are seeking to respond in faith and love to Christ’s call to join Him in His mission for the sake of the kingdom.
‘Else’ tracks three movements in the heart in response to an encounter with Christ. The first is a nascent joy and excitement as one’s whole world begins to open up with a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in life that comes with following Christ. I liken this experience to that of the first disciples who were so taken in by Christ at their first meeting with him that they left behind their fishing nets—their whole livelihood, in fact—in order to be at Jesus’ side.
The second movement is one of hesitation. As my relationship with Christ has deepened over the years, so too has my understanding that discipleship comes at a cost. Jesus asks all who follow him to take up the cross with him and to offer everything that we have and everything that we are as a living sacrifice to God. And sometimes coming face to face with this reality can be absolutely terrifying. I have so much that I’m clinging to and don’t want to give up, even if I know that it is for my holiness and ultimate happiness that Christ asks me make this surrender.
The third movement is that of consolation, and it is only possible because the grace of Christ accompanies us through the doubts and fears that arise when we meet with our crosses. ‘Do not be afraid,’ I hear your voice; it’s trying to draw me in again. The life of discipleship may ask us to suffer and sacrifice, but in His steadfast friendship for us, Jesus promises he will never leave us to suffer alone.
These three movements of the heart that I try to express in ‘Else’ are also summed up beautifully in the final lines of the first chapter of Holy Cross’s constitutions: “We wished to abandon all to follow Christ. We learned in time that we still had it within ourselves to hold back. We wish to be wholehearted, yet we are hesitant. Still, like the first disciples we know that he will draw us along and reinforce our loyalties if we yield to him.” (Constitution 1:8)
Cameron Cortens, C.S.C., is in his 3rd year of temporary vows with the Congregation of Holy Cross. Cameron is currently working in parish ministry at La Parróquia de Nuestra Madre Santísima de la Luz, in Guadalupe, Nueva Leon, Mexico. In addition to singing, song-writing, playing the guitar, and the piano, Cameron also enjoys raquetball and card games. He is originally from Boise, Idaho.