NAS: If I Discerned the Religious Life…

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Linking up with Jen and Morgan!

Let’s all take a step back and pretend that God IS in fact calling us to the religious life.  While most of us feel called to marriage, it is important to see the beauty in all vocations! If/when you were discerning religious life, which communities interest(ed) you? What do you see as the positives of that vocation?

 

 

“Britt?
(Knocking: Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock)
Do you wanna be a religious sister?
Come on let’s go and pray.
I never hear you anymore
Come out the door
It’s like you’ve gone away—
We used to be best buddies
And now we’re not
I wish you would tell me why!—
Do you wanna be a religious sister?
It doesn’t have to be a religious sister.

 

Go away, Holy Spirit.
Okay, bye…
(Knocking)
Do you wanna be a religious sister?
Or consecrate yourself to give your all
I think a vocation is overdue
I’ve started talking to
the saints about their call—
(Hang in there, Joan!)
It gets a little lonely
All these empty rooms
Just watching the hours tick by-
(Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock, Tic-Tock)
(Knocking)
Britt?
Please, I know you’re in there,
Jesus is asking where you’ve been
I say “have courage”, and I know you’re trying to
I’m right out here for you, just let me in
We only have each other
It’s just you and me
What are we gonna do?
Do you wanna be a religious sister?”
– Lyrics adapted from Frozen’s “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?”

My discernment of the religious life lasted about as long as this song on two separate occasions, and was just about as casual. Once, in prayer, after meeting with the Daughters of St. Paul at an exhibit and failed interview to work for them, and then a couple years later when mentioning the momentary ping of “Hmm, should I do this?” to my temporary spiritual director. He rather quickly sussed out “No, not a true calling.” I think that’s because he could tell, what I now definitely can tell, my attraction was to the work they did, not to be consecrated to Christ as a mystical spouse who happens to do a particular work.

If I were not with Mr. Sweet and were not so convicted of marriage as my likely vocation, I would hope that what would be attractive about consecrated life is that very giving up of one’s “life” (career and possibly closeness with family and friendships if seriously cloistered) to be in active relationship with Jesus. And then the way in which I serve Him, my husband, would be secondary: contemplative prayer in a cloistered community, public apostolate in an open community, or a kind of hybrid (I think those exist—out in the world sometimes, but also with limits on relationships outside the community and focused on prayer/interior work).

There’s also another way to be a religious, but not professed to a community: to be a consecrated virgin. Much rarer a calling, consecrated virgins, to my understanding, profess vows to their bishop, have Jesus in Exposition in their homes, but have “normal” jobs in addition to service to their community. Kathy Reda in Boston, is a nurse.

Over the years and with some pondering, practical interactions with one community (a public apostolate) in particular, I believe I’d actually be more attracted to consecrated virginity than the other forms. While there are many beautiful aspects to living in a community, living as a hermit, being out in the world, or being in prayer but always exclusively devoted to God and His Church, there are also some aspects about each of those ways of life that for particular people, including myself, that partaking in them is not actually their path to holiness.

And that is what is positive in any vocation: God calls you to the path of holiness and expression of His love in the world that is right for you. God knows how you love Him and what would help or hinder your growth in that love. I believe that if you love Him enough but find some aspect of the call challenging or scary, if it’s truly where He wants you to be, He will give you the grace to know you can do it anyway. And what’s more, you will be confident that you’ve received this grace or not.

What is beautiful about the professed or consecrated life is that you are in a spousal relationship with the Trinity. to those who find it hard to understand, life as s sister or otherwise consecrated might seem rather one-sided—the woman is giving her all and not receiving anything in return, when in marriage, both spouses are giving and receiving love. But actually, I’ve heard that the brides of Christ do receive that self-donative love from God—they are brimming full of it. How gorgeous a sight—an imaging of God’s love from someone who received it directly.

The site Vocation Network has a really helpful series of articles—even quizzes on if you can hack the celibate life and what spirituality you are to narrow down a community. There are a great number of different communities to explore and research. God’s knocking. What do you say?

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