As a Religious Sister, I often find myself answering questions posed to me by some inquiring minds. “Why did you become a Sister?” “Did you not want to get married?” “Don’t you like children?” “Why do you wear a habit?” “What do you do in the convent?” “How often do you pray?”
Or some seemingly hostile questions like, “Why are you wasting your life?” “Who is the Pope anyway?” “What is wrong with you?”
I guess some of these questions were fueled by a real desire to know the motivation behind such a choice of life . I guess others were just plain curious . Others may have found some kind of mystique about this lifestyle. And still others might have romanticized it. Whatever the reason, I often find these moments energizing and annoying at the same time. It is energizing because this gives me the opportunity to share the goodness of God and the many ways He has worked in my life. I can tell them about the power of grace and how it empowers a person to choose difficult things. I can tell them that Religious Life is first and foremost an invitation from God. Just like any invitation, one is free to accept or reject it , without penalty. It is pure gift. But it is a gift that is no other gift because inside the package is our true source of happiness. Religious life is not all peaches and cream. On this side of eternity, we are all called to live out the dying and rising of Jesus. This particular life is a direct pursuit of this imitation of Jesus. Religious consecration is the intense choice to live out our consecration at Baptism. We are all consecrated to God at Baptism and religious consecration is a continuation of that consecration. It is a particular call to a particular lifestyle. It therefore needs a lot prayer, consultations with persons familiar with guiding souls and plenty of humility to allow oneself to be guided. It calls for openness and courage to take a ‘leap of faith.” It entails going through doubts and anxieties because we are used to being sure about our plans and endeavors. We do not mind investing ourselves in a project that is clear and yields potential benefits , with clear shape and form. “Religious life is so uncertain” someone protested. “What if I find I don’t have a vocation after giving up my job, my house, my bank account, my car? What then?”
All the things I had to “give up” do not really amount to anything compared to what God has given me in return even in this imperfect life. There are also stages one has to undertake before fully entering this religious state. And when that time of final decision comes, the sacrifice is made bearable by the joy that the Spirit of God gives. Only those who experienced this joy can fully understand it because it cannot be put to words. These inquiries can also be annoying because in some cases you can detect a malicious intent in someone who just wants to start an argument. No explanation can satisfy them because they have already made up their minds and are not really interested.
What is God asking of you? Have you thought about it? One is not always called to a religious state, does not have to be, for him or her to do something beautiful for God. But we are all called to something noble and great. We are created for a purpose. Our life is a big adventure to discover this purpose of our existence. Those that find it are the happiest of people because they realize that they matter and they can make a difference. Those who do not find it go about the world dissatisfied and confused because they do not know where they are going. They think power and wealth are the answers and these become ends in themselves.
Religious life is a daily giving and renewing of the covenant I made with God. Problems and difficulties come with Community living. Prayers do get dry and the spring of consolations eventually dry up. But God cannot be outdone in generosity. When He chooses to close a door, it is only because He is opening a window. There are difficulties in any kind of life. In the long run we are all called to prove our commitment , either to marriage, job, family life or religious life, by the DAILY fidelity, DAILY struggles and DAILY "YES." It is no different in Religious life. A Sister did not say "yes" only at the day of Religious Profession, but she renews it (or should renew it) daily, at every moment, by the help of God's grace.
We are called to something greater than ourselves.