This is the tale of a not-as-young-as-some woman who is preparing to enter religious life (a.k.a. become a nun).
Entry 1: Duc in Alton
Welcome!I have less than 2 months until I enter the Sisters of Saint Francis of the Martyr St George. (I’ve been counting down before this point!)
I’m a 29 year old female, currently residing in Madison, WI. It’s been a crazy couple months: I quit my job, my roommate graduated and moved, I am defending my dissertation soon… oh, and, I have to get rid of my worldly possessions! But it’s beautiful, too, as I don’t really have enough time to dwell (or mourn) any one of those changes.
I wanted to share my experience of that time with you. I take Jesus’ words “Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known” (Luke 12:2) pretty literally: If the angels and saints can see it (i.e., if it happens), it’s fair game for humans to hear about, too! While I was beginning the discernment process, I constantly needed to remind myself to heed JPII’s call to be like Mary*: first to ponder, than to go in haste. This was hard for me, as I’m not much for procrastination, and when I “go in haste,” people usually notice. Now it seems like an appropriate time to communicate my experiences.
And now… on to another day!
* “Look to Mary to see how to respond to Jesus’ call. First, she kept all things [concerning that call], pondering them, in her heart. She also went in haste to serve her cousin Elizabeth. Both attitudes are essential parts of our response to the Lord: prayer and action.” (Manila, Philippines, January 14, 1995)
Entry 2: A Standing Commitment
It has been interesting to see people’s reactions upon hearing that I am entering a convent. I have smiled (on the inside!) on many occasions. Some people have asked “Is that a Catholic thing?” (I must not be explaining it right!) while others have told stories about a past desire to become a nun or preacher (which for one reason or another was not fulfilled). A couple of individuals reacted in complete shock, while one priest that I spoke with just nodded, in a “yes, get on to the rest of the story” way. (Clearly, he was not at all surprised!)
There have been two comments (which I have heard repeatedly) that I have found to be most interesting:
1. “You don’t hear about that much anymore.” I have tried, as best as I can, to relay some of what was reported in Time’s piece Today’s Nun has a Veil (if you click this link, you are leaving the blog… and though this article is great, not all Time articles include content that you/we may want to read!), but I have been met with skepticism- which is okay. I suppose with our culture as it is now, when young people move on, it is considered part of life. I have to admit, I was, at first, just going to leave Madison- and not tell anyone. But then my former boss sent an email to my entire Division (over 200 people, the vast majority of whom I’ve never met!), it was announced at a high school graduation, and my pastor included a blurb in the bulletin. And then I realized people are going to find out! And I should be more prepared to talk about young people’s desire to make a commitment!
2. “Are you still thinking you’re going to enter?” One of my former co-workers, who didn’t know me terribly well, asked this question at my going away party. (It seemed somewhat obvious to me that if I was not leaving, there would be no need for a farewell celebration. But I didn’t say that.) What has surprised me is that people close to me have asked this as well. This decision was 10 years in the making (more on that at a different date), and I am not going to “change my mind” after a few weeks and an inability to find appropriate black sandals!
Being in graduate school (for a little longer, at least- I defend very, very soon! God willing, I pass!), the vow of obedience is extra questioned by people around me! (Although I was speaking with someone just this morning who said that there must be a sense of freedom in obedience. Knowing that our moral priorities are probably different, I was surprised to hear such beautiful insight!) Committing to one specific order- and vowing obedience- is quite anti-academia! But, I’ve also been surprised at people’s admiration of my decision. Catholics and non-Catholics alike seem intrigued by a willingness to commit. Perhaps, that, too, is a reflection of our mobile culture. Admittedly, I have very much appreciated the respect: one woman had been telling me all about a book that reduces all of Jesus’ miracles to science and maybe we can all heal just as He did, and isn’t that great? And when I told her of my plans, she said, “Oh, well, then you probably don’t want a copy.” Correct!