The Big Questions
Discerning your vocation surely brings up some BIG questions! Sister Janet, SC Vocation Minister, tries to name some of thse questions and offers insights that might be helpful. She welcomes your feedback and further questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue... Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
How do I know if God is calling me to religious life?
Every woman embarking on a journey of vocation discernment asks herself this question. There is a real desire to know for certain, to be free from any doubts, to have absolute clarity about “the call.” But, of course, the desire is rarely, if ever, fulfilled!
One of the best signs that God is extending the invitation to explore a religious vocation is a deep desire that the priorities of one’s life will be set by the relationship with God. Everything else – family, service/ministry, friendships, lifestyle – will flow from that primary commitment to a deep relationship with God in the context of our Catholic faith.
The ancient exclamation “My God and my All!” expresses the basic desire that one hopes to be completely given over to the quest for God: body, mind, heart and soul. For those who are called, there is a growing realization that as beautiful and fulfilling as married or a dedicated single life is – something more is desired. And very often there is as much fascination as fear that “perhaps God is calling me!”
“But I want to be married and have a family?”
Most women do! It is the deep longing and true vocation of most men and women. If you ask most Sisters they would say that throughout their youth and young adulthood they imagined they would some day have a husband and children. God never forces a religious vocation on anyone. Those whom God calls to religious life discover a different deep longing arising in their hearts. Sometimes it takes years to consider such a fundamental shift in life direction. For one who is called it doesn’t feel like a wrenching sacrifice but more like a surprising gift. Each one must discern whether it is a life-giving option that she can joyfully and freely accept.
“Will I be the last Sister?”
What we know is that there have been women called to this form of life commitment since the early centuries of the Church. The history of religious life demonstrates many ups and downs with some congregations dying and new ones being born. Congregations were reformed or re-founded to respond to the needs of the times through the grace of the Holy Spirit. The large number of young women who entered religious life in the early and mid-1900s was an unusual occurrence when one considers the history of religious life. We are now in another time of transition and it is probably more realistic to expect just a few candidates each year.
Sisters continue to amaze people with their energy and enthusiasm for new projects, new expressions of their mission and charism. They believe in a hopeful future despite increasing median age and transfer of many ministries and institutions to lay leadership. This is because we believe that God continues to call faith-filled young women to religious life. Those who respond to the call will have the courage and generosity needed. They will have the gifts of creativity and vision to help shape the new form of religious life that is coming to light. And they will have “big Sisters” to mentor and companion them on the journey!