Friday, June 26, 2009

Life With the Nunnies

It is almost midnight here at Mother of Love convent, and the household (three postulants, one sister, and me) is preparing for a good nights sleep after an evening of intense prayer.
There isn't a lot of free time here, as you have probably noticed by my lack of updating. Every hour is planned out for maximum use of time. Life is surprisingly busy here, scheduled and reassuring, yet ever changing. As one of the sisters is wont to say with a huge smile on her face, "With religious life, you never know what to expect!"
But, I wanted to snag a few of these spare moments before we commence "horizontal meditation," as our superior calls it, to relate to you some of the insights about the life of a nun which seem to be true.

1. When God is your spouse, every Mass is a marriage feast, every recieving of the Eucharist a consummation. Every soul that you help along the way is your child, every priest your brother. Every prayer is a love letter, every blessing a gift from the One who loves you best.

2. Living in the convent does not mean becoming like your sisters, but rather finding your place among them. Each of the sisters here is completely unique, her own person, and each brings something very important to the family. All nuns are not the same! They may dress the same, but their souls and their hearts are distinctly different.

3. Although the wearing of a habit seems, to me, a great sacrifice, it truly is for the best. A servant has no time or need to adorn herself as she takes her humble place in the great celebration that is life. She pleases the Lord more with her service and virtue than any adornment ever could.

4. Most women do not dream of being nuns all their lives. Girls dream of marriage, of babies, not convents and habits. To most of the nuns I have talked to, the calling in their hearts came as quite a shock to them. But now, they are the happiest, most content group of women I have ever seen. Thus, just because you dream of marriage doesn't mean that you're not called to religious life. In fact, it is important that you ARE drawn to marriage, for religious life is most certainly a marriage, with the greatest husband of them all (No mere mortals for these ladies!) and more spiritual children than you could ever have physically!

5. If you truly are called to religious life, the Lord will woo you just like any other suitor. He will romance you and make you fall madly, crazily in love with Him. How else could He ask you to devote the rest of your life to Him?

I still am not sure if I am called to religious life or marriage, but I know now that my heart is truly open to either path.
I really must be going now, but hopefully this post has given you a bit of insight about religious life and how beautiful it really is.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Vocations (and other such nonsense)

Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to my vocation. A recent encounter with an old heartthrob and an upcoming visit to a convent may have something to do with this.
The thought process, however, is in direct opposition to the "vocation fast" that I've been on since my visit to Peoria: no dating, no close guy-friends, no visualizing myself as a nun, no obsessing about my vocation. The point of this was to allow myself time to grow closer to the Lord, just Him and me working on our relationship. And yes, I failed at this.
But perhaps the timing is good, after all. Allow me to explain.

There is this one priest who seems fairly certain that I'm going to enter the convent. He's not the only one who thinks this, but he's the most vocal about it. One of the sisters I met in Peoria was telling me about how this particular priest has a gift for predicting people's vocations.
"Well, that's it," I thought. "I'm going to be a nun." I wasn't expecting this thought to fill me with such sadness and even... was it really?... anger.
"NO!" I lashed out at God in prayer. "What about my spouse, who I've been praying for since I was 12? What about my very own family, with children of my own? What about the beautiful wedding I've been dreaming of? I'm not ready to give this up, God!! I'll do it if you reeeeally want me to, but I'll tell you one thing:
If I AM supposed to be a nun, you sure as hell better make it blatently obvious to me, because I most certainly will NOT enter the convent if there is even a SHADOW of doubt in my mind."
And God wasn't the only one getting an earful.
I complained to my mom, my siblings: "My going to the convent doesn't mean anything! Maybe I just want to go and pray for a couple weeks!! Isn't that ok???"
I complained to the Blessed Mother: "Your Son and I are having a disagreement, so I'm just going to talk to you for a while. How in heaven's name did you manage to be so docile, so humble, so willing to accept ANYTHING He threw at you???"
I complained to St. Therese, my confirmation saint and special patroness: "God and I are fighting, so I'll ask you. I'm starting your novena as soon as I get home. Just tell it to me straight, St. Therese! Give me a white rose if I'm supposed to be a nun. Give me a red one if I'm supposed to get married. Give me a pink rose to say 'wait and see, you're not supposed to know yet.' Ya, I know it's been a while since I prayed that novena. Maybe you won't even give me the rose. How typical that would be."
As I left St. Paul's Cathedral after this very whiny holy hour, my eyes alighted upon the garden along the sidewalk. They were roses, and they were pink. True, there were some white ones and some red ones, but they were mostly all pink. And the roses followed the sidewalk for most of the block. "Ha ha," I thought, "I haven't even said the prayer yet."
I took the bus and the T back to good ol' Bethel Park, because I was singing at evening prayer with the Eucharist exposed for adoration. I still wasn't in the best of spirits. In fact, I was legitimately afraid of speaking to the Lord because I didn't want to hear those words: "I want you to be a nun. Will you marry me?"
But, speak to him I must, because there he was in the church, exposed on the altar, waiting for me. I whined some more. I thought of all the things I would have to give up if I was to become a nun. I cried a little bit, thinking of the children I would never have, the spouse I would never wake up next to. Clearly, the rose garden had not had the desired effect on my heart.
I sang through evening prayer, not meaning a word of the hymns and psalms. "The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom should I be afraid?" Ya, totally not feelin' that.
Toward the end of the night, however, a very small something within me was feeling a very little bit guilty. I knew that this was not a good attitude, but I certainly didn't want to give up on my little whine-fest. Grudgingly I prayed: "Geez, God, I don't even want to talk to you right now, I'm so mad. I know that I should be praying for humility and submission to your will, but I really don't want to."
I know, not the most sincere prayer, but it must have meant something to Him, because I couldn't believe what happened next.
As I was heading back to the tabernacle, this lady walked by me with a huge flower arrangement. I gasped a little bit and said "Oh, how beautiful." She looked and me and said, "You want them? Here, take them. I'm just going to throw them away if you don't." and she starts piling roses into my arms. Pink roses. Then white carnations edged in pink and deep pink sweetheart roses and 2 rosebuds edged in purple. Pink snapdragons and one stalk of purple flowers, and 2 sprays of baby's breath to top it all off. By the time she left, I had a bouquet of pink flowers so full that I could barely fit my hand around the stems. As I gazed at the gorgeous collection, I heard the Lord's voice loud and clear: "Don't worry about all of that silly stuff right now. Please, please just come back to me?" In my mind's eye, I saw a road with a fork in it. To the left, I saw shadows of Him and I walking, hand in hand, straight to heaven. To the right, there we were again, but this time we had another with us: my spouse. The road was a little curvier that way, too. But most importantly, I saw the Lord and I standing on the road before the fork, looking into each others' eyes and smiling at each other. The future makes absolutely no difference to us right now.