Hello, everyone! I wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who has made comments for doing so! I didn’t realize that I had the “publish comments” feature, so I didn’t even realize that anyone had made any! Thank you all so much for your kind encouragement.
Since I promised to put at least some personal experiences on this blog, I’ve decided to take a break from the Benedictine Blessings tonight and tell you all a little bit about where I stand vocation wise.
“Discernment” is an extremely funny and often very frustrating thing, or so I learned. The process is very often not logical at all- seldom does a person say to herself, “well, I’m into liturgy, I love to say my rosary, and I am a quiet person, therefore I should think about becoming a nun.” While that might happen in some cases, my experience is more like a quote from In This House of Brede
- “it’s as though Jesus points his finger and says “I’ll pick you.”
I’ll try to couch this as best as I can, but when I initially felt drawn to religious life, I was walking to another one of my classes last Spring when the thought of religious life randomly “popped” into my head. It then became this nagging feeling that suddenly took ahold of me, and lo and behold, all I could think about was the prospect of religious life. I will admit that during this initial stage, I did a lot of “fantasizing”- I pictured myself in a long beautiful flowing habit sitting quietly in some garden with the birds chirping around me doing some embroidery every now and then, which was to suffice as my “labora” for the day. As my spiritual director later put it, this was outright fantasizing and couldn’t be farther from the reality of nuns putting in hard labor. Nonetheless, such unrealistic fantasizing is usually normal for a person in the initial stages of discernment. What was interesting was that my thoughts weren’t really directed towards any particular community- I was just drawn to the general idea of religious life and figured God would lead me to the place where I was meant to be.
The nagging feeling continued for the rest of the school year, and I was scared to death about this possible calling. After all, before these thoughts popped into my head, I thought I had it all figured out- I would become an accountant and some day marry my amazing boyfriend. Now with this constant feeling of being called, I was completely confused. It wasn’t as if I had chosen to think about these things, but rather these constant thoughts had completely taken over me.
After I went home for the summer, the constant thoughts completely ceased- for a time. Then one day, I was at the hairstylists and one of the other ladies there was talking about how she went out driving one day and gotten lost down some backroad which led to a beautiful monastery of nuns which, according to her, “looked like something out of the middle ages.” Well, anything that resembles medieval times sounds pretty good to me and did a little research as soon as I got home and found http://www.poor-clares.org/
, the website of the monastery in question. How interesting! The Poor Clares! When I was a kid, I had written a play about St. Clare, so there was that initial interest there. After “falling in love” with this community’s website, as you can guess, the nagging thoughts came back again.
Now, all this time I had kept all of these thoughts hidden from my parents. The only people that I told was my spiritual director and my wonderful boyfriend. One day during the summer, I secretly drove up to the Bethlehem Poor Clare monastery and my expectations were confirmed- it really did look like a medieval gem. That summer, I devoured all information about the Franciscans and especially the Poor Clares- this blog being the result of that blossoming love for the Seraphic Order.
Now during that summer of discernment, it was as though God had placed new lenses over my eyes- I began to see my entire world differently. At my job, I was both saddened and confused about the way my co-workers seemed to place their happiness in fancy houses, designer clothing, and BMWs. There is so much more to life! I began to see God’s love in the little things in life…whether it be a beautiful red bird or a song on the radio. I really didn’t have any desire other than to go to Holy Mass and be with the Blessed Sacrament. At this point, my “calling” wasn’t a nagging so much as a longing- a longing to give Everything to Him!
I eventually told my parents about my desire to become a nun in a few years. All the while, my boyfriend was so constant, so loving, so very patient! I eventually returned to school in the fall, and I began to take action. I began to write letters to the Lady Abbess of the Bethlehem Poor Clare monastery, began speaking with a wonderful Franciscan Friar, and even visited a community of active/contemplative Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
All throughout the semester, the nagging feeling returned. I would hear God saying to me, “Chiara, give yourself completely to me!” Sometimes, for weeks at a time, I would interpret that call to mean “Chiara, you should enter the Poor Clares.” Then, for weeks at a time, that voice would stop calling- or so I thought. You see, for reasons I care not to disclose, I didn’t have a very high opinion of marriage at the time- I thought it was a common, base, vocation with a lower-case “v” and that a person wasn’t “giving everything up for God” by choosing marriage. How foolish I was not to realize that the feeling of being called to marriage isn’t something that a person necessarily chooses- it’s God who makes the choice to speak to you!
As I mentioned in one of my recent posts, I met with Mother Clare from Bethlehem Poor Clare Monastery in person and let her know about all of my feelings. I will keep that conversation private, but the very next day after I met with her, all of my ardent desire to become a Poor Clare mysteriously and completely evaporated. Indeed, I had a wonderful discussion with her and she really didn’t steer me in one direction or the other- I just didn’t feel the call to become a Poor Clare anymore.
Furthermore, during the past month God has kept dropping me signs about how there need to be people out in the world who support the monasteries. I realized that being in love with contemplative life and having a great love for these beautiful monks and nuns doesn’t mean that I myself should become one! My true desire was to work to let others in the world know that there are monks and nuns in monasteries that have dedicated their lives to loving them through prayer. I hope that this blog helps to light one tiny candle in that direction.
I also came to realize that my boyfriend was a person who has given all the love he can towards me. Once again, I began to have nagging feelings of being called- only this time it was the feeling of being drawn to Christ through this other individual. Thus far, I’ve been very much at peace with this idea and know that loving this person will need just as much love from me as I could give as a Poor Clare. Moreover, I learned that I can still embrace the life of St. Clare, which is why after hearing today’s Gospel I’ve decided to begin the process towards becoming a Franciscan Third Order Secular.
Thus, that is an overview of where I stand at the moment. I am a person who loves these wonderful nuns with all my heart, but I tend to think that I can better love my Sisters outside the cloister rather than inside.