This is the fourth in a series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) of columns on Catholic vocations, and what parents can do to help children discern their vocations. For an in-depth look at the vocational life of religious sisters and brothers, I attended a "Day of Discernment for Women Interested in Religious Life" in Boston. I took fifteen pages of notes, spoke with over half of the forty women gathered, and listened to Cardinal O'Malley, who is a member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, as well as a priest. Words cannot describe the joy I encountered! As a mother gently gathers and lifts an anxious baby from its cradle to herself, so did the organizers of this Day of Reflection gently gather and lift us participants out of our rush-around lives and hold us up to God.
After participating in this event and visiting the Benedictine Monastery a few weeks ago, I am overwhelmed by the magnificence of this vocation within our Catholic Vocational Village. Without a doubt, Jesus is the wellspring of these members' lives. Most of us are familiar with the works of prayer and charity that religious sisters and brothers perform, so here I wanted to let them tell us not what they do, but how they feel about it.
"I sensed this intense desire for God and God's intense desire for me. I started off thinking God would be satisfied with good works. I volunteered for everything thinking God would lay off, but he didn't. The radical, public witness of the vows is the only thing that satisfied my hunger for God and his for me" — Sr. Kathy McGrath, RSCJ.
"I wasn't devout at all when I first came to the Monastery. I had no thoughts of staying, either. But here I am… a Brother! And happier than I ever was" — A Benedictine Brother.
"Community life (in a cloister) is different (from that of an active order), but the journey is the same. It is a journey out of yourself" — Sr. Maria Kim, OSCO.
"I'd like to be closer to people in their need. This type of life helps me do that and deepen my relationship with God" — Sr. Sonia Saenz, CDP.
"I can do many good deeds, but the public profession of vows says to the world that God is first." — Sr. Susan Frederick, PM
"There is no vocations shortage on God's part. God is calling, but not everyone who is called responds. The example of this is of the Rich Young Man (in the Bible). He was called, but he wasn't free to respond to the invitation of Jesus. He was too attached to his money, so he went away sad. It is sad when we reject the call" — Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, OFM Cap.
"Our response to being called is not a scripted play that God has already written and that we have to follow verbatim. We need to discover what moves us from within, respect the journey (toward and in our vocation), pray, trust, and walk" — Sr. Susan Frederick, PM.
The best way I can describe the spiritual radiance of the religious sisters and brothers I met is to compare it to the sort of joy that springs to the face of a child when he lifts the lid of a music box. They possessed a happiness that leapt from deep within. Because of this, I believe one of the best things we can do to nurture a religious vocation at home is to realize and verbalize what a beautiful life it is! Along with welcoming these members of our Village into our homes, we should join them in their works of prayer and charity. We can teach our children about the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience by showing them how to hold material things loosely, to practice chastity by loving God above all others, and to trust in God's authority. Most importantly we can pray for our children, and understand that if they are called to a religious order, then that call is a part of who God created them to be.
If you are interested in a vocational discernment group (or know someone else who might be) check out Catholics on Call.