It is truly amazing what God calls each of us to be and do in the world. I am writing to share with you my experience in being called to live out my life as a vowed Religious. I am defining “a vowed Religious” as a person who belongs to a Religious Order or persons who are consecrated to a life devoted to God such as a Hermit, Solitary, or myself a Single Consecrated Celibate. There is a variety of ways to live out our Christian lives. I found my path through my spiritual formation as a Third Order Professed Franciscan that helped me reconcile my long childhood desire to be a nun.
As an adolescent, I am sure I wasn’t the only person who saw, heard, or said something to the effect of “That’s what I want to be when I grow up.” It was difficult to perceive my desire because being a Religious in that day and time was counter to our culture as it is today. Telling a High School Counselor that I wanted to be a nun didn’t quite fit into the public school picture. I was afraid that my peers would laugh or bully me for this desire. So, like other students, I chose the safe and more popular career of Physical Therapist for that moment in time.
The vow that I was consecrated to by Bishop Beisner is that of Celibacy. My call to the Single Consecrated Life indicates that I live alone as a Religious in our world rather than in a Religious Community. God’s call for my life asks that I sacrifice the earthly commitment and covenant of marriage and perhaps children. The word “Single” denotes that my marriage is to Christ and His Kingdom. Unlike a Hermit or Solitary, I live in the world with many relationships with all of God’s people. The primary ministry of a Religious is to be set apart to proclaim and make the Kingdom of God known both in the church and in the world.
There are various ways in which my vocation has brought me closer to Christ and God’s people. One is that of prayer. My prayer life continues to broaden my vision in seeing the deeper needs of our world and all of God’s Creation. I am truly honored when people ask me to pray for their specific needs for themselves or others.
Living out my religious vocation gives me the opportunity to be a spiritual presence in the lives of others. One day I happened to be outside my favorite restaurant and encountered a young man reading. There was a small amount of tortilla chips sitting on a napkin with a small drink beside him, and in his hands was a book. I said hello and asked what he was reading. He said it was his new Bible someone had recently given him. I asked if he was hungry, as he proceeded to tell me about the section he had just read, since he was located right by the door. He started to tell me about his conversion in knowing Jesus. I replied, “how about if you share your story with me as we share a meal.” I explained it would be my treat. So, two hours later, I left feeling as though I had just shared lunch with the Holy Trinity. What a blessing that was and I still pray for that young man today.
When I live my life this way, I find I serve others in need as they go through medical situations, times when vacations are needed for respite, or people struggling to overcome a particular life situation. A very dear and close friend of mine was dying of cancer and her family needed someone to come and care for her overnight while family members got some much needed respite. Her husband called me late at night and asked if I could come be with my friend as there were no nurses available. My friend was in her final stage with Hospice and might not live through the night. I was to give my friend the medications needed to ease her pain. Before my visit, I prayed with both sadness and joy in my heart because God had given me the opportunity to be a spiritual presence during this precious time with everyone concerned. I was honored to be Christ’s hands and feet for my friend and her family, as she herself had asked of me just a week before dying.
Our spiritual journeys and our lives in God continue through all eternity and together as His people, we are all called to be the love and grace of Christ to each other. St. Michael’s is the community to which God brought me almost forty years ago. I have felt Christ’s love here and found a community that supports and nourishes me in my vocation. These are just a couple of the reasons why I wanted to share with you my story. Each one of you is a blessing in my life.
Thank you for joining me in celebrating my fifth Anniversary to the Consecrated Life by renewing my vow on Sunday May 3! I am happy to answer any questions you might have concerning the Religious Life.