I was born and raised in Goshen, Indiana to a loving, Catholic family. My parents took me to Church every Sunday without fail. They did not believe in splitting up Mass attendance so that the baby wouldn’t make noise during Mass. “We go to Church as a family,” was one of my Dad’s many paternal maxims. My parents also had a great reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. Frequently, our family would travel to St. Mary’s of the Annunciation in Bristol for a Holy Hour, either privately in the adoration chapel or in an official ceremony with confession and benediction. At first I didn’t get it. It was just another hour of trying to figure out how long you could last on your knees before sitting down without getting any glares from Mom or Dad because they thought you we were really coping out. Eventually the immaturity petered out and I began to realize that this wasn’t a piece of bread. It was Jesus in a golden throne, ready to hear my every thought. I didn’t exactly become an innocent mystic who joyfully knelt for three additional hours but I became convinced that Somebody was there and that He deserved much more than I could ever give Him.
The first time I thought about religious life was my junior year of high school and it was only because I had a crush. Lots of high school drama ensued (I’ll spare you) but eventually my crush simply stopped talking to me. Looking back it was not really a big deal but at the time I was pretty bummed. One day after Sunday Mass I was feeling particularly blue and spent some time in prayer after Mass gazing at the tabernacle. Why do I have to feel so alone? I murmured. Out of the blue, I heard something I did not expect. “I will always be there for you,” he assured me.
This communication really struck me. I was comforted, but more than anything I was awed. He was constant, strong, loving, and incidentally the Lord of the Universe. He cared about me, of all people! While my pain over my high school crush didn’t evaporate, the possibility of choosing Jesus as my spouse suddenly became an option. If He was there for me, did that I mean I should always be unreservedly His?
For the rest of high school, nothing significant happened. I attended a retreat to investigate the possibility of religious life but I left thinking it was not really for me. I hadn’t received any lightning bolts so I figured I would try to start dating some young gentlemen. There was one boy in particular that I was going to try and become closer with, but I decided to go on a retreat to reconnect myself with God before pursuing this route.
Everything changed on that retreat. People went out of their way to tell me that they saw sisters walking around outside the retreat house. That was interesting. Why are they telling me? During the retreat Mass, the Eucharist was (sadly) not treated in a respectful or reverent manner and when I voiced my concern, no one seemed to share my sympathies. I got a little scared and wondered why I was the only one concerned about the Eucharist. Everyone should treat Jesus respectfully, shouldn’t they? The final stimulant occurred in my small group when one of the other retreatants, who was very close to God, told me that I would make a great sister. The kicker was that he wasn’t even Catholic. The possibility was very much on my mind during the whole retreat but I hadn’t told anyone. Yet God spoke through this man and once the retreat had ended, I was determined to give religious life a more serious look.
My belief in my call to religious life never went away after that point. It became a matter of when and where I would join. There were times when I gave up and was not as diligent as I should have been in discerning my call, or in striving to live a Catholic lifestyle with integrity. In the end, during moments of clarity, I became more and more confident that religious life was the way for me. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was at the Motherhouse on a retreat so I could get the necessary paperwork started. After a meeting, I meandered into the adoration chapel and gazed at The King in the monstrance. A trickle of doubt wormed its way into my soul. I was pretty sure I was doing the right thing but I decided to ask Him anyway: “This is what you want me to do, right?”
Suddenly, He entered my heart again in a manner strikingly similar to when He first suggested the religious life to me in high school. Afterwards, I could only smile. He was still there, as He promised. We need only to listen to Him and respond with confidence like Our Lady and St. Joan of Arc. It is unbelievably liberating to know the will of the Father and to obey. Obedience to God never results in a mark in the “loss” column. This is precisely why St. Joan was not afraid to say, “His friendship will not fail me, nor His counsel, nor His love. In His strength, I will dare and dare and dare until I die.”Sister Joan, Temporary Vows