Discerning Religious Life by Anna

How can I ever explain?  It’s like looking under a microscope; something that not many people do very often, but once you have, your viewpoint changes forever because you become aware of things that you didn’t even know existed. 

In this blog, I hope to give you a new perspective as I compare what a lot of people think religious life is to what it actually is. 

How do you see religious life? Have you considered it for yourself? If you’re married, did you consider it before you got married? If not, why? Stop and think of two reasons.

Some common thoughts are that religious life is lonely, boring, and nothing like a “normal” life. What if I told you that “normal” life is all about loving God and your neighbor, contributing to society, and being happy?

Well, that pretty much summarizes religious life. If someone just goes to Mass on Sunday to “check the box” they may not realize that priests and nuns are like mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers to everyone! 

Have you ever asked your parish priest if
he likes playing sports?  You should! 
Maybe he'd like to play golf or tennis
with you someday.

They do the same stuff as we do in the lay life: eat, go to parties, talk with friends and give advice, wash clothes, do the dishes, watch movies, eat popcorn, and work. 

Yes, they work! Did you know that many religious orders have professional ministries in medicine, education, law, music and art, social work, and politics?  

I'm getting ready to graduate from high school and I hope to go to college here in Costa Rica to become a surgeon, but that doesn't mean that I couldn't also be a nun if the Lord calls me to that in the future.

Often religious sisters live in communities that function like big families.  By living, praying, playing, and working together they know every little thing about each other - just like our family does.  They even move around to different houses, just like we have.  Living in a religious community is like summer camp with group activities, birthday parties, game nights, fun outings, and all the same types of things that families do.  Does religious life still seem lonely and boring?

I’ve gone with my friends to some evangelical churches that have married pastors and found myself wondering if it’s really necessary for Catholic priests and nuns to stay single. But then, I watched the pastors rush around making sure everything is running smoothly and everyone is being taken care of, and I thought about how much work it is to run a church. It’s been hard growing up as a missionary kid and I've experienced some neglect because my parents are always busy helping other people, and being a missionary is nothing compared to the responsibilities that pastors have. Some people say that priests and nuns should be able to get married, but I’m not sure that it would be fair to their spouses or kids. All the religious that we have worked with have been so busy ministering to their parish communities that I can’t even imagine how they’d squeeze in quality family time. Some people feel sorry for priests and nuns because they don’t have kids of their own, but we’re their kids. The families in the parish are their families. Reach out and invite them to do fun stuff. Spend time getting to know them, and remember that they have dreams, opinions, hobbies, and favorite movies just like everyone else!

Growing up in missions has helped me see how married couples and families can use their gifts to help the church community.  Sometimes, I think we put nuns and priests up on pedestals to take the responsibility off us and think it’s their job to take care of the Church. That’s not true. It’s all our responsibility and all of us should be trying to reach the same goal whether we're married or religious.  No one is just born holy. No one wakes up one day realizing, "Wow, I think I’m a saint!"  It’s something that happens slowly when we choose to live the way we're supposed to live...as either a married person or a religious!  

There are insanely holy people that heard the call to religious life, saw apparitions, heard God’s voice, and experienced amazing miracles. But God usually calls perfectly ordinary people.  How and why God calls different people to the religious life is something unexplainable, in every case it’s different but we should all open our eyes, hearts, and minds to the religious brother or sister next to us or in us and stop seeing it as something so different.  

Whether we're married or religious we should be feeding the poor, loving the unloved, and fighting for justice.  Each one of us needs to be a part of the change. What’s something that you can do? Does your church have a youth group? Is there a program in place to feed the poor? Maybe you could help out with a potluck or Sunday morning doughnuts. Whatever you’re good at, try to find a way, even a small way, to use that gift to serve God intentionally. I challenge you, but I’m also challenging myself as I prepare to live on my own, study, and work, to find ministries that will allow you to contribute your gifts and talents to help make the church a warmer and more welcoming place full of youth and friendly faces. 

Did you know that a lot of nuns wear
wedding dresses when they make
their final vows?

In all this, I want to emphasize that we can't understand religious life if we don't get close enough to it to see what it's really about.  Religious life is not so unlike the life that we should all be living. They live and love as we should, putting God first, and taking care of their neighbors.  It’s not lonely or boring, but full of purpose! 

Last year I participated in a vocations
program for our diocese which consisted
of monthly weekend retreats.  This year
I'm helping to run this program for others.
I encourage all other young adults to
get involved and help out! 

As we move closer to God, religious life and married life end up being pretty similar because we're all striving for holiness and we should all be helping the Church.  So, what is God calling you to?  We all have the obligation to at least ask ourselves if it could be God's will for us to be a nun or priest and not be afraid of it, not marginalize it, not let it be strange, surprising or confusing, but just the AWESOME thing that it is!  If it's not God's will for you to be a priest or nun, that's OK, but make sure you’re still doing your part in your faith community! 

Remember that married life isn't the
only happy life!

Let us pray: 
Lord, we are but short glimpses in this world and don’t know what we’re doing.  We don't know how to change so we can be better.  Right now, please enlighten us to see religious life as the full, social, exciting life that it is.  Bless all religious and all married people.  Help us to see how similar these vocations are because they both come from Your great love.  Help us to appreciate the religious in our communities and not let the black and white robes change anything.  Pour out Your Graces upon us so that we can bring the world to You by using our gifts and talents in the church community.  Give us eyes to see clearly the beauty of this foggy world as seen through Your divine microscope and make us a holy Church. Amen.

I hope you saw at least one thing under this microscopic blog post that will help you see differently from here on out!  Love, Anna

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