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Thursday, January 01, 2009

How do you spot a future nun?

Fr. Zehnle asks: How do you spot a future nun?

This is a very interesting question. Most of the priests I know, either in real life or via blogging, have a sense of how to suggest the priesthood to young men (and some "older" ones!). But they often seem mystified as to how to address Vocations for women. Certainly, they might suggest religious life to some, but I get the distinct impression that they are almost afraid to do this. Please correct me if I'm wrong in this assessment.

Let's face in general are terrified of women, and for a lot of reasons, some of them legitimate. You don't want to offend us in any way, and there is a weird undercurrent of an idea out there that to suggest a woman become a religious sister is akin to telling her she's substandard in some way. I've run into this myself. Several years ago I told a male friend that a woman I knew in college had entered a cloister. I wasn't practicing my faith at the time, but I admired her, and with great affection, I said, "I'm not a bit surprised." His response was derisive laughter, assuming I was insulting her. I'll never forget the moment; it was as if his comments were directed at me.

So, everyone, let's just get that behind us. Normal-in-every-way men and women are called by God to enter the priesthood and religious life. Some people might ascribe the invitation to be some kind of a veiled insult, but please don't let that kind of hostile ignorance stop you from seeing the good in us and suggesting that God might actually love us and be calling us to something more.

That's exactly what an invitation to consider the religious life is about; that invitation alone is an expression that God loves us so much that He is asking us for a particular type of participation in His own love. It's not an insult by any stretch of the imagination, and if you suggest it to us, it's also an expression of your own affection for us, for it shows that you see something in us that maybe we don't see in ourselves, or, if we are thinking about it, it can be an affirmation to try.

We all need a little push sometimes.

When I was in High School, very involved in my parish, I used to cringe on "Vocation Sunday". I was very aware that I was one of the few (count 'em on less than one hand) involved teens. I knew I would be a prime target for the dreaded Vocation Invitation.

I loved serving in the capacity in which I served, but I didn't want to be a nun. Every time I heard a homily about Vocations, I would shake in my shoes and think, "No! I don't want to do that! I don't want to be a nun!"

Never mind that no one had EVER approached me with that idea.

We had a Sister in our parish, Sr. Zacchaeus, a very short lady who wore a modified grey habit and black veil. She had a perfect U-shaped smile, and actually tried to get me, via scholarship, to go to the local Catholic School. I was REALLY terrified of her during Vocations Awareness week! She often expressed how happy she was that I was so involved in the parish. And when she went down that route, I would try to slip away as quickly as I could. Quite literally, I was trying to avoid ever hearing anyone suggest that I "become a nun."

Either I was successful in my efforts or no one ever thought to bother to ask. I'll never know.

And I have a confession to make; there was a part of me that hoped maybe someone WOULD catch me and suggest, "Have you ever considered becoming a nun?"

Because even though on one hand it would be "uncool", on the other hand, I knew instinctively the love that comes with such a suggestion. And because I didn't know how I would react, I ran away before the subject could even be broached.

In looking back now, I have to wonder if maybe that was the mysterious Call...even then.

So what to look for?

That's a great question. But even I can't answer it.

Look for someone who is involved in their parish. Sometimes love for God is expressed first through service...or perhaps that service is what makes the catechesis hit the heart. Look for someone who loves prayer, who has a desire to learn the faith, and above all..a joy about doing so. Look for someone who is consistent (ie not given to following the latest "theological" fads), and truly seems to have a love for Christ.

Don't look for perfection, for a particular personality, a type of family. Maybe it's the girl who goes about some regular service in the parish, quietly, without pomp and circumstance. Does she attend Mass regularly? Every day? Is she in college? Just out of college? Is she in her 20's or her 40's?

Age doesn't matter. God calls everyone according to HIS will, not our timing.

Maybe she's the woman in the pew next to you on Sunday, or Tuesday, or the Holy Day. No ring on her finger, no children at her side. Maybe something about her strikes you and you wonder if maybe she's ever considered that option.

Maybe she needs to hear it from YOU.

Because she won't say a word. She might be living out a silent agony of indecision and a sense of unworthiness, terrified to ever consider that when God points His finger, or Jesus stretches out His hand, it might be towards her. You might be the person to make her reach back.

Give that invitation, and without hesitation. It doesn't matter if you can "spot" a future nun. If you even have an inkling, go ahead and make the suggestion. And if you know she is discerning, don't push, but also don't be afraid to offer encouragement.

How do you spot a future nun? You don't. But God does, and He might be using you to point her in the right direction.


Anonymous said...


Thank you once again for the great post!

There was a gal in my town that was planning on being a nun. I kind of took her under my wing and gave books of meditations for nuns that I had stockpiled at home for someone like her.

She is so on fire for the faith that it has spread to me in my won discernment. I know that she is very involved with the nuns that she plans to join. I think she spends a lot of time with them including free weekends from school. She is a wonderful model for all of those seeking to know and understand the faith better.

Catherine Lucia said...

Everyone I know has told me I should be a nun.

Then I quite literally heard God spell out my vocation to the Dominican Laity.

As you DON'T spot a future nun! :)

MJ said...

Happy New Year! And rememeber one of our favorite friends will be entering soon. Any chance of an Ohio trip for a send off?

Adoro said...

Brother Juniper ~ That's awesome!

CL ~ God does that sometimes. :-)

MJ ~ All depends. Between school, work, and my tax refund (when and how much), that'll determine if I can come. I suspect, based on the latest info, I won't be able to make it . :-( I DO hope to come back to OH in the summer, but we'll see what happens. I totally want to see her again before she goes!

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Consider this your nudge ;)

MJ said...

You an stay with me if that will help.

Adoro said...

MJ ~ Thanks, I appreciate that. I know that CK would invite me to stay with her again, too. And Kay's parents...they seem to be "invite central" for anyone who passes through their doors! LOL! I know I'll never be "homeless" in Ohio!

The issue is more the time (from school and work...lots of weekend stuff at work) and the cost of getting there. Especially with my summer unemployment looming. I may have to find a different job; ie not temp, but leave my job and get something that pays...ALL YEAR, and enough to live on! * sigh *

MJ said...

We'll get you here some how!

Adoro said...

I miss you all so much. Fr. V. wants me to come back, too.

Maybe I should find a job in Cleveland! ;-)

MJ said...

I love Minn. But would love to have you here!

Adoro said...

It's nice to have a foot in two states. :-) I'll say's nice to know that if I wanted to pick up and move, there's a ready-made family for me over there. And I'd be proud to be a part of it.

You all made me feel so welcome last summer that I didn't want to come back to MN!

Says a LOT for Ohio. People arent' as nice in MN...except for my friends, of course! (My friends ROCK! They're the best people on earth....) :-)

Anonymous said...

coming from the other end of the vocation ... it's really really really really really hard to know to whom I should speak and to whom not. There is a VERY 'pushy' group of religious siters locally. They literally ask any young woman who even remotely seems faithful or prayerful, "have you ever considered..." and it drives young women the opposite direction. They are TOTALLY gun shy. You can't even invite young women to a prayer day that's not intended to be directly vocational, becuase they read it as a push. Consequently, I hesitate ALWAYS, and rarely say anything. In 25 years, I think I've asked someone directly less than 4 or 5 times.

Adoro said...

That's a really good point...thank you. That would drive me crazy, too. And I've alluded to that in other posts, but not quite in the same way.

Will you email me and tell me which group does this? (I know it's not a cloistered one! lol!)

Lillian Marie said...

'Invite Central' - yep! That pretty well sums it up. *grin*

And yes, I would love to see you again ... AND if you WANT a job in Ohio - I know of a great place to work. *grin* You know we would love to have you call it 'home'.

With me, although I had thought about a religious vocation after my undergrad degree, I had sloughed it off and ignored the nudge. Fast forward many years later to present day ... one of the Sisters who was attending the same Scott Hahn Bible Study asked me if I had ever considered becoming a Sister. What she didn't know is that I was considering it but I had not told anyone. Her question reeled in my mind during the weekend - I could not get the question out of my mind.

It was that next week when I broke the news to my parents & family.

Since then, it's been all hustle, bustle, joy & fear, excitement & anxiousness...all wrapped up into one. I wouldn't change if for the world!

Anonymous said...

It's just really hard when you get the call at age 10 when you have 8 years before you can join a convent.

swissmiss said...

It's also a good thing to keep in mind with our own children.

When my son was a newborn I used to put him down for a nap with "Chant" playing in the background. A friend, very traddy Catholic, made a comment about the potential of turning him into a priest by doing that, like it would be a bad thing!