faq: have you discerned your vocation?
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times: “Have you ever thought God might be calling you to be a nun?” I don’t mind this question at all! In fact, I am glad people ask and hopefully they are asking other young women the same question. But I don’t always like the tone that is used. Some people ask in a way that says, “You aren’t getting any younger, and since you aren’t married by now, you might as well face the facts and join a convent.” I pray they don’t have those negative undertones when asking other women.
The religious life is a beautiful vocation and those who are called to that vocation should be commended for their acceptance of God’s will. To say that the convent is a place for single women who “can’t seem to get married” cheapens their calling. It breaks my heart to hear people devalue religious sisters and their total abandonment to God.
That being said, yes I have considered the religious life as an option. It was not easy: my greatest longing was to be a wife and mother. But there was also a part of me that didn’t want to “default” into marriage. For years I prayed for an answer. I agonized over which vocation God was calling me to, but never seemed to get an answer.
My friend, Catherine, suggested praying a novena to St. Therese the Little Flower, because she had no doubt about her vocation. Catherine also suggested I ask to receive specific colored roses for each vocation, to ensure a clear answer. I prayed my novena faithfully and asked St. Therese that I receive pink roses if I was called to be a nun and yellow roses if I was called to be a wife. After that first novena, I didn’t get any roses.
I prayed this novena about every six months for the next couple of years to no avail. I eventually moved away from home and into a Christian single women’s household. It was there that I decided I would focus on discerning my vocation.
My time of discernment was not what I expected it to be: it was mostly a time of healing. In some ways it was harder than I expected, but it was also more joyful. That surprised me. I was slowly learning to laugh at the days to come and was no longer stressed about how God was calling me to serve Him.
As I made plans to move back home, I realized I still didn’t have an answer. I decided to try St. Therese again: I prayed the novena with the same specifications, which were only known to two people besides myself and I reminded St. Therese that I wanted to receive the flowers not just see them. This was an extra tough request since I rarely receive flowers. I had no idea how she would pull it off.
A few weeks passed and I began to see pink and yellow roses everywhere! I was excited – I really could have gone either way, so I held fast to my request of being given the actual flowers. A week or so later, I received a dozen red roses from a friend in honor of my baptismal day, but the color meant nothing in regards to my novena.
I woke up early one morning. It was moving day: I was moving seven hundred miles back home. My roommates gathered around to see me off. They gave me a CD of our favorite songs and a few other farewell gifts. Then Maria, who had her hands behind her back, said, “Cecilia, I searched everywhere for your favorite flowers, but November is not tulip season. These were all I could find – I hope they will do.” She pulled out a dozen yellow roses.
It’s just like God and St. Therese to wait until the very last minute! My soon-t0-be former roommates were thrilled when I told them I finally had my answer and I was getting married! Someday I will be able to call them to let them know when the wedding will take place. In the meantime, I continue to wait on the Lord and pray for my husband, whomever and wherever he is.
Through my discernment, I grew to love and appreciate the religious life, which is why I cringe when I hear negative undertones. Being asked the same questions over and over can get tedious, but this is one I love hearing. I hope and pray these inquires will spark an interest to the possibility of a religious vocation in other young women.
I did warn you in my first installment of Frequently Asked Questions that my discernment story was rather long. Be grateful I only covered the major details!