Desire versus Reality


#1

I have been in religious life long enough to make an observation. I have met many well intentioned young women (and not so young) who expressed great desires in becoming religious. They come from varied backgrounds and many are well accomplished in the secular world. They are well educated in Church matters and have all sorts of degrees after their names. They enter religious life full of good desires. They are willing to forgo everything material but cling to what is most important their own will. Although the struggle to bend our own will to that of another takes a lifelong effort, candidates must remember that our degrees and knowledge are very helpful in ministry but they are not what make one a true religious.


#2

Thank you for the reminder, Sr Helena.


#3

So true! I thought I wanted to be a religious, but I realised that I, along with many other women, make the mistake of idealising that particular calling rather than completely answering to our own calling.


#4

A good reminder. Part of my discernment when I visit the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer will be to test if I really am willing to give my will up for the glory of God, or if this is some prideful, idealistic part of me that wishes to be a religious. I hope it's not the latter, but if the saints have taught me anything it's that we often fool ourselves.

I pray that God teaches me to learn to submit myself to His will, and to the will of the superior of the community I wish to join. The Lord knows I am filled with pride.


#5

One of the statements that I like from the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia is “It is not what we do, but who we are.” It’s possible that if I had read that statement when I was young, I may have actually taken the step of following my dream to become a nun. It would have disabused me of the wrong reason, to become a teacher, that was drawing me toward religious life.


#6

Thank you, Sr. Helena, for this helpful insight. I almost entered religious life in 2009, but I needed more time out in the world to mature because I wasn't emotionally prepared then like I am now. I hope to enter a religious order in this next year, if God wills it. :)


#7

[quote="Sister_Helena, post:1, topic:226924"]
I have been in religious life long enough to make an observation. I have met many well intentioned young women (and not so young) who expressed great desires in becoming religious. They come from varied backgrounds and many are well accomplished in the secular world. They are well educated in Church matters and have all sorts of degrees after their names. They enter religious life full of good desires. They are willing to forgo everything material but cling to what is most important their own will. Although the struggle to bend our own will to that of another takes a lifelong effort, candidates must remember that our degrees and knowledge are very helpful in ministry but they are not what make one a true religious.

[/quote]

Of all the Vows, Holy Obedience is the lynchpin.

It is the Vow that underpins and energises and facilitates all else in religious life.

In these times when young women are educated to think, decide, plan for themselves, and indeed for others, the concept of unquestioning and heart-ready obedience is an alien one.

This is also a very real hurdle where "late vocations" are concerned. For the reasons stated above.


#8

It’s interesting when you said “late vocations”. How “late”? And is it true for every one of the “late vocations”?


#9

That is like asking how long is a piece of string!!

Just think; a woman has been living and organising her won life, maybe highly qualified and with a lot of responsibility… as she has been educated and trained and conditioned fo be and do all her life.

So she walks through a Door and suddenly all that changes. She has no power any more;can make no independent decisions for her life - or for anyone elses. Her whole lifestyle is different’ all the ingrained ways are in her.

She has to take orders and instruction from women who are younger than she is and maybe less well educated.

A battle royal indeed.

Some come unstuck dramatically… " they made me scrub floors… "

It works for some; and how late varies greatly.

But as the OP says. without that relinquishment of will there can be no religious lifeIt is not about theology etc, but a simple giiving of self to and for others as to Jesus.


#10

This can happen even if a person does not enter an order. For different reasons a person may change his/her job or vocation. Walking into the new job, the person finds himself/herself under the supervision of somebody with less experience and knowledge in the field. Seniority is not always used for promotions so even without a job change, a person may experience coming under a less experienced person’s supervision and not having his/her expertise recognized.

The lateness of a person’s entry into religious life is less a factor when it comes to having difficulty with obedience than the person’s own disposition. The vows of poverty and obedience did more to keep me from taking the step of entry into religious life than anything else. It is only later that I learned what poverty and obedience really mean. Poverty, while it may be material, is more about spiritual poverty. Spiritual poverty recognizes our complete dependence on God regardless of material possessions.
I like the Benedictine definition of obedience. Obedience means to listen. It is not simply doing what another tells us regardless of personal conscience. Obedience is first and foremost to God.


#11

Re your first para. Religious life is nto a job and no parallel is possible on those lines. It is life simply; no going home at 5 pm or whatever.

It dictates all you do and are. One person we know left because she objected to being told eg when to wash her hair and that she must leave outgoing mail out on the hall table at a set time. There were in fact very simple practical reasons for both these requests.
eg the mail was collected by a Brother from a nearby monastery as that Order was enclosed. It was consideration for others and for the smooth running of the convent.

It is almost always the seemingly small things that folk find hardest.

As SIster Helen says, they come in with grandiose ideas such as you state here.

Povery needs to be material also and seldom is in these times. It is only through this physical poverty that we can learn spiritual poverty.

Obedience can never demand that you do anything that is against your conscience or that endangers you.This has been so abused in the past sadly

But itis far more than listening. Each religious is part of a larger organism within the Church. no one religious knows the whole except the Abbess. Each must thus obey for the safety of the whole.

As we must in the Church also of course.

Each Vow is enshrined in practicality. WHich is what the life exhorts and demands and what makes it a challeneg and a beauty.


#12

I understand that religious life is far more than a job. It is indeed a way of life. People do quit jobs or are let go because they are unwilling to complete the tasks in the manner expected by the employer. Each of us, religious or not, is asked to submit to the authority that is placed over us.
The Trappists in Conyers describe very well the concept of obedience. When a person enters to become a monk, he humbles himself as a child. He is dependent on his abbot for his needs from food to clothing. In poverty, he owns nothing of his own. Just as the individual monk is obedient to his abbot, so too is the abbot obedient to the monks in his care. He must listen to the needs of those placed in his care.
It is a Benedictine who explained to me the concept of obedience as listening and how a person can humbly refuse to do what was requested of him/her.


#13

Absolutely so.

Yet there can be no comparisons made between secular life/work and religious life. This is the main reason that people “fail”. and why formation is so long…


#14

What is the point of the Obedience vow?

I understand obedience to God, but why does a religious have to vow obedience to superiors? What difference does it make where you leave the mail (mentioned by a previous poster)? And when people take vows of obedience, how are they prevented from being abused by the power of the people over them?

Just curious, I'm not discerning a religious vocation.


#15

Perhaps a correlation in the non-religious life would be accepting events that happen, both minor and major, and discerning the "doors" that are opened for you.

It is hard to be obedient to the Church if we live disobediently to events and situations and accept continual failing and falling for the "apparent good" when we must discern the true good. Discerning this true good and learning to be obedient would probably start with turning off "Dancing with the Stars" and replacing Chaz Bono with St."Chaz" Borromeo!

Discerning every motivation for each of one's actions and denying one's natural base tendencies in favor of that which leads to the perfection of ones nature in grace is seemingly the cross we are told to pick up and carry. Desire starts us but grace sustains us.


#16

[quote="AnneTeresa, post:14, topic:226924"]
What is the point of the Obedience vow?

I understand obedience to God, but why does a religious have to vow obedience to superiors? What difference does it make where you leave the mail (mentioned by a previous poster)? And when people take vows of obedience, how are they prevented from being abused by the power of the people over them?

Just curious, I'm not discerning a religious vocation.

[/quote]

Hi there, I think these links should help!

This is from the Catholic Encyclopaedia.

This is from a benedictine website.

This is a very in-depth, academic look at the 3 vows.


#17

[quote="AnneTeresa, post:14, topic:226924"]
What is the point of the Obedience vow?

I understand obedience to God, but why does a religious have to vow obedience to superiors? What difference does it make where you leave the mail (mentioned by a previous poster)? And when people take vows of obedience, how are they prevented from being abused by the power of the people over them?

Just curious, I'm not discerning a religious vocation.

[/quote]

Good questions and common ones.

Many reasons.

Obedience to God is not an abstract thing. It needs physical expression. In an order, the Abbess is as Christ. So she is to be obeyed as Christ.

See a convent as an organisation, an organism. With a Rule that governs every detail of life. Which is vital for the peace for prayer. A time for everything.

As in an army. only the leaders know all; thus as in an army, each soldier must obey leaders. Anarchy else.

re the mail; simple courtesy and practicality. In an enclosed order, mail is collected as a kindness at a set time.

To make a fuss and a rebellion over such a minor issue reveals a total lack of ability or will to live the life. An old test used to be, and this is in the Orthodox patrimony, that a novice or postalant who changed the furniture in his cell around was dismissed immediately.

Some tests were .... like planting cabbages upside down or watering sticks.

Which of course brings to your last point, and a serious one, Obedience is and was never meant to be blind. Each religious has the right and need to talk when faced with something very serious. And no religious can be asked to do something illegal or against her conscience. We are facing the ruin brought about by abuse of leadership here in ireland.

Some say that you must obey whatever you are asked, but this is not so and this leads to abuse of power.

And no guarantees in any way of life that power will not be abused.

I was reading some background re the Norbertines here, they who protected Brendan Smythe. Another monk tried to report his abuse twice and was ostracised and shunned for doing that. That is abuse of power.

But for the daily life of an order, simple obedience, which is humility and courtesy and love, is vital. The willingness and ability to shed ones own will and preferences.. toset your own skills aside unless they are asked for..Especially when you are sure that you know better. In lay life, you may well know better; in religious life? You start your life all over again with different values.

It is one of those thinsg that cannot be quantified or understood or analysed from the outside/ As so many discover the hard way. A grace and a learning that takes a whole lifetime.


#18

Does not need all this, or an academic approach. It is so very simple that the smallest child can understand. not at all complicated; religious life is not the sole realm of the academic; remember Bernadette.

This is one aspect of the OP…


#19

If a vow is an oath, how does that relate to James 5:12 in catholic belief from your point of view?


#20

:confused:I gave an answer that went from an Encyclopaedic definition, to a definition from a religious Order themselves, to an academic look at it. I think you gave a good enough explanation, but it’s better to let the person who asked judge whether or not my answer was sufficient. I don’t mean to come off as rude, but I am puzzled and slightly taken aback by you quoting me simply to say that my answer isn’t needed. You may be correct, however, in which case I am a silly billy :slight_smile:


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