Grieving friend at the cloister


#1

Our beloved friend, godparent to our children, became a cloistered religious. We were excited, humbled, encouraging and grateful during the discernment and formation periods. We knew our friend was following God's call so we had peace and joy. I'm having a new emotion now and want to talk with others who've experienced the same thing. I am grieving!

We've seen our friend once in the last 2 years. We won't have a face to face again for many more. I expected our visit to be like old times when we would get together to pray and discuss the faith. Instead, it was awkward. I realized we didn't have anything more to bring to our friendship. What does a cloistered religious benefit from my presence when the alternative is the presence of God?

Our friend, I believe, is close to sainthood. I say that in all seriousness. I know in my head that a saint in a cloister is in many ways dead to the world and living much of the time in the next. Our friends' prayer is a testament to this faith. I know our friend's prayers are a source of spiritual warfare and sustenance for us and we are very blessed.

And I feel grief, like our friend is gone, at least to us.

We are allowed to write letters, but every letter in and out is read by superiors and it doesn't change the fact that we have nothing to offer a person focused on God. This feeling of grief is out of the blue but it isn't going away. I am praying for our friend. Does anyone have personal experience on overcoming this?


#2

Please feel free to contact us: foundress2003@yahoo.com

cloisters.tripod.com/

Blessings,
Cloisters


#3

How Wonderful!!

MOST SACRED HEART OF JESUS please (him/her) very abdundantly!!


#4

[quote="Cloisters, post:2, topic:301678"]
Please feel free to contact us: [email]foundress2003@yahoo.com[/email]

cloisters.tripod.com/

Blessings,
Cloisters

[/quote]

That's really great of you to be available like that. I hope a connection is made between you and the OP. I would imagine many have rejoiced and mourned someone becoming cloistered.


#5

Thank you for the support! Seems we need to open a forum for those "left behind". One really isn't "left behind," they meet their loved one in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Pray harder and let the cloistered example lead to a deeper relationship. "Nun" means "elder" (can't remember the citation--need to find it again!).

Blessings,
Cloisters


#6

Dear AlmondChai,
I have never been in your place but I hope my words of encouragement can help. I've always seen the position as "god parent" being a very special family member. By your children's god parent joining a cloister they are becoming an even more important person in your family because you can be assured they have more time to pray for your children. As your children get older, they will also have a wonderful role model because they will know someone who had enough gumption and courage to follow Christ. You never know how God will use this person as a role model in the future.
Grief is understandable considering it seems like your friend was very special to you. Just because your friend has joined the cloister, doesn't mean you are no longer friends. Anne of Green Gables once said: "true friends are always together in spirit." I believe this is always true. Considering what a great sacrifice your friend is making, he or she will need your prayers and friendship even more. Since letters are permitted, continue to write when you are allowed. Encourage your children to write and keep encouraging your friend. Just because you will not be able to see your friend for many years, it doesn't mean the friendship has to disappear. It will continue to flourish if you let it.

 As for the letters being read by a superior, instead of thinking the person as a enemy, think of them as another trusted friend. If there is anything inside your letters, that needs prayer, chances are they will also pray for the situation. 

I hope this helps,

SG

God calls everyone to serve Him in different ways. We are one big family that needs each other to help this world.


#7

I see a few things going on here, which are very normal. When a loved one enters religious life, especially an enclosed community, it is a real separation. There is no doubt about that. Naturally, we go through the stages of grief, like any other loss. You should not berate yourself for feeling grief. Just allow yourself to feel it and remind yourself that this too shall pass. When? Who knows? We all grieve differently and for different periods of time.

Something else is happening here. I don’t know your friend; therefore, I can’t tell you what he or she is feeling. But I can hear what you’re feeling and you’re wrong. You’re dead wrong in the water. Let’s take a look at a statement that you made.

** I realized we didn’t have anything more to bring to our friendship. **

This is just not true. You of course have all the juicy gossip from home and about the folks that are dear to you and your friends. Cloistered religious are not rocks. They are human beings and very curious ones too. The more intense the cloister, the more the curiosity. That’s OK. They are allowed to be curious about the world beyond the cloister walls. St. Benedict never prohibited this. I say St. Benedict, because he’s the father of Western Monasticism, male and female. A cloistered religious lives a stable life, not an isolated life.

If you’re going to visit and you’re not going to bring pictures of the church picnic, your new puppy or stories about the old neighborhood, you’re arriving empty handed. If you’re visiting and you’re not curious about your friends environment and you don’t ask a lot of questions, you’re not showing any interest in his life.

I was married and a widower. I raised two wonderful kids who are now a medical doctor and an artist. Then I entered religious life. During novitiate, we don’t leave. It’s a year in a cloister. Every letter is read. There are no telephone calls, no email, no TV, no newspapers or magazines. I had no idea that the USA had invaded Iraq.

However, when my kids came to visit, they brought me magazines, pictures of friends and family. My son had a new dog and he brought pictures. He’s an artist, so he brought his lap top to show me his portfolio. My daughter, who is the physician is a curious person. She had all kinds of questions about the novitiate and life in the cloister. She teased me about being in this place without contact with the world, when I used to run all over town with them as they were growing up. She wanted to know about the habit, was it hot? Did we have to wear it all the time? She wanted to know about our meals. Did we play sports or how did we unwind. She even laughed and teased about bringing me a case of my favorite beer. She was awe struck when I told her that because the friars were German, we had beer at every meal, except breakfast. These are the kinds of things that you bring with you.

Of course, that made me relax. I was nervous. These were my kids. They had no mother, no grandparents and only two uncles left alive. I had guilt feelings about leaving them alone in the world. But hearing all about what they were doing and who was doing what, helped me to realize that they were enjoying life. I was able to tell them how much I missed them and how much I loved them. We cried a little. They told me how much they missed and loved me. Then I asked questions about them and their lives. That’s when I found out about Iraq. My son said, “You mean you don’t know?” I told him that I didn’t. He said, “Well, if you’re going to get bombed from above, this is a good place for it. You’ll never know what hit you.” We all laughed.


#8

Let's look at another statement.

What does a cloistered religious benefit from my presence when the alternative is the presence of God?

Where do you think that cloistered religious find God? They're religious, not Moses. They don't go climbing mountains and talking to burning bushes. They find God in the same places that you do. The simply get a larger dose than you do. They spend time before the Blessed Sacrament. They pray the LOTH, receive the sacraments, attend mass, do spiritual reading and share life with each other. God is in their life of prayer, sacraments, work, and the people around them. They can find God in you too. In fact, when you arrive, it's a great joy to them. Christ has arrived wearing a new look. That new look is you. You're a Christ bearer, another St. Christopher.

You seem to have over romanticized the cloistered life. Maybe you've been spending too much time on CAF. My experience here is that the lay people who post here tend to go to two extremes. Some over estimate religious life and imagine Fr. O'Malley and Sister Benedict in Bells of St. Mary, the worse movie about priesthood and religious life that Hollywood every put out, because it's not realistic. It's too hygienic. No one gets angry. No one gets in anyone's face. Principals and pastors get along like brother and sister, only on TV. You get the picture.

Other people underestimate religious life and want to equate it to marriage or the single life on the outside, because it bothers them to think of the religious life as a higher calling than the married life. Unfortunately, that's a doctrine of the Council of Trent.

A higher calling, yes. That the person is now angelic, no. The person is still your friend, brother, sister, son, daughter or in my case, parent. He or she has a connection to God through the people in his or her life, in the cloister and outside the cloister. If you don't visit, then Christ can't get there through you.

*Our friend, I believe, is close to sainthood. I say that in all seriousness. *

Talk about toxic faith . . . you have a bad case of it. Our lives are lived in the presence of God and we live for heaven. This is true. Our lives are supposed to serve as a sign of things to come. This also is true. However, we're not religious, cloistered or active, because we're almost saints. We're religious because Christ is holy and merciful. Therefore, he invites us to live in intimacy with him, even with our warts. Your friend lives close to holiness, but it's Christ's holiness. Your friend is the same person, as close as possible.

Here is another thing that one must remember. When one becomes a religious, gets married, becomes a parent or simply graduates from college and gets his first apartment, one changes. People do change. But they don't stop being the same people.

I'm a different person, but I'm still my kids' dad. When my daughter's fiance asked her to marry him, her first reaction was to say, "You need to talk to my dad first." His reaction was, "But your dad is a monk." To which she answered, "He's a friar, not a monks, but he's still my daddy." Guess who is going to walk her down the aisle? Not a monk, but a daddy in a tux and black tie. We change, but our relationships simply evolve. They don't have to die out.

I hope this is at least a little helpful.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, FFV :)


#9

Thank you for your thoughts! The system isn't letting me highlight to respond to certain ones.

The way you describe what to expect when visiting is what I expected. I asked a lot of questions and thought we'd share what was going on at home. Our friend did not want gossip. A few updates like the world news. The rest was awkward because its triviality was obvious. It wasn't scrupulosity. It was holiness. We talked about the work, the life, the habit, some of the struggles, some of what's going on at home. It was obvious there was a depth of experience going on that we couldn't comprehend or adequately respond to.

I don't think our friend is close to sainthood because of being a religious. I think our friend is close to sainthood because of being close to sainthood. I have a lot of friends who are great Catholics trying to live holy lives, but this friend has always been in a different category. It was like that at home and is like that now. The focus on God and conformity of God's will in life is holiness. There's no other way to describe it.

I laughed when you said they don't seek God on a mountain. They do! Literally, in a pilgrimage! Not that it makes a difference to anything. It just made me laugh.

What you describe is what I expected. It's been my experience with other religious we've known. It isn't what's happened now with this friend. It feels like the calling is true and has been responded to and that calling is... I don't even know how to describe it. Sainthood through contemplation, spiritual warfare, and reparation is the best I've got.


#10

Something doesn't feel right to me, but I'm not there to analyze it. So, I won't. Give it time. As I always say, accept what God gives and give what he takes.

I'll tell you what doesn't feel right. Saints are very down to earth people who love the things that others love. Some examples.
**
St. Francis of Assisi: **

Would have his friend sneak in almond cookies for him, during the Lenten fast. He loved those things.

St. Pio:

Was a prankster and had a short fuse too.

Bl. Teresa of Calcutta:

You were the most important person in the world to her, when she spoke with you. If you did not work, she could tear your head off with a sharp word or two.

St. Therese:

Loved putting on plays. Her favorite character was St. Joan of Arc

St. Teresa of Avila:

Loved the guitar and dancing. She would dance with the nuns in her monastery or play and sing for them

St. Philip Neri:

Loved practical jokes, so much so that the Oratorians would scream at him.

They live in the presence of God, but they find God in the very normal things in life, especially the simplest things, like friends and sharing.

I don't know. Maybe your friend is naturally reserved. Some people are.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, FFV :)


#11

[quote="JReducation, post:7, topic:301678"]
This is just not true. You of course have all the juicy gossip from home and about the folks that are dear to you and your friends. .

[/quote]

[quote="AlmondChai, post:9, topic:301678"]
Thank you for your thoughts! The system isn't letting me highlight to respond to certain ones.

The way you describe what to expect when visiting is what I expected. I asked a lot of questions and thought we'd share what was going on at home. Our friend did not want gossip. A few updates like the world news. The rest was awkward because its triviality was obvious. It wasn't scrupulosity. It was holiness. We talked about the work, the life, the habit, some of the struggles, some of what's going on at home. It was obvious there was a depth of experience going on that we couldn't comprehend or adequately respond to.

[/quote]

It seems like you are talking about two different kinds of gossip.

Of course your friend doesn't want to you tell her that you think your neighbor is having an affair. Or that someone wore a skirt that was too short, to Mass. That is real gossip and something everyone should avoid.

But there is nothing wrong with telling her your husband got a raise, or that little Johnny got an "A" in spelling or that Susie learned how to ride a bike. Or even that your husband lost his job and you need prayers for him. That is news or what I thought of when I read JReducation's post.


#12

:slight_smile:
Yes, I understand. We discussed much of the normal life stuff. It also was obvious how much of our normal life discussions are trivial and time wasters. Our friend was very gracious and engaged, but I knew in my soul that there was a higher calling we couldn’t comprehend or discuss. We weren’t able to go there together. I think that’s normal, but I FEEL loss over it. It’s like an emotion came out of the blue and attached itself to me.


#13

[quote="AlmondChai, post:12, topic:301678"]
:)
Yes, I understand. We discussed much of the normal life stuff. It also was obvious how much of our normal life discussions are trivial and time wasters. Our friend was very gracious and engaged, but I knew in my soul that there was a higher calling we couldn't comprehend or discuss. We weren't able to go there together. I think that's normal, but I FEEL loss over it. It's like an emotion came out of the blue and attached itself to me.

[/quote]

I am thinking that it isn't normal. Sorry. Normal life isn't trivial.

I spent some time with a group of Benedictine Sisters. Not one of them acted as though my life was trivial. In fact, they were very interested in hearing about my life, why I was there and the like.

So if your friend was engaged, maybe she truly wanted to hear about your life. It sounds like, maybe, you are elevating her higher than you should.


#14

[quote="maryjk, post:13, topic:301678"]
I am thinking that it isn't normal. Sorry. Normal life isn't trivial.

I spent some time with a group of Benedictine Sisters. Not one of them acted as though my life was trivial. In fact, they were very interested in hearing about my life, why I was there and the like.

So if your friend was engaged, maybe she truly wanted to hear about your life. It sounds like, maybe, you are elevating her higher than you should.

[/quote]

I agree here. Look at the examples that I gave in Post # 10. Saints are very real people. By real, I mean very human with very human interests, gifts, and even eccentricities. To say that someone is a saint and then say that the person is not interested in every detail of my life is an oxymoron.

If I take the list of saints and blesseds that I posted in # 10, the one quality that endeared the to those around them was their love. I remember meeting both, Bl. Mother Teresa and Bl. John Paul II, not at the same time. In each case, I felt as if I were the only person on earth. Each of them was interested in everything that I had to say.

The first time I met Bl. John Paul, I was with my young son. I was not yet a brother. My wife had just died and my son was 7. Cardinal Ratzinger had arranged for the meeting (another story for another thread). We were in a chamber with about 30 other people. When he reached my son, the Holy Father asked him all about his art. He asked Julian where he learned to draw. Julian responded, "From the Ninja Turtles." To which John Paul responded, "We have all their paintings in our museum. I'll make sure that someone takes you around," and he called over a attending Msgr who led us to the museum and handed us over to a guide.

The time that I met Bl. Mother Teresa, she looked at me and asked about my family. When I didn't mention my wife, she asked if I was married. I told her that my wife had died many years before. She asked if I knew how to do anything. Mother was always very practical. I laughed and said, "I'm a theologian by profession and a dad as a second vocation."

When she heard second vocation, he asked, "What does that mean?" I explained that I had been a Capuchin Friar for 14 years, had left (with permission from Pope John Paul), married, but had been widowed very early. She then turned around and said, "Maybe it's time you went back home." She then smiled and said, "Don't worry, Maximilian Kolbe's mother was also a nun." That's how the ball got rolling to come back to Franciscan life.

These are real experiences with real people who are interested in everything about you, from the little boy who learns art from Ninja Turtles, to the father of a family who has to go back and finish what he promised the Lord when he first made vows.

Saints don't find our lives and our interests trivial.

There can be one of two problems. Either the "saint" is a little too intense, in which case sanctity is going to be more difficult to achieve or the observer is too intense, canonizing the person in life.

I found Bl. John Paul to be a very cheerful person and particularly interested the young. I found Bl. Teresa to be a very practical person and particularly interested in making things happen. Both are very human qualities. Saints are very human - so human that they embody everything that is humanity.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, FFV :)


#15

[quote="AlmondChai, post:12, topic:301678"]
:)
Yes, I understand. We discussed much of the normal life stuff. It also was obvious how much of our normal life discussions are trivial and time wasters. Our friend was very gracious and engaged, but I knew in my soul that there was a higher calling we couldn't comprehend or discuss. We weren't able to go there together. I think that's normal, but I FEEL loss over it. It's like an emotion came out of the blue and attached itself to me.

[/quote]

I read all these posts with interest and my opinion is: no one here can really understand what happened to you because of this visit. I can make a few assumptions from one phrase but then the next praise belies that.

I do have some advice I feel very strongly about, though:

I think it makes sense to take your OP and this post and write out all of this for your friend and send it to her. And it's fine if it's read. BUT - please leave out the part about feeling like she is a saint. It can have no positive value for her.

It could be that what happened is you saw how much greater your own life could be if you were making choices you yourself would find less trivial. It's not that I am hearing the Sister trivialized anything, but that you were struck by a comparison.

I think that pursuing holiness is a much-neglected part of the lives of the average person. I think we can all do more. I think you'd like doing regular hours in an Adoration room.


#16

Hello Almond Chai,
I tried to reply to your message but you inbox is full, so I will just post my reply here.

Yes, I can understand why you would feel that loss. It is not exactly the same situation that I am in, we are an apostolic community, but I think my family does feel that distance.

For me, I have to admit when I speak to my mother on the phone or go home for a visit, I don’t do most of the talking. It is kind of hard for me to know what to say. They don’t know many of the Sisters or others that I work with. You know, there is not much to tell. But I love listening to them. I love listening to how the kids are growing up and the funny things they do. I like to hear how the garden is doing, how the family is, how things are going at work…

I think if you look at some of the saints, like St. Therese or St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, you’ll see that they wrote lot of letters. Now that doesn’t mean that all nuns like to write letters, but I think it does show that just because they are nuns doesn’t mean thay aren’t interested in people.

I am not in as much contact with my friends from home. It does get kind of hard to keep up with everyone. I have to admit, I hate writing, so I have been horrible with keeping up correspondence, But I usually take a day when I am home on vacation to visit friends and I love to hear what is going on with them.

I have come to admire my mother and sisters in what challenges they have to face as wives and mothers. Don’t sell yourself short. There are many lessons you could probably teach a nun or sister.

I hope that helps.
God bless and keep you.


#17

[quote="JReducation, post:7, topic:301678"]
I see a few things going on here, which are very normal. When a loved one enters religious life, especially an enclosed community, it is a real separation. There is no doubt about that. Naturally, we go through the stages of grief, like any other loss. You should not berate yourself for feeling grief. Just allow yourself to feel it and remind yourself that this too shall pass. When? Who knows? We all grieve differently and for different periods of time.

Something else is happening here. I don't know your friend; therefore, I can't tell you what he or she is feeling. But I can hear what you're feeling and you're wrong. You're dead wrong in the water. Let's take a look at a statement that you made.

** I realized we didn't have anything more to bring to our friendship. **

This is just not true. You of course have all the juicy gossip from home and about the folks that are dear to you and your friends. Cloistered religious are not rocks. They are human beings and very curious ones too. The more intense the cloister, the more the curiosity. That's OK. They are allowed to be curious about the world beyond the cloister walls. St. Benedict never prohibited this. I say St. Benedict, because he's the father of Western Monasticism, male and female. A cloistered religious lives a stable life, not an isolated life.

If you're going to visit and you're not going to bring pictures of the church picnic, your new puppy or stories about the old neighborhood, you're arriving empty handed. If you're visiting and you're not curious about your friends environment and you don't ask a lot of questions, you're not showing any interest in his life.

I was married and a widower. I raised two wonderful kids who are now a medical doctor and an artist. Then I entered religious life. During novitiate, we don't leave. It's a year in a cloister. Every letter is read. There are no telephone calls, no email, no TV, no newspapers or magazines. I had no idea that the USA had invaded Iraq.

However, when my kids came to visit, they brought me magazines, pictures of friends and family. My son had a new dog and he brought pictures. He's an artist, so he brought his lap top to show me his portfolio. My daughter, who is the physician is a curious person. She had all kinds of questions about the novitiate and life in the cloister. She teased me about being in this place without contact with the world, when I used to run all over town with them as they were growing up. She wanted to know about the habit, was it hot? Did we have to wear it all the time? She wanted to know about our meals. Did we play sports or how did we unwind. She even laughed and teased about bringing me a case of my favorite beer. She was awe struck when I told her that because the friars were German, we had beer at every meal, except breakfast. These are the kinds of things that you bring with you.

Of course, that made me relax. I was nervous. These were my kids. They had no mother, no grandparents and only two uncles left alive. I had guilt feelings about leaving them alone in the world. But hearing all about what they were doing and who was doing what, helped me to realize that they were enjoying life. I was able to tell them how much I missed them and how much I loved them. We cried a little. They told me how much they missed and loved me. Then I asked questions about them and their lives. That's when I found out about Iraq. My son said, "You mean you don't know?" I told him that I didn't. He said, "Well, if you're going to get bombed from above, this is a good place for it. You'll never know what hit you." We all laughed.

[/quote]

*As a cloistered religious (older vocation and now in temporary vows)I can only second what JR has said. Letters may be read first and visits may be few and far between but believe me.. "news" from home in whatever form is treasured. How else is a religious to keep praying for their loved ones, friends or home parishes or diocese if news isn't brought to them? Please try a visit again... yes it may be a bit awkward at first.. but trust me it will benefit you and your friend.. (and yes bring pictures or whatever you might feel called to bring.

Sr. Debbie, OSC*


#18

We now offer a group for those grieving:

groups.yahoo.com/group/martin_family_parlor/

The group is under the patronage of the Martin Family, both Blesseds Louis and Zelie and their daughters and cousin.

Blessings,
Cloisters


#19

It seems like I have been away from these forums forever! I just saw your message today even though it was dated October 2012! I sincerely apologize to you.
I have a personal experience of entering the cloister and I understand what you are going through. The grieving process is mutual. But just like any process of loss, it gets better with time. On the part of the religious, it is usually easier (not easy) because when God calls one to the life, He usually gives the corresponding grace, and the initial stages of becoming a religious is filled with consolations. It is certainly most difficult for the ones left behind- families & friends. My advice is simple but does not mean easy- get yourself accustomed to letter writing instead of personally visiting. You can express your sentiments better in a letter form instead of becoming emotional and ill at ease during visiting time. In the beginning it is better to distance yourself from each other until the grace of acceptance is granted by the Lord. And most of all continue praying that God change your mourning into joy! He usually does. Meanwhile, accept the difficulties with resignation because it is part of the sacrifice entailed with leaving all and following God.


#20

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