Is your child in religious life?

Hi, friends:
I'm new to this site.
I would love to hear from any parent(s) who have a child in religious life. I have a child about to enter a cloister shortly...mostly the impending restrictions on contact is breaking my heart. There's lots written about the joys of "leaving your family" for the sake of the kingdom, but precious little about how the rest of the family is supposed to cope.:(
I'd love to discuss this...

Pax et bonum,
Pasqua

No, I have no Children.

Hugs and Prayers

Wow such an honest feeling from a parent. I always see and hear the concern of only those who want to join the religious life and not from the parents. Well, it’s hard to cope but at the same time I bet u should be happy that your daughter has chosen this holy way. On the other hand you may offer that pain for either reparation of sins or conversion of sinners or for peace in the families. In this way both the family and her will be sacrificing. Also try to understand her position because even if she smiles, it breaks her heart to see you grieving but let it make more sense by supporting her in this difficult decision.

Btw am not a parent but I will be joining religious life next year (with the graces of God). Am pretty sure that on one hand, it will break my parents’ heart but I also pray that they accept it.

Let this phrase encourage you “For God so loved the world, he sent his ONLY son to the world so that whosoever believe in him, shall have eternal life” Please meditate this on both side of the coin i.e your side and your daughter’s.

Hope this helps,
Densy.

I do not have a child in religious life, but I was once a postulant and novice in a contemplative monastery, some 800 miles from my parents’ home. They had a very difficult time with my choice, especially my dad, but became very comfortable very quickly. I think they liked knowing exactly where I was at all times – new experience for them :smiley: We exchanged letters often, and a phone call once every few months (?). They were allowed a long visit (several days) once a year because of the distance. If they had lived closer, they could have visited much more often.

You know how people say that when you child marries, “You’re not losing a daughter, you’re gaining a son”? Well, my own parents fell in love with my Benedictine family, and loved sharing in their joys and sorrows. They sent boxes of “treats” to the community for feast days, and sent cards for different events (like a sister’s profession, or the death of one of the older sisters). They ended up finding an extended family with the community, even though they only knew them through what I shared with them.

When I finally discerned that monastic life was not my vocation, my mother took it in stride, but my father was very saddened by it. I think he felt he had lost a part of his own family (the sisters) when I left the monastery.

I will keep your family in my prayers during this time. Although there will be moments when it feels like a death to you, don’t believe it. Your child will be very much alive and filled with a joy that the world cannot comprehend. This will be both a time of excitement and fear for your child. Try to share the journey together.

I might also recommend you read St. Therese of Lisieux’s The Story of a Soul. She writes at length about her and her father’s experiences as she prepared to enter the Carmelite cloister. Ask St. Therese’s father and mother (Blessed Louis and Blessed Zelie Martin) to pray for your family as well.

God bless you!

Gertie

Hi and welcome to the (relatively small, I think) community of parents with cloistered children!
My daughter has been in a cloistered community for almost three years now and I must tell you that it is still can be heart-wrenching sometimes, but by God’s grace there is so much joy for her and peace of mind for us that it (mostly) counter-balances the loss of physical contact. It is difficult to go through the holidays, family events and such without her and waiting weeks and weeks (no letters during Lent and Advent) for her letters to arrive, but what joy when they do come! Every letter shows us more joy and love as she delves deeper in her relationship with our Lord. As parents, isn’t that our most fervent wish for our children?
And the visits (once a year for us, since we live so far from her community) are a blessing as well. By God’s grace again, the grille literally melts away. You will also be in contact with all of the members of your community and like what was previously mentioned, you will have an opportunity to “adopt” them all by sending care packages and cards. And trust me on this, all of the Sisters will be praying for your family’s intentions. How great is that!!!
Lastly, in a letter some time ago, probably when she was still a postulant, she sent me a quote by a (religious sister) saint (St. Bernadette maybe? Sheesh! I should know it!), that was something to the effect of God wouldn’t allow the parents of a cloistered religious to go through purgatory, as they have spent that on earth giving their child up to God. I take A LOT of comfort in that! :slight_smile:
I wish you and your daughter well. The day she enters will be an amazing experience for both of you. God bless you both. I’ll pray for you.

Dear All…
You have written such beautiful replies that I am taking deep into my heart. I would like to reply to each…and once I get a little more used to how this forum works, I would like to take the time to respond more personally to each of you. Thank you, thank you and many blessings…
Pax Christi,
Pasqua1919

I just noticed that although very few posted here, this thread has been viewed over 300 times! You and your family have so many prayers coming your way :slight_smile: And know that the whole community your child is joining is also praying for all of you at this time.

God bless you!

Gertie

Hello Pasqua,
I read your post and I initially thought you were my mother in law, because we are going through the exact same feeling as you. My sister in law, whom I am very close with, just told us of her plans to join the cloistered life. I am struggling to understand it all. It is not appealing to me in the slightest, and all my children are so young, and she will miss out on their lives, not to mention that they will miss out on knowing her the way I do. When she told me on mothers day, I was very supportive and strong, because that is what I felt she needed from me. I could tell my MIL was close to tears. Since then, the last two days, I have been in tears. Please share with me any wisdom that you get on how to handle this, because it is proving very difficult for me.

My husband can’t understand why I am so weepy. He says “Am I the only one who isn’t surprised?!”

I tried to explain to him that it isn’t surprise, it is more that I am grieving her. I know she is not dying, but she will never be a close part of our lives again, the way she always has been. She can’t come to any of my daughters weddings, she can’t hold my babies. I am so sad at the moment, I am already missing her so much!

Hi, Beckyann…

No, I’m not your mother-in-law, although I often wish I were a mother-in-law (lol).

My heart goes out to you. I will respond privately. In the meantime, the simplest answer is that some days are delightful and full of promise, and other days are mournful.

How does a mom respond when your daughter looks at you teary-eyed and says “I can’t believe that Our Lord may have chosen me to be his bride” – ? People tell me that I couldn’t have any more perfect son-in-law than Jesus… Well, I have a lot of pet projects for him to tackle, if he’s claiming my daughter! ;o)

The most immediate response to you when a child announces her vocation is that time takes away some of the shock. For various reasons, my daughter’s entrance had to be delayed…although, now, the day is fast approaching. Very kind people have answered this thread, as well as when I posted under the same title in “Back Fence” (by mistake.) … You could try to read some of those. They might be more helpful.

I will try to write privately to your e-mail.

To the other responders, I’m still thinking fondly of you all…thank you so much. When my heart has settled, I would still like to get back to you.

God bless,
Pasqua

Hi Pasqua,

It looks like this is an old posting, but I am just now dealing with my daughter entering a cloister (Carmelites of Buffalo, NY). I would have been so happy and supportive of my daughter if she had chosen an active or active/contemplative order, but we are deeply saddened and disappointed at this choice. I do feel as though I am preparing for her death on earth, but that is not the worst thing. I am truly worried for her soul and I am sure most people on this forum would be incredulous about a claim that a nun's soul would be in danger.

Here is the thing: you read about the good Samaritan and it seems pretty clear that Jesus is saying that loving your neighbor includes caring for others and praying for them is not enough. I have not read anything in the Bible that makes me think Jesus wanted people to build walls around themselves to keep others away.

From what I have read about the theology behind the cloister, they have built those walls to keep out the distractions from their prayer life. Distractions!! I can not believe that Jesus thought of the people he healed and taught as distractions from his prayer life. I really think what they are doing is wrong and Jesus would not want us to pray to the exclusion of helping the sick, the poor, the lonely, the poor in spirit, etc.

In short, I feel the cloister life is not living out the Gospel. I am anxious to hear what others have to say particularly about how the Carmelites answer to the good Samaritan story.

I would also like to hear from other parents of cloistered daughters about how your other children are handling it. I still have children at home who are essentially going to have a ghost of a sister. Very sad.

Marymarthym,
It has been a while now since I replied to this thread. My sister in law went into the cloister in late July. I can tell you it took me a full month to stop weeping after she told me last mothers day that she would be entering. I cried half the night that her friends through her a happy send off party. I still do cry when I sit down and think about my children missing her. I found out I am pregnant with my 5th daughter in November, and it makes me sad to know she will never hold my baby. I am still grieving. You are right. It does feel like death, but a strange new version of death where you can still visit in a room with just a mesh between you and you can write letters.

But I also must tell you, My sister in law is so happy. I have visited her, and it is hard to be sad around her because she has truly found what makes her happy. It is not my calling. I can truly say that what she is doing would make me go insane. But, my sister in law also seemed out of place in the fast paced, very modern world. It was almost like she was born in the wrong century. The simplicity of cloistered life suits her. I know my life as a mother of a large family would make her insane!

I can't tell you how to grieve. I found comfort in reaching out to family members of other cloistered nuns. I found out, shortly after my sister in law broke the news, that a woman from our parish had joined the same cloister 10 years before and she still had family living in my area! I called a friend who knew the family. She put me in touch with that nun's sister in law! It was so cathartic to speak with her and gain wisdom from her experience! I would recommend writing the mother superior and asking her if she could recommend a family you could speak with about the transition. You could go with your daughter to meet the other nuns and when you are there, you could ask if they have family members who would be willing to speak with you.

I don't think you have to be worried for your daughter's soul. There are many ways for us to serve God. As I stated before, mine is to be a mother. I not only mother my own children, but I am also a scout leader and I view my sympathetic ear and my example of service to be a ministry to them. My sister in law was not made to endure the chaos that is being a mom. God made her differently. And so she can serve Him differently.

In 1 Timothy 2:15, it says that a woman will be saved by childbirth. And this is true. But it is only one example of how a person can be saved. It doesn't mean that women can ONLY be saved by childbirth! I think that my sister in law has been given a different opportunity to be saved. A different path.

PLease feel free to message me if you need to chat. God Bless you and I will keep you and your family in my prayers!

beckyann,

Thank you for your kind message. I am supportive of the religious life, but this particular order is just such a severely restrictive life. I just don't understand why it needs to be the way it is and I have read a lot about it. I just keep imagining myself or my husband dying and the family not being able to grieve with my daughter. I have not heard a theological basis for why in times of crisis a cloistered nun can't take a short break to care for someone. Why can't they at least be able to go to their parents' funerals? That just seems so wrong!

Why can't they have a week off once a year? I think they don't let them out because they are afraid that if a nun takes a week off they may decide not to return.

Why can't they communicate by email or telephone? I mean, what's so special about paper? Surely, at one time paper letters were not allowed before it became accepted! Why allow the nuns to communicate with their families at all? Why do their letters have to be censured?

And most especially, I come back to the story of the Good Samaratin. It just seems so very clear to me that God does not want us to be so holy that we can't be "distracted" by the people who need us the most.

I hope this rant is not offensive to anyone. I am trying to be respectful but I also have what I think are legitimate questions. I really am just trying to wrap my mind around this and come to some sense of peace.

Marymartham,

Perhaps considering a few other biblical examples will help to supplement your “Good Samaritan” understanding:

Luke 9:59-62 : To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 10:38-42 : Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

1Thessalonians 5:17 : [P]ray without ceasing…

Matthew 6:6 : But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

There is no doubt that the strict contemplative life is a legimate vocation according to the Church, one that is not reserved only for those without any close family or friends. Perhaps a healthy trust in the Lord as well as a recognition of the importance and effectiveness of prayer would do you well right now. You and your daughter are in my prayers.

[quote="marymartham, post:12, topic:196607"]
beckyann,

Thank you for your kind message. I am supportive of the religious life, but this particular order is just such a severely restrictive life. I just don't understand why it needs to be the way it is and I have read a lot about it. I just keep imagining myself or my husband dying and the family not being able to grieve with my daughter. I have not heard a theological basis for why in times of crisis a cloistered nun can't take a short break to care for someone. Why can't they at least be able to go to their parents' funerals? That just seems so wrong!

Why can't they have a week off once a year? I think they don't let them out because they are afraid that if a nun takes a week off they may decide not to return.

Why can't they communicate by email or telephone? I mean, what's so special about paper? Surely, at one time paper letters were not allowed before it became accepted! Why allow the nuns to communicate with their families at all? Why do their letters have to be censured?

And most especially, I come back to the story of the Good Samaratin. It just seems so very clear to me that God does not want us to be so holy that we can't be "distracted" by the people who need us the most.

I hope this rant is not offensive to anyone. I am trying to be respectful but I also have what I think are legitimate questions. I really am just trying to wrap my mind around this and come to some sense of peace.

[/quote]

Hi Marymartham,
I appreciate your post- I am discerning a cloistered vocation (Carmelite) and my dad has been struggling, I think for the reasons you mentioned. I know that the strictness of the cloister varies from order to order, and even within the same order. (In Carmelites O.C.D, there are two different constitutions) I can only speak about Carmel OCD, but I'm pretty sure paper letters have always been ok. Some convents do email, it just depends. I know at least one reason for using paper to write letters is the self-discipline it takes to patiently wait for a reply, which is hard to do when you're used to texting;)
The cloistered vocation is linked very closely to "active" vocations in a special way. Their lives of prayer and self-sacrifice support those actively ministering in the world. Many priests and others serving the world have relationships with cloistered nuns, and the graces that the nuns gain for them enables them to be in the world. It's a mystery, but it has to do with us being members of the Body of Christ: think of the cloistered members as the heart of the church, hidden, but pumping much needed blood to the rest of the body. The arms and legs would not be able to function if the heart failed.

Also, it helps to think of the Blessed Mother, who performed no public ministry, but "kept things in her heart"
One thing that my dad has a hard time with is seeing how a life of constant prayer can do the world any good, when there are clearly hungry poor and sick who need assistance. It is hard to answer because we don't usually see the results of our prayers in this life. One good explanation that I've heard is that a cloistered nun no longer belongs just to her family, she belongs to the entire world, and her vocation is to love the entire world and offer it to God. God uses paradoxes a lot, and the idea of limiting contact with the outside world in order to serve it seems counterproductive, but so did dying on a cross in order to defeat death.

As for not letting the nuns leave for fear of them never returning, I think that fear is little misplaced. The very strict regulations are usually proposed by the nuns themselves (or the foundresses) From what I can tell, it's getting them to leave when they have to go to a doctor or something that's the hard part, not keeping them in:rolleyes:

I know it's easier to say than to do, but try not to let yourself get upset imagining scenarios where it would be difficult on either yourself or your family & daughter. Trust that God will give you the grace to handle them when they arrive. C.S. Lewis pointed out in Screwtape *That worrying about future trials is often a distraction from what is important at the moment, especially as you have no way to know which trials you will face. You can be sure that they can't *all * happen (or that any of you will be around when they do- not trying to be depressing, just saying)

I will keep you in my prayers, and all other parents who are struggling with their children's vocation. It's tough when your kid announces that their life will not look ANYTHING like what you had in mind, but if it is their vocation, it is the only way they can be truly happy in this world and the next.
***

One more thing to add to an already long post:
God does not ask for a sacrifice without giving a hundredfold back. Wherever there is great suffering, there is an opportunity of great grace.

The mother of Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity, also a Discalced Carmelite nun, was very upset that her charming and talented daughter was led to the monastic life. You might find Bl. Elizabeth’s writings, especially the letters to her mother, comforting to read:

icspublications.org/bookstore/trinity/index.html (see volume 2).

Also, this might help you better understand the vocation to monastic life:

forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=5115934&postcount=39

forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=5115939&postcount=40

marymartham,

My heart goes out to you. Discerning the call to the priesthood, it is a great struggle to consider the sadness it would cause my family were I to discern a call to the cloistered monastic life.

Some good things have been said here, let me just add something short. Our theology of the Church is very important here. Together, the entire Church is not simply a community, but actually makes up the body of Christ. That is, the entire activity of the entire Church worldwide is the activity of Christ. Christ cared for the poor: we have Franciscans who live for the poor. Christ taught thousands of people, and preached against the hypocritical religious men: we have Dominicans, Jesuits, and countless other religious who preach and teach, both to the simple and uneducated, and to the Pharisees of our day. And very importantly, Christ fasted in the desert for forty days, and often retreated for long periods of time to pray alone: the contemplatives take up this most urgent ministry of Jesus to pray for the world and for the active mission of His body. Notice that certain teaching orders do not pray, heal or work with the poor the way Jesus did. Likewise, contemplatives do not share in many active ministries the way our Lord did. No single one of us will imitate Christ’s whole mission. We are called simply to do the part that He calls us to, that we reach after a long, difficult journey of prayer, thought and patience. If the decision has been well-discerned, it has to be accepted that Christ has called a particular person to a particular role in His body: that of Mary at His feet.

I would never claim to understand the pain you must feel as a parent in this situation. But know that God is with you and your daughter. Someone who has prayed and discerned that God has called them to this very special way of life will never be punished for it. If God does not want your daughter there, He will make it clear in time. I pray that you will have peace in this situation, that God may help you to see the blessings beyond this cross you are carrying.

In the love of Christ and Mary,
Frank

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