Consecrated Life FAQ
Question

Questions and Answers with the Sister Servants of Mary

Questions and Answers with the Benedictine Sisters – Mount St. Scholastica

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What are the signs of a vocation to the religious state, or how do I know that God is calling me to follow Him?

There is no simple answer. Some people feel in the depths of their hearts that God is calling them to break away from the ordinary manner of life; marriage, materialism etc. All experience a sense of emptiness about living in the world, are attracted only to the things of God, and feel inclined to spend more time with God each day. Others feel they want to bring others to God either directly through a specific ministry or indirectly by prayer and penance. However, the important fact is that all want to follow Christ, following Christ means taking on ever more fully His mind and His way of life.

What is the vow of chastity?

Let the Code of Canon Law speak to us: "The evangelical counsel of chastity assumed for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven, as a sign of the future world and a source of more abundant fruitfulness in an undivided heart, entails the obligation of perfect continence and celibacy." (No. 599)

Does, celibate chastity mean having no feelings of affection for anyone or having no friends that I can like?

No. Chastity is the control and mastery over one’s sexual powers, not one’s feelings of affection for parents, family, friends, country, and the like. As we grow in chastity, we hope our affections will become less possessive and our loves more and more based upon truth than simply on ties of blood, enjoyment of another’s company, common background, and so forth.

In religious life or the priesthood, you will discover that you will be given many friendships, which you may cultivate in Christ. You will like these friends and enjoy their company but that will not be the deep reason for friendships. What we have to watch out for is becoming possessive of them, dominating them, or using their friendship as an escape from our obligations. We do not find people we have chosen in the consecrated life but rather find people God has chosen for us.

Is it hard to be a Sister, nun? Especially living a chaste life?

Each way of life has its own hardships and commitments whether you are married, single or a religious. You cannot prevent difficulties no matter what, it is part of life. Personally, being a Sister has been a challenge for me because the life itself demands perfection. However, consider that God always brings his grace upon us to help us mature in our way of life, for we know that 'without Him we can do nothing (Jn 15, 5). When someone has made a life-term, commitment to live a chaste life will certainly encounter difficulties because we are normal human beings. Nevertheless, we strive to be faithful to our promises or vows because as adults, we want to be responsible to what God has given us; the beautiful gift of our vocation to the religious life.

What if you get attracted to marriage after being a sister?

Being attracted to marriage is natural to the human person. Being confused about it seems to be an effect of original sin and sometimes the lack of good catechetics. The more we understand the theology of marriage, the more we will appreciate and understand the religious state of being. Renouncing marriage means giving up something good, not something evil. What is being renounced as humanly fulfilling and beautiful is seen as a door to something even more beautiful and fulfilling, a relationship with God who is totally fulfilling and beautiful, even if not perceived perfectly in this life.

Is it true that if you profess the vow of celibacy that means you cannot experience pleasures because they are either dangerous or befitting to your state of life?

Wrong. Sensual and spiritual pleasures are part of our make-up given to us by God. What is to be avoided is our tendency to go overboard and make them the principal sources of our happiness. We all need some legitimate pleasures in life, from good food, a cold drink on a hot day, a shower after hard work, and the like. What we do not need is excessive pleasures because desire for them can entice us to break our vows of chastity or poverty or lead us to avoid the hardships of the ministry.

Moreover, St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us that if we do not have specific spiritual pleasures (like the fine arts), we will become disposed to turn to carnal pleasures. And experience teaches that what easily disposes us to break our vow of chastity is fatigue, sadness, depression, loneliness or a feeling of low self-esteem. Innocent bodily or emotional pleasures can help us overcome the negative feelings.

Don’t you get hot wearing your religious habit?

Sure we do. Nevertheless, like anything else we get used to it. Our religious garment represents who we are, it is very important for us. So feeling hot when we wear it seems vague to just put it to the side. As religious we strive to "offer it up" so whenever we feel uncomfortable wearing it, we bring to our minds the many sins committed because of immodesty, so we pray for those who dress immodestly. It also helps that we have a white habit for the summer and a black habit for the cold season and when we do chores, we wear a habit-apron made of light material so it is really not that big of a deal. We benefit more by wearing it, than by not wearing it because people identify us easier if they have an urgent need to talk to someone.

In dealing with the sick and dying, don’t you get scared of death?

It is normal to feel somewhat scared when you have someone in front of you sick or at his or her point of death because we tend to be scared of the unknown. However, the more we experience being at the bedside of the sick or dying the more we realize that we hold a treasure in earthen vessels, and God’s grace goes far beyond the reactions of our fear. At the same time we are witnessing one of the most important moments of his or her life; their entrance to eternal life.

Do you like what you do?

Yes, because I like helping people especially those who are sick and dying. I gain so much by just being there at their most difficult time of their lives. There is a lot to learn from suffering and these experiences help me grow and share in God’s love to others.

Do you get to see your family?

Each religious order varies in concern to visiting their families. I get to see them every 3 years for a whole month. However, we usually keep in contact via phone or letters. On the other hand, they may come and visit me at the convent every now and then.

Why do some religious wear habits and others don't

Back in early Christian times, women wore veils as a sign that they were married, so the early religious wore a veil to show that they had made a commitment and were "unavailable" too. The Rule of Benedict just says monastics should wear clothes that were inexpensive and easily available, that suit the climate and work, and that can be given to the poor when no longer being used.

The traditional religious habit was what ordinary women were wearing in the Middle Ages when many orders were established. Then, as styles changed, it became identified with the religious and they just kept wearing the same style. It's like an outfit frozen in time. If some group kept wearing the style you're wearing right now for 500 years, they would probably eventually be a lot different looking from everyone else!

As new orders began, they often chose to wear something similar to what had come to be expected as a habit, but some of them chose to wear clothing of their own times. So today, some communities choose to wear "traditional" nun's clothing, some have other "uniform" styles of dress, some wear a special robe only at prayers and special occasions, some choose to be more like the people around them, some observe the teaching of a founder like St. Benedict. Since women today don't wear veils to show they are married, that particular symbol no longer applies. So many communities have a special ring which is worn as women in our culture wear a wedding ring, to be the same kind of witness to the public as the veil was.

 
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