I spent my blogging time this morning reflecting on and responding to a question from “An Ex-Candidate of an Order.” I thought I would share it with you because I want you to keep Ex-Candidate in your prayers and because I’d like to hear your reflections on this as well.

Do you think nuns/sisters know how to love? Can you describe ways you love? I think this is the question that I struggle with in thinking of whether I want to enter a religious order. I felt like the sisters in the order I was in were very distant and not capable of opening up. I’m not sure if that means that I may be called to marriage since I want to love deeply. What is your experience?

Dear Ex-Candidate … Absolutely I know that nuns/sisters know how to love. I wouldn’t be here otherwise nor do I think that religious life would be able to survive without love. The center of religious life, as with all of life, is a personal relationship with God, a love relationship, if you will. That love overflows in all of our relationships, behaviors, attitudes, etc. I know this sounds trite, but without love, we got nothin.

The ways that I love and other nuns/sisters love are very much like the way you or anyone else might love. Within my community, I love in many ways. First, I care very deeply for each one of my sisters and hold them with great regard and love. I tend to our common values, mission, prayer and life together. I make sacrifices for my community and choices I might not otherwise have made because I love who we are and what we are about. On a personal level, I have a variety of friendships within the community, each of which is nourishing and life-giving to me. Being with my sisters there is an unmistakable feeling of joy, delight in one another’s company, and love. Sure, we have struggles and misunderstandings and the like (as in all relationships) but the tender care we have for one another is always palpable to me. Depending on our relationship, we talk at various levels about our relationship with God, our joys and our pains, hopes and desires. We share mundane things like a good sale at the grocery store and deep things like discerning a change of ministry. We also show our love by praying and playing together.

Outside of my community, again I love in many ways. My family and friends are just as dear to me than ever. I have two small nephews whom I adore and I delight in being “The Aunt”. I am passionate about my ministry and I try to bring the love and care that I experience in my relationship with God and my sisters to each encounter I have with people — be they friends or strangers, likeable people or otherwise — and with all of God’s creation.

Your desire to “love deeply” is very beautiful and a precious thing to know about yourself. I’m sorry that you had that experience, but I want to assure you that it is not typical of religious life. Yes, we sometimes struggle to know how to love and to show that love. We have good days and not-so-good days too. But in the end, we know that we’ve thrown our lot in with one another, we’ve given our lives to God in the company of one another. That knits us together and holds us together through thick and thin.

Any lifestyle — religious life, ordained life, single life, married life — can be about loving deeply. It depends on where you feel called, the particular contours of how that love seeks to express itself.

Hang in there with the soul-searching and questioning. Keep coming back to your heart’s desire to love deeply which is from God and let it be the light that guides you. My prayers are with you, my friend. Sister J