Testing Your Vocation

Blog Published: January 1, 2009
By Sister Julie

The calling to be a nun is a pretty amazing thing. It’s a real adventure because it is always full of twists and turns and the unexpected. You never know where the Spirit will lead you. Being a nun is also pretty countercultural — we live in community, we hold all things in common, and we are celibate — all these things are meant to help us be free, free to serve God and God’s people. It’s a radical way of life.

Sometimes it’s difficult to know if what you feel is really real until you begin to act on it, test it out. Keep this desire in your prayers and take some steps to see what being a nun is like. Read a book about or by a nun, go on retreat at a convent, or get to know some sisters. Also, it’s okay to want to think about becoming a nun but also feeling bummed out about being a wife and mom. Any life choice a person makes involves some kind of sacrifice — doesn’t mean that a nun wouldn’t have made a wonderful mom or wife. This is definitely something that is good to pray on and begin to talk with a spiritual director about.

For some people, the call is crystal clear. For others, like myself, it’s a process of trying it out, testing it, and ultimately living into it to see if that is where God is calling me. I think it becomes clear when you feel like it is as natural as breathing air, that it just “fits” with you. When you feel like you are living fully into who God calls you to be and feel like you are growing and able to use your gifts and talents for the good of God, the Church and the world. For me there was no precise moment or flash in the sky, it’s just that I grew into it and was at peace, even though I doubted, struggled, resisted, yelled … there was always this undercurrent of peace.

I personally never wanted to be a nun. It was the kind of thing that snuck up on me. I resisted and resisted because I wanted to be married and have a family. But the more I considered religious life, the more it just seemed to fit me. I tested it out, even when I wasn’t totally sure. What I found was that learning about religious life and getting to know sisters helped me to sort of try it on and begin to imagine my self as a sister and see if it was really something God was calling me to. There was a lot of uncertainty, but also a lot of peace. It took time time for me to grow into God’s call for me. Over time a lot of questions were ones that I was able to live with — and be happy with.

If you are thinking about becoming a nun or are discerning any major life decision, find ways to test it out and don’t be discouraged if things are unclear or unsettling for a bit. Hang in there and know that the Spirit is with you and is guiding you. If you’d like to hang out with others who are discerning, do stop by the Vocation Forum. Or for more info you might stop by Vision Vocation Network or Catholics on Call.

Archived Comments

Susan Rose, CSJP January 1, 2009 at 3:57 pm

I never planned to be a nun, never wanted to be a nun, fought against the persistent thoughts. Then, like you, I was able to listen and tried out the idea for a while. I took one small step that led to another small step and before I knew it, I found that peace. This is the life where I’m best able to be the me God dreams I can be. Such amazing gift!

Sister Julie January 2, 2009 at 6:42 am

It’s amazing what happens when a person stops to just listen, just give a little opening. Doesn’t seem possible, yet there it is!

Another Sister Julie, CSSF January 2, 2009 at 10:23 am

I remember what a Presentation of hte Blessed Virgin Mary annually professed sister said to me when I first met her, “I wanted to be a Franciscan, but god is so weird.” @_@!

Marilena January 2, 2009 at 12:21 pm

my vocation has always been to be a wife and mother. i prayed for clarity, and i got it. iam happy to have that clarity on my vocation in life:) whether you want to be a nun, priest, husband or wife, or even single, praying for clarity on a vocation in your life is very important!

Gabriela E. January 2, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Hi. Thanks for creating this blog. Impressive. I have a interest in nuns that just started maybe about a half a year ago. But I don’t think I could become one since I am a Christian. I am not sure what the take on that is. Especially of leaving home again. That is the main issue. So for now I only have a interest in the vocation. Thanks again. Gabriela

Lisa January 3, 2009 at 8:01 am

In support of vocations to the consecrated life and those discerning their future vocation, I have posted information on my blog regarding a Discernment Retreat Weekend being held January 9 -11, 2009 at the Eastern Province Motherhouse of the Sisters of Christian Charity, Mallinckrodt Convent, Mendham, NJ. Julie, I hope it’s ok I “advertised”here 

deerose January 3, 2009 at 5:46 pm

There seems to be so much information out there on the process of discerning one’s primary vocation, especially to the religious life. And that is important because it is within that framework that one’s entire life transpires. It is clearly of the first accord. But what about discerning one’s secondary calling or vocation – careerwise? It is often difficult to weed through one’s talents, likes and dislikes, qualifications, lifestyle needs, etc. For some, it may not seem as if God is pulling him/her in any specific direction. And then one may try something out only to discover that God does not seem to be “blessing” his or her work in a given area. What then? I’m not sure the classical Ignatian methods work well for everyone at all times.

MJD January 3, 2009 at 7:01 pm

I definitely agree with deerose.

Rosemary January 5, 2009 at 1:13 am

I would have to agree too. I listened and still taking those steps… but I don’t think I feel the peace yet. I’m still not sure and I’m still not ‘settled’. I don’t know if what I’m doing is the right thing… I know God has called me to a religious vocation… but for what? I don’t know…
Where should I work? What ministry? Don’t know and it’s getting a bit frustrating…. I’m trying to trust in Him and hoping for the best.

deerose January 5, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Rosemary: I relate well to what you are saying. This whole discernment thing can be FRUSTRATING. As a person who sometimes finds it hard to trust, I occassionally feel like I’m at wit’s end. dm

Stfrancisgirl January 5, 2009 at 7:24 pm

This is a wonderful article Sr. Julie. I have just been added to my parish OCIA/RCIA team and my first class to teach is Jan 18 on the theme of Vocation. May I quote some from here?

I can identify with deerose. I have generally prayed for God’s guidance in career decisions. I have always been answered. I blog about my faith journey that includes how God not only guided me in the next career step but also how it resulted in me converting from Baptist to Catholic. I’m now a Secular Franciscan as well. Had I been raised Catholic in my youth, I think I could easily have followed into religious life. I had a dream once that I was kneeling in prayer at church. There was a touch on my shoulder. I looked around and it was a Nun wearing an ecru or beige habit. That was all to the dream and I’ve not had another. I just do not think that is my path at this point in my life. (My blog is linked to my name. I have direct links in my blog roll for my main conversion story articles) Peace.

Sister Julie January 6, 2009 at 5:27 am

StFrancisGirl … by all means, you are free to quote from here. Please let them know that they are welcome to come to /node/145 any time! There’s some info on vocations on our page How to Become a Catholic Nun and be sure to use the search box for specific terms. Let me know if you have any questions or want to talk anything through.

Sister Julie January 6, 2009 at 5:19 am

Many of you have expressed a similar desire to understand what discernment is like for some of the “smaller” moments of life. I’m going to think on this and check in with my Sisters and then write a bit more on this topic and perhaps together we can find some guidance that speaks to these other times in life. I’m back home from my travels to San Francisco and Detroit this weekend, so look to next week for some more on this.

Ally January 9, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Dear Sister Julie, How many times a week do you get to go to Mass? I was just wondering because I have been attending daily Mass at my high school, and I have become attached to it very quickly. I feel that Christ’s Body is very sacred, and I have a want that keeps me coming back and again. Do most religious orders have daily Mass? When you were with your community did you attend more?

Ally January 10, 2009 at 11:44 am

Sorry to burden you, but I have some more questions. Do you wear a habit? If so, how much? Is it traditional or modified?

Sister Julie January 15, 2009 at 5:05 am

Hi Ally, Sorry for not responding sooner. I normally celebrate Mass once a week. Occasionally I will catch another Mass during the week. In my experience, religious communities vary in terms of having daily Mass at their Motherhouse. If there is a resident community at the Motherhouse, then there usually is. Or sometimes a convent is attached to or near a parish and the sisters go there.

When I was living on our Motherhouse campus I did attend a little more, mostly because I was in formation and didn’t have a full-time ministry — I was immersed in growing in my faith and community life so I prayed often with my sisters both at the Eucharistic Liturgy and in other ways.

I don’t wear a habit. I follow the customs of my community which is to wear the ordinary, modest dress of the culture we are in.

Thanks for asking! Stop by any time, Ally. Blessings.

Madeleine December 25, 2009 at 2:25 pm

What a fun website! I am almost 50 years old (still 25 in my head) and still discerning. As a child and young adult, I talked a lot about my attraction to a nun’s life and devotion to God. My atheist/agnostic parents who raised me Lutheran would laugh and I would continue to explore New Age spirituality while pursuing graduate degrees in history and social work.

Then, quietly but firmly, God revealed His plan: I was confirmed Roman Catholic several years ago (my parents flew in from out of state to lend their support at my confirmation, by the way). Suddenly, the notion of being a nun wasn’t so unattainable. Yikes!

I think I’m more of a retreat kind of person, really. But must add that the sisters I have met and have come to know are wonderfully intelligent, insightful, gracious and inspiring.

Madeleine December 25, 2009 at 2:29 pm

I continue to work to connect my life work (social work) with the peace I find in God. God bless sisters everywhere and may you know this very non-Religious, cigarette smoking & coffee addicted aging hippie is grateful for your presence in this world. Amen

Sister Julie December 25, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Thank you Madeleine! Blessings to you from another coffee addict. 

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