A Nun's Life welcomes guest blogger Sister Belinda Monahan, OSB, an archeologist who retraces her surprising journey to religious life. She is member of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago.
Shortly after I became a postulant with the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago, I ran into a woman I had known from my previous church. As we chatted, I outlined my daily schedule for her. “Oh,” she responded, “so becoming a Sister has pretty much just been a change in schedule. You pray earlier in the morning than you used to."
Even less than a month into formation as I was at the time, I knew that this was not true. Becoming—and remaining—a Sister is more than the things I do, when I do them, or with whom. Being a Sister encompasses all of me, every day. It forms me in ways I never could have imagined when I began the journey. That formation may not always be pleasant while it is happening (indeed, growth can be painful), but it is leading me closer to becoming the person God dreams of me being.
I had not felt unhappy in my life before I felt called to religious life. I had a job I loved, a place I enjoyed living, and friends and family (and a cat) with whom I shared my life. Nor is my sense of call a pull toward doing something different with my life: instead, religious life offers me a different way of being in the world. The gift of this life has not simply been the myriad of opportunities offered to me as a Sister, but also the relationships I have developed in and out of community and the aspects of myself that have emerged as a result of these experiences. Being a Sister has broadened my perspective rather than narrowing it.
There are definitely things I am not free to do as a Sister. I cannot, as I once dreamed of doing, spend months every year doing archaeological fieldwork. Even my decisions about my daily life are shaped by the needs of my community as much as my own desires. Should I skip community prayers to go to dinner with friends? Is a conference more important than a community meeting? In learning how to make those decisions, I am learning to listen to the voice of God in the everyday events and people of my life.
Being a Sister changes the very context of my life. It presents me with great joy and also with great challenges and decisions that I sometimes wish were not there. But in the midst of it all, I recognize that for me, religious life is the path to becoming who I am called to be.
In what ways is your vocation shaping your life?