Deciding to become a nun. This question sweeps me back in time to my own youth, and I am reminded of that tender, tenuous time of beginning to discover God as friend … and the first stirrings of wonder and attraction toward Jesus. I think a woman decides to give her entire life, her very self to God in a vowed commitment for various reasons, depending on the individual. Each story of attraction and desire is as unique as the person, as all love stories are. But most often I hear that magic word “love” when I hear the story of a woman making a life commitment of any sort.
I have heard women religious talk about a passion for service that fired their call to religious life. Others have spoken of great admiration for women religious whose lives they wanted to emulate, or of desire to belong to a community doing awesome work in the world. For me, as for many, there was that deep, undeniable desire to respond to God’s personal, real love with nothing less than the gift of one’s whole self.
How does this love get sparked? I don’t believe it starts with us. One of my favorite phrases from our Catholic theological tradition is capax Dei which means “capacity for God.” Our wise ancestors tell us we are CREATED as a CAPACITY for God. There is a God-shaped hole in each human heart. So at some point we begin to experience a curiosity or interest in the Holy Other, the Divine. And as it unfolds in our human journey, we may begin to find the curiosity becoming attraction, and the attraction becoming DESIRE. We are made to be DRAWN to God—the unconditional Lover, the merciful Parent, the amazing Creator, the tender Friend.
I think for many of us religious or sisters, the God-pull became so strong that we couldn’t resist any longer. Somehow we knew that God was a trustworthy answer to the desire of our heart to give ourselves in a loving surrender—with nothing held back. The fire of this became so strong in me that I couldn’t wait to say “Yes” to God---fully! I thought I would die of joy the day I professed my vows for the first time.
As with any path we take in life, there is always a certain amount of uncertainty about the future, and while I wondered if I could say that word “forever” as I approached the time for final profession, I must say the grace and joy continued to expand. God is untiring in deepening the love between us, and most generous in lavishing joy and peace on those who will “come and follow.”