A Nun's Life welcomes guest blogger Sister Christina Chavez, CDP, who writes about her experience of discerning and being a canonical novice with the Congregation of Divine Providence in San Antonio, Texas.
I grew up with only one representation or understanding of what it means to be Catholic. There was a stereotype I’d imagined: people who had memorized devotions, prayed the rosary, or even signed up to participate in Adoration or every other ministry at the church.
For so many years, I felt disconnected from that perception. Therefore, I wasn’t inspired to participate in such activities. I thought I was a “bad Catholic” if I didn’t fit what I perceived as being the mold. It was a struggle. For too long, I only knew one way to “measure up” to my idea of being Catholic in practicing my love of God. Whenever I didn’t quite fit or follow, I felt that I was somehow doing it wrong or inadequately. And yet, in my heart I felt that there might be more to faith than what is on the surface.
Love is the center of the mission of Jesus. Then, is there only one way to love? It would be absurd to think that out of all the people that you love there are any two of them alike. We understand that expressions of love and relationships of love are all unique.
When it comes to prayer, it is well known and accepted that there are a variety of ways to pray. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church there are five categories of types of prayer (CCC 2626-2643). The Church recognizes a variety in prayer because each of us is unique and relates to God in a different way. Perhaps if a person who doesn’t feel confident enough to pray their own words, the rosary is a beautiful option. For one who is very creative and imaginative, Ignatian imagination prayer may be fulfilling. It is widely understood that there are many ways to pray, none of which are wrong.
As time progressed, I began learning of different ways to build my relationship with God. Through this awareness, I began to feel a deeper connection to God and I felt myself growing in my spirituality. Eventually, I discovered my yearning to “do more” and “be more” for the kingdom of God.
God made each and every one of us. God made us unique. Within all of humanity, God embedded different charisms and gifts. The same way we are not all called to pray the same or love the same, we are not called to live our vocation the same.
I used to think I could NEVER become a nun because I was only aware of one way, or the stereotypical way, such as how nuns are presented in so many movies. Quiet, submissive and perfect in their holiness. Since I didn’t connect with my perception of the lifestyle, I thought that meant I just wasn’t called. Somehow I felt I was mistaken to even have considered that I was called to become a nun. By the Providence of God, I was given the curiosity and strength to keep searching and found my way to the Congregation of Divine Providence.
I was in a place that Sister Michele Denton, IHM, speaks of quite well - “Many people have no idea how many sisters there are, or how many types of Sisters there are and what it means to be a part of one group over another group.” For many of us, that is the first place to begin when seeking out our vocation to religious life. Not only do we have to discern IF we are called, but also to which way of living out the life we are called. I found that I was my truest self when I finally found my place among the CDPs. I felt like everything had finally clicked. I understood the charism of Providence. This is something that was ingrained in me that clicked and understood the charism of Providence. It is where I found a place to grow with the way I inherently already knew how to love God. It IS me!
Being a Sister of Divine Providence doesn’t look like the lifestyle I had previously associated with nuns. I found a group of women who care deeply for those in need and it is lived out in a variety of ways rather than in only one common ministry. These are women who deeply care for God’s creation by recognizing this as a physical manifestation of the Providence of God. The gathering of diverse personalities allows me to flourish rather than take apart pieces of myself in order to blend in or fit a mold. I realize that this is exactly what God asks of each of us as a Catholic, even more, as a child of God.
So here I am, a young person in the Catholic Church, entering a non-habited community. We exist. I want you to know that I am here. Not for me. But for all of you out there searching for a way to connect with God. If you haven’t been introduced to a way that speaks to you, seek it out! I feel like my story is proof that God calls, AND that God appreciates variety in the Church.
Have you felt out of place in your faith before? Are you able to be yourself with God?