For a discerner, the pressure to be (or not to be) a Catholic nun is real. I experienced pressure not to become a nun firsthand—and it came from two people I least expected because they took their faith seriously. One was a family friend, and one was a grandparent. Both went to daily mass and had friends who were religious sisters and priests. One was a member of a Catholic organization with a mission of fostering vocations to religious life. With their lives rooted in their Catholic faith, I assumed they would be supportive of my decision to enter religious life.
But when I shared my exciting news that I had decided to enter, both people’s initial reaction was the opposite of what I expected.
Both were upset and tried to dissuade me from my decision, saying, “Why would you throw your life away doing that?” I was initially shocked and shaken that these people—who had been my role models of living faith in their daily lives—would be upset by my religious life choice. However, I had spent over eight years in relationships with sisters in my community, and I would not be dissuaded.
My initial response to their question was, “I love God and I want to proclaim that love with my life.” My response to them was spoken less surely then than now, having lived 16 years in religious life. However, my answer has not changed over all these years. When people ask, “Why have you chosen to be a nun?” —it is still the same reply, just spoken out of gratitude. This vocation to religious life is all about the complex web of loving relationships with God, others, self and our common home, earth—and I am grateful for it.
If you are (or someone you know is) discerning religious life, please be gentle with yourself (or with them). Create safe space to talk about about the joy, questions, and struggles that are all part of the discernment process. Instead of feeling pressured to do what someone else wants you to do—or pressuring a discerner to do what you want them to do—invite God to enter the conversation. Regardless of the end decision to be or not to be a nun, prayer and a listening ear in the discernment process are a huge help!
Looking for more about pressure to enter--or not to enter--religious life? Check out these podcasts: Did you ever feel pressured to be a nun? and this episode of Ask Sister, which talks about "semi-supportive" parents.