In this Random Nun Clip, a listener worries about making the right decision. Hear the full Ask Sister podcast at AS204. Hosts: Sister Maxine and Sister Shannon.
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Sister Shannon Schrein is a Sylvania Franciscan and currently serves on the Leadership Team. She has a PhD in Systematic Theology and is former president of the College Theology Society. She is the author of Quilting and Braiding: The Feminist Christologies of Sallie McFague and Elizabeth A. Johnson in Conversation (Liturgical Press, 1998). She is also the editor of God Has Begun a Great Work in Us: Embodied Love in Consecrated Life and Ecclesial Movements, The 2014 Annual Volume of the College Theology Society. Sister Shannon has shared her Franciscan way of life and her love of Jesus and the Scriptures with her students for more than 40 years.
SISTER MAXINE: Our second question comes from Susalene in Malaysia. Susalene’s question is: “I’ve been thinking about becoming a sister since I was 19, but it has been like off-and-on feelings. I have been a worship leader, and singing is where I can connect my heart straight to God. But at the same time, I’ve been going through many trials in my life and in the midst of them, the thought of being a nun gets louder in my mind.” So Susalene wonders: “Does God sometimes use pain to help us discern a vocation? But then, isn’t joy supposed to be a sign that you are called to a particular vocation?” That is a great question, Susalene, one that sounds like you’ve been pondering for a while. It sounds like you’ve been working on developing that great relationship with God.
SISTER SHANNON: It really seems to me that, Susalene, you are already engaged in discernment. The very question of whether or not pain could be part of this whole journey is an interesting way of looking at your life. It suggests to me, which is I think, the way we should approach it, that you use God and your faith as the lens through which you interpret the events that happen in your life. I’d like to suggest tweaking that thought just a little bit. We understand our God to be a God of love. God is never the perpetrator. God does not send the pain. God doesn’t cause pain so that someone will be forced into doing something that God wants them to do. What we have, as a result of grace and as a result of our faith experience, is a way to consider suffering in a redemptive manner. We can look at those difficult things that happen in our lives as ways that teach us, ways that help us to discern what’s the next choice. God chooses for us joy and happiness, and along the way we face challenges and difficulties. What does that teach us about the choices that we are making and where we should go?
SISTER MAXINE: And as you say that, I am struck by that. This is a way God gives us so that pain and suffering don’t have the final word in our life. When you talk about something that’s more redemptive, that there is a hope beyond this immediate moment of pain, for example, like for Susalene, recognize that she is having trials and that will be a part of life. What you’re suggesting is this God who walks with us in the suffering so that we don’t have to be alone in it.
SISTER SHANNON: The greatest give of all is the gift of the Incarnation, that Jesus comes and makes himself known to us and walks with us. The word becoming flesh and being with us. So the journey that Susalene is on is the journey that we all take: that is taking steps forward, listening to what God is calling us to, choosing those events in our lives that seem to be right with our heart, with our spirit, and with the grace that God sends us.
To hear full episodes of A Nun’s Life podcasts, visit the podcast page at anunslife.org/podcasts.
This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.