A Vocation Story by Sister Karen Arce, OCSO
Our Lady of the Redwoods Monastery
Finding the Hidden Treasure
My vocation's journey began in God's heart. "Before you were in your mother's womb I consecrated you." (Jeremiah 1:5) The real significance of this passage only became clear to me little by little.
When I was just trying to give some meaning to my life, a friend of mine asked me, “Do you want to learn to pray?” I whispered, “Yes, I would love to,” and pondered the thought, “Prayer.”
After attending to a few prayer meetings at my friend's house, which were lead by the Verbum Dei Missionaries, God began to heal me. For a year I resisted going to their retreats, but something awoke in me when I saw the women who had come back from the retreat. They radiated happiness. I began to wonder what made them so happy.
Finally, I went to a three-day retreat. I was immersed in the love of God through the Word and the missionaries. "Through human cords I will bring you to me." (Hosea 11:4) I experienced a peace that the world cannot give.
What gave me this inner joy? I had found the Treasure, and was ready to sell everything! At that moment selling meant that I would have to make room in my busy schedule and heart for prayer.
The more I prayed, the more I understood that my life was meant to be for God. One day in my heart I consecrated myself to God. I knew my vocation was not to be a missionary, but where would I go? How could I live out my consecration? This time of uncertainty was very painful for me, but I continued.
I was tired of longing for something more. So in my prayer that day, kneeling before the tabernacle I said, "I do not care where, today I renew my consecration to you, where I am." Jesus responded to me saying, "But I want you there." An image of the Redwoods Monastery came to my mind. I had visited this monastic Cistercian community a few months before and was impressed with the sisters’ ministry of prayer, simplicity of life, hospitality to guests, and manual work.
Immediately I resisted this inner voice. I said, "I am fine here." I cried because it was so clear what God wanted from me at that moment. Two passages from the bible came to me, "And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth," (John 17:19) and "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)
Now this call is deepening in and through the ordinariness and beauty of monastic lived in community. As the Rule of Saint Benedict, which we Cistercians follow, states at the end, "This rule is only for beginners." But The Real Treasure we possess inside has no end.
May my story help you to find that Treasure.
Top photo: Sister Karen signing her First Profession Vows;
Bottom photo: Sister Karen's Solemn profession vows.