A loving sister tries to explain her call to Contemplative, Passionist Life to her brother! 12/5/03
What a Crazy Idea!
I know that this whole idea of me becoming a cloistered contemplative Passionist Nun may seem like some crazy idea that I just dreamt up one night. Instead, this is something that I have been praying specifically about and taking into consideration for almost a year. At least three years prior to that, I began praying that God would reveal His will for my life and give me the grace and courage I would need in order to follow it.
After attending three or four Youth 2000 retreats, over a course of several years, and making my first TEC weekend, in September 2001, I could no longer deny that religious life was something that I definitely needed to look into as a possibility. In November 2001, at a Youth 2000 retreat, I had a very profound experience of God and the opportunity to share it with two Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. The following February, Mom and Dad took me to a Come & See Retreat at this communityís monastery. While I was there, I had fun and met some wonderful active sisters, but it just didnít attract me or seem like something I would want to spend the rest of my life doing. I continued to ask our Lord for direction as I attended retreats, putting my name on almost any paper I could just to obtain information from active religious communities like the Benedictines in Ferdinand and cloistered contemplative ones like the Passionists in Whitesville. I also began talking to Sr. Mary Martha, a cloistered contemplative Poor Clare Nun in Evansville, for spiritual direction. At that time, in no way what so ever, was I interested in becoming a cloistered contemplative nun, but I felt I needed spiritual direction. I had no idea where God was leading me, but I still wanted to follow Him.
November 2002 at a Youth 2000 retreat in Evansville was the retreat I was at that I gave my name and contact information to the Passionist Nuns. About a month later, after I had forgotten what all communities I had given my name to, I received an E-mail from Sr. John Mary. I had no idea who this was or when I had put my name down to get information from her. In her first E-mail, she asked if I knew a ďMelanie KernĒ. This had me confused because I knew enough about her community, from pamphlets, to know that they were a cloistered contemplative community. I was curious how she knew Melanieís last name was Kern. Through a series of E-mails, I came to find out that Sr. John Mary had been one of Melanieís friends in high school. Some time later, Sr. John Mary invited me to their monastery for a Come & See Retreat. At the end of January 2003, a friend and I went to the Passionist Monastery in Whitesville, Kentucky to attend this retreat.
Mostly, I had wanted to go because I wanted to see Sr. John Mary, but also because I wanted to learn more about where God was leading me. No thoughts of possibly joining their community had entered my mind. During this retreat, I learned so much more about what I desire from life and where God may be calling me than I could have ever imagined. We were able to experience some of what life is like for the nuns, including their life of prayer and silence. I know many people might think of this like having tape over their mouth or someone standing over them ready to slap them with a ruler if they so much as cough, but it isnít like that at all. Yes, it is quiet, but it is quiet because the nuns choose to be quiet, not because they are forced to be. Those of us attending the retreat were given a tour of the cloister and invited to join the nuns in their evening recreation there. This helped me to know that cloistered nuns are not enclosed because they want to lead a secret, cult-like life, but instead because it helps them to stay focused on their relationship with our Savior.
Since this first visit to St. Josephís Monastery almost a year ago, I have been back numerous times, including several days in a row over my spring and summer breaks, a few hours on Palm Sunday with Mom, Dad, and some of the little girls, an afternoon in mid-September, and about 5 hours once every two weeks since early June. Other than the times I went with other people not considering a Passionist vocation, I have been inside their cloister living their life of prayer, study, work, play, and silence with them, in addition to receiving spiritual direction from their vocation directress, Sr. Mary Veronica, and from their mother superior, Mother Catherine Marie.
As I look at the decision I have made to give the Passionist life a try after this spring semester, it sometimes leaves me feeling scared, nervous, and excited all at the same time, and even doubtful at times. I can understand that a decision like this is very foreign to what you can understand and relate to. I wish I could explain to you exactly how I feel, but the only way I know how to even begin to explain to you how and why I feel the way I do is to compare it to marriage, specifically to yours. When you first met Susan, you had to be introduced to her just like I had to be introduced to the Passionist Nuns. After being introduced, you and Susan each had to make the decision whether or not you wanted to foster some type of a relationship with the other. The Nuns and I, too, had to make this same decision. Just as your relationship with Susan would not have grown had the two of you not agreed to work at it, neither would my relationship with Jesus through the Nuns have grown. Your decision to work at building your relationship was, Iím sure, greatly affected by your attraction to the way Susan looked, dressed, and acted. My relationship with the Passionist Nuns also was greatly affected by my attraction to the way they live, dress, and act. During your years of dating, your relationship with Susan took stronger and deeper roots and blossomed more and more each day you spend time with Susan or just thought about her. The same has been, and continues to be, the case with my relationship with Christ as I, along with the Passionist Nuns, discern His will for my life.
When you first saw Susan in your History class less than ten years ago, I doubt you thought you would be married to her with two beautiful children before you turned 24. When I got that first E-mail from Sr. John Mary, I can tell you for certain that my thoughts were nothing along the lines of even considering joining her community. However, as with any good relationship, time moved on, and I began to experience some strange feelings and emotions. I began to feel more comfortable moving about their monastery, as if I were at a very close friendís house. I felt as if I were a part of their community while I was there. An overwhelming sense of peace and security, happiness and joy comes upon me each time I go to visit. After spending several days at their monastery in early June, I even felt homesick at home. These feelings were all such a mystery to me, as Iím sure were your feelings toward Susan as you continued to spend increasingly more time together.
Your feelings and love for Susan have been stretched, twisted, tried, and strengthened in many ways over the years. I think especially of all the things that transpired between you two the summer Melanie and Joseph got married, and how close to an end your relationship seemed to be. After all that, you are still unable to express in words exactly how you feel about her or why you feel the way you do because love is a mystery that can only be fully understood through experience. You could explain as much as you want, but I will never fully understand the depth of your relationship with Susan. This is not to say that I donít think you are following Godís calling for your life, but only that because Iím not in the relationship can I ever fully understand it. The same is true for me to expect you to fully understand my relationship with Jesus and my desire to love and praise Him all the days of my life.
Right now, I am in the midst of a
very long and thorough discernment process, and am unsure whether or not God
truly is calling me to live the rest of my life at St. Josephís Monastery in
Whitesville, Kentucky, but I believe that is where He is leading me at this
point. I know that if I do not follow Him when and where He leads me I will
never be happy and always wonder if I really was called or not. Even if I
am not called to be a Passionist Nun, I will be a
better person for having followed Him and giving Him the chance.
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