Maybe you’ve heard his call already; maybe the idea just occurred to you one day, and you want to give God the first chance in your life. Maybe your daughter, niece or friend is discerning God’s call to the religious life.
In any case, the question remains the same: How do you become a Catholic nun? Let’s assume the first step: you’re a practicing Catholic, and you want to discover God’s plan for your life. What now?
First things first
What is a “vocation?” Vocation refers to the purpose for which God created you- his plan for your life. Discerning your vocation means trying to find out what that is. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church # 916, the vocation to the consecrated life is a gift from God to follow Christ more closely and dedicate oneself to him totally.
3 Elements of the Vocation
Every religious vocation has three elements: The qualities to live out that vocation, God’s call, and generosity to follow his will.
1. The Qualities: When God calls to a particular vocation, he gives the necessary qualities to be able to live it. Basically: normal health, normal intelligence, healthy psychology, etc…
Other, more particular qualities depend on the particular religious family and charism. For example, the abilities needed in a cloistered community would differ from those necessary for an active life. As you visit various congregations and religious families, ask them about the qualities needed for their specific way of life.
One thing to note: having difficulty with a certain skill doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible to acquire it. Having the qualities means at least having the capacity to form them.
2. God’s call is the source of every vocation. But how can you hear it?
The first key to discernment is prayer. Get to know Christ by talking to him. Deepen your Eucharistic and Sacramental life. Read the Gospels. You can only say “forever” to someone you really know and love.
Ask Christ to enlighten your mind to discover his plan for you, to move your heart to love his will, whatever it may be, and to strengthen your resolve to follow him. The more you open your heart to God’s grace, the more ready you’ll be to respond.
Stay close to Mary, our Mother. She is the perfect example of someone who sought God’s Will and followed him generously. It wasn’t easy for her either, but she trusted. Ask Mary to help you reecho her “Fiat: Let it be done to me according to your word…”
Having a good spiritual guide is essential in the discernment process. It’s easy to get caught up in the roller coaster ride of our emotions, so having an outside set of eyes and ears, in tune with the Holy Spirit, can help you, personally.
Which Congregation is for me?
Based on a deep, constant prayer life and spiritual direction, start looking around at the various congregations in your area or ones you already know. It’s not necessary to meet every existing religious order before you can discover the right one. After all, a woman doesn’t have to meet every other man before she decides whom to marry. When she meets “Mr. Right,” she knows.
God wants you to discover your vocation even more than you do, so he won’t make it impossible.
Get in touch with the congregations you’re interested in (you can contact your local Vocations Director through the directory on www.vocation.com ). Visit them and ask all your questions.
What is their charism? What is their religious family like? What kind of apostolate do they carry out? Are they happy?
Spend time with them, living, working, and praying. Do you feel at home, with family? When you’ve found the right match, it’ll click—like “Mr. Right”— because it’s the key to that unopened door in your heart… the one God has been knocking on gently.
When you think you’ve found it, talk to the Mother Superior about their application process. Usually, it’s a period of Postulancy or Candidacy, Novitiate, and a few more years before final profession, depending on each congregation.
Take up a good spiritual book about the consecrated life. Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter, “Vita Consecrata,” is an excellent choice. Vocation.com and other Catholic websites or publishing companies (like Igantius Press) will have more options.
3. Generosity: “ringgg-ringgg” There may be an incoming call on your cell phone, but unless you answer it, it will only show up as a “missed call.”
It’s the same with God; he calls, but he never forces himself on anyone. His loving invitation waits for our response. Generosity, in freedom and love—that’s the way to answer God’s incoming call.
That’s the way to follow God’s lead down the path of your vocation. After all, each path is different: some have many twists and turns, others only a few curves. But each path—your path—is beautiful and unique, and whether or not it leads you to the religious life, you can be sure it’s worth selling everything to follow him.
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