by Sasha T. Brelinsky
In an age when feminism relies on explicit bodily expression, where the honor of motherhood is trampled by career ambitions, and where love itself has been perverted by a dependency on sexual relations, it is becoming dangerously more uncommon to witness the dignity of true femininity. An appreciation for the beauty of womanhood is rare even in the heart of many mothers, but it can be found preserved within communities of religious sisters.
When most students might be considering their college plans, a group of young women gather in the community house on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Raleigh, NC to consider their vocations. They meet on the first Saturday of each month. Their honest and heartfelt discussions are based on the direction found in a book by Sr. Clare Matthiass called Discerning Religious Life.
Discerning Religious Life
Discerning Religious Life touches on the fears many women experience while searching for their calling. Several common fears include the fear of unhappiness, the missed opportunity for motherhood, and an inability to participate in the sacrament of holy matrimony.
Within the book’s study of a life seemingly confined to the convent, a deeper appreciation for service, motherhood, and love is manifested. Religious sisters’ testimonies reveal the extensive life each one experiences. Their stories reflect their mutual realization that:
God made me with the desires that I had and He wanted to fulfill them…God was calling me to do something that would fulfill the deepest desires of my heart and bring me great joy. 1
Consecrated to God
The book shows that religious sisters have consecrated their lives to God, not the convent. They live as testimony to the immeasurable happiness of dedicating their service to the care of community and all people made in God’s Image.
As spiritual mothers, religious sisters devote themselves to nurturing all souls spiritually as well as through physical service. Above all, they are privileged to the bond of marriage with Christ Himself.
Every fear is addressed in the book. For the youthful women in the discernment group at St. Joseph’s, the personal stories in the book offer them reassurance in their trust of God’s Will.
The Dignity of Femininity
In a young woman’s search for her vocation, she is also searching for confirmation of the dignity of her femininity. The truest form of her dignity lies at the heart of religious sisterhood and attracts many souls. Religious life and spiritual motherhood are a calling to the purest expression of love, but this does not discredit the value of married life.
Marriage is a sacred vocation in itself. Yet, twisted ideals have confused many about the marriage. They believe that its worth is dependent on individual gain and pleasure, instead of selfless service. Thus, many women seeking truth feel an attraction to the preserved virtue of the convent.
Discernment is an exploration and exposure to various spiritual occupations, or forms of service. A woman’s vocation is not inherent knowledge, so she should research different vocations to find her calling.
A great number of women are called to lovingly serve their spouse and their children through marriage. Many are called to serve the Church with both physical and spiritual service through religious life. And some are called to serve their community in single life. Despite the differences in individual vocations, they stand alongside one another in purpose: to serve God and neighbor with selfless dedication.
The Vocation of Womanhood
The discernment journey is not always straightforward. God calls some women to visit the convent only to later assure her she is called to marriage, just as He presents some women with the opportunity to date only to settle her heart in the convent. Discernment is a time of growth and spiritual development which is integral to every woman’s soul.
In short, all women are called to live their vocation with the selfless love of a nun and the nurturing mind of a mother.
If you live within the Diocese of Raleigh and you are interesting in the women’s discernment group that meets at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Raleigh, or if you are interesting in starting another group in your parish, email Sofia Lonnecker at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.