From the time I was a little girl I always wanted to be a nun. Anyone who knew me growing up remembers this, because it was the essence of my existence. The peacefulness, happiness, discipline, and order of the religious life greatly appealed to me, and I believed it to be the greatest means of happiness on earth. It was my primary thought and concern in life, and I hardly thought of much else.
However, two years ago I came to understand that it was not my vocation. At first I was heart-broken, and felt myself lost in the world without any purpose. Yet, over time I have come to realize that I never had the true signs of a calling to the religious life, and that God had other plans for me.
Afterwards I came across the book, The Catholic Girl’s Guide, and I am firmly convinced that if had read the chapters in this book on the religious life sooner; I might have come to known God’s will much earlier in my life, and been saved much pain and trouble.
In order to help others from being as confused and misled as I was; I will share here the chapter from this book about how to determine if one is called to the religious life or not.
The Signs of a Religious Vocation (LXXVI)
St. Bernard asks: “Is it not the Religious state in which a man lives in a manner more pleasing to God, falls less frequently, rises up more speedily when he has fallen, walks more cautiously, rests more securely, dies more happily, and reaps a richer reward?” Assuredly so it is; peace and happiness are the lot of the true Religious. But he must have a real vocation. This call comes from God; no one can call himself or herself.
Therefore beware of imitating those young girls who, in spite of all their confessors urge to the contrary, obstinately persist in their predetermined opinion that they are called to embrace the Religious state. On this account it is well that you should make yourself acquainted with certain signs which show, more or less plainly whether any one is, or is not, called to enter the cloister.
The first and most indispensable sign, or test, is a good and pure intention. You ought not to enter the convent with the object of finding there freedom from anxiety as to your means of subsistence in the future, honor and esteem, an easy, comfortable life, a provision for old age; with these and like intentions there could be not real call to enter the cloister. The Religious life must be embraced with the intention of better attaining the final end of man, of loving God more entirely, of serving Him more devotedly, and this striving more earnestly to secure the eternal happiness of heaven. When this is not the predominant and decisive motive of any one who purposed entering the cloister, it is a case of a mistake vocation. This pure intention and this inclination toward the Religious life must be lasting.
If this desire to enter the convent has been felt from early childhood, and has grown with increasing years, that is a very satisfactory sign, but not an indispensable one. For this desire not unfrequented makes itself felt only a short time before the choice of a state. Previous to that period a disinclination for the life of a Religious may have been experienced. In any case, if the desire for the cloister is strong firm, decided and definite, the sign is a most favorable one.
The postulant must further be mentally sound and well, that is to say, it will not do for her to be afflicted with a serious affection of the mind or of the nerves, intellectually very incapable, or inclined to melancholia, and to take a morbid view of things. Weak-minded and half-witted people are certainly not made for convent life, since they can contribute nothing to the attainment of its end. Those who are of a melancholy or morbid temperament are equally unfitted for the cloister. The pious exercises and meditations, the latter often of a solemn and serious nature, may have the effect of unhinging the mind of persons who are apt to take too gloomy and severe a view on religious truths. Rejoice in the Lord: Serve the Lord joyfully! This should be the maxim for a Religious. The cloister is not a garden of weeping willows. Physical health is also a necessity; for to nuns are assigned difficult and important tasks, such for instance, as teaching, or nursing the sick. Only persons who enjoy good health are equal to these duties. Further, many convents have but slender sources of income, so that their inmates are compelled to work hard in order to contribute to the general support. It is plain that no one whose health is weak would be capable of doing this. It, therefore, a young woman has not received from God the requisite health, this is, according to the ordinary course of His providence, a sign that He has not seen fit to bestow upon her a Religious vocation.
The same argument applies to any hereditary diseases which may exist in the family of a postulant. If, for instance, her father or mother, or both, are consumptive, or have, perhaps, died of tuberculosis, it is to be feared that she may have inherited a tendency to consumption. Under these circumstances it would be wiser for her not to seek admission to a convent.
A gentle and docile character may also be regarded as a sign of a vocation. If the life within the walls of a convent is to be a happy one, it is a primary condition that all the Sisters should live in mutual affection and concord. They should bear patiently with one another’s human imperfections and be ever cheerful, helpful and considerate. A girl whose temper is hasty and violent, or whose character is self-willed and obstinate, will find it exceedingly difficult, and well-nigh impossible, to practice the obedience and patience demanded in the cloister, unless she has a firm, determined will to overcome herself, and has already given abundant proof that she possesses the strength required to do so. Individuals whose passions and evil tendencies are unusually strong, in whose characters sensual affection, inordinate desire for pleasure, and so on, form predominant features, should pause before attempting to enter a cloister. They should wait until they have succeeded, to some extent at least, in mastering their passions.
The consent of one’s parents should be obtained before entering upon the Religious state. This duty is imposed by the honor, obedience, and love which children owe their parents. It is true that some of the saints, as St. Teresa for instance, sought and found admission to an Order without the knowledge of their parents and in spite of their prohibition. But these are examples of an extraordinary guidance of Providence, and cannot, generally speaking, be imitated. In ordinary cases so important a step in life should be taken only when it is accompanied by the blessing which rests upon filial obedience. This rule is, however, of universal application if a child has special duties in regard to her parents–if, for example, she is their sole available help and support in their sickness or old age. Under such circumstances she may consider it decided that she is not to go into Religion, however other things may seem to point in that way. In any case, however, seek the advice and direction of your spiritual director or confessor.
Before entering any special Order or convent it is necessary to become acquainted with the fundamental principles of that Order or convent, and to possess a decided preference, predilection and capacity for the kind of work it undertakes to accomplish. Every Order has, besides the general aim of the Religious life, its own special purpose and work; in one, it is teaching; in another, nursing the sick, and so on. Hence it may be clearly seen that all those who have a vocation to enter Religion are not equally suited for every Order.
One word in conclusion. Christian maiden, you may perhaps feel that you have long been powerfully attracted to the Religious life, although serious impediments prevent you from following out your inclination. In this case place your trust in the all-wise providence of God in a childlike confidence. Love God. Trust Him. He will lead you in the right way. Pray for light and strength that you may always do God’s holy will.