Such a puzzled look I see on people’s faces sometimes. They just don’t get it. I do understand that the vocation of being a Catholic consecrated religious woman with vows is “out-of-the-box” for many people. They have some recollection of The Sound of Music or some other film which offers them Hollywood’s “take” on nuns in general. Also, in today’s culture, there are many consecrated religious who have chosen not to wear the traditional religious habit that we Carmelite Sisters wear. All of this brings about as Yul Brenner in The King and I stated so eloquently, “’Tis a puzzlement!”
People tell me, “Well if you are a teacher, you can still teach and do a great job of it and influence countless children without being a Catholic Sister. You can teach in a Catholic School as a lay teacher and do just as well.” Or, “Nursing is nursing. When I am sick, I want a good nurse, someone who knows what they are doing and are skilled at it. I have many superiorly-rated nurses tend to my family and me. They don’t need to be a nun to do that – to make a difference.”
It’s true, you know. The skill set of a lay teacher and a sister may be the same. Let’s go one further. It may even happen that the lay person has a superior set of skills, and is a more effective teacher or nurse.
So? Why do you go through a postulancy and a novitiate and six years of temporary vows and all the training and formation which these stages of formation entail? Why?
I suppose if you would ask this question of each one of my sisters, they would all come up with their own personal answer. Here’s mine. Being a Carmelite Sister is who I AM. Being a teacher is what I DO. When I DO what I DO as a Carmelite Sister, wearing a full habit and all of that, people think about God. One way or another. I am a reminder to them of both the here and the hereafter. Looked at another way, because my vows are pronounced in public and witnessed by a priest or bishop, and accepted IN THE NAME OF THE CHURCH, that means that wherever I AM SENT, wherever I am MISSIONED to work, I go in the name of God and the authority of His Church. What a blessed vocation I have.
So, when I teach or nurse, I am a delegate, an ambassador, an extension of the Church and ultimately of Christ.
You know, writing this blog for all of you, has become a great grace for me – a time of re-visiting my vocation, my vow day, my mission. Yes, today I’m going to pray about this and get down on my knees, yet again, and thank God for the tremendous privilege of receiving and answering His call. I am at peace. I am happy. I feel very unworthy, but at the same time God’s call to me was a strong one. It still is. Forever and ever. Amen.