Religious Orders and Christian Communities

“Guide and sanctify, we pray, those whom You call to follow You under the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 819)

I’m wondering if God is calling me to the Religious Life in Community. What should I do?

– Sister Diana Dorothea, CT

You’re starting right. You’re asking questions. Ask LOTS of questions from heart and head. Take the time to listen for answers. Be willing to be surprised. For some, the answer to the first question below becomes clear and sufficient. For others, many questions – and much time – are needed to hear the answers.

Ask questions of God:  
· Are you really asking this of me?
· To whom should I be talking and listening?
· What do I need to see in myself as I seek your will?
Pay attention to circumstances, especially people who come into your life or are already there. Answers will come. The question you’re not likely to have answered completely, at least in this life, is “WHY?”

Ask questions of people who are already in the religious life. It doesn’t matter what denomination. I received excellent guidance from Roman Catholic and Orthodox sisters and nuns. 
· What drew you into the religious life?
· What keeps you going?
· What’s hardest for you?
· What do you wish you’d known before you entered?
· What illusions have you had to overcome?
· What gives you joy in your life?
· What should I be reading?
· What questions should I be asking?

Ask questions of people who know you well and aren’t afraid to tell the truth. Ask them to pray with you.
· What is your initial, honest reaction if I say, “I’m thinking about entering the religious life”?

Ask questions of as many Communities as you can find. Write to them. Tell them your story. Ask for prayers and advice. Many have web-sites, but not all, so don’t limit yourself to the internet. Go visit the ones that appeal most to you. Spend as much time as you can and visit as widely as you can.

Ask questions of yourself.
· What interests me about the religious life? What draws me to it?
· What repels me as I think about living in community? What frightens me?
· Does the idea of entering the religious life keep coming back in unexpected ways?
· What do I imagine that the religious life is like? (As you get answers to these questions, run them past people who are already living the religious life.)
· How do I respond when finding out I’m wrong about something?
· How do I cope with people who are very different from me in opinion, ways of doing things and so forth?
· How do I open myself to loving people I don’t like very much? 
· Can I gently laugh at myself?

Keep asking, keep listening. Answers will come as you need them and the next step(s) will become clearer.

. . . one of the most important aspects of any religious vocation:
the first and most elementary test of one’s call to the religious life . . . 
is the willingness to accept life in a community in which
everybody is more or less imperfect.
Thomas Merton, Seven Story Mountain

Sister Diana Dorothea is a member of the Community of the Transfiguration in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Religious Orders and Christian Communities