The Process of Becoming a Nun
The vocation to be a religious/consecrated woman is the call to belong to Christ. It is a gift both to the woman called and to the Church—indeed to all humanity. It’s source and summit is Jesus Christ: the imitation of His life and a participation in His redemptive work. Vatican Council II declared that “Religious communities of the active and contemplative life…play a very great role in the evangelization of the world” (Ad Gentes, #40). These chosen people are to be for the world Christ contemplating the Father in prayer, Christ preaching the Good News, Christ healing the sick, bringing light and faith, and the gift of salvation.
A woman discerning her vocation will very quickly notice that there are many religious communities! This reality is a beautiful sign of a vibrant Church and a gift from the Father. One way of understanding how this came about is to compare it to the image of a tree whose many braches are the various groups of communities and who came from a seed planted by our Lord (cf. Lumen Gentium, #43). It can at first be overwhelming when a woman first looks at the tree with so many branches and seeks to know which one is her “home.” Where do you start?
The most important thing you can do during your discernment is to pray. Attending daily Mass, finding time for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, praying the Rosary, and prayerfully meditating on Scripture are all indispensable tools for opening your heart to hear God’s voice. There will also come a point in your journey when you will need someone who can help guide you. This person can be a vocation director, a priest or some other religious who is familiar with the life you desire to embrace. In addition, visiting religious communities which attract you is essential to knowing where you belong. You need to spend time getting to know the community and to praying with them to really know if their spirituality is right for you.
The Contemplative Vocation
The vocation to be a contemplative nun is perhaps best understood in the light of the mystery of the Body of Christ which we, the Church, are. The mystery of the Body of Christ was first introduced by St. Paul and we read of it in his letters to the Romans and Corinthians. In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul explains that just as a body of flesh has many parts, so it is with Christ’s Body the Church. In just the same way as each body part has a different and necessary role for the body to function (see 1Cor 12:14ff), so also in the Church there are many different people with many different functions, all of which are essential to the vitality of the Church.
Many liken contemplative nuns to the heart of the Church, which gives the power of love and fidelity to the other members through continual prayer and sacrifice. The contemplative nun is an essential part of the life and holiness of the Church. It is to the heart that our Lord speaks, and the response of love from the soul begins in the heart. The task of the contemplative nun is to be the heart of the Church in continual dialogue with the Trinity—a continual heart to heart, listening and responding to the Eternal Word of the Father. Our Lord told us, “Abide in me… without me you can do nothing.” The contemplatives abide in Him in a special way as they live hidden in Christ, and through prayer bear fruit in the Church’s apostolic members.
The contemplative life acknowledges in a radical way the ultimate truth that no good we do is ours, but it is all the work of God. It is a life of pure faith which testifies that the “victor is the one who believes” (1 Jn 5:5). We, the Church, are only successful, fruitful, through our faith. It is through their hidden lives of faith that the contemplatives serve the Church and help it to grow (Perfectae Caritatis, 7). Contemplatives give themselves to God alone—He who is most worthy of our entire lives—and are the “glory of the Church and an overflowing fountain of heavenly graces” (Perfectae Caritatis, 7).
A contemplative nun’s life of prayer is a life dedicated to the praise of God. Indeed the life of praise of God is the highest vocation to which all are called. The summit and source of all the activity of the Church is the liturgy, the prayer, praise, and contemplation of the Blessed Trinity. In fact, the goal of the apostolic life is to lead all to the praise and worship of God. Thus the contemplative vocation exercises this essential duty of the Church: that of continuously giving praise to the Father.
Discerning a Vocation With Us
Our applicants generally:
- are between the ages of 19 and 35
- have at least a high school education and some work experience
- have the physical strength and stamina for hard work and a regulated schedule
- have no extant commitments or debts
- show aptitude for community living and for praying the Divine Office
- have love for God, for the Church, and for all people
Could God be calling you to be a nun? Would you like more information about our community, or would you like to make an inquiry visit? Contact our Vocation Director at email@example.com or 970-472-0612. The first step is communicating with our Vocation Director, and then potentially making a short visit to “come and see” what our life is like here. You are also encouraged to subscribe to our Vocations E-Newsletter.
Before entering the community, the aspirant typically comes on a three month “live-in” experience, where she can immerse herself more fully in our community.
After a woman enters the community, she has several years of initial formation during which to discern further before she makes a permanent commitment.
Sister Maria of Jesus shared her reflections on the monastic life with the Denver Catholic, as well as with the subscribers to our vocations e-newsletter.