Matthew describes a story in which the fishermen see Jesus with their own eyes, hear his call clearly. Today we must rely on our hearts alone. If you think you hear Something, what should you do next?
Perhaps my story will help you. Spoiler alert: it took me almost 10 years to enter my community!
The first time I thought I heard God’s call I said to myself, I am going to finish college first. Then I said, I am going to live life a while. I had a career, an apartment, a parish home and lots of great friends. I was happy!
Then I thought I heard God call again. This time, I decided to explore religious life. I made no promises. I researched some communities. I lived with a group of Franciscans, and I spent a week with a mostly-cloistered and habited group of Sisters in Nebraska.
Neither was for me. I decided I should just live religious life on my own. After all, that’s basically what apostolic communities like the Franciscans do. (They live alone or with one or 2 other sisters in apartments, away from the whole group.)
Furthermore, living alone would allow me to see my family whenever and wherever I wanted to. (Cloistered communities don’t allow much – if any – traveling outside the cloister. That doesn’t work for this family-minded girl.)
Then, God called again. This time, I found a spiritual director to help me understand what I was feeling, and where God was inviting me to go. I shared my thoughts with a close friend. I opened up to my family. And I reached out to a vocation director.
Ten years after I first thought I heard the call, I entered the Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery.
That’s a lot different from immediately dropping what you’re doing (fishing, in the gospel story) and following Jesus, isn’t it?
Well, it does take time (not necessarily 10 years … but I was just a tiny bit stubborn 🙂 ). Here’s what I suggest you do:
1. Realize you are being called now to EXPLORE religious life, not to immediately enter it.
2. Ask around for a spiritual director. We have 3 wonderful directors here, if you live nearby. If not, ask your pastor or choir director or friends for a recommendation. You can even Google it.
3. Reach out to your closest friend and family members. Bounce the idea off of them. See what they think.
4. And contact me. My job is NOT to talk you into entering here or anywhere else. It is to be your mentor as you consider religious life. To help you think about it.
You may indeed be called to enter somewhere. You may not be. You may be well-suited to Benedictine life, or better suited to the Franciscans or Trappistines. Here’s a quiz to help you know where you’re being called.
No matter how much research you do, though, you will never figure it out alone. So, take a deep breath, put down your nets and follow the invitation … to explore. I’m ready to help.