“Didn’t you have to give up a lot to become a sister?” This question, which was posed to me recently, seems to be a common perception of religious life. The question might come from the image of monks “leaving the world” to live in the desert or from the image of religious life as made up of strict ascetical practices. However, something in me resists thinking about religious life in terms of giving something up.
To be sure, one does give up some things to enter a community and there is asceticism involved in religious life. The practice of asceticism is different in each order. For Benedictines, living in community with our promises of stability, obedience and conversion of life is the asceticism. The rub of daily life and living patiently with our own and one another’s weaknesses is asceticism enough!
My aim of seeking God through Benedictine life leads me to make choices that might seem to others to be loss. For me, those choices help me be available to God and others. I find it helpful to think about entering religious life as a change of lifestyle just as marriage is a change of lifestyle. One exchanges one way of living for another. The change involves some loss as well as gain and it takes time to adjust to the new way of living.
Religious life is about pursuing your heart’s desire. It’s like falling in love. When you fall in love with someone and start spending more time with him or her, you give up some of the ways you used to spend your time. In the process, you gain the love of your life. Over time as you nurture your relationship, you discover you have gained much more than you ever gave up. So it is in religious life.
For a taste of life in community, check out our Benedictine Sojourner experience for single Christian women. Live in an inclusive ecumenical community at Holy Wisdom Monastery for a year. Pray, play, work and learn with us.
For a shorter experience in the summer consider spending two weeks to a month with us as a Volunteer in Community.