Saturday, November 23, 2013

Holiness - toward a definition

So what is it?

Holiness I mean.

We say that there is a universal call to holiness. We talk about holiness of life? We say that religious sisters, in particular, are called to live a holy life.

The way of perfection.

Saints are holy.

God is holy.

What, exactly, are we talking about?

I am spending a lot of time these days, wandering around, asking people this question. In following posts, I'll share a synthesis of the answers.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A New Beginning

It's September, the trees are turning and, yet again, we prepare for Open House. Between our new aspirants, Lexee, Rose and Maggie, and visitors to the House, Kelly and Toni, we are all ready for visitors! Here is the cleaning crew, just in from battle with spiders!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Headed into Silence

The House of Formation hosted many women and girls throughout the summer months. As of Sunday, we're closed for retreat, homevisit and vacation time. We will be back in action (with enthusiasm) on August 24th.  Look for our updated events calendar, newsletter and more at that time!

Friday, May 3, 2013


We do this.

The House of Formation actually does lead women and girls through all of these steps - we educate, distribute information, talk to people, offer retreats, take groups to visit...basically help in every way we can. Pursuing a religious vocation can be difficult, confusing, and a bit frightening. We work to unravel the tangled, explain the confusing and direct a bit.

Feel free to contact us.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Do it all over again.

Discernment takes time. If your original community does not "fit" that does not mean God does not call - it just means he's saying "keep looking."

We designed the search process outlined a few days back to give you an idea of the characteristics of your call. Look them over again. What kind of prayer draws you? To what work do you desire to give yourself? What structure best fits your call? All of these things contribute to your search for the place to which God is calling.

Don't give up. Keep looking - and be aware of the results of your searches. Why didn't Community A seem to fit? What happened when you talked to Sister Cunigunda? What direction does God point? Listen to your heart. Listen to your prayer.

And do it over and over again.

Monday, April 29, 2013


If talking to a nun is frightening, this really seems over the top.

Scheduling a visit to a convent is the best way to get a clear idea of the life. Going by yourself can seem a bit overwhelming, but there are many opportunities for "nun runs," "vocation visits," and "come and see" retreats. All of these things involve no commitment but the time you take for it. And you learn a tremendous amount about the community by visiting.

If you seriously believe that God is calling you to live religious life, visiting one or more communities is an essential step. All communities require visits, and sometimes live-in experiences, before accepting candidates. But go. Don't let the fear of making a step keep you from it - you will be able to learn so much about religious life by seeing it up close.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Talk to religious

Now that's a frighting idea. Talk to a nun?!? Me?!?! Can I do that?!?!

Of course, then you really feel committed, and, in a sense, you have taken a step forward. By meeting a Sister face-to-face you acknowledge to yourself and to at least one other person that this idea has got you by the heart. It's a commitment of sorts, and for people in our culture the idea of making that kind of statement seems to cut off all the options.

But I promise, they don't bite.

Religious sisters or nuns talk freely about their communities, their work, their life of prayer. They enjoy inviting young women to learn about the life - and they don't tie you up, throw you on a truck and force you into a habit (promise!). The Church requires absolute freedom as the essential element of a valid vocation. There is no hiding or brainwashing or anything of that nature. So just talk to a Sister.

How do you find one to talk to?

That can be a bit of a challenge as they don't tend to hang around parishes so much anymore. But you can e-mail the vocation director of a community to set up a phone appointment (or the real face-to-face kind). You can call the vocation director of your diocese (on the contact page of your diocesan website). Diocesan vocation directors are almost always diocesan priests, but they usually have some information about religious communities and can give you a recommendation. In larger dioceses, you can contact the Vicar for Religious or the Office of Consecrated Life and either talk to that person or get recommendations.

It does take some doing and more than a bit of courage, but it's worth it.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


So if I write, I'm committed, right?

Not so fast.

How often do you ask a question about something you don't know about? I'd bet lots of times every day. So writing to a religious community or to multiple communities (a better idea) and asking for more information isn't so strange. Asking questions is a normal human activity.

Some communities do ask you to fill out a preliminary form when you request information about their life. They don't want to waste your time. If you do not have the necessary skills, abilities, education or whatever, they want to be able to tell you right away out of respect for your time and your life. Many communities, however, are willing to send basic information after a simple inquiry.

So write, e-mail, whatever. Ask the vocation director to send you information. You can state that you are just beginning your discernment of religious life and are simply looking for basic information. If you like, you can also ask specific questions about the order (you may have generated these when you looked at the community website).

Above all, don't hesitate to ask. It is the next good step in following the call of your heart.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Religious communities post online - they have websites, blogs, facebook pages...

You can learn a lot by just looking. So, without pressurizing yourself, browse, look, read, ponder.

In working with women who come to this House seeking to figure out the mystery of vocation, we use a spiritual exercise to help them begin to understand their own call. You can find the one-page document here.

You pray about your call, not yet about the community. What does it look like? What are you passionate about? What do you most deeply desire? That's the point of this exercise. Once you know yourself, matching the call to the charism of a particular congregation becomes much easier.

But no pressure - you're doing this on your own. Take your time; take a deep breath and know that God grants his grace to your efforts - and in peace.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

What do I do?

Take Action

If you don't move, you'll never get anywhere. If the idea of a vocation simply hides in your head, you'll never find out whether you have one or not.

Like any other major choice in life, it can be really scary. You're going out on a limb, putting something personal on the line, so it is natural to be a bit anxious.

There are, however, ways to begin that are simple and private and do not require any commitment at all.

So right now, ponder the idea of investigating your idea that you might just possibly, maybe, have a religious vocation.

Friday, April 19, 2013


God only asks what we can give.

Of course, sometimes it is more than we think we have in us, but he knows the depths of us, our capacities, hidden talents, gifts of nature and grace.

So health, balance, social maturity, strength of character, moral integrity and stamina need to be present in order for a woman to live religious life fully, in holiness and joy. We all grow in these things, but the capability must be present.

Once that is determined, if the other signs are present, the probability of a religious vocation increases.

In the next few posts, we will look at the next steps: "Good heavens! What do I do?"

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Right Motivation

Okay, so you passed the first test.

Undercover, when no one is looking - you really would like to be a Sister or a Nun.

Or maybe the desire doesn't scare you and you tell people all about it.

So the next question is: "How come?"

Why are you drawn?

                  • To love?
                  • To give?
                  • To save?
                  • To pray?
                  • To make up for sin?
Those are all the good reasons. If you want to run away, to be safe, to hide, to get away from... Those are all bad reasons. Look at your heart and see what it says - but don't overthink it. If you see a desire to love God and his people, you are seriously on the right track.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sign one: Desire for the Life

Do you want to be a religious Sister or Nun?

Some people experience a bit of interior conflict with this one - I want it (or I have a strong hunch God might be calling me) and yet...

If the conflict expresses itself as a desire for husband and family, it really isn't a conflict. Marriage remains the normal state in life - desire for it merely demonstrates a healthy female nature.

And most young women do not even have the idea of being a religious.

One sign of a vocation can be the idea wandering regularly through your mind.

  • Are you haunted by the thought that you might be called?
  • Does the idea sometimes seem really appealing?
  • Do you have interest (or even a fascination) with things religious?
So this is the first sign that it might be your way.

We are rarely attracted to something to which we are...not attracted.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


God never calls us to do or to live something that we cannot do or live. Always he gives the necessary gifts and talents, abilities and graces we need to accomplish the tasks to which we are called. 

Sometimes, we're not sure about it. I may not think that I have a particular gift or ability and he, in his providence, draws it out, forms the skills and ta-da! I am able to serve in some way I could never have imagined.

There are, however, things that are simply "given" in my life. They cannot change.

Since religious life requires physical, mental and moral strength, some signs indicate that one is not called to the life. These people may still serve God, become amazing saints and assist in the salvation of the world, just not in the religious state.

Those with severe physical handicaps or illnesses; those suffering from severe mental or emotional illness; those whose moral life is fragile - these all will find their service of God in another way. The life is difficult, and can cause serious hardship to one ill-prepared to face this way.

Some other "anti-signs" or impediments to following a religious vocation:

  • young children
  • advanced age 
  • large debts
  • addictions 
  • a marriage that's not annulled
In these cases, the woman should seek another path to holiness.

Although there is no "test" to help you determine a vocation, the questions in the list here can give an indication....

Thursday, April 11, 2013

So how do you know?

The question comes up again and again: "How do you know if God is calling you to be a Sister or a Nun?"

There is no test that you can take. There is no inventory that you can fill out that will allow you to say for sure "God is calling me."

Some things point in the direction, though.

The video linked here is a fun exploration of the "Warning Signs." In a couple of days, we'll look at some things to consider.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Signs of a Religious Vocation

So often, people ask me: "How do you know if you have a religious vocation?" And there is a lot of force behind the question. 

It makes sense, entering the convent is a major life decision. Women fear "making a huge mistake" with their lives. 

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting meditations examining this question. There is no one easy answer (Wouldn't it be nice if you could just take a test and if you got a certain score, you'd know?) But there are some things that point in the direction.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Purity of Heart

In order to serve the Lord, we must have great purity of heart. 

Essentially, to know God's will our hearts must be clean and clear, able to see directly in the light of the Gospel. This does not happen over night, nor is it entirely our work. But we can set up structures to support the seed of holiness planted in our hearts.

Regular examination is key. Not neurotic navel-gazing, nor the narcissistic self-perfecting of our ego, it remains the sole means of clarifying our thinking. Quiet reflection on the grace of God in my today teaches me who I am and who he calls me to be.

It can degenerate. It can become destructive. But the power of self-knowledge empowers me to choose minute by minute to give my life over to God’s direction. 

The Holy Spirit then takes over the process. We cannot cleanse our hearts from the darkness that hides in the corners, behind the scenes, in the background. Only his light penetrating into every part of our lives can begin to illumine and then purify our hearts completely. 

Miserere nobis, Domine...

Friday, March 1, 2013

Taking God at his word

It seems that he means it.

God, if he is indeed God, cannot change, cannot lie - and, I'd be willing to bet, he doesn't even exaggerate. Well, I suppose that the Lord did, a bit, or used exaggerated language in order to get across some very serious points, but, in himself, I don't think he does.

So when he says he calls...he calls.

If the saints tell us that he chooses people, they mean real people, people who have a certain height, a certain hair color, noses and hands and fingers of a certain shape. People who like pizza - or don't. People who have amazing talents ... and equally amazing blind spots. In short, if God says he calls people, he calls people - real, live, flesh and blood people... like me, like you.

And we sort of cringe at that. "I'm not worthy." Check. "I've done stupid or sinful - in a really big way." Check. "I'm not holy enough." Check. "Who, ME?!?!?!" Check.

It's not about us. It's about him. He loves. You. Me. His Church. All the people of the world. He looks at individuals, real people, and just loves. And so he calls. We're NOT worthy, but that love loves us into worthiness, not because of any gifts or talents we already have, but out of the extreme prodigality of his gifts. Love makes worthy the beloved.

So, don't be afraid or balk or worry. Because yes, he is calling you to some great thing. What it is - well, figuring that out is discernment. The call is there, go for the gold.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

To be a disciple

What does it mean to follow Christ?

These things are said, and there is huge history behind them. The question has been asked so many times that it has become almost encrusted with tradition. We hear the phrase "to follow Christ" so often that it loses its meaning.

So what does it mean - to you? -- to me? --- in the concrete? ---- today?

How did the gospel hit you today?

What does he mean to you right now?

What impact did he make on what you were doing ten minutes ago?

Is Jesus real?

Because vocation can only become a living reality if he is a living reality. And only if I right now, in the place, at this time, turn to him - and turn it all over to him.

Does that mean that I abandon my reason, common sense, education, experience? No. Just that all of it is submitted to the Holy Spirit for guidance - really submitted. That I seek the will of God, the face of Christ - that I truly want to do right and good and true. That I work to bring my entire life into congruence with his way.

Only when that process has taken hold can further discernment even begin.

How can I discern a vocation if I am not a disciple of Christ?

Holiness is the prerequisite for all of us. Only when we begin to walk in holiness can any further path of dedication, consecration or service - and real path - make sense.

So let us begin today...
                                      ...up until now, we have done very little.