Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ask a Nun. The Answers..Part III

It's the 3rd part of our Ask a Nun Series.
You can find Part I here and Part II here.
We're asking questions of Sr. Veronica of the Capuchin Sisters of Nazareth.
Thank you readers for all the great questions!!

Sr Veronica, Sr. Miriam and Peppe

I am interested in hearing about vocation discernment, simply put. Did you know at one moment, yes, this is what I am called to do. Or was it a longer process of getting used to the idea.
Well, everybody's call is unique, but there is definitly a similar thread that runs through them all, namely, that you KNOW,  somehow, that God has called you to be His bride and none others.  I was the vocation directress for our community for quite a few years (now I'm candidate directress, which is the stage right before a young woman enters the convent) and that is what I've seen in all the girls who ended up entering religious communities and  not seen in those who later discerned their calls to marriage.
The A, #1, bona-fide way to find out your vocation is to pray, pray pray!   God wants to tell you more than you most likely want to hear it!   However, He doesn't usually do the St. Paul thing and knock us off our horse..or, He could...but He probably won't appear to you and tell you "I want you to be a nun!" (picture the old 'Uncle Sam wants you" poster).
  So, how did I know?  Well, it was a very slow process, but as I said in an earlier blog, God calls from the womb.  Actually, from a young age I had an inkling towards God, although becoming a nun was the farthest thing from my mind.  I thought you only became a sister if you were an old maid and couldn't find a husband, and I had no intention of doing that!  I wanted to become an actress and a singer and get married and have a ton of kids  (I'm actually the opposite of my sister Amelia who posts this blog- I don't think she'd be caught dead on stage in a play, and you wouldn't want to put a microphone in her hand for singing- although the "ton of kids" thing she definitly has down).  I had no exposure to any religious younger than the age of sixty and none who wore a habit, so naturally as a young girl I wasn't attracted.
However, when I was a freshman in high school, I went on a youth retreat that had Euchartistic Adoration, and I really had an experence of the reality of Jesus in the Eucharist.  After that, I started to pray the rosary every day ( a great tool to help you discern- our Lady is the best vocation directress) and a few months later, in Eucharistic Adoration again, the call became clear.  I was kneeling before Jesus, and in a "new convert" burst of enthusiam, I prayed, "O God, I'll do anything for you!  Anything!"
  A few moments later, I heard a voice in my heart saying to me, "Would you marry me?  Would you become a sister?"  At the same time,  I had a picture in my head of the Capuchin Sisters of Nazareth, whom I had met just a few months prior.
  Okay, I know that sounds a little dramatic (didn't I say I wanted to be an actress?) but it's the truth. However, it was subtle enough that I could easily talk myself into believing it was just me, just my crazy thoughts going haywire, and not really God.  I could have ignored it, because God is a gentleman and He never forces Himself upon us.  I struggled with trying to believe and trying to accept my vocation for the next three years, but whenver I really settled down and prayed it became clearer and clear that, although He would leave me free to do what I wanted, this was what HE wanted of me.  I'm glad I chose His will and not mine, because now I know that I was made for this life!   
  I hope that answered your question.  Visiting convents also helps a lot, because many times women have a romanticised image of what religious life is like (that we're floating around all day long or kneeling for hours straight or eating nails for supper) and a good solid visit or retreat helps to separate the fantasy from the reality.  Also, finding the right community to join is more like dating than shopping.  You really "fall in love" with the community that's for you, and it's hard to put a charism on a website.  Just like you may go on "Catholic Match", and a guy seems perfect....until you actually  meet it is with religious communities.  If a person feels called they should call, write, or visit.   If a picture is worth a thousand words, a visit is worth a million!

What annoys them?  Is there something in general that married couples tend to do that annoys the sisters or things that married couples do that they really appreciate. 

    Well, to be honest, what actually annoys me the most, and I think I'm speaking for lots of sisters here, is when parents stand in the way of their children's vocations.  I have met so many women, I would dare say at least one in every parish I've been to on apostolate (and there have been many), who have come up to me and said, "Sister, I knew I should have been a sister, but because my parents didn't want me to, I didn't.  I love my husband and my kids, but something's missing."   It is so chronic that sometimes I wish I could stand on the rooftops and yell "Hey, parents, don't mess up your kids' lives by stopping them from following their vocation!  You're hurting them, not helping them!"  It is very difficult for a young person to follow their vocation to religious life.  The world thinks you're crazy, there are thousands of doubts and temptations, and it takes an incredible aount of courage and grace.  Even a parent's plea to just "wait until you finish college' or "wait until your little brother is older and doesn't need  you so much" or "I'm going to miss you so much- could't you do something less radical-sob, sob" can be enough to stop a girl from ever following her call.  I knew in high school that I was called, and so I entered right after I graduated.  When the call comes for a girl, it gets to a point where you have to respond immediately if you're going to respond at all.  If that means at eighteen, or twenty, or twenty-five years, so be it!
  Conversely, I love to see married couples going to Church with their children, home- schooling, teaching them about the faith and encouraging vocations in them.  Also, I really love seeing married couples holding hands, being in love with each other and open to new life.  It's such a witness to the world of God's love for us,  It's also especially wonderful to see both the mother and father at Mass with their kids.  I know sometimes that can be hard with little babies at home, but even just to see a father at Church with his children is a powerful statement, because so few fathers actually go to church nowadays.  I heard a saying once that went like this, "If the mother is religious, some of the children will be.  If the father is religious, all of them will be".

What are their hobbies?  What makes them happiest?

I guess every sister has different hobbies, depending on where their talents lie.  One sister's "hobby" could be another sister's penance!  (For example, one of our sisters is great at wood working, and she's made altars and furniture for our convent and loves it.  Whenever I work with wood, I'm sorely tempted to throw it in the fire and be done with it!)  However some of the things we do are: we cook, clean, and sew, some sisters make little decorations for the holidays, we make candles, garden (vegetables, fruits, and flowers), landscape, stack wood (we have wood burning stoves in the winter time and cook over them like "Little House on the Prairie"), have cats, and even have puppies from our German Shepherd dogs sometimes.  We also sing, play instruments, and even put on skits for the holidays, costumes and all!
  What actually makes us happiest, like "a kid in a candy shop" is if you tell us we can eat sweets or sleep through the night.  We only eat sweets on Sundays or feast days, and we wake up every morning at 2 a.m. to pray the Divine Office, (don't fret, we go back to sleep again), so when those penances are lifted for a day the convent is sure to be filled with cheers!
  But, what gives us the most joy is living the religious life every day, spending time with Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration, and being with our sisters in community.  Truly, we can't ask for anything more.  

How do you celebrate Christmas?  Easter? Fourth of July? Other holidays?

First of all, I have to say that sisters know how to celebrate well!  When we fast, we fast, and when we feast, we FEAST!  WE spend the holidays in the convent with the sisters, not with our families ( unless we happen to be on home visit, like I was this year for the fourth of July), but I'd reckon to say that if any of us were sent home for the holidays, we would be extremely sad!  Not because we don't love our families, but because it's just so great to be in the convent during those times.  We celebrate not only with food, family, music, and decorations, as most people do, but also with beautiful liturgies and prayers which deepen and enrich the celebration.
  For example, on Christmas and Easter and for the week following them (called .the Octave), we have beautiful, festive liturgies, the sisters from our different convents come together,  great meals,as well as stellar entertainment provided by the sisters themselves (the skits I mentioned above).  Before these holidays, we've prepared with a solid Advent and Lent, respectively.  For example, most people know,maybe, five Advent songs max.  We know at least thirty-five or forty, because we have six liturgies every day that we sing them for!  We also fast more rigorously during those times, so we're not celebrating Christmas four weeks before it's actually come, and we literally count down the days to Christmas.  We decorate "to the hilt" our chapel and refectory (convent name for dining room) with all homemade decorations and fresh greens.  

Easter is just as lovely, and the high holy days of the Easter Triduum are beautifully celebrated in our convent, coming to a peak at the Easter Vigil with a real live bonfire!
  We also celebrate a few secular holidays, like thanksgiving and July 4th, with communal gatherings, as well as Church feast days with special liturgies and sweets.  So, all in all, we know how to celebrate!
So, there's your "Christmas in July" blog!  I know you were waiting for it.   So, now, you can join the convent for fifty percent off and, if you call now, we'll throw an extra habit in for free!

My daughter would like to know what your hair looks like?

Girls always seem to ask that!  I have brown hair, just like my sister Amelia, but it's quite a bit shorter.  When a girl becomes a novice and receives the habit, there's a hair cutting ceremony where the novice-to be kneels on the steps to the altar and our superior cuts her hair as she holds a bowl to catch it.  Meanwhile, the sisters are singing a beautiful hymn about giving their lives to God.  We give our hair to God as a sign of giving our beauty to Him.  Then, the new sister puts on the veil and nobody ever sees her hair again.   (Actually, the older you get, the more advantageous it is-nobody can see if you're going gray, either!)  The nice part is, you don't have to worry about brushing it  

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  1. This is really beautiful. I have really enjoyed reading all the answers and I have learned a ton! You are so generous for sharing this and I feel like this whole series would be really beneficial for people (especially young people) to read.

  2. Thank you so much Sr. Veronica, and Amelia for this interview. I truly enjoyed reading all of the parts. I was discerning a religious vocation ( With the sisters of The Third Order of St. Francis) a few years back. It wasn't until I went on a "Nun Run" and a week night retreat that I realized, I think religious life is GREAT! The sisters that took me in were wonderful, and I learned so much. I believe that is what God wanted me to do, as my retreat severely deepened my faith. However after much prayer, I believe God was calling me to the vocation of marriage.
    I pray for new vocations daily and will be keeping your family and convent in mind!


  3. this was a wonderful read! I met my husband on catholic match and we have been married for over six years!

  4. The main thing I got from this is that nuns don't have to brush their hair. I think I missed my vocation.


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