I have the sad news of informing you that I will no longer be able to blog until after my first vows (God willing, 2.5 years away, to which you’re all invited. This is the day I will celebrate the rest of my life). The community hopes this break will allow me to focus on my formation. After praying about it, I thought these topics would be best for what I hope my readers to know. There will be four posts including this one.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you too will appear with Him in glory.
The above Scripture passage beautifully sums up our life in the cloister. We focus our mind and heart on things “above,” Heavenly things. It’s a reminder for all of us of our end goal, eternity with Him. Also our life is “hidden. Cloistered nuns as Christ’s brides are tucked away from the world in order to pray for it, to lead souls to “glory.”
A Restless Heart
Many people kept telling me that a cloister did not make sense for me. They thought I should be an active sister probably because of my outgoing personality and passions for teaching the faith, kids and youth ministry, and my active involvement in so many things. I realized that when discerning a vocation or anything, really, we have to listen to our heart’s desires and trust them. God gave us our desires in order to fulfill them and make us happy. In the jobs I held before entering, I was dissatisfied. I yearned to do more, to reach more people. I felt like the superficial things didn’t really matter. As one of my sisters, Sr. Mary of the Sacred Heart, says, in the world she felt like a “square peg in a round hole.”
I desired something not of this world, something beyond. It wasn’t the jobs that made me unhappy, it was the fact that my vocation was in religious life. I tried teaching high school theology, coordinating retreats, working with kids and more but I was restless until I could find my home. As St. Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” This restlessness was because I was made for something “more” that I couldn’t find in the world—I was made for Him. It is the same call we all have placed in us, a call for Heaven, but as a religious we get to live that Heaven now as Christ’s bride, something I learned on a TOR (Franciscan Third Order Regular) discernment retreat where my call was confirmed.
During my youth ministry work, I would feel drawn into Eucharistic adoration. I wanted to know where I belonged, to which religious community, because I was restless to be out of the world, to be seeking Him alone. I would be talking with someone and just want to be in prayer. I would be in a class and yearn for the chapel. It was strange. I just needed to be in prayer. This desire led me to stay in the chapel for hours, yearning to know what convent I was supposed to be in because then maybe this restlessness would go away.
Trust the Holy Spirit
One day, as I returned home from adoration, there was a letter waiting for me. It was from a religious community and was addressed to women who were discerning religious life. It said, “This call to prayer is from the Holy Spirit. Trust it.” It was as if it was written just for me. The letter also said, “The Holy Spirit wants you to know where you belong more than you want to know.” Typically people say, “You’ll find the right place when God’s ready to show you.” But these were the words I needed to hear. I knew I had a strong desire to know where I was feeling called. I thought, God must really want me to know which community would be home with my sisters in Christ. Since the letter really resonated with me, I thought, “I guess my next step is to go visit this community that I know nothing about.” However, there was a catch. For one, they were cloistered, and I held a lot of stereotypical attitudes about cloistered nuns. If I was called there, it would mean never leaving the monastery and giving up my family and friends—that would take a huge leap of faith. Also, they wore bright pink habits and I thought, “Is this a joke? There is absolutely no way I would wear that.”
I prayed then and there, “Okay, Our Lady, it seems like I’m supposed to go visit these nuns. If you want me to fly all the way to St. Louis, Missouri, to visit these nuns that I know absolutely nothing about, please give me a pink rose, and make it today.” A little demanding, I know, but I wanted to make sure it’s what I was supposed to do. I don’t usually pray for signs like this, but sure enough, there was one pink rose on our kitchen counter that day! It had been a red rose that had wilted to pink. My little sister brought it home from a basketball game where they passed out flowers to the team. I hadn’t even seen it before and I kept asking my siblings which they thought odd, “What color is that rose?” Mary spoke through her gentle way of flowers, so I headed to Missouri. I knew this would be a fun adventure and story to share.
© Jamie Leatherby 2018
Photo: This is Sr. Jamie’s view daily during the prayers of the cloistered nuns of the Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus has been perpetually adored for 112 years at this monastery (relocated from Detroit in the 60’s however).