He drew me in, and I followed,
Hungry for the final Word in treasures—
His secret gaze pierced me, pleaded silently:
After Compline, I went to the dorms for the night.
The retreatants were staying in a room with old wooden floors, tall windows, and rows of “cells”: white-curtained spaces outfitted with a bed, desk, and chair.
“The dorms are an area of silence,” the lead sister told us. “A place where the sisters can rest, pray, and study.” The bathrooms were supposed to be silent, too, although I heard a few whispers coming from the row of porcelain sinks.
“Do you know where the towels are?” one retreatant whispered.
“When’s breakfast tomorrow?” another asked.
I brushed my teeth, jotted a few notes down in my journal, then wriggled into my neatly-made bed. The mattress groaned as I rolled over, so I tried not to move around too much. Soon all the lights went out, as the other retreatants settled down to sleep.
I shifted on my pillow, listening to the rush of air through the giant metal vents. All else was quiet, still. Profound silence had begun at 10 p.m.
Could I live like this?
The thought swept into my mind, so outrageous, so absurd, it didn’t feel like my thought at all. Why would anyone give up their home, family, possessions, to live in a room made of four bedsheet walls? To wake before dawn for the rest of one’s life? To stay in silence for perhaps half of the rest of one’s days?
“Our life here isn’t natural,” Sr. Emma, the vocational director, had told us. “It’s super-natural.”
The purpose of the simple living arrangements was to help the sisters detach from anything besides God. They rose early so they could pray—contemplate—before sharing the fruits of their prayer with their students. And they kept silence in the dorms (the cloister) so that they could hear God speaking in their hearts.
It’s silent now, I ran my fingers over the roughly threaded bed covers. What do you hear, Mary?
Is God Calling Me?
The next day, I signed up for a meeting with Sr. Emma.
Sister met me outside the front steps, by the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue. The afternoon sun reflected off her beautiful white habit and clear blue eyes.
“Have you been discerning for a while?” she asked.
“Oh no, Sister.” I shook my head, then gestured around the Motherhouse grounds. “But…the moment I arrived here, it felt like coming home. Like I’m supposed to be here.”
Sister Emma nodded, listening.
“I’m not happy in my current job,” I confessed. “I’m so far from family, too. Then I saw you were having a retreat.”
I told her a little about my current situation in Kentucky, and how I came to the retreat when I saw its theme: “Behold, I make all things new.”
“I need something new, Sister,” I told her. “I need to make a change.”
Sister adjusted her long white scapular across her knees. “Well, we have a vocational retreat coming up in May, if you’d like to learn more. But the best advice I can give you?”
She met my eyes, then gazed off into the distance, beyond the blazing sunlight.
“Spend some time with the Lord, every morning, as soon as you wake up,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be for very long. Maybe just five or ten minutes, according to your work schedule. But pray, read the Scripture, and ask the Lord to help you discern His Will for you. He will make things clear, if you take the time to listen.”
I bobbed my head enthusiastically. “Yes, Sister, I will.”
“Any other questions for me?”
The Four Ways
“Well, yes,” I shifted a little on the bench, feeling uncertain. “It’s just…how will I know what God wants me to do? If He wants me to be a sister or not?”
She nodded, meeting my gaze with easy confidence. “Four ways. First, as I told you, read and meditate on God’s word. Second, consider your own circumstances. Is it possible for you to become a sister right now? Could the Lord make it possible?”
I pulled out my journal, started taking notes. So much to learn about knowing God’s will!
“Third, seek godly counsel from a few different people, whom you trust. And lastly,” she smiled gently, “listen to the voice of your own conscience. What is God speaking to your heart?”
Her straightforward advice soothed my fears, just a little. She didn’t make discerning seem that difficult, like it had been for Aidan.
God’s word, circumstances, counsel, conscience, I thought, repeating the four ways in my mind. That’s easy enough.
“There are other things you need to consider, too,” Sr. Emma said. “We give up a great deal to live this supernatural life. New sisters are often homesick for their family and friends. Community life can be a big adjustment. Good health, mental and physical, is very important. And of course, we give up marriage and children, in order to become Brides of Christ.”
Brides of Christ. This thought filled my heart with delight. If I come to the convent, I’d be married to Jesus!
“Thank you, Sister." I loved how she didn’t back away from all that would be difficult about entering a convent. How she didn’t sugar coat it, or make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal.
Because entering a convent would be a big deal. A huge deal. If being a sister was the same as living in the world, then what was the point in entering?
Thank you for reading! Join me next week for the next turn in my discernment journey!
About the Author:
Mary Rose Kreger lives in the metro Detroit area with her family, where she writes fantasy tales for teens, and blogs about her spiritual journey: before, during, and after the convent. Mary also shares faith-based poems and fantasy quotes on her Instagram account, @faithandfantasy1.