Forever and Always…

ring on bible

I am learning about the vocation to consecrated virginity (to live as a consecrated single in the world). I realize that religious life may not work out for everyone, due to health or other circumstances. Yet what if God is still calling a soul to special consecration – to belong only to Him and to a life of prayer and penance. Do you have any insights about other forms of consecrated life? They too, would be a living out of a spousal relationship to Christ, right?

This is a great question!!!  Indeed, the Church is so beautiful!!  All vocations are so beautiful, because when lived well, they bring great glory to God!

After doing a little bit of research into the life of someone who would live Consecrated Virginity within the world, I was able to really see the beauty of this life!

There are a few points I would like to make about Consecrated Virginity taken from the Code of Canon Law and the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity.  According to the Code of Canon Law, one called to a life of Consecrated Virginity is betrothed mystically to Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church.  She enters a public state of consecrated life in the Church and she lives her life individually under the direction of the diocesan Bishop.  Her time is meant to be spent in works of penance and mercy, apostolic activity, and in prayer in accord with her state of life and spiritual gifts.  Once she is consecrated, she has the grace of manifesting the love of the Church, the Bride, for her Bridegroom, Christ, and the grace of foreshadowing the heavenly wedding feast of Christ and the Church.

The virgin does not consecrate herself as the religious does through the profession of the evangelical counsels, rather, she presents herself to be consecrated by the Church.  And the Church consecrates her whole person, thus she is set apart as a sacred woman in the Church.  There are a few conclusions that can be made regarding the consecration of the virgin:

  1. Her consecration is a sacramental with the force of conferring the lasting identity of a Bride of Christ
  2. A living sign of the love of the Church for her Bridegroom
  3. And is a sign foreshadowing the Heavenly Wedding Feast of Christ and the Church.

These words clearly identify who a consecrated virgin is:

The consecrated virgin offers the gift of her physical virginity to Christ, as a sign of the dedication of her entire being to Him. Through the Rite of Consecration, the Church receives the gift of the virgin and calls down upon her the grace of the Holy Spirit that she may never fail in her resolve to live in perfect continence for the sake of Christ and His Church. [Taken from Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, “Vocations to the Consecrated Life,” St. Louis Review Online, August 13, 2004]

If you would like to read further about this beautiful call to Consecrated Virginity, there are a few resources that you could access. There is a book called: Volume One: An Introduction to the Vocation of Consecrated Virginity Lived in the World which was compiled and published by the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins.  I used this resource while writing this blog!  There is also a really good website by the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins that I would recommend.  Here is the link: www.consecratedvirgins.org

I hope this helps!  Thank you for your question!

What is the hardest part of living Religious Life? 

Wow!!  This is a very interesting question!

We who are Religious have been called to a life of love in imitation of our Spouse Jesus Christ.  We are called to live our life as He lived His by living the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.  This is a life of sacrifice…a life that is a total self-gift, a life where we place ourselves completely in the hands of our Heavenly Father.  We have accepted the invitation of Christ to follow Him in a special way just as the Apostles did.  We live our lives in community where we live a specific Rule of life, and in living this Rule of life that is blessed by the Church through the diocesan Bishop, we believe that living out the Evangelical Counsels and our Rule is our path to holiness.

Having said all of this, what is the hardest part of Religious Life?  Self.  My sins, my imperfections, my fight with wanting to do my own will, my struggle because I realize that I am not perfect…yes indeed, putting up with my own self is the hardest part of Religious Life.  However, with all this said, our struggles, trials and imperfections are not an obstacle to our vocation to our growth in holiness, rather they purify us and humble us in order for us to make a more complete gift of self to God.  It is a great mercy from God that He shows us those areas of our life that are holding us back from full union with Him.  If we do not know these areas, we cannot grow in union with God.  In Religious Life we are striving for holiness, striving to overcome our lives of sin and be united to Christ.  This is intense!  In order to be united to Christ, we need to be purified of those things that are holding us back from this deep intimacy with the Lord.  This is a lifelong journey…yet it is exciting, because we know at the end of our journey, there Jesus will be, with open arms, and we will know how He has been loving us every step of the way.  Until that day, he sustains us in the Eucharist, giving us the strength to keep trying everyday.

Thank you so much for all of your questions!  I hope that this has helped you understand Religious Life a bit better.  In the month of June we are going to be addressing some really exciting topics on the Spiritual Life…you won’t want to miss it!!

JOY…at 5:50 am in the Morning… and in Community Life!!!

Sunrise in Glen Morris

This is the sun coming up at Annunciation Motherhouse in Glen Morris…at 6:00 am in the morning!!

How do you get up so early? (5:30 am)?! I struggle to get up even at 7 am! Is there anything that helps you to get up early, and to keep going when you’re tired during the day?

This is a great question!

Love can make us do crazy things…even wake up at 5:30 am!!  One of our Sisters says it is one of her great joys in Religious Life to ring the bell and knock on the doors to wake us up for Chapel!!!  We see this as “God’s call” to us.  When we hear the bell or hear the knock, we are called to respond immediately, “Thank you!”  Some communities say, “Deo Gratias” which is fine to say too!  In saying “Thank you” we are not only saying thank you that it is a new day, but we are also saying “Thank you” that God has called us to a fresh new day where we can love Him.  In the Gospels, we hear a few times how Jesus would pass through the whole night in prayer to His Heavenly Father.  Jesus offered the sacrifice of sleep to the Father, so out of imitation of Jesus we do the same.  Also, we wake up early because we love our Spouse and we desire that the whole day be sanctified through, with and in Him.  Waking up is a sacrifice which we offer to God for the salvation of souls.  Jesus’ question “Will you stay awake and watch one hour with me?,”  can be accompanied with “will you rise up early out of love for me?”

What gets me up in the morning is remembering that Jesus is in the tabernacle waiting for me, and I don’t want Him to wait too long!!

With all that said, in Religious Life, we need to take care of our spiritual needs (our life of prayer and sacramental life) as well as our bodily needs.  Having enough sleep at night, eating healthy, exercising are all very important elements of our life that help to keep us in balance.  Balance is so key in Religious Life!!   Of course, we might feel tired during the day, but that is also an offering that we can make to God for the salvation of souls.  Jesus got tired too!  Remember the Gospel account where He was sleeping in a boat during a storm…remember Him carrying the Cross in His Passion…but He kept going out of love.  Sometimes it is a good idea when we are really tired to just take some time of silence throughout the day, open up the Scriptures and meditate on it for a few minutes.  That can really help in energizing us to keep going!

The main thing is to remember that as Spouses of Christ we are seeking union with our Spouse.  Love always entails sacrifice and a giving of oneself and so in the morning, we hear that bell, or the knock and our response is one of love: “I am coming Jesus!!!”

How does one learn to live in community, with all the tensions and different dispositions? I know at times it can be difficult, but what helps you live community life faithful to your call? What helps you in times of conflict/misunderstanding with your dear Sisters?

This is a wonderful question!!!

It might be helpful if we begin with the reasons why Religious live a common, community life.  Remember that Jesus called 12 men and lived with them for three years!  They all got to know each other really well!  And I am sure that it was not all cherries and cream…however they persevered because they loved the one who called them.  In the same way, we love the one who has called us and we are all on the same journey, union with God and we are in it together!!!  In community life we have the ability to have an intense prayer life private and communal.  I really believe our prayer life is intense because we desire union with God and also for the graces we need just to live together!  Also, community life provides us with a social life and a support in living the Evangelical counsels.  Believe me it is wonderful to have support from your Sisters!  These are wonderful women who are trying to give their lives for God as well as they can through living poverty, chastity and obedience.  Community life allows us to strive to live an authentic Gospel life in imitation of the first Christians!  Our community life should be a life of joy, because the Gospel itself is rooted in joy!  Finally, living community life is a witness to the world, but not only that, we Sisters are witnesses to each other.  When people see us, they should see love and when they see love, they see Christ.  But we are also a witness to each other.  There are times where we learn from each other…and our witnesses of Christ to each other in our prayer and work.

You are absolutely right that just like in any family, tensions and conflicts can arise.  This is due to our fallen nature.  It is good to come to Religious Life knowing that we are not perfect…and that our Sisters in community are not perfect.  Just knowing this fact can really help in those times of tension.  I also think it is important to remember that we are all on the same journey…we are all trying to follow the Lord and love the Lord as best as we can so we need to cut each other some slack!!!  Also, if a tension or conflict comes up, it is a good idea to pause and think about what is good and beautiful in that Sister, even just the mere fact that she is created as a beautiful daughter of God and that God has been merciful to her just has He has been merciful to me.  Prayer is a very good idea as well…we should pray for our Sisters in community every day…that we will all have the grace of forgiveness, no matter what.  The words “I am sorry” should come up frequently in community life, and just as frequently, the words: “I forgive you.”  Also, having a good confessor and spiritual director can help you to speak about hurts that have come.  Finally, learning about different temperaments is very helpful!  That way you will discover patterns in your Sisters: what they like, what they don’t like…how they speak…what it means when they don’t speak…what makes them laugh…or cry….understanding all those things can really help!!

I really believe it is essential to pray everyday for a greater love for our Sisters in Community.  Jesus, help me to love my Sisters…help me to see them as you see them and to love them as you love them…Amen!

 

 

What are you Wearing? My Wedding Dress!!!!!!

 

Sr. Mary Pio

 

Why do Sisters where the habit? Do you ever feel awkward or uncomfortable wearing it?

Good question!

Hearing this question brought to mind a story from one of our Sisters who was on a school visit.  One of the students in kindergarten, who had never seen a Sister wearing the habit before, raised their hand and asked her: “Are you Mary?” and she responded, “No, but I am one of her daughters!”

Wearing the habit is a sign of our consecration to God.  Consecration means to “be set apart.”  As Sisters, we are set apart in order to belong completely to God as Brides of Jesus Christ.  The habit is a sign of our love for our spouse…a complete and total surrender to the Lord.  The habit is our wedding dress…and we get to wear it everyday!!!!  In the Vatican II document entitled Perfectae Caritatis 17, the Church explains the habit in this way:

“The religious habit, an outward mark of consecration to God should be simple and modest, poor and at the same time becoming.  In addition, it must meet the requirements of health and be suited for the circumstances of time and place, and the needs of the ministry involved…” (PC 17)

As Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate, we wear a blue habit out of love for our Blessed Mother Mary.  Often in Catholic art, the colour blue symbolizes heavenly grace, so it is so fitting that artists would clothe her in blue!  Blue is her colour!

Crucifix

We wear the crucifix around our neck as a sign of love for our Bridegroom and our willingness to carry our cross everyday with the Lord in imitation of our Blessed Mother.

Rosary Belt

One of the most beautiful parts of the habit, and one of the most exciting parts to put on is the rosary belt!  It is a sign of our devotion and love for Our Lady, and also our devotion to prayer and contemplation.  Since we pray the full rosary everyday offering it for the salvation of souls, the rosary is a significant part of our spirituality.  Just as our Lady “kept all these things pondering them in her heart,” (Luke 2:19) we too ponder the life of our Spouse, Jesus, in imitation of her.  Just as knights would carry their swords on their belts going into battle, we as Sisters go into the spiritual battle with our rosary on our belts.

Veil

Just as a Bride wears a veil on her wedding day, so is the veil a visible sign that we are Brides of Christ now and for all eternity!!  The veil is to be a visible reminder of the perfect submission of the Church to the loving rule of Christ.  It is also a sign of our life of chastity, that our hearts are focused on Christ, that we belong to Christ alone.  It is also a sign of our Spiritual Motherhood, that because we belong to Christ, we are called to pray and do penance for the salvation of souls.

Scapular

As Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate, we are dedicated to Our Blessed Mother Mary.  Wearing the Scapular over our belt and tunic represents her protection over us…since Her Son is our Spouse and we are consecrated to God.  It is a sign of her motherly protection over us, that we will always have God’s grace.

Tunic

Modest, yet lovely, our blue tunic is a sign of our total commitment to Christ.  Our tunic has long-sleeves and it reaches all the way to the floor!!!  It is a sign of purity and modesty, showing that we belong to Christ: body and soul.  Wearing the tunic also honors our Lady who is the most modest and pure of all women.

White Collar

Our habit does have a white collar, not for a fashion statement, but as a sign of purity.

RING!!!!!!!!

THIS IS SO EXCITING!!!  We have reached the climax!!!  Wearing the ring is a sign of our total consecration and commitment to Christ, now and for all eternity!  He is our Beloved Spouse and we are His Beloved Brides!!!  The ring is also a sign of the great gift our vocation is and is a sign of our “yes” to God to be His forever!  The ring is a sign of Christ’s eternal love for us and His deep intimate call to be united with us forever!

It is so beautiful!!!!

I love wearing the habit!!!  I love seeing how people’s minds automatically turn to God and the Church when they see us.  Sometimes, people will come up to us and ask for prayers, or will even start to tell us about the days when they had nuns as teachers!!  Also, there are those who may feel awkward or upset to see us, but that too is a grace…it is an opportunity for us to imitate Christ and to pray for them, and maybe in some cases to pray with them.   I really do believe that wearing the habit is a way in which people can encounter the love of God.  They know when they see a Sister, they will see love.  Wearing the habit also shows the world the beauty of purity and chastity!  It is a gift to wear the habit!  I love wearing it!

Keep your questions coming everybody!!

A Simple Prayer Everyday…

jesus-carpenter

May is the month of many graces!  Especially when we consider the graces that come from the prayers of Our Blessed Mother Mary and St. Joseph.  Of course, May is the month of Mary where we as her children sing the praises of God that He gave us His Mother to be our Mother too!  We pray that Mary will help us to love her Son just as she does.  On May 1st we celebrate the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker where we honor the call of St. Joseph, His wonderful vocation to be the husband of Mary and protector and guardian of Jesus!  We pray that St. Joseph will help all of us, no matter what vocation we are called to, that in living out our vocation faithfully God will be glorified!!  I am sure that St. Joseph thanked God everyday for his vocation.  I am sure he was grateful everyday for the gift of being able to look into the eyes of His King, Redeemer and Saviour and as His provider and guardian, love Jesus as a father.  I am sure he thanked God everyday that he could look into the beautiful, tender and loving eyes of Mary, for he could not have found a more beautiful wife to love.  He had the great honor of providing for the Son of God and His Beloved Mary!  He is such a powerful intercessor!!  Short story about him…  One of our Sisters in community said that she prayed a simple prayer everyday to St. Joseph for a while asking him to intercede for her brother to become a priest.  Dedicating his life to God through becoming a priest was not on his radar at all, however St. Joseph certainly interceded!!! He is now a priest and a Vocation Director in a Diocese in Canada.  What a miracle!!!

In the upcoming weeks, in honor of the vocations of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, we are going to be talking about your questions on Religious Life.  I want to hear from all of you!!!!  What, are those questions about Religious Life that are just burning inside of you that you have always wanted to ask a Sister?  Now is your chance!!!

Please submit your questions about Religious Life!!  There is a “Leave a Reply” tab at the bottom of this article so just click on it and fill out the information and submit your questions!!  In answering your questions, I will keep your name and information anonymous so no worries about that!!!  I will be looking at it everyday, so don’t be shy!!! I look forward to hearing from you!

Please don’t miss this opportunity to get the inside scoop about the life of a Bride of Christ!!!!

I am also including a link for you to pray with the Canadian Bishops the Consecration of our country to the Blessed Virgin Mary in time of Pandemic.  May she intercede for us!!!

Here it is!!!

https://www.cccb.ca/site/images/stories/pdf/Marian_Consecration_1_May_2020.pdf