I used to feel sorry for young women who chose religious life and were never able to marry or have children. I’ve changed my mind.
I think the most beautiful women in the world are seventy-year-old nuns. What is it about them? While I have respect for the habit and religious clothing, there’s something more that elicits my admiration. While I recognize perseverance and dedication in the lines of their faces, I know that even the members of the laity can reflect these virtues. So what is it? I think it has something to do with the peace and happiness I see in their countenance, and I’m guessing it is a result of living in intimacy with Christ. It’s almost like having a glimpse into what it will be like in heaven when every saint finally realizes perfect communion with God.
The lives of the religious call us, the laity, to a higher level of commitment to Jesus Christ. They serve as an example of what it is like to give one’s self completely to God. Without having to preach a homily or teach a lesson, their lives whisper to you and me, urging us to give holiness a try.
The Catechism tells us that “all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of the Christian life . . . to holiness” (2013). Every time I see the quiet witness of the religious, I hear Jesus saying, You can do it too. Everyone is called to holiness. Watch and learn from them.
Then I have a reality check. My life is different from theirs. I don’t rise at the crack of dawn to read scripture. I get children on the bus, make beds, and clean my house. I shop for groceries and buy clothes for my kids. I don’t wear a habit; my wardrobe consists of sweat suits and jeans and a few nice things for weekend Mass.
I watch television too much and like to eat in restaurants.
I try to pray without ceasing as Christ commands, but I seem incapable of sustaining an on-the-go prayer life beyond five minutes.
I try to read the Divine Office on the Universalis website, but usually don’t get any further than the morning prayer and Mass readings.
I try to give my daily concerns to Our Lord, but I find myself stewing over every detail of life anyway, and I realize that I never genuinely released my problems to the Heavenly Father. I just went through the motions.
I read about the lives of the saints and can’t imagine ever living up to that standard – though I want to with all of my heart.
Religious life has not been my calling. As a Protestant, I wasn’t given the option of choosing religious life. As a Catholic, I embrace my calling to married life and believe Our Lord knew what He was doing all along. The plan was for this Protestant preacher’s kid to grow up and become a Catholic wife and mother – and strive to be holy in my vocation. Even so, I see something I never saw before in religious life.
I see beauty.
And I hear these beautiful women gently calling even me to a life of holiness. I hear them urging me to pick myself up, give God my failures, and promise to do better tomorrow than I did today. I strive to imitate the quiet witness of the religious and discover more fully the intimate union with Christ.