My name is Sr Emily Beata. I am a Daughter of St. Paul, and I currently serve as the vocation director for our community in the United States and English-speaking Canada. Vocation work is a huge responsibility, but also a huge privilege. It means that I spend a lot of time thinking and praying about discernment, vocations, religious life, and God’s call and presence in our lives. It also means that I get to hear from and speak with many (many!) young women who are seeking to know and carry out God’s will for their lives.
As you may know, February 2 is a special day for the vocation to the religious life. It is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which has been designated as World Day of Consecrated Life. I guess you could think of it as a sort of “Valentine’s Day” for religious life! That is, it is a day when we celebrate God’s love and his call present in consecrated life. The liturgy for this feast highlights the theme of light. We receive candles at the beginning of Mass, which are then blessed and lit to help us recall, in the midst of the darkest season of the year, that Jesus came as Light and we, too, are called to be light.
O God, true light, who create light eternal…pour, we pray, into the hearts of the faithful the brilliance of perpetual light, so that all who are brightened in your holy temple by the splendor of these candles, may happily reach the light of your glory…. Amen.
To me, it’s always been very beautiful that on the day that the Church calls us to reflect on Jesus being presented or offered to God in the Temple, we are also invited to reflect on the gift of consecrated life. I would like to take this opportunity to reflect and share with you a little bit about consecrated life.
People often ask me, “What is your favorite thing about being a Sister?” There are lots of things! But one of my favorite things is that, by virtue of God’s calling me and consecrating me to himself, I am a sign of God in the world. This in itself is beautiful to me, but what is most beautiful to me is that it’s not because of anything that I have done. It is all because of what God has done in my life. God called me, and because of his call, my life changed. Because of his call, I am now a Sister to everyone—I am your Sister.
What else do I want to share with you about consecrated life? First, we truly are your brothers and sisters. We are walking alongside you on this wild, beautiful, sometimes scary, sometimes painful, incredible, astounding journey toward heaven. We feel the same things that you do. We wonder about the same things that you do. Like you, we are trying, and like you, we sometimes fail. We want to hear about your lives, and we want to share our lives with you. It really is true that our vocations support one another.
Next, as our good friend St. John Paul II would say, “Do not be afraid!” Don’t be afraid of consecrated life. Don’t be afraid of talking to religious brothers or sisters—about anything! Don’t be afraid if God is calling you—or your friend—or your child—to look into the call to religious life. Discernment is a slow process. Thinking about religious life today doesn’t mean you’ll be entering a convent tomorrow! It does mean that God wants to gradually break open your heart and your life to his presence everywhere. It also means that God will provide all the graces you will ever need to respond to his call. Remember, it’s not about what we do; it’s about what he does.
The last thing that I want to share with you about consecrated life is this: it is my deepest desire, as your Sister, that you would know how very much God loves you. At the same time that I began to feel like God wanted me to think about being a Sister, I also began to discover how much I was loved by God. I don’t think I would ever have had the courage to continue on the path of discernment if I wasn’t experiencing so much love from God at the same time. His love is real, and it is for you. Dive into it, remain in it, believe it.
This is my prayer for you. Thank you for letting me share about consecrated life. Please pray for us, too! Blessed Feast of the Presentation!