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We would like to share some basic advice about discerning a vocation.
Do not attempt to discern between marriage and religious life simultaneously. Both are beautiful and thus both will be attractive in turn, causing endless confusion and doubts. If you think God might be calling you to religious life, set aside a time period for serious discernment in which you will not date or consider marriage as a possibility, but focus only on exploring various options for consecrated life. In the same way, while discerning marriage, avoid looking at convent literature!
While discerning religious life, it can be counterproductive to begin by planning visits to several convents, since visits can be expensive for you and a lot of work for a community. Rather, narrow down your search by doing plenty of research first. Whether you are unsure which form of religious life God may be calling you to, or you feel drawn to Carmel but are not sure which monastery is best for you, you can use the Internet to gain information about many communities easily.
Listen to your heart’s response to what you read about the founder, spirit, and aims of each. Even within an Order of cloistered nuns, each monastery has its own unique history and traditions which may or may not speak to your heart. Sometimes it is very little things that attract us to one convent rather than another, and this may even seem superficial, but it can be God’s way of showing you where you belong, and so these little things should be paid attention to. Of course, there are big things that are absolutely required first, such as obedience to the Church’s constant teaching about religious life, and fidelity to the spirit of the founder. But after you have assured yourself that a community is living religious life authentically, then you can pay attention to the little things to decide whether or not to proceed further.
The next step is to narrow your search down to a few communities that appeal to you most, and ask these to send you more information. Then, based on what you receive, narrow it down further to the one which resonates with you the most. Continue to move forward, learning more about this community as long as you continue to experience peace and joy along the way, and only then ask to grow closer to them with personal visits. Remember that peace and joy are not primarily in the emotions, but in a quiet mind and deep within the heart. Ask yourself not whether you feel excited, but whether you experience a resolution to do even what is difficult for the glory of God. But if you begin to feel uneasy about things you discover about a community, pay attention to these “red flags.” Do your best to settle your doubts one way or the other, and if the answer is definitely negative, then you should suspend your correspondence with that community and begin over again with one of the other communities on your short list of possibilities.
This advice of pursuing only one community in depth at a time comes from a holy and experienced abbot friend of ours, who frowns upon the current practice some young people have of visiting a long list of convents. Although there may be circumstances in which is it prudent to visit more than one convent in order to seek confirmation of a prior discernment, all “shopping around” to find the “perfect” community should be avoided. It is extremely difficult to experience the spirit of one convent, if in the back of your mind you are thinking about the one you just left and the others you still plan to visit. The “do-it-yourself nun run” method often ends in confusion, because you may compile a disjointed list of likes and dislikes, and possibly be given conflicting advice by novice mistresses. It is much better to quietly and prayerfully discern which charism and community is the best match to your unique personality and gifts before making a personal visit. The “one convent at a time” method has been used for centuries with good results.
To learn more:
—Learn about contemplative and monastic life at Cloistered Life. A daily schedule very much like ours is described here.
—Listen to an inspiring talk The Contemplative Life, Heart of the New Evangelization by Father Thomas Nelson, O.Praem.—Read more discernment information here.
—See our profile at the Institute on Religious Life. Then check out the rest of this wonderful website and its links to other good Catholic sites.
—If debt is an obstacle to pursuing your vocation, read this and this. We may also be able to help.
After reading through our website and other sites, if you experience a strong attraction to the Carmelite charism and to our monastery, you are most welcome to request more information, which we can send to you by regular mail or electronically.
Please know that we will keep you in our prayers!
You can use the form below to contact us,
or you can write or telephone:
Mistress of Novices
3501 Silver Lake Road
Traverse City, MI 49684-8949
“Never was the contemplative vocation more precious or more relevant than in our modern restless world .”—St. John Paul II