December 10, 2014
By Sister Cynthia
cc license (BY NC) image shared by Duncan Rawlinson
Lurking underneath the drama of episodes three and four of “The Sisterhood” is a question that tugs at all of our hearts: How do I know I belong? The attraction to a religious community can be related to this question, when a woman feels that she wants to belong to a group where she will feel at home and at peace. While that’s a good feeling, part of discernment is to understand if that is where her deepest longing is taking her, or is it instead a longing to be safe, or to escape, or to be taken care of.
Some of the women in “The Sisterhood” recognize that their deepest longing is for God, and that they need time to listen to that longing and to discern what God might be asking of them. Not unexpectedly, they are finding that difficult in the context of reality TV. A real vocation discernment process takes a long time, usually at least a year, often more. Even after one enters a community, the discernment continues, particularly during the novitiate time and before taking first vows. And then, because it’s God we are talking about, one is never entirely sure. Just like with marriage, there are no guarantees that living in a God-centered community will fill our deepest longings.
Then there’s belonging at the human level, that sense of knowing where you fit into the group. It’s being able to develop good relationships with your sisters, which can take many years. It also means finding your voice in a group of strong women. It’s fine to admire the sisters for how they pray and for the good work they do. But admiration has to give way to bonds of friendship in community, a sense of being a peer and having a contribution to make. Despite the commonness of dress or housing, it also means recognizing the differences among us and being able to live with them.
If one of these women makes a decision to enter, as it appears Christie has, then she needs to know it may still take a while to know that she really belongs. The first years are a struggle to grow in mutuality with your sisters while giving time to developing your relationship with a complex, mysterious, Trinitarian God, whose grace surrounds all of us and sometimes surprises us with joy.
For more, read our previous blogs by Sisters on “The Sisterhood” . Or Learn more about becoming a Sister of Mercy.