Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Being Muddled

I came back to Saint Benedict's early in 2006 for a three-month visit, intending to use this partly as a time to discover what I wanted to do in the future. I teetered around the whole question of whether I might have a religious vocation, and spent nine weeks exploring why I couldn't possibly have one! I couldn't have one if I didn't want one - right?                                                                                                                                                                                                             
Somewhere in the back of my mind was the lurking thought that I should maybe get this vocation thing into the open and come to a reasoned conclusion as to why I did not have one. I had a wonderful spiritual director in one of the sisters and with her, alongside other things, I began to explore this lurking feeling of vocation. I prayed for an open heart but, at a kind of subterranean level, I hoped that I would be able to banish the idea of a religious call further into the shadows, rather than bringing it out into the light. I wanted to listen to God, but I also wanted Him to say what I wanted to hear. Yet, beyond that, I always wanted to follow where He led me. If this sounds muddled, all I can say is that it is often murky in my mind. I do not follow a clearly lit, straight path, taking a planned stop every now and then to apply a crystalline analysis to my situation.. More usually, I swim around in cloudy water, hoping to find the surface but not always sure what direction it's in, but I believe if we are truly seeking, eventually  we hear the still, small  voice guiding us.  

Here, I'd like to dispel any idea that, if you show interest in a religious vocation, monasteries are out to grab you. My director helped me to explore my thoughts and perceptions: she absolutely never pushed me to one conclusion or another. I am very grateful for this because when I finally heard God's voice, I was sure it was between God and me alone, no-one else's voice was interfering in the background.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Who and Why?

January 18: This is my week for saying a little bit about myself, so that you know who's speaking, and a little bit about how I come to be here at Saint Benedict's Monastery.

Well, you already know my name. I'm an only child. My father died when I was 5 and my mother about 13 years ago. I come from the United Kingdom where, although I don't have any immediate family, I have an aunt, several cousins and extended family, and a number of very close friends. I was brought up as an Anglican, but knew from the age of 12 that I wanted to be a Catholic. I took instruction whilst a student at Oxford University, where I studied Philosophy and Theology, and was received into the Catholic Church when I was 20. Following my BA, I worked for 18 months as a nursing assistant at a hospice in London, and eventually trained as a Registered Nurse.  My clinical specialties were hospice and ophthalmic care, but most of my career was spent in healthcare research, concentrating on quality of life issues for patients and families. I obtained an MSc (Keele University, UK) in 1992 and a PhD (Manchester University, UK) in 1996. I always saw work as being something which should flow out of my faith and convictions. I guess healthcare work fulfilled that theoretically but, while I have certainly experienced great satisfaction from some of the work I did, I always felt that something was missing. I wanted more.

By 2005, I had reached a stage in my life where I knew that I wanted to simplify it, pare it down and have more space for prayer and for God. I'll just pause at this point to say that I was, in many ways, very happy. I was blessed to have close, loving and supportive relationships, opportunities to travel and recreate in ways that I found satisfying and life-giving, and work that had the potential to help others. I wouldn't describe myself as being overly religious, in the sense that I wasn't very involved in parish life. However, I spent quite a lot of time talking to God, made a retreat occasionally and have been blessed with friends who, whatever their religious belief and practice, took their inner life seriously and with whom I could explore issues about faith and the meaning of life. There just kept being this inner "voice" that was saying, "There must be something more."

So, how did I get to Saint Benedict's Monastery? I believe the Holy Spirit led me... and was I unsuspecting! I will be honest and say that for the previous 10 or 12 years the thought had come to me periodically that maybe I was called to religious life, but I NEVER wanted to be a nun, so I always pushed it away with a "Why would I want to do that?" I had certainly never looked for any order to enter. If I had, I would have looked for places in England, so the ideas of 'monstery-me-America' were not connected in my mind. I'll  go into more detail about what happened next week but, for now, the bare fact is that I came originally to the Studium program (see our website  for details) for two weeks in the summer of 2005, never in a million years thinking that I was coming to what would turn out to be my new home.

Sister Karen Rose, OSB

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Today is January 11, 2012. In six months’ time on July 11, the Feast of Saint Benedict, I hope to make perpetual monastic profession as a sister in this community. Please note that I’m using the verb ‘hope’. Committing myself to this life is not simply about what I want; it is a three-way process between me, the Sisters who make up the monastic community and, most importantly, God.  I have to answer the question: Do I honestly believe that God is calling me to this life? The Sisters have to answer the questions: Do we honestly believe that this woman is truly seeking God and is called to seek as part of this community?  With the help of the Holy Spirit, between us we trust that the path will be made clear.

Religious vocation is a mystery. It certainly was to me before I entered, and still is after four and half years living the life. As part of my discernment, I thought I’d like to explore the mystery, as I am experiencing it, through writing some short reflections on the process to share with people who have an interest in our monastery (which I’m assuming you do as you are reading our web page). For the next six months, I’ll be posting a blog every Wednesday. Next week, I’ll tell you a bit about who I am and how I come to be here.

Sister Karen Rose, OSB