"He Must Increase; I Must Decrease"

When I first answered God’s call to begin the journey of becoming a religious sister I did not want anyone to know out of fear of the reaction that I would receive from friends and family.  For most of my life as a teenager and then as young adult I strived to seek everyone’s approval and respect. I remember when I graduated from the eighth grade pleading with my parents to buy me a diamond nameplate, not because I had any desire to wear such a piece of jewelry around my neck, but because every other teenage girl on Staten Island had one, the only way I could truly belong and be respected was if I had the same piece of jewelry as everyone else, or so I thought at the time.  It turned out that I was allergic to the gold chain, and hardly ever even wore it.

As a young adult in college I was involved greatly in political groups for young adults and women and I began to relate respect to wealth.  I was convinced that in order to receive respect in society, especially respect by men, women, had to have material things.  I was a hard-working career woman who had always been conscientious of my savings, and I knew I could have and buy whatever would gain me respect and then lead to my happiness.   When I felt the desire to buy something, I did, not because I actually wanted that particular pair of shoes, or purse, but because I honestly thought that having everything would finally grant me the approval from everyone else, and then I would gain the respect that I deserved from those around me.  Try walking into a mall dressed in fashionable clothing adorned with certain accessories and watch how quickly the salesman runs up to offer his help to you.  What is society teaching us?

Why on Earth then would I give up everything I have and could have to become a religious sister? After living in the secular world for twenty-seven years, and having the opportunity to have whatever I wanted I came to realize that having a career and making enough money to do what I pleased still left me with something missing inside.  I remembered that when I was a teenager I loved being in my parish youth group and volunteering in the parish, and helping our parish families, and I always loved my faith, but as I became a young adult I learned of the scrutiny and poor attitude towards those of us that practice the faith.  When I first thought God might be calling me I wanted to embrace God’s love and give everything to Him, but instead chose to do the opposite.  I wanted everyone’s approval and for people to respect me so much that although I held my faith and our Catholic values tightly inside of me I fought hard to try not to show that to others.  It is true that the more you seek the approval of others the more you lose yourself, you lose the person who God intended you to be for Him.

As a future religious sister I want to live simply, and I want to live the life of a nun without an overflowing abundance of personal possessions in order to grow in more intimacy with the Lord.    I
love that religious sisters are called to have common property in their community, such as no one sister owning her own car or owning her own television. The cars and the television belong to the community as a whole as to not create competition, or individualism, which has become the secular culture rather than community. It keeps the ultimate focus on growing together in love with Jesus as Sisters in Christ. How can a religious sister grow in humility if she has everything and even more that is found in the culture? Religious sisters are called to focus on their love for the Lord, which means decreasing themselves and increasing Jesus. Pope Francis has stressed the importance of "rebelling against the culture," which very much applies to religious life.

God needs to be placed at the center in order to live out an authentic religious life.  Why enter into religious life to live the same way that someone did previously before entering religious life? Young women want their religious life to be different than their pre-convent life because if a young woman enters into a community and is still living the same way, then what is the point?  Those “things” do not bring anyone true happiness, and I know because I have had those “things” my entire young adult life.  As a young adult religious in the future I hope to be a sign to other young adults that are going through what I went through as a young adult, and may be questioning whether they should follow their call to consider a vocation to religious life.  I want them to understand that it is okay to be different than the rest of society and to leave it all behind to follow Jesus. I have learned that God wants us to be who we are, and not to yield to the expectations and the set “norms” that others have for us even if it means that we have to once again “rebel against this culture”.

We as young adults should not have to sacrifice our Catholic beliefs and question our calling to Him because we are afraid of losing the respect and acceptance of others around us, which sometimes includes our own Catholic brothers and sisters.  It is imperative that along life’s journey we remain true to ourselves and true to who the Lord intended us to become in this world.  St. Catherine of Siena once said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire”. 


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