If you have reached this page it is just possible that you are wondering about how you want to live the rest of your life. You might even be thinking that maybe you should consider life as a religious, a consecrated woman, maybe even as a Pallottine Sister.
It isn’t at all surprising that people have questions about religious life. Generally we find that the questions center on three areas: discernment, religious life, prayer and spirituality.
Click on any area that interests you to see questions some people ask and how we answer them.
About One’s Calling in Life
How do I know God's plan for my life?
St. Paul tells us, “This is the will of God, your holiness.” The Second Vatican Council reminded us that we are all called to a life of holiness, service and community. The particular life style we embrace may vary — marriage, religious life, or life as a single lay woman — but we share a common calling.
As to the particular life style, there is no simple answer to this question, no method or technique that is guaranteed to tell you God’s plan for you. It is more a matter of developing a relationship with God through prayer. God’s Spirit leads and guides us through the circumstances of our life, our natural talents, our attraction to one life-style or another. A sign that we have made a good choice
is that it draws us closer to God and brings us a sense of peace.
For a more extended answer, you may wish to see one or more of these articles:
“The Universal Call to Holiness”
What do people mean when the talk about "discerning" God's will?
Simply put, discerning is about deciding which of two or more options is a better choice. When the object of the discernment is God’s will it involves a attitude of listening in the context of prayer. This is a way to actively cooperate with God in co-creating a future full of meaning and promise. It is a way to take responsibility for the direction of your life by making appropriate choices. In prayer you
make your choices as you journey with God, confident that you will be cared for, that you will have what is needed to live whatever choice you do make.
Discernment involves making decisions after you have spent some time listening to God in prayer. It involves some simple steps. Here is a guide to help you.
- Clearly define the choices that lie before you.
- Make a list of the pros and cons of each choice.
- Take some quiet time and pray with this list.
- Name the motives that are drawing you to choose one choice over another.
- Check to see how these motives fit into your value system.
- Notice is you are experiencing peace with the choice you made.
- Share your experience with a trusted friend and ask for some input if you are not feeling peaceful or if you are unsure of your own assessments.
- Take some additional time to pray asking the Spirit for guidance.
- Remember, when the right decision comes, peace and joy can be signs that this choice is right for you.
For a more extended answer, you may wish to see one or more of these articles:
“Discernment – A Brief Overview”
How does one pray for discernment?
There is no special way that is required when you pray for discernment but there is a rich tradition of ways to approach such prayer. The essential element is your own desire to let the Holy Spirit help you to perceive any situation in your life in the light of God’s love for all his people. This openness of mind and heart can be brought to whatever prayer form appeals to you. God does respect our differences and knows what works best for us.
One of the traditions is that of St. Ignatius of Loyola and you will find an explanation of his approach in a prayer knows as an
Examen of Consciousness. It is a means of increasing our everyday awareness of God’s presence in our life and our openness to the Spirit journeying with us.
We’d like to offer you a variety of prayers from which you may find one or more that suits your own personal journey as you seek to grow in holiness and prayerful intimacy with the good Lord.
How do I know if I am being called to religious life?
Each one of us experience the call differently. God knows us and leads us in a way that that suits us best. The attraction may come in many ways: through a Sister you admire, as a grace from a retreat you make, a desire that somehow wells up inside of you. However it
may happen, there are certain signs you might look for. These include:
- an increased awareness of God in your life,
- a developing friendship with Jesus and a growing desire to share in His mission of fulfilling the Father’s plan for creation,
- a deepening appreciation of prayer, Eucharist and the Sacraments,
- a growing wonderment at what it would be like to be a Sister and a desire to give yourself completely to the Lord and the works of the Lord
a caring attitude toward all of God’s people, especially the most needy,
- an interest in being of service to others,
- an other-oriented stance toward life that would adapt to community living,
- a heightened awareness of what is most important in your life and a growing sense that God is calling you to something deeper than you have experienced.
For a more extended answer, you may wish to see the article “Is it for me?“.
What is a “religious” vocation? What is “religious life”?
First we must look at the word “vocation.” Vocation
All Christians have a ‘vocation’ in life. The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin word ‘vocare’ which means “to call”. Some people God calls through marriage, others as single people. There is the same mystery about religious life as there is about falling in love. It is something in our hearts that we cannot explain.
The realization of this call will come at different times of life and in different ways – from something you have read, an event in your life, a person you have met or known. The call from God can only be heard when you are in tune with God, it’s a growing realization that to spend your life as a Sister dedicated to Christ and his people is what would make you happy. Not everyone will be drawn to Religious Life. If you think you are, it is at least worth exploring. And you may want to look at the questions in the section About how to know one’s calling in life if you haven’t already done so.
Religious Vocation – Religious Life
These two terms are so inter-connected we need to address them together. “Religious Vocation” refers to the call given to us by God to a special form of life referred to as “Religious Life.” Many people use the term “religious life” as a general term for persons they regard as being “a religious” but there is a broader term, “Consecrated Life.” This is the concept found in the new Code of Canon Law. In Canon 607 we read:
As a consecration of the whole person, religious life manifests in the Church a wonderful marriage brought about by God, a sign of the future age. Thus the religious brings to perfection a total self-giving as a sacrifice offered to God, through which his or her whole existence becomes a continuous worship of God in charity.
The idea of consecration can be found n the Scriptures. It is a term that highlights a relationship between God and the person of object being consecrated. The renewal of Religious Life called for by Vatican II realized the significance of the term. “Consecrated Life” is used today to describe the various styles of life that the Church recognizes as playing a special role in her life. Persons living a consecrated life seek to live a life totally dedicated to God, and to grow in the virtue of love exercised for the sake of service to God’s people. For the most part they make the traditional vows or promises of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience as signs of their consecration. Some Institutes have one or more additional vows/promises usually related to their specific charism. Their life style is meant to be a witness to the world of God’s infinite love.
Here are some articles that may also be of interest to you:
“The Call to Consecrated Life”
Why do religious take vows? Tell me something about them.
Religious take vows as an expression of their desire to give themselves totally to God through membership in a religious community. A vow is a sacred promise made to God. For religious the vow is made in public because of the witness nature of religious life. By their vows or promises religious give their lives over to God. It is a woman’s individual’s free response to a call by God to follow Jesus Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit.
These are the three traditional vows most religious make. They are also called the “evangelical counsels.” because they are derived from the life of Jesus as revealed in the Gospels, in Greek, evangelion. Religious are called to a radical way to living out the Gospel, that is, the Gospel is to be the root or values foundation which determines every dimension of their lives. In every age they provide a strong witness to Gospel values in the face of competing or even contrary values in the prevailing culture. Their ways of living out these traditional values vary somewhat according to the particular Rule or Constitution of each Institute and the culture in which they are to be lived but the essential values are common to all.
For more information on the individual vows you may want to see:
Why are there different religious orders and what’s the difference?
Consecrated Life has a long history. Over the centuries a variety of forms evolved most often in response to historical changes. The 1800’s were a particularly difficult time historically as new nations came into being but it was a rich time for religious. Many congregations came into existence in that century. They gave a new thrust to the mission of religious reaching out the elements of society most in need of physical and spiritual care.
In general there are two main types of religious or consecrated life: Apostolic and Contemplative. Apostolic Congregations are those whose mission includes ministry such as social work, health care, teaching and pastoral work. Contemplative Congregations are those for whom prayer is the heart of their daily life.
There is a more subtle difference among religious institutes that is drawn from the particular charism of a founder whose experience of God led them to start a new institute often to meet a particular need. A charism is a special gift of God for the benefit of the individual founder but it remains as a legacy for the those who follow and adapt the charism to changing times.
If you are interested in going a little deeper, you may find these articles helpful.
“The Different Forms of Religious Life”
How does one become a religious? A Pallottine Sister?
In all religious communities, the process involves several stages. While these vary from community to community in name, length of time, and format, the following outline gives a general overview.
Initial Contact: This is usually a very flexible program whereby the person meets with a sister on a regular basis and shares in experiences of prayer and community life with the congregation in which she is interested.
Candidate: This is a more formal relationship with the community. For a year or more, candidates live with the community while continuing their education or work experience. They can observe and participate in religious life from the inside and the community can see if the candidate shows promise of living the life of the community.
Novice: The novitiate is a special two-year period which marks the person’s official entrance into the community. Novices spend time in study and prayer, learning more about themselves, the community, and their relationship with the Lord. At the end of the novitiate, they prepare for temporary promises or vows.
Vows: The profession of vows may be made for one, two, or three years and are renewable up to nine years. The decision regarding length of time is one made by the individual and the community. Final vows could be made after three years of temporary vows depending on a community’s particular constitutions or practices
For specific information about our Pallottine formation program see:
What qualities would you look for in someone considering religious life?
According to the National Religious Vocations Conference, the following are mentioned:
- generally good health; adequate intellectual ability; healthy relationships, including good friends; sense of humor; ability to make a positive choice for celibacy; member of the Catholic Church; faith and sense of integrity;
- relationship with God; responsiveness to others; capacity to serve a variety of people; leadership ability; collaborative worker; ability to live simply, sharing a common life; can compromise for the common good.
Most religious communities would agree but they would look to see if the woman has a natural attraction to the charism of the particular community, a special gift to live it. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, for example, looked for those with a spirit of joy because that was necessary for anyone who would work with the poorest of the poor.
You might want to take a look at these articles which might be of some help for you.
“What might be the signs of God’s Call?”
“How do I know if I am being called to religious life?”
What can I do in my prayer life that will help me to know God’s will for me?
That’s a good question! The way to get to know God’s will is to speak God’s language and that’s what prayer is. Whatever the words we say or think, God knows our heart and he always answers in a way that bring us peace and joy, the signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence.
There is no short answer to this question but there are some things we can suggest. First is something called Examen of Consciousness. It is a style of prayer that can help you develop a greater awareness of God’s presence in your life and also your own reactions to that present. The article is a bit long but it will give you a good place to start.
Ultimately your goal is to discern what it is God is asking of you. It is important to understand what the process of discernment involves. It is not something you jump into. It is a serious process, that requires discipline. We are happy to provide you with some useful aids.
“Discernment – Brief Overview”
What kind of commitment would someone be expected to make?
In as much as religious life is a life totally dedicated to God it is a life that requires a whole-hearted commitment. Most communities require life-long commitment following a period of temporary commitment. There are a few communities, such as the Daughters of St. Vincent de Paul, whose members renew their vows annually though most remain in their communities for life.
The reason the question is so often raised has to do with fear. Any choice for how to live one’s life has a certain amount of insecurity and fear at first. Fear of commitment is not a reason to avoid looking at the possibility that you are called to make a life-long commitment to religious life. The peace of God always accompanies those who make their choice in prayer and seek the grace of God to live it.
For an extended discussion of this question you may wish to read:
Why do some religious dress in habits and other do not? What do you do?
Historically, there have always been communities that did not wear a formal habit. Many habits started out as the lay clothing of the cultural era at the time of their foundation. Many kept their original dress long after fashions changed. In time many of these became the basis of what we came to know as habits. All religious reviewed the style and place of the habit after Vatican II. Initially there were trials to modernize the habit but gradually some communities opted for lay clothes.
Those who maintain habits today do so for various reasons. One of the primary reasons is that religious dress is a sign. The habit is an instantly recognized symbol of faith in God and commitment to Christianity. Another frequent rationale for religious garb is that it is simple dress and therefore a way to live out the vow of poverty. A sister who wears a religious habit can own just two or three changes of dress and be free of the expense that may be involved in a more extensive contemporary wardrobe. Other communities say the habit is an important sign of penitence for them.
Some communities have opted to wear lay clothes, saying that the most valid sign of Christian faith is lifestyle, how one lives, not how one dresses. They have noted that among certain populations religious dress creates an undesirable barrier between them and those with whom they work. Some Catholics and non-Catholics distance themselves from people in traditional religious dress.
There is also an historic reason. Many have discontinued wearing habits noting that the dress worn in times past was that of the common people. When styles changed, religious continued to wear what they had been wearing. Lay or street clothes are the clothes of common people today.
Our Sisters are permitted to make a choice. It often depends on the particular ministry a Sister has. Among our older Sisters you will find some who wear a religious habit. Many of our Sisters have chosen to retain the veil as the distinctive sign that they are a religious and wear professional clothes for ministry; others do not. There is a tendency among many to distinguish professional dress for ministry and casual dress when they are in the convent or at recreational events. We recognize that these are changing times for religious life in general and we respect each Sister’s choice.
About Spirituality & Prayer
What can you tell me about prayer? How important is it for you?
Because we have chosen a way of life which says by its very nature that God is most important, prayer has a central role in our lives. Since prayer is so important, religious spend approximately two hours a day in prayer; part of that time with others, at Mass and in common oral prayer; part alone, in reading and quiet attentiveness. Probably the main benefit of prayer is that it makes us more sensitive to God’s activity in the people, events and circumstances of daily life.
There are times when we don’t feel like praying just as athletes don’t always feel like practicing. Some times we don’t even feel as if we can pray or we get so distracted at prayer. However, because prayer is so important to us, we act on motives deeper than feelings, and do what we know needs to be done. What is important is that we stay in touch with the God to whom we have given our lives. For a more extended answer you may want to see one of these brief articles:
“Prayer is the Soul’s Sincere Desire”
Are there different ways of praying?
Basically we can speak of three types of prayer: vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplation.
In vocal prayer we use words, we use our voices. Sometimes the words are those of our tradition (the Our Father, the Rosary,etc.); at other times they are our own, rising up within us as we spend time with God, with Christ. It is basically an external form of prayer and therefore it is what we use when we pray together. Religious, for example, pray the prayers of Mass and most pray the prayers of the Divine Office. Each community has certain prayers that are part of their tradition. Praying them together gives them a sense not only of their relationship with God but also with each other.
In meditation we use our minds, our imaginations, our emotions. Meditation begins with some form of reading, especially from the Gospels, that helps us to understand some aspect of our Christian life, our relationship with God. It can involve things, like icons or candles, to help us to reflect on God and our relationship with the Trinity. These readings and reflections help us to move into prayer. They enable us to pray, as it were, from the heart where words are not always necessary. There are many a number of methods of meditation that have come down to us from the spiritual masters of our tradition.
Where meditation seeks understanding, contemplation seeks the God “whom my soul loves.” (Song of Songs, 1:7) It is an intense form of prayer that seeks the face of God while it recognizes that such prayer is truly a gift. So we open ourselves to the presence of God in quiet, freeing our minds — as best we can — and wait on the Lord. Here, too, the spiritual masters have taught us ways to help us in this form of prayer so that we can do our part as we wait for God to enter into our prayer.
These are general terms with which we speak about prayer. Prayer can take many forms, some more formal, some less; some which emphasize one dimension of our being, some another (for example, the mind, the heart, the will). In the beginning it is helpful to try different forms of prayer to find one that suits you best.
You may wish to read one of the following brief articles to expand your understanding of how you might pray:
“Finding God in the Events of Your Life”
“Remembering God’s Presence in My History”
What do people mean when they talk about getting in touch with God?
Prayer is essentially a matter of our recognizing our relationship to God. It recognizes that the God who loved us enough to create us in the very image of Divine Love not only created us and continues to create us each day but that loving God dwells within us. Paul asks the Corinthians, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and theat God’s Spirit dwells in you.?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
Because God is as near to us as our very own heartbeat, we can seek to know God in the very depths of our being. That is where we get in touch, make contact with Divine Love and Mercy. That is why in those interior forms of prayer, we try to create an inner space, a space free from the usual cares of everyday, where we can be open the presence of God within us.
To understand more about making room for God in your prayer life, you may wish to read one of these articles:
“What Prayer Is – Thomas Green”
“How to Pray – Ask the Saints”
What about praying the Scriptures which religious say is so important?
Devotional reading of the Scriptures has always been a wellspring of both Jewish and Christian spiritual life. In devotional reading we seek a deeper and more authentic relationship with the God in whom we live and move and have our being, rather than to learn information and master the content of texts. As we open ourselves to the words of Scripture, we provide an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to pray in us. For us, the praying of Scripture is a way for us to live out our consecration and to come to know the God to whom we have given our lives.
In this style of prayer, because we are not trying to “cover ground” or “get through” a certain amount of text, we select a short passage of Scripture with which to pray, often from the readings for the day’s liturgy. We will read it slowly with an attentive and listening heart. As we make ourselves available for God to speak a word to us personally, we bring to our listening all of our faculties of “hearing” mind, emotion, memory, and imagination; hopes, intuitions, and visions. As we grow in this form of prayer, we find that God is faithful companion, molding us more and more into the image of the Son.
Learning to pray with and through the Scriptures is something we can all learn. If you are interested in getting started you might want to read one of the following:
“Accepting the Embrace of God – The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina”
“The Practice of Lectio Devina – Resting in God’s Embrace”
“Praying with Scripture – Fr. Armand Nigro”
“Praying the Scriptures in the Ignatian Tradition”
“Praying the Scriptures in the Benedictine Tradition”
“Using Scripture in Prayer and Spiritual Direction”
“Pondering the Scriptures with your Heart”
“Gospel Contemplation – A Fuller Experience”
Pallottine Life & Spirituality
St. Vincent, A Prophet for our Time. & Pallotti’s Charism Call
St. Vincent, A Man of Action, Experiencing the Call
Thoughts from St. Vincent & Experiencing the Call
St. Vincent of the Wings of Desire & Experiencing the Call
St. Vincent, a Man of Prayer & Experiencing the Call
Life is a Vocation & Pallotti’s Vision
Universal Call to Holiness & Thoughts from St. Vincent
The Call to Consecrated Life – St. Vincent’s Prayer of Desire
How do I know if I am called to Religious Life – Mary, Queen of Apostles
A Motto for Life & Discernment