Good morning everyone...and happy Holy Week! This morning I am thrilled to be bringing you a guest post. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a lovely young woman (who is currently doing a Post Doc at my twin sister's alma mater). She shared with me how much she was enjoying the 40 Days for Vocations series, and she also shared with me that she is preparing to enter religious life! I asked her if she would be willing to share her story with you all, and she (and her religious superior) very graciously agreed. So, without further ado, I'd like to turn this over to Jennifer.
My name is Jennifer Illig and I am grateful that Michele has invited me to participate in her vocation series.
The question, of course, is: Why would Michele ask a theologian who specializes in late medieval heresy(!) to participate? Well, I have been accepted to enter Mt. St. Mary’s Abbey, a Cistercian (Trappistine) community in Wrentham, MA, on July 11, the Feast of St. Benedict.
Yes, I have a doctorate in theology. Yes, I am becoming a cloistered nun. God is very good.
From a young age, I knew that I wanted to enter religious life. I liked spending time with the sisters at school and I liked being in church. I wanted to be a Carmelite like St. Thérèse of Liseux, one of my favorite saints, but I had no idea where I might find an actual Carmelite. Then, I read Thomas Merton and the Rule of St. Benedict and knew that I had to be Benedictine, preferable Cistercian.
At the end of my first year of college, I visited Mt. St. Mary’s Abbey and loved it. However, many people who heard that I wanted to be a cloistered nun commented—with varying degrees of horror—that I was “too smart” or that I would “get bored.”
Fearing they were right, I did church work, studied theology, and prepared for an academic career. I used my talents in the most obvious ways. And, yet, something was not right. With the help of a Jesuit spiritual director, I realized that I was hiding—from God and from myself—behind the idea that I should serve God in the most obvious ways.
Nine years after my initial visit to Wrentham, I visited again and then kept going back. Each time I came away thinking that Wrentham is the place where I could give myself to God. I finished my doctorate, but felt that I needed more time. I moved to Indiana for a postdoctoral teaching fellowship which helped clarify my desire for monastic life.
As the day of my entrance draws nearer, I am both joyful and nervous. The life that I could have as an academic and a lay person is comfortable and familiar. However, I know that God, in God’s great love, calls me into a deeper and more committed relationship than I can otherwise have. I don’t know why God wants me, but I am very grateful that God wants me.
More than anything, though, I know that my desire for God and God’s desire for me is not just about the two of us. Rather, it draws in the whole world as I seek to love God for the sake of the world and seek to show God’s love to the world through my commitment and dedication.
In many ways, I am only beginning to understand what a great gift God has given me. I pray that I can be faithful to it. Please pray for me and know that you are in my prayers.
Thank you so much, Jennifer...for your guest post and for your "yes" to your vocation. Please join me in praying for her, everyone!
Please continue to pray for vocations with us!
O God, Father of all Mercies,
Provider of a bountiful Harvest,
Provider of a bountiful Harvest,
send Your Graces upon those
You have called to gather the fruits of Your labor;
preserve and strengthen them in their lifelong service of you.
Open the hearts of Your children
that they may discern Your Holy Will;
inspire in them a love and desire to surrender themselves
to serving others in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ.
Teach all Your faithful to follow their respective paths in life
guided by Your Divine Word and Truth.
Through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary,
all the Angels, and Saints, humbly hear our prayers
and grant Your Church's needs, through Christ, our Lord. Amen. (source)