DEBUNKING CLOISTER MYTHS--MYTH #2

You thought we weren't going to do another one, right?

MYTH #2—I'M (or you're) NOT THE TYPE!

"I think I have a vocation but I could never be a cloistered nun, I'm just not the type."

Priest or Sister: "Oh, she seems quite promising. I've told her about a few communities. I didn't tell about your monastery, of course, because she's so outgoing and energetic. She's not the type you know."

"Oh, sister, I met this lovely girl who thinks she has a vocation. I told her about you because she's very shy and quiet. She doesn't like to socialize and wears only white, black and grey. You'd really like her; she's just the type!"

Are these exaggerations? Well, no. For centuries there has been a myth circulating that one has to be a "certain type." Of course, once someone meets a community of cloistered nuns in the parlour they can't quite get over the energy and joy. Why, they even LOVE to talk!

Over and over again, I've heard vocations stories of our sisters and nuns from other monasteries. So often they say, "And of course, I never DREAMED I'd be here; I thought I wasn't the type!" The gift, the mystery of a contemplative vocation never ceases to be a source of wonder and awe! ME?

"Yes, you," the Beloved says!

Several years ago a wonderful little book, "The Contemplative Life" by Fr. Thomas Philippe, OP was translated into english and published by Crossroad. It got little notice even by Dominicans. In this gem of a book, Father says,

In the case of a vocation to the active life, certain natural dispostitions can be recognized; but for the contemplative vocation, which is the blossoming of the life of grace and of the theological virtues, there are no natural predispositions. Insofar as a call to the religious state is involved, one may speak of the absence of counterindications; but that is all.

And:

On the basis of experience, it cannot really be said which type the Lord more often calls to the contemplative life. God's choice quite transcends the matter of temperment and depends solely on his good pleasure. God knows well how to make the most tender hearts virile and to melt the most hardened; God acts suaviter et fortiter—gently and powerfully.

It is exactly because the vocation to the contemplative life is God's choice that it can be more difficult to discern a true vocation to this way of life, for both the candidate and the religious community. Ultimately, it means the need for much prayer, an openess to the work of the Holy Spirit and a desire that is purified of secondary things, desiring only to belong totally to God in spousal love.