Called to the Religious Life

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” Psalm 105:4

The Search for meaning and direction

I am originally from Zimbabwe, the youngest of a family of six. I was brought up a practicing Catholic and owe to my parents the gift of my faith, especially my dad. It was his love for me that taught me to believe in God’s unconditional love for me just as I am. As I grew up I took my faith for granted, and it was only in my twenties that I started looking at it seriously and I began search for meaning and direction in my life, whilst at the same time trying to discern God’s will for me, which I hoped would be marriage. Around that time I had the experience of falling in love but it didn’t work out. It left me heartbroken but I was still full of hope and expectations about the lucky man who was going to capture my heart and marry me.

I met a lovely Franciscan Sister

In 1999 I came to England with no desire whatsoever of becoming a nun, but later that year I attended a ‘Life in the Spirit’ seminar and there I met a lovely Franciscan Sister who God used to plant the seed of religious life into my heart. For some months following this meeting I struggled a lot with this; the more I resisted religious life the more insistent the call became, but at the time I still had a lot of fight left in me. Then I came across a group for people discerning their vocation in life. Here I was to receive immense encouragement and support from like-minded people facing the same questions and struggles that I too was going through. From this group, six of us decided to set up a small community who would live together to offer each other support and encouragement. This was another gift from God as it taught me how to live in a community.

Which Order should I Join?

In deciding which Order to join I was greatly inspired by St Thérèse of Lisieux and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Like Thérèse I wanted to be a Carmelite Nun and give myself totally to God by living a hidden life and praying for the whole world. But like Mother Teresa I wanted to be a Missionary, to leave my own country and go to another country to spread the Good News about God’s love for us. I was confused but after visiting the Carmelites I did not feel drawn to them, which was disappointing. One of my sisters then suggested I visit the Poor Clare Nuns, another order who dedicate their life to prayer, to which I replied that I had no desire of becoming a Poor Clare at all. When I finally decided to visit them anyway, I had a great surprise, because as soon as I got there I knew that God was calling me to be a Poor Clare, but I still had a lot of sorting out to do. With this revelation also came a lot of pain, indecision, and struggle as I realised all the sacrifices this would involve, like being so far away from my own country, family, etc.

So I thought that maybe I could perhaps join an Order that wasn’t enclosed and was a bit freer than the Poor Clares, but I couldn’t find any peace in any other Order except with them. I finally joined the Poor Clares in 2004 and now I realise that God has fulfilled both my desires: I live a hidden life of prayer and I am also a Missionary away from my own country

God is fulfilling my deepest desires

Many people ask me whether I am happy to be a Poor Clare. But how can one really define happiness? It is like trying to describe being in love, you know you are in love but you cannot put it into words. For me being a nun means that God is fulfilling my deepest desires, because that which I desire most is also God’s desire for me. When I say I am happy I am saying I feel fulfilled and alive in this life; it brings me true joy and peace at a deeper level. This is not happiness without struggles, pain and constant challenges, but a deep felt happiness at the very centre of my being regardless of what life is throwing at me daily. Choosing to be a Poor Clare means that I am able to give myself totally to Jesus, whose love draws me daily, in a way that I feel is only possible as a nun, and in my hidden life I can lift up all the needs of the world in prayer and petition.

The Poor Clares

The Poor Clares are a religious Order for women who want to lead a contemplative life, that is a life dedicated to God through prayer. They live in small groups with other sisters in convents and were started by St Francis and St Clare in 1212 in Assisi in Italy. Their work and mission is to pray for the world and the Church.

The order is called ‘Poor’ Clares because the nuns own no money and do not have any possessions of their own and they have no jobs so do not earn money. St Francis and St Clare saw this as the way to live out the teaching of Jesus, “Go, sell what you have and give the money to the poor, and come follow me.” The order is enclosed meaning that generally the nuns never leave their convent but when necessary and with their superior’s permission they can leave to visit people like the doctors, dentist or hospital. For the most part they stay in the Convent because they want to. The convent is their ‘sacred space’ where they keep in close touch with God without the noise and distractions that surround people most of the time.

Poor Clare nuns take three solemn promises that are a sign of their commitment and consecration to God.

• Poverty – This frees their hearts from being tied down by possessions and gives them a greater freedom, to live like Christ. They give to God their right to own anything.

• Chastity – They promise never to marry. This focuses their love completely on God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

• Obedience – by this vow they give to God their most precious gift, their freewill. In this they are imitating Christ who was obedient unto death on a cross.

Written by Sr Clare Ruva