In college, I majored in Religious Studies, worked for campus ministry and led almost every retreat for my high school and college that I possibly could. I attended daily Mass and lived in a Christian community on campus. So it was probably no surprise to my peers when I chose to do a live-in with the religious Sisters on campus.
For a week, I lived in community with the Sisters. I attended my regular classes and meetings, but also was a part of their daily prayer, dinners and other activities. This was the first time I admitted to myself that I was discerning a vocation to religious life.
As an introvert, I enjoyed the quiet time the community house provided. The chapel was across the hall from my bedroom, so dropping in to say “hi” to Jesus was convenient. I even slept a decent amount every night! But by the end of the week, I was confident that I was not called to religious life. At least not at that time in my life.
At first glance, the lifestyle seemed to suit me. After all, the quiet, the routine, and the ample opportunities for prayer seemed like everything someone with my personality craves. I could do religious life. But I realized that it was the busy pace of everyday life that challenged me. I had to work at growing closer to God through my classes, homework, roommates, and noise. I had to create my own routines and make quiet time a priority. It was through these challenges that I grew in virtue and discipleship.
Years later, I found myself in a serious relationship. As we continued discerning if marriage was our call, I remember journaling about how my relationship with my (then) boyfriend made me a better person. Our relationship forced me to vulnerable, intimate and patient. I had to sacrifice parts of my routines for the good of us. When I was angry with others, he challenged me to live out Gospel values.
I’m married to that man now. I continue to grow in holiness thanks to our marriage and my husband. In thinking about religious life, I still have that feeling that I could have done it. I could have been a Sister and probably would have enjoyed it. I remember thinking there was something about marriage that scared me and challenged me. And now, as a married woman, I’m growing in ways I never thought I could.
So why am I telling you all this?
We can all “do” any vocation. Religious life, marriage, and single life are all beautiful ways of living holiness. When I explored religious life (and it was for more than just one week), I realized that I could live that lifestyle. After spending quite a few years as a single young adult, there was also something enticing about living a single person as well.
It was when I was in a dating relationship, that I felt my virtues were put to the test. Instead of preaching about patience, I had to practice it. Instead of seeking solace in only God, I had to trust Him enough to be intimate with another. My life was a beautiful mess of discipleship. The challenge and adventure of being in a relationship showed me new side of God.
So, while we can all be in relationship with God through any vocation, there is one that will call you out of yourself. There is one that will challenge you (and probably scare you a bit). The vocation that makes you dream bigger, try more, and grow deeper — that might just be where God is calling you.
– Blog entry by Jenna Legg