Why aren’t more women becoming nuns today? I hear the question often. The reality is, I think, that it’s not easy to choose religious life nowadays. In this age of rampant consumerism, endless information and self-preoccupation, it’s tough to go against the grain. Sometimes young adults say they want to be “radically different,” but what does that mean?
Religious life is a call you come to recognize in your heart. This requires listening to your deep desires for meaning and passion in life. There is liberation and joy in being a disciple of Jesus. Of its essence, religious life is also an invitation to live counter-culturally, in ways substantially different from the norms of the present day. Religious choose to live together in community, where sharing is more important than owning, where mutual support and friendship supplant ego and competition, and where Gospel values influence decisions about where to work and how to spend one’s energy and resources.
If this all sounds idealistic and a bit impossible, at times it is. Continuous effort, prayer and conversion are required. None of it makes any sense unless centered in a relationship with Christ. But as I say to young people all the time, “if it’s your call, your vocation, you will be deeply happy in religious life.” The important thing is being honest with yourself and with God, and having the courage to “put out into deep water” with the One who reminds us, “you did not choose me, but I chose you.”