When your daughter becomes a sister…
By The Anchoress
AUG. 9, 2009 (www.firstthings.com) - We are coming up to that time of the year when a small-but-growing number of young men and young women (and the not-so-young as well) hug their weeping family members and then step away joyfully into another world, one where the family may not follow, to try their vocations as Diocesan priests or as Benedictines, Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites and more; to explore a radical path of prayer and service onto which they believe they are being called.
It is a little early for my yearly round-up of vocational news (although you know I am already collecting tidbits) but I wanted to draw your attention to this beautifully written piece featured in the magazine this month, Sisters and Daughters, written by Robert Miola who with his wife has watched two of his highly gifted, extremely well-educated daughters reject worldy success and material riches for sturdy grey habits with blue veils and scapulars, new -Marian- names, and lives that involve mountains rather than penthouses:
It started back in May 2001, at a graduation party in my daughter’s tiny New York apartment, just off Broadway, five flights up. Christine has won prizes in classics and Italian, a set of other honors, and she has no use for any of them. She has dropped two decades of aspiration and academic achievement, two decades of building a self in society, two decades of dreams about the future, without so much as a whistle.
[In 2004] That night I meet my daughter in the small convent chapel, cut out of a mountain side, for Vespers. It is cold and windy but the stone chapel is warm with candlelight; the nuns kneel in silent adoration. Sr. Fiat plays a small organ and leads the hymns, Tantum Ergo, Salve Regina, her voice high and clear. The psalms and antiphons echo in the Italian night. The sisters kiss their breviaries before closing them.
But then, in 2005, I find myself saying with dismay, “You can’t be serious.” Another daughter, Rachel this time, looks at me with deep blue eyes. Her lip quivers. Robert Kaske’s book of medieval sources, my gift to her before she heads to graduate school at Notre Dame, sits on the table, already a relic from another dispensation.
…In Washington, October 2008, I watch Sr. Panagia (formerly Rachel Miola) in action, poised and purposeful. Of course I have seen her many times after that painful day in 2005—in fact, the very next day, filled with love, contrition, and anxiety—but I have rarely seen her in in propria persona before.
…they live every day in that reality, in the gentle constant presence of Christ. It is our world of power, pleasure, pain, and pride that is secondary, shadowy, and unreal. Unimaginable, one might say, but there they are, laughing and praying, singing and working, emptied of disordered passions and filled with peace. There they are, big as life, robed in grey and blue.
This is one of those gorgeous pieces of prose that has a rhythm and pulse; it is alive with feeling and insight, joy and melancholy. I recommend it to you for your Sunday reading, and do also check out the comments section, where there is another vocation story that is unique and lovely.
More on The Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, a youthful and lively Institute that is quickly growing around the world. They have 17 novices being trained in the Ukraine, and even a contemplative branch.