Local News Archive
Print Issue: November 1, 1973
By Sister Genevieve Sachse, OSB
One of the melodramatic plots that used to reappear over and over again was the story of the beautiful young novice who had fled to the convent because of some tragic experience, usually a love affair. The story often climaxed by her either returning to her long-lost love to live happily ever after or turning her back on the world and slowly ascending the steps to the chapel to the muffled sobs of the audience.
I was reminded of this theme recently by my students as we were discussing the fundamental choice a person makes in choosing Christianity and comparing it to other life choices. They asked me about my choice and added the usual question of whether I ever dated. As I answered their question (in the affirmative!) I was amused to note that rarely did I have such total and undivided attention.
Later that day I reflected on this phenomenon as I drove to our motherhouse in Alabama. The purpose of this trip was to spend the weekend with the young women in our community who have not yet made final vows and who are engaged in the process of that very fundamental life choice. Those of us who are responsible for assisting them in this choice meet with them on a regular basis for mutual prayer, counseling, input and a chance to enjoy their company.
The melodrama of their departure from home for their entrance into the convent has long since gone and had been replaced by the day to day struggle to grow before the Lord and to determine if the mystery which is a religious vocation has been given to them. This struggle (and I do not mean to imply that it is lacking in the other life choices; rather it is simply less understood) varies in intensity and cause and may take many different forms.
The question of marriage and celibacy is always one that must be squarely faced. One of my first questions to any young woman who says she is interested in religious life is whether she has dated with any frequency. If she has come because she is consciously or unconsciously afraid of marriage due to some incident or family background, her chances of being happy in religious life are poor until that problem can be honestly dealt with.
If a woman would not make a good wife or mother, the causes for that difficulty will generally apply to religious life although the manifestation may take a different form.
Our society hammers away at the concept through media and social emphasis that one cannot be happy, perhaps even normal, without an active sex life. Some of the religious who left in recent years unfortunately thought that marriage would solve all their problems because they had never worked out their own sexual identity.
While this identification is a life-long process, it is made easier if the persons experience of the opposite sex has been a positive, normal, and wholesome part of the growth to maturity.
One of our topics for discussion during the weekend was the consideration of whether there were any specific traits peculiar to women that could be observed in religious life. The psychologist on our team pointed out that if we tend to think of as masculine or feminine are due to culture rather than innate causes.
The human need to give and receive love, understanding, and support, takes many different forms and occurs in many different degrees; it is this difference which makes celibacy possible and desirable for some people.
Much of this has passed through my mind as I sat with them for the last activity I could share with them before I returned to Atlanta. We decided to pray together at sunrise on Sunday morning, and as I looked around at the group in various postures of meditation, scattered about the field north of the pasture, I recalled what my father had said to me as he struggled to understand my desire to enter the convent: You have either got to be crazy or in love with someone I dont understand.
And thinking of our crawling out of a warm bed while it was still dark to go to talk to our Lover and to see the thing of beauty that He makes for us every day, I figured my dad was on the right track after all.