The Vocation of a Poor Clare is to be a Bride of Christ
Love appeared on the horizon as a knight in shining armor
(Written February – 2004)
This is a story for all of God’s people. It is a story to remind us that, more than any knowledge we may have acquired, the truest of pastoral care will happen in direct proportion to the degree of our consent to the work of God in our lives.
When I made the decision to join a group of cloistered sisters, it meant leaving my job as chaplain, or so I thought. Little did I know that for a number of months after leaving my position in pastoral care, I would be encountering an explosion of freely expressed raw emotions, everywhere I turned.
The path I was now embarking on would prove to be one that would not only move the hearts of everyone I knew, but many people I didn’t know. So much so, that I would have to delay my plans for a couple of months, so all those people would have the chance to ask what they needed to ask, and share what they needed to share. There were many, many different emotions expressed, but what struck me the most, was the depth of love. Hopefully, we all know that God is all around us, and that He loves us. But as far as the depth of that love, we couldn’t possibly know. Sit back, relax, and listen to this brief story of unbounded love.
It was after spending a month at the Monastery of St. Clare, in Andover, MA, that my call to become Franciscan was confirmed. God was calling me to become a Poor Clare. A calling to become espoused to Christ was a reality that, for me, would take a long time, if not a lifetime, to absorb.
After a month’s stay within the Monastery, the time had come to return home to family and friends. It was time to inform them of my decision, or rather, my acceptance of a choice made by God. The reactions I received were both intense and diverse. People expressed feelings of great joy, sadness, excitement, fear, and even anger. But there was one thing common to them all, and that was deeply felt and wonderfully expressed emotions.
Prior to my announcement, if anyone had ever asked me if I felt loved, they would have received a resounding, “Yes.” My family has had its share of hard times, but, on the whole, I come from a close and loving family. I am also blessed in my ability to say, that when it comes to friends, I unquestionably have the very best. My years working as a nurse and as a chaplain have been an attempt to give back for all I have received.
However, there was nothing that could have prepared me for the awakening to love that was about to take place within me. I use the term “awakening,” because that is exactly what happened. Many of us walk around in what could almost be called a mummified or zombie type state of life. Heaven surrounds us, yet we sleep. No matter how aware we think we are, we haven’t but touched the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to awareness of the love that surrounds us. Unbeknownst to me, I was completely surrounded by, and held ever so gently by, a love that can only be described as powerful, passionate, profoundly intimate.
My month’s visit with the Poor Clares, not only deepened my awareness of this all-encompassing love, but it nurtured my ability to trust in it. The trust in turn, acted as “Holy Windex Cleaner,” on the always dusty, and ever so cloudy, windows of my awareness. It was only as my vision cleared that “Love appeared on the horizon as a Knight in shining armor.” As He rode toward me, I became acutely aware that He had always been there, ready and eager, yet patiently awaiting my consent.
As I returned home and shared the news of my call to monastic life, Love continued His advance toward me. He rode toward me by way of love suddenly and powerfully expressed. He rode closer as a group of fellow nurses gathered to present me with a plaque stating that they had registered a star, in my name, in the international star registry. One co-worker stated that I would always be “their shining star.” Still another said, that they “need only look to the heavens to find me.”
A second group of older nurses that I worked with years ago, also gathered to be with me one last time. My heart swelled with each old friend that walked through the door. I wondered what this was all about as my knight in shining armor galloped on.
A group of fellow chaplains gathered together for Mass, with the intention of the Mass being for my vocation. Immediately following the Mass, they spoke, to all gathered, about me, and all that I meant to them. Jesus rode closer as they extended words of blessings and love toward me.
Wonderful gifts, beautiful cards, and beautiful promises of prayer were coming from every direction. I also received the most beautiful heart-felt letters, love letters in the truest sense, as Jesus rode closer. A co-worker shared his own personal photo album with me. It was filled with special mementoes of his life. He wanted me to see that one of those special mementoes was a note from me. Jesus rode closer.
Another co-worker stated that she would remember me each time the moon was full, and say a special prayer. Still Jesus rode closer. Old friends contacted me, and previously unspoken love was declared, as Jesus rode on.
Another special person gave me a first class relic of “The Little Flower,” and promised to pray for me each day. Jesus rode closer. Another friend unexpectedly told me I had a special place in his soul. And Jesus rode closer.
I kept hearing the phrase, I’ve never told anybody this before but….” People were reaching to their depths and baring their souls. It was springtime in the garden of my world. Pruning was happening at a rapid rate, and all I needed to do was to be present and watch. People were shedding their lifeless, crumbling overcoats, and sharing with me the life and beauty of their depths.
I was taken out to breakfast, out to lunch, and out to dinner, over and over again. I heard story after story of heretofore unspoken feelings, personal dreams and desires. People shared stories of their pain, their faith, and their hope in God. Hearts were exposed, tears were shed, hugs and kisses were given freely and abundantly. Beautiful flowers were delivered to my house, and Jesus rode on.
The list goes on and on. Love just kept coming and coming, coming from every possible direction. Within a period of a few month’s time, the tremendously deep pain of departure, combined with the opening of the floodgates of love, left me not only speechless, but in a place of awe and wonder. A place where I could do nothing but stop, look to the heavens, and ask, “Dear God, what is going on here?” It was then, within a few seconds time, in a moment of deep silence and stillness, that my awareness was raised to a place of heart-stopping realization. A place where I became keenly aware of a reality almost unutterable, Jesus was coming to get me……………
Some people are called to be chaplains from a literal point of view, but all people are called to be chaplains from a Christian point of view.
Please pray for me as I pray for all of you.
(2 YEARS LATER – 2006)
I wrote the above article just as I was entering into religious life. I have been a Poor Clare Sister just about 2 years now. Things are going well. The heartache of missing my family and friends remains. However, it is that very heartache that has been the source of my growth. Through the love and support of the sisters, Jesus carried me through my time of transition, just as He desires to carry all of us through all of life’s transitions.
Monastic life is a hidden life of prayer. It is not always understood by the general public, but nonetheless, it is a very beautiful and much needed vocation in today’s world. May we all pray for one another as we continue our journey in becoming all that God has made us to be.
(August – 2009)
I have been a Poor Clare for almost 6 years now. The time is swiftly approaching for my final vows. – This Spring! I am very happy; and very grateful to God for my vocation.
(May 26, 2010)
I professed my solemn vows with great joy for the grace of my vocation to be a spouse of Christ and a Poor Clare nun.
Sr. Mary Theresa Mallahan of Our Lady of Medjugorje, OSC
Blessing of the Ring:
O Lord, send forth your blessing + upon this ring so that she who wears it may keep complete faith and sincere fidelity. And as a bride of Christ may she keep her pledge of undivided love forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. AMEN.
I espouse you to Jesus Christ, the Son of the most high Father. Receive the ring of faith, the seal of the Holy Spirit, that you may be called the spouse of God. Keep unbroken faith with your Bridegroom so that you may come to the wedding feast of eternal joy. AMEN.
His voice was gentle, soft and clear,
COME FOLLOW ME, My life to share,
Soon followed by—GO FORTH to all
In faithful, humble silent prayer.
Cling not to what will pass away,
Commit your heart to what is true.
Identify yourself with Me
In all you think and say and do.
Your “cloister” then will fill the earth
Your inner life will fruitful be
The world will be a better place
Because You chose to follow Me.
A poem by one of our sisters
Monastery of St. Clare 445 River Road Andover, MA 01810-4213 (978) 683-7599