Hearing the call to become a Benedictine Sister
A vocation, the calling to become a Benedictine sister often begins with a subtle desire for something more. There may be a longing, a yearning to know God more deeply, to live a life a centered on faith. This yearning and longing continues and grows deeper, it manifests itself in a more committed prayer life, in thoughts about being of greater service, the desire to be part of a community of fellow seekers. Then may come the strange, exciting, scary thought, “am I called to become a Sister!?” Over 1500 years ago St. Benedict asked the question “What is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us?” Listening for God’s voice is indeed delightful and it may lead to a vocation as a Benedictine sister.
Some questions to ponder as you listen:
- Do I feel a call to a deeper faith life, a deeper relationship with God?
- Do I desire to be part of a community, committed to other women who are also seeking God in a common journey?
- Do I sense a longing for a structured life of prayer, service, common worship?
- Do I continue to find myself thinking about how to deepen my faith life and commitment including wondering whether I may have a vocation?
If these questions resonate with you it may be time to begin to listen for the call of religious life.
Beginning to discern:
As you begin to discern a vocation it is important to know some of the prerequisites that a vocation director will ask you about:
- Are you a baptized Roman Catholic who has completed the sacraments? If you are a convert have you been in the Church for at least two years?
- Are you between the ages of 21 and 55?
- Are you single, widowed or divorced with an annulment?
- Are you psychologically and physically healthy enough for this way of life?
- Are you a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident?
These are the basic prerequisites to a vocation in our community. If you don’t meet these requirements but are interested in monastic life you may want to explore becoming a volunteer or oblate.If you do meet these prerequisites it may be time to talk with a vocation director.
When contacting a vocation director for the first time it is extremely helpful to share something about yourself. How long have you been considering a vocation? What attracts you to religious life in general and Benedictine life in particular? What is your prayer life and spirituality like? What is your age and work history? Sharing some of your background as you first contact us makes it easier to help you discern on your journey.
Listening more deeply
How do I begin to discern a vocation?
A vocation director can help you sort through some of the questions you have about vocations, give you suggestions about how to discern. Perhaps the best advice anyone can give you is simply to pray, to listen, to be open to the movement of God in your life.
Spiritual Direction: As you begin to listen more deeply it is important to work with a spiritual director. This is someone who is trained to listen to and support people in their spiritual journey. To have a person who can accompany you in your discernment process is crucial.
Prayer: The foundation of both discernment and religious life is prayer, both communal and individual. Growing more deeply in your prayer life, trying new prayer forms is important. The process of lectio divina (prayerful reading) is a Benedictine practice of praying with Scripture that is helpful in the process of discernment.
Read: Read all you can about Benedictine spirituality and religious life. Books such as Wisdom Distilled From the Daily by Joan Chittister, OSB are very helpful. The blog Daily Life at the Monastery of St. Gertrude is a resource for reflections on religious life. Learn more about our life through our YouTube videos.
Volunteer: An excellent way to get to know us is to come for a visit as a volunteer. This is a way to experience what it is like to live, work and pray with the sisters. An application is required to become a volunteer. For more information, email: [email protected]
What are the stages of entering community?
Stage 1 - Affiliate
Affiliates are women who have been in communication with us and have expressed an interest in discerning more seriously their call to the monastic life as lived by us here at the Monastery of St. Gertrude. This stage can last from six months to three years. During this time each affiliate has a sister sponsor. Together they study Seeking God by Esther DeWaal. It is important that the inquirer visit the monastery regularly during this stage of discernment. She and her sister sponsor stay in contact with one another for encouragement, support and study.
The ceremony for becoming an Affiliate takes place in the Monastery, surrounded by the community of sisters. Each Affiliate receives a copy of the book Seeking God and a blessing from the Prioress and the community of St. Gertrude.
Stage 2 - Postulant
This second stage of becoming a sister lasts at least one year and requires that the discerning woman move into the monastery to share our prayer, work, and leisure. During the Postulancy, each woman needs to have her financial affairs ordered in such a way that she need not engage in outside work. Each Postulant labors with us in keeping the gardens and house, prays with us and attends classes in Scripture and Benedictine spirituality and practice. At a simple ceremony in the Community Room, the Affiliate is surrounded by the entire community. She proclaims her desire to "seek God with this community." She is then presented with The Liturgy of the Hours books, On the Way: The Journey of the Idaho Benedictine Sisters, and The Life of Saint Benedict as told in The Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great.
Stage 3 - Novice
The third step in becoming a sister is called the Novitiate. It is period of two years and includes in-depth study of the Benedictine way of life through prayer, study, reflection, solitude and work. Class work covers Scripture, Rule of Benedict and monastic profession. The Novitiate is broken into two distinct parts: First Year Novice and Second Year Novice. The focus of each year is different and allows the Novice to fully enter into our Benedictine life. The passage from Postulant to Novice is marked by a simple ceremony in the Monastery Chapel. Each Postulant places her checkbook and car keys on the Gospel as a symbol of her complete reliance upon God and this community to meet her needs. She receives the Rule of Benedict, Listen (the monastery's governing documents) and a Benedictine medal to wear as a sign of her commitment.
The suscipe is sung three times with schola and monastic community responding. The entire assembly joins the singing of the "Glory be..."
"Receive me, O Lord, as you have promised, that I may live, and disappoint me not in my hope. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen."
Stage 4 - Profession
At this stage of formation women finally earn the title "Sister!" It has been a long journey. This particular stage is known as "Temporary Profession" and lasts from three to six years. During this time the new Sister lives as a full member of community. Time is spent in monastic studies, engaging full-time in ministry. During Temporary Profession a sister continues her discernment to the final step: Final Monastic Profession.
Are you interested in exploring what monastic life might mean to you? Submit this form below.