The beginning of my discernment was a moment of imagining sisters, literally. I actually hallucinated sisters. I was in a subway car on my way to work in San Francisco and I saw a religious sister out of the corner of my eye. I turned and the person I thought was a sister was just an ordinary woman like me making her way to work. This was the first time it happened but it kept happening, over and over again. I would see a veil or a habit in my periphery; I would turn quickly and nothing.
After this happened several times, over the course of a few weeks, I started to puzzle over these strange occurrences one day, trying to make sense of them.
I was a new revert to the faith; I had been away from the Church for over ten years. So, I figured it was just a sign that I had God on my mind. I sat pensively for a few more moments. And it didn’t take very long for me to wonder, “What if God wants me to be a nun!?!”
When I get to heaven, I think God is going to give us the option of fast forwarding our lives to see one or two of our most precious memories. Forget moments like family reunions or graduating college, this is the moment I want to see. I am sure the look on my face was absolutely priceless. I was shocked, angry, disgusted and intrigued all at the same time.
“Absolutely out of the question God. Really.” I growled.
Luckily I had just found a spiritual director. I had no idea what a spiritual director was just a few months before, but the Holy Spirit put it on my mind and so I set out in search of someone to help guide me through the new spiritual terrain of a revert. I quickly found a Jesuit priest who was very good. Two or so meetings into seeing him, I started hallucinating sisters. So, I went to him with the problem.
I told him the story and then said very frankly, “If you are going to tell me that God wants me to be a nun, I have already considered the possibility (for .2 seconds) and it not going to happen. Ever.”
My spiritual director tried not to laugh, but I could see a smile creeping onto his face despite his best efforts.
“Theresa, just because this happened to you does not mean that you are meant to be a sister.” He said gently.
“Ok, good. Because it ain’t gonna happen.” I said, distrustfully.
“Ok, but I just want to ask you something,” he said.
“Yes?” my eyes narrowed.
“I am wondering how much you love God?” he said.
Oh, ok he was going to go there. A bit manipulative but ok, “I love him a lot,” I said unconvincingly.
“So, I am just thinking God might be asking you to think about religious life. He is not saying that this is even what he wants for you. He just wants you to learn more about it. Do you love God enough to at least hear him out?”
I sat there a while thinking about this God he was talking about, the God who kept after me even when I rejected him and didn’t even believe he existed. The God who protected me from the consequences of many bad choices. The God who was there when I suffered through consequences of other bad choices. The God who loved me and forgave me sooner than I could forgive myself. The God whose love for me was so overwhelming that no other earthly love could compare. The God of intrigue who captivated me, mesmerized me, and who was always full of surprises.
This was the God who was inviting me to consider this life.
Could I say no to even considering?
I sighed, “Ok, you win God. I will hear you out.”
Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP