As I drove to the retreat the evening of May 24th, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was looking forward to getting the chance to meet more young women who were also discerning God’s call for them, and of course I was excited to get to know the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, as well. In these moments before the retreat began, I could never have guessed the beautiful experiences I was able to have over the next few days. As I arrived and anxiously greeted some fellow retreatants, my heart was filled with joy and my nervousness began to be replaced with warm happiness. The retreat opened with prayer and welcome, and one of the sisters reminded us to go through this retreat knowing that God had placed us here for a reason, and that through it all his gentle love would guide us. We then prayed compline (the night prayer of the liturgy of the hours) with the sisters, and as we headed to bed, I still had a million questions in my mind about if I was in the right place or doing the right thing, or even of I was worthy to be there. God would not answer these questions in a flash of lightening or a heavenly vision, but through the gentle promptings and experiences of the coming days.
The next morning, we opened with lauds and meditation, and I looked to the days ahead, I simply asked our Lord to make His will mine, and to give me the courage to hear His voice more clearly. After breakfast, as we watched a vocational film and listened to the unique and beautiful vocation stories of the sisters, my heart was pulled to the life I was hearing about. “I want to live for you, just like that, Jesus!” I prayed. As we continued through out day and got to experience a little taste of the Sisters' apostolate, I found my heart open to a central part of the Sisters' lives and exactly how they lived for Jesus as I so longed to. Seeing firsthand how the sisters cared for both the residents of St. Agnes Home and the children at the day care, I saw a type a motherhood I’d never fully recognized: spiritual motherhood. The way that the Sisters interacted with and cared for the residents of St. Agnes Home was truly the same as how I love and care for my own grandparents, and the way they played with and so dearly loved the children at the day care reminded me of the relationship I have with my own older sisters. The sisters loved and made a home for everyone they served, with the light of Christ so clearly touching others through their service. That evening as we prayed vespers and then shared recreation time all together, I felt the peace and love between the sisters permeate my heart and the hearts of the retreatants, and I began to understand that not only are the sisters spiritual mothers, they are a spiritual family unto each other as well.
The next day, as we had the privilege to attend the ordination mass for priests at the Saint Louis Basilica, and we learned more about Carmelite spirituality and the history of Carmel DCJ, I saw that religious life is not only one of love and sacrifice: it is a life full of the beauty of God. It is a life full of relationships, service, prayer, community, solitude, and bringing the souls of the world closer to the Lord. Learning an introduction to how Carmelite spirituality is lived revealed to me how deeply important the silence of prayer is, as well as how powerful. And attending the ordination mass, as well as some amazing conversations I had with the sisters throughout this weekend exposed to me one very important truth: Religious life isn’t about being worthy or doing things right all the time – it is about answering a call. As we had mass the next morning, on the closing day of the retreat, I knew I had been in the right place, and that I would remember this weekend for years to come.
- Reflection from a SLU grad