Friday, 24 February 2012

A Father's Story

Originally posted in The Vocation Operation but I wanted to share it with you here as well. 

I have already shared with you the story of the mother of a sister in the Nashville Dominicans. This is relating to the same sister but is by her father. It is a truly beautiful reflection and is very moving. 

Original Story

Forever will the moment be etched in my memory. My wife and I were waiting outside the Cincinnati airport for our daughter's arrival back home so we could swap cars and leave on a trip of our own. It was springtime 1998 and she had been on a retreat.

There was no way to prepare ourselves for what we were to hear when she jumped into the back seat, although she had dropped some broad hints of what might be in store.

"I think I have a vocation. I'm going to join the Nashville Dominicans," she told us in a brief, tear-filled conversation. My fumbling response was based more on faith in her good sense than in any deep insight of my own. Because all that we really ever wanted for our children was for them to be happy in whatever they undertook, I told her we would support her decision to the utmost of our ability if that is what she chose. But I had to admit to some trepidation.

Like so many others, we had little experience with women's religious life. What we did know, given the convulsions of post-Vatican experience in so many communities, hardly engendered confidence. Was our assent casting to the wolves this wonderful little dark-haired girl of ours who was blossoming into the fine woman of our dreams?

But based on our scant knowledge, these Nashville Dominicans did seem different. As soon as we were back from our trip, my wife was on the phone doing the best kind of research, the person-to-person collection of candid opinion from other mothers who had been through the same wrenching decisions. To a person, they were nothing but reassuring about the course our daughter had chosen. The more we learned, the more reassured we became and the more our daughter's judgment was confirmed.

First off, we were convinced that this was an order that respected the freedom of its members. It was obviously not a place for brain washing. The order seemed to take pains to make sure the decision to enter was voluntary.

One sister we met later made it quite clear: "If a young woman decides to stay only a short time, that is part of her discernment. Not everyone is destined for religious life. But the time spent here will prove valuable to her."

When August rolled around and our daughter joined the other 17 postulants in her "class," it was obvious that she was putting down roots with a vibrant, joyful community. These were bright, holy women who - in the business terms of my world - had their strategic plan in sharp focus and were succeeding almost beyond imagination. Certainly what they were accomplishing flew in the face of conventional wisdom.

On that day when Catherine entered, the mother superior erased what ever doubts may have remained. "You parents," she said, "will find that you, too, are accepting the vocation and will be changed by what you daughter is doing."

How the past three years have proved her prediction accurate! Everyone in our family has indeed been changed - uplifted spiritually, disciplined and made accepting of God's will in our lives in ways we could hardly have glimpsed.

We have not lost a daughter but have gained a host of other "daughters." Today we look upon the community of St. Cecilia as part of our own extended family. Each visit to Nashville makes more evident the joy and commitment that animates this remarkable group of women. In a literal sense, they stand as beacons on the hill, serving as reminders to the rest of us in the Church and in the world that a new springtime has arrived in Catholicism.

Our daughter has found a happiness that parents could only dream of for their children. Her vocation has, if anything, brought to even fuller flowering the person we love so much. I confess that I am still awed by her decision and am frankly at a loss to fathom the mysterious marriage that she has made with her Lord. But I now know beyond any doubt, based on the peace and happiness she has found, that she made the right choice. In doing so, she has given the rest of her family a gift of inestimable value.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

A Mother's Story

I posted this on The Vocation Operation and decided to share it with you as well. This is not the story of a sister but of her mother. It comes from the Nashville Dominicans, and it the story of the mother of Sister Anne Catherine. There is also a beautiful reflection written by her father which I will also share with you in another post.

Original Story

The eighth-graders fled up to the altar to be confirmed. After receiving the sacrament, each child was sent forth with an exhortation composed by the teacher to befit each one. "Catherine Burleigh," said Mrs. Kennevan, "go forth to teach the Gospel to all the world." Hearing those words, I felt a small electric shock race down my spine. I should have known, but I did not. 

When Gerard Manley Hopkins was the subject of Catherine's junior poet project at the University of Dallas, I should have known, but I did not. When three fourteenth-century English mystics were the subject of her master's thesis at the University of St. Andrews, I should have known, but still I did not because, as Catherine and her father and I knew without a doubt, she was destined to marry and have children. The mystery was not which vocation she would enter but which young man would show up to become her husband.

Mothers, however, have superhuman radar. Catherine was back from graduate school, teaching at a struggling but stalwart little Catholic school that had just opened its doors. A few months at the school confirmed that although teaching may be the hardest work in the world, it also is one of the noblest. Catherine discovered that teaching was to be part of her vocation. 

Watching how Catherine fit into this milieu like a hand in a glove, it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe a religious vocation for her might be in bud. The very thought threw me into a panic, and so I doused it with silence on the subject. As a convert many years ago from Protestantism, I did not grow up being educated by sisters and so had very little knowledge of religious vocations for women. My assumption was that, with the exception of a good friend, most women religious had abandoned their foundational charisms and had left their dwindling orders. Such a life could not attract our daughter.

Nonetheless, our family did know something of a thriving order, the Nashville Dominicans who taught at a school in Cincinnati. We also knew of two or three University of Dallas alumnae who had become Nashville Dominicans, one of whom had been our Catherine's college roommate. "I really ought to visit the Nashville convent," said Catherine, "just to say that I did. I know I don't have a religious vocation, and a visit will prove it." Yes, I thought, a visit will indeed confirm that marriage is Catherine's true vocation.

The visit came and went. "It's really nice down here", Catherine's voice reported on the car phone, "but I know I don't have a vocation. I know I'm supposed to marry and have children." My heart rate returned to normal. Good, I thought. That's behind us.

I should have known, but I did not. A few months later Catherine made another visit. A few months more and she made yet another visit. By this time I was all ears to hear some revealing remark. And I heard. When Catherine spoke the words, "I think I may have a religious vocation," it was nothing but grace that allowed me to answer that we wanted her to follow wherever the Lord might lead her.

It would not be too much to say that the day of her entry into the Dominican convent of St. Cecilia, August 17, 1999, was the most emotional day my husband and I, and even Catherine's brother and sister, had ever experienced. That day, though, was a day of which I was absolutely sure. I had no doubts then and have never had doubts that Catherine was doing exactly what she ought to do in becoming Sr. Anne Catherine, O.P.

Her choice of a vocation as a sister of St. Cecilia came gradually over a year and a half, if not longer; it came quietly, surely, and in total freedom. She wanted to give more; she wanted to give all. It was as simple as that. I knew she was right. I just did not know what to expect.

What we have found is something astonishing. Mysteriously, delicately, Sr. Anne Catherine's vocation has become our family vocation. Her falling in love with the Lord and with her community has become our falling in love the Lord and with her Dominican family, which is now our family. Any fears that she would be wooed away from us were blown away in our first visit to the convent, where we were assured from the outset that the sisters love their families, from whence come their vocations in the first place.

It has been our experience that each visit to the Motherhouse is better than the last, and with each visit we, as well as Sr. Anne Catherine, are more welcomed and loved by the sisters. When we see our daughter becoming not less but more of the lovely young woman she always has been, we rejoice with her. She has a blessed life, filled with grace.

Yet our biggest surprise has been that the grace of her vocation is not reserved to her. It spills over to us and makes us beneficiaries with her. The blessings that have come our way since her entrance into the religious life are too enormous for us not to believe and rejoice in that mercy. If Sr. Anne Catherine is chosen, so, mysteriously, are we.


I've been really bad about posting here the last few days. I've got a new blog I've just set up and that's taking up a huge amount of my time at the moment. Luckily it's not a solo project otherwise I'd be swamped with it all. I've got a long post in the running, it's just taking me a while to complete it. So for now I want to share a beautiful song with you. It's called 'The Call' by the group Celtic Woman, who I'm a huge fan of. I find this song really relatable, it speaks to me about discernment and the call to religious life. Probably not the intended subject of the song but that's part of the joy of music, that is speaks to so many different people in different ways.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Our New Blog

I've started up a new blog with my friend Kim. The Vocation Operation is our compiling of vocation resources and religious communities to help other discerners. We're still setting it up but there are still some resources already up. Keep an eye on it and if you have any suggestions of resources or communities you think deserve to be up there then please message either me or Kim, or just comment on the blog. We're including communities from all over the world so wherever you are, send us any communities you know of.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Funny Coincidences

There was a topic on Phatmass about the sacrament of Confirmation and it made me wonder what the exact date of my confirmation is because I couldn't remember the exact date. So I looked up my old emails and realised it was on the 7th of December. Curiosity led me to look up what saint's feast day that was. Much to my excitement, I discovered that it is the feast day of Saint Ambrose. Some of you may remember I posted a while ago on the religious names I want to submit to the Mother Abbess. And one of the names I want to submit is Mary Ambrose, both for my old parish priest and for the great saint. It's just such a strange coincidence that I would choose that name and unknowingly was confirmed on his feast day. Even stranger, that wasn't the day my parish celebrated Confirmation. They celebrated sometime in October but I was on a trip with my school at the time so I couldn't attend that one. My priest found another parish where I would take the Sacrament at another time and that is how I ended up at the 7th of December, the feast day of Saint Ambrose of Milan. Sometimes I think nothing is really a coincidence, that it's all God working somehow.

Saint Ambrose of Milan, Confessor and Doctor of the Church, pray for us.

Saturday, 18 February 2012


So the past couple of days I've been watching the show 'How I Met Your Mother'. Now I've always loved this show and don't get me wrong, as mindless TV goes it's a good show. But I've been watching it again and I can't help but feel disillusioned. There's this one episode where one character asks another how long it's been since they had sex. The reply is like 57 days or something. That's less than two months. And this is treated like this is something really awful and terrible, some great torture that poor Ted has to endure. It just kind of speaks to this wider attitude that we are constantly bombarded with nowadays. It's like if you're not having as much sex as possible with as many partners as possible then you're doing something wrong and your life is just being wasted. Which is really, really sad. It makes me so sad to see the world like this. I get it, I've been there. I understand the lure of the false promises the world offers. It's enticing and for those who are in spiritual darkness like I was it is very difficult to resist. The world tells us that sex is essential to our happiness and our entire culture seems to revolve around it. I'm not entirely sure what the point of this rant is, it's just been annoying me. 

And it's not just in media. It's people around us as well. Now I will confess I've been there. I feel into that trap and it made me miserable. I've never felt so awful in my entire life. Luckily I realised my mistakes after not too long and came back to the grace of God. There are others who are not so lucky. But I digress. I live with two friends, both guys. Neither are religious, though one is 'technically' Catholic. They both have girlfriends and in our society we all know what that means. I just stay out of it, they know my faith and in the end it's not my place to judge. But they've both said things that illustrate my point. One asked me how long it had been. So I told her, it's just over a year. And she looked at me like I was deprived of something, that I was some poor thing that deserved all this pity. It saddened me that this was the attitude, that it was so incomprehensible that I could be happy living as I am now. Because that's what people really think, they think you can't be happy or fulfilled without sex. The other, she also made a comment once that she couldn't live without sex. Is that not really sad, that people feel that their entire happiness is based on how much sex you have? Does no-one else see a serious problem with that? We depend so much on all these things we think will make us happy, not just sex but money, power, possessions, popularity. Yes, the media is a part of telling us these things but it comes from a wider societal attitude that comes from real people and real attitudes that we face in real, everyday life. 

This is a slight departure from my usual postings but this is something that has been bugging me recently. On a similar note, I was reading on the website for St Cecilia's they've got a section at the moment on the profession of vows since they had a solemn profession just last month of Sr Elizabeth, who is just 25 and entered at 19. So incredible, I really hope I can meet her some day. Nuns are just so amazing. Anyway I digress. There is a quote that struck me from the part of the profession where the nun receives her ring: "He has placed a sign upon my face that I may receive no lover but Him." I long to stand before God and say those words. The traps of the world have no hold on me, for I am betrothed to my Beloved. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Leaving University

Though apologetics isn't usually what I do around here, I was reading an awesome blog post and just had to share it: What The Catholic Church Teaches About Contraception And Why. I thoroughly recommend giving it a proper read, especially with the the health insurance/contraception/etc. stuff going on in the USA at the moment.

Digression from my usual rambling over. I haven't posted much recently because I guess I haven't felt like I had anything to say. I'm kind of feeling at a standstill and I'm not really sure where to go next. I might be leaving university, well not leaving fully but postponing my studies and re-starting the academic year in September. Which would obviously delay any potential entrance until 2013 but I don't want to waste my education and I feel that taking the suspension would be in the best interest of my education. I'm not sure if it'll go through, I need to speak to someone about it, but it would give me time to discern and reflect more before returning to my studies in the autumn. It would also let me start some kind of work in my parish, I've been feeling recently I want to be more active in my new parish. Ideally I'd love to work with some kind of discernment or vocations ministry, helping other young people to be open to God's call for their lives. But I'll take anything if I'm totally honest, I just want to feel connected to the parish more. Because of all the university stuff I've been in kind of a funk lately so hopefully once I sort that out things will become clearer.

Thursday, 9 February 2012


Whenever I read about the religious life, watch videos of solemn professions I feel the deepest longing in my heart to lead that life. It is beyond any other passion or longing and I cannot even describe the feeling that takes over me. I find myself weeping, partly with joy, partly with longing and partly for the days I must wait until I can be fully and totally consecrated to my Beloved and be able to say to the whole world "I am a bride of Christ, I belong fully and only to Him."

Saint Apollonia, martyr for the faith, pray for us. 

Friday, 3 February 2012


The last few times I've been to Mass I noticed something that kind of makes me giggle. Inwardly of course, I was embarrassed enough being the girl with the constant coughing fits - it was so bad that during the Confiteor I was almost sick. Which is always fantastic (not). And of course, it would happen on the one day of the year that they had the Blessing of Throats (since it is the feast day of Saint Blaise). It's been one of those days. Anyway, digression over and back to the giggling. I was at Mass at my new parish and at the dismissal the priest says (as usual) "go forth, the Mass is ended" and the people all respond "thanks be to God". I just kind of had thing thought that is was such a funny way to have it, it's like we're all thanking God that the Mass is finally over! I'm such a child sometimes. 

I hadn't really been going to Daily Mass recently. I can't really go when I'm at home and then the first few weeks back at university were so busy I just never made it in. So I went today for the first time in ages and I was so excited when I remembered it was Friday so I got to go to Adoration as well before Mass. I had been hoping to speak to Father Philip but I didn't get the chance so hopefully I'll get a moment after Mass some day next week.

Discernment-wise, I've been praying and I'm still feeling that St. Cecilia's is the right place for me. I need to figure out how I'm going to go about everything, that's still a big thing for me. I'm  trying to find that right balance between active discernment and still paying enough attention to my university work. I don't want the discernment to totally take over but I also don't want it to fade to the background either. 

Saint Blaise, pray for us.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Girls Just Wanna Be Nuns

I decided today that I would share some light-hearted amusement with you, my lovely readers. So I present to you three videos which I quite like. 

"Girls just wanna be nuns" 

Stuff Catholic Girls Say

Things Catholic Girls Say

Hope you enjoy them and get a laugh out of them.