By Sr. Maggie Beaudette, CSJ
In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II instituted a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. The feast of the Presentation of Jesus on Feb. 2 is also known as Candlemas Day, a day in which candles are blessed. Candles when lit, symbolize Christ who is the light of the world. So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Christ to all peoples.
Pope Francis speaks of religious life in these terms:
- Praise which gives joy to God’s people
- Prophetic vision that reveals what counts
- It is not about dying, but about new life (especially in these days of decline in membership and aging)
- It is a living encounter with the Lord in his people
- It is a call to faithful obedience of daily life
- It is faithful obedience to the unexpected surprises from the Spirit.
(Pope Francis, World Day of Consecrated Life, 2019)
In 2018, Pope Francis wrote that everything with regards to vocation started with an encounter with the Lord and a call. I can never renew that encounter without others. Consecrated men and women are called first and foremost to be men and women of encounter.
With these thoughts in mind, I will share a bit of my journey as a consecrated religious, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada.
From my earliest time of remembering, I always knew that I would be a Sister and a teacher. There was never any doubt. To that end, I always thought I had a very boring vocation story. There was no great decision, no huge sacrifice.
When I was home at my parents’ at the time of my oldest brother’s death, Mom had started writing her memoirs and she let me read them. In her writing she tells the story of my very early days of life. She tells of being home with a 2 and 1/2 year old, a 1 and1/2 year old, a new baby and the dog. Dad was working night shift in the city. I was about a month old and had a severe cold. I stopped breathing. (Mom, being a nurse knew what to do.) As she tried to revive me she prayed that if I lived, God could do with me what he wanted. And then she writes, “I suppose that is why she is happy wherever she is.”
As I was reflecting yesterday, I realized that, since I was born Jan. 2, it is very likely this event happened around the Feast of the Presentation. Now I knew my vocation story! The seed was planted that night. It continued to be nourished through our family prayer, the faith of my parents and parish community, as I grew up in a small community in Ontario about the size of Enterprise, NT.
A couple of specific examples of our family prayer are very clear to me. We prayed the rosary each night. I was by no means the pious one in the family.
I recall playing baseball in the back field. It did not matter what was happening in the game. I could be up to bat and Mom or Dad would come out and call us in to pray. The bat dropped and in we went. Any of the other friends were welcome to join us.
Or another time, when my youngest brother Tim was able to pray a decade, I clearly remember his first time. We had been watching TV. Off went the program. He was so slow! I said, “Hurry! The commercial will be over!” (Today you can pray a whole decade of the rosary as we have so many commercials!)
My life growing up was very ordinary. My vocation was nourished through my family, my parish community and some Sisters that I met throughout my early years. It was that encounter with God, but also with others that supported this seed of religious vocation.
I entered the community of the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1965, and was received into the community in July of 1966. (There was a beautiful celebration for my 50th Jubilee here in Hay River in 2016.)
After seven years, in 1973, I professed my final vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. I also promised to strive to live the virtues of humility and hospitality, characteristic of a Sister of St. Joseph.
On that day, a wise, elderly Sister said to me, “Congratulations! I will pray for your perseverance.” I thought, what an odd thing to say, since in my mind, I had made it. How wise she was, as through the years I have relied on the prayers of others to remain faithful and true to my calling and commitment. Prayers of others help me to live that obedience to everyday life that Pope Francis spoke about.
Pope Francis also mentioned the unexpected surprise of the Spirit. This is very much a part of my prayer, my willingness to be open to minister where the Lord is calling me. And I always want to be sure that it is God’s agenda, not mine.
Each of us, through our baptism, are brought into relationship with our Creator. We all share in the ministry of Jesus to enhance the kingdom of God, and we are all gifted with the Holy Spirit to guide us in this relationship.
Each of us has a vocation. It may be to the single life, married life, priesthood or consecrated, religious life. As each person lives out his or her vocation, faithfully, with its ups and downs, I am also strengthened in my vocation to be faithful.
In today’s society, we are all busy. Families are often super busy especially with the children’s activities, But, I encourage families to take time for prayer, at meals or bedtime. Pray for openness to the call of the Lord, whatever it might be.
Finally, Pope Francis speaks of consecrated religious life as an experience “of what we need to embrace in order to experience joy: JESUS.” My life, with all its ups and downs, sometimes doubts and confusion, sometimes difficulty in staying focused and faithful to prayer, ultimately is a life of joy.
As I echo my mom’s words “and, so perhaps that is why she is happy wherever she is” I say thank you – mahsi, – to my parish community, to the community of Katlodeeche and Hay River, where I am nurtured daily to be faithful to my life of enhancing the kingdom of God.