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What Happens When Nuns/sisters Leave The Order?

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brandelynmarie
[quote name='osapientia' date='29 March 2010 - 08:53 PM' timestamp='1269906839' post='2082975']
It may well be that Merton said that, I'm not sure. My own spiritual director, a Carthusian for 7 years, now a parish priest once said to me that if the Church is a hospital for sinners, then the monastery must be INTENSIVE CARE. That just cracks me up.

Pax,
Osap
[/quote]



Too funny! :D

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brandelynmarie
[quote name='Divine Mercy 9999' date='29 March 2010 - 08:54 PM' timestamp='1269906851' post='2082976']
- I am older and am discerning. I've heard it said that older vocations tend not to persevere. (It is the reason some communities won't take older vocations.) Any advice, comments?
[/quote]

excellent question. I heard that it is because as we get older we tend to be more "stuck" in our ways...& not as open to changing...but :idontknow: .any other thoughts? Edited by brandelynmarie

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MarieLynn
[quote name='brandelynmarie' date='30 March 2010 - 02:23 PM' timestamp='1269912223' post='2083025']
excellent question. I heard that it is because as we get older we tend to be more "stuck" in our ways...& not as open to changing...but [img]http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/public/style_emoticons/default/idontknow.gif[/img] .any other thoughts?
[/quote]


I too have been told that the older discerner would find it much harder to conform to the Order's "ways" than maybe a younger person. It has also been said by a Religious, that older people tend to question more, and are less accepting, whereas this Sister said she had found that younger vocations accept things with, and I use her words, "blind faith".

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tinytherese
[quote name='tinytherese' date='29 March 2010 - 05:12 PM' timestamp='1269900732' post='2082918']
I really do think that it's the vow of obedience that gets me nervous when I think about it. This isn't to say that I'm a headstrong rebel and it can train us in humility. I just have the image of someone's identity being supressed, especially at a complative convent.

The practice of being silent many times of the day, get me feeling uneasy as well. This isn't to say that silence can't be a good thing at times, but I'd still like to have social interaction and for sisters to get to know each other properly. I remember going on a visit once to a community in the past, and what with all of the quiet and silence that we had to keep at most times apart from recreation, I felt as if they weren't getting a true feel for who I am personality and temperament wise.

Talk of mortification used to not be such a big deal to me as well, but I wonder how far you draw the line on that. I wouldn't want to become puritanical or scupulous. I know that we should definitely not be attached to material things, but I wouldn't want it to look or feel like we were being massochists or hate innocent pleasures, because pleasure is not evil, unlike what lots of people outside of the Church mistakingly think that we believe. I thought that religious communities were called to off whatever they do suffer for the good of others, but not to torture themselves in the process and beat themselves up. I get the image of someone getting hit with something and saying, "Thank you, may I have another." :mellow:

I just know that these things have been on my mind as far as religious life goes. Part of me is just so nervous about living such a vocation. I am a sensitive young lady who has experienced various forms of abuse, been manipulated, sadistically tortured, and been very hurt by people who I should have been able to trust. Some of my friends have minimized what I've gone though, acting as if I was the selfish one with a wonderful life that I should be grateful that worse didn't happen to me.

I would just really hope that if one dedicates their entire life to the Lord like this with others who do the same, that they would treat each other with love and dignity as every family should. They are not called "sisters" for nothing.
[/quote]

Is anyone going to comment on this or should I start a new thread?

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zunshynn
[quote name='tinytherese' date='29 March 2010 - 04:12 PM' timestamp='1269900732' post='2082918']
I really do think that it's the vow of obedience that gets me nervous when I think about it. This isn't to say that I'm a headstrong rebel and it can train us in humility. I just have the image of someone's identity being supressed, especially at a complative convent.

The practice of being silent many times of the day, get me feeling uneasy as well. This isn't to say that silence can't be a good thing at times, but I'd still like to have social interaction and for sisters to get to know each other properly. I remember going on a visit once to a community in the past, and what with all of the quiet and silence that we had to keep at most times apart from recreation, I felt as if they weren't getting a true feel for who I am personality and temperament wise.

Talk of mortification used to not be such a big deal to me as well, but I wonder how far you draw the line on that. I wouldn't want to become puritanical or scupulous. I know that we should definitely not be attached to material things, but I wouldn't want it to look or feel like we were being massochists or hate innocent pleasures, because pleasure is not evil, unlike what lots of people outside of the Church mistakingly think that we believe. I thought that religious communities were called to off whatever they do suffer for the good of others, but not to torture themselves in the process and beat themselves up. I get the image of someone getting hit with something and saying, "Thank you, may I have another." :mellow:

I just know that these things have been on my mind as far as religious life goes. Part of me is just so nervous about living such a vocation. I am a sensitive young lady who has experienced various forms of abuse, been manipulated, sadistically tortured, and been very hurt by people who I should have been able to trust. Some of my friends have minimized what I've gone though, acting as if I was the selfish one with a wonderful life that I should be grateful that worse didn't happen to me.

I would just really hope that if one dedicates their entire life to the Lord like this with others who do the same, that they would treat each other with love and dignity as every family should. They are not called "sisters" for nothing.
[/quote]

Just like anyone else in the world... religious are wounded human beings, and they sin. They hurt each other sometimes. That doesn't mean they don't love each other, but they do fail each other... Just like a family. Sometimes families hurt each other seriously. I think that God allows friction and tension between religious to take place not only because it allows us to be humbled, but also, and perhaps more importantly, because God wants our hearts for Himself, and to remind us that no other human being can satisfy us completely... and if community life was always joyful and everyone always charitable... we would forget Him!

I always had a hard time with obedience... I think everyone does... It was so easy for me to think that I know what's best for me, and maybe I did, alot of the time... but God was going to bless my efforts to obey my superior, not the things I might be able to accomplish if I did what I liked/thought was the smarter thing. For example... one year I worked in the kitchen. To be honest, I hated it. I'm not a good cook. There would have been a lot of jobs I'm sure I could have done better, that would have given me more time that I could spend in prayer, or spiritual reading, and maybe God's primary will would have been for me to do something else... but He drew much more graces, I'm sure (I hope) from my working in the kitchen. Or another example... when I was an extern, I might have had all of these plans on a given day... I'm going to clean the sanctuary, mop the pews, steam the priests albs, etc... and then my superior tells me, "Faustina, you have to go with Sister to Birmingham today to run errands." :mellow: Now, objectively speaking, the sacristan's work that I was planning on doing and being home for Divine Office and everything, was much more important than whatever the errand was... But God actually defers to the orders of the superior... He loves obedience so much, that He would have been more pleased by my cheerfully going on the errand than he would have been if I had done the more objectively important thing, taking care of the church, and He would bless that sacrifice that I made. Not everyone is called to that kind of obedience though... and if these things really make you that uneasy, that might be a sign that you [i]don't[/i] have a vocation to religious life... but you have to remember, that doesn't mean, in any way, that you are not called to become just as holy, or Sometimes people get this idea that, if you are devout and take your relationship with God seriously, that means you should become a religious, and if you don't, you aren't giving of yourself as much. That's a bunch of hooey. Everyone is called to live a devout life, to be consumed by love for God, to be close to the sacramental life of the Church. EVERYONE. Everyone. For some people, religious life would NOT be the way in which they would give of themselves the most.

Religious life does call for religious to deny themselves legitimate pleasures. They are more particularly called to a life of sacrifice. That doesn't mean that by sacrificing they are saying that those things they sacrifice are bad. On the contrary, it's a testimony to how much of a good it is. The sacrifices we make are gifts that we give to God... you wouldn't "give" Him... or anyone... something that wasn't worth much, or was bad. Like marriage... religious don't take vows of celibate chastity because marriage is "bad"... they do it because it is good! They are voluntarily choosing to give up a very good thing to show to God, and to the world, that it is a good thing, so good that it is a worthy gift to give to God. It's the same with mortification... giving up legitimate pleasures. But it's true... mortification should not become a matter for scrupulosity or a way to vent any kind of self hatred. That's why religious generally have to ask permission to undertake mortifications.

We all experience injustices, are hurt by those we trust... and that can become baggage that will really drag you down in trying to live religious life wholeheartedly... personally, that was a huge hurdle I experienced as a religious. It is so incredibly important especially for religious, and in my personal opinion particularly for contemplatives to not dwell on past hurts, as legitimate and real and unjust as they might be... because it's an avenue for self-absorption, that really is not healthy, especially in contemplative life, because it is such an intense life, especially interiorly speaking, and everything is magnified, that if you can't allow yourself to move on from pain and suffering and injustices that you've experienced, you kind of make it impossible for the Lord to even heal you... and if there's this wound that you won't allow to be healed, your life as a religious will not really be able to bear fruit. Because you can't live religious life peacefully if you hold onto that kind of baggage. That doesn't mean that you pretend those things didn't happen... but you do have to be able to accept it, offer it to God to use somehow, and move on. Truthfully, I had been hurt in the past, very seriously... and it became baggage that I became absorbed with. I don't think I really cooperated with God as he tried to heal me... and honestly... I think that's why I couldn't stay.

As for silence... one thing that you come to really experience in religious life, is that if you're wholeheartedly practicing silence the way it's supposed to be lived, according to what the rule calls for, it in no way prevents those in the community from truly being a family. It is not supposed to be a cold silence... but really, one of respect and love for each other. One of my confessors told me once, not to think of silence as a rule to be kept, and not to think of it so much as an absence of something, but to think of it as an opportunity to converse with my Beloved. By keeping silence, you are not only giving God a chance to speak to you, but you're also giving Him a chance to speak to your sisters.

There is a story about Bl. Giles of Assisi, one of the first Franciscans, and St. Louis, that St. Louis travelled all the way to Bl. Giles' hermitage to see him, and then when the other brothers told him that there was someone to see him, and he went out and God revealed to him that it was the King of France and as soon as they saw each other, they embraced for a long time, but said nothing to each other... and then they went their separate ways... the other brothers were shocked that he didn't speak to the king, but then Bl. Giles explained that words would have hindered them... that in silence, God revealed the one's heart entirely to the other, in a way that they never could have in speaking.

My community was certainly very ordinary people... but I can say that I definitely still say that that idea still applied. The sisters that kept the silence most faithfully, truthfully, seemed the happiest, the most at peace... they were usually the most charitable, thoughtful ones... and they seemed to know everyone so well. Speaking, in reality, is probably the greatest occasion for sins that there is... because so much of what we say, in some way, hurts our neighbor, or is filled with little bits of self-will, and pride, even often enough in talking about holy things. By exercising greater silence, once again, religious testify to the beauty and the power of the gift of speech, as well as making reparation for so many offenses by the tongue. Most of us have grown up in a society that is relatively loud... that seeks to fill every silence with some kind of sound... so when that's what you're accustomed to, the idea of striving to keep silence seems unnatural and oppressive. But once you really embrace it, you find that, on the contrary, the mentality that talking is the way to maintain a friendship, or any relationship, is actually a little bit more oppressive in some ways. That was my experience anyway. I grew to be much closer to the sisters in my community, not in spite of the silence, but I think largely because of the silence, than I think I ever will with even my best friends and my blood family who I can talk to whenever.

so yeah... in my experience, contemplative life doesn't suppress your personality by any means... really it allows you to discover your personality... insofar as you truly devote your whole mind and whole heart to God. The paradoxical thing is, you don't come to understand yourself by thinking about yourself. You understand yourself when you think about God. The more focus on yourself, or on others in your community, the less you understand God, yourself, or anyone else! My superior used to say that we have no problem contemplating... we contemplate the "earthly trinity", me, myself and I, all day long... but contemplative life is learning to contemplate the Blessed Trinity... which is a constant struggle :)

sorry that's ridiculously long and probably incoherent... I should probably still try to work on keeping my words to a minimum... practice what I preach. :lol: Edited by zunshynn

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Divine Mercy 9999
[quote name='MarieLynn' date='29 March 2010 - 09:34 PM' timestamp='1269916455' post='2083077']
I too have been told that the older discerner would find it much harder to conform to the Order's "ways" than maybe a younger person. It has also been said by a Religious, that older people tend to question more, and are less accepting, whereas this Sister said she had found that younger vocations accept things with, and I use her words, "blind faith".
[/quote]

I've thought about that - in a lot of ways I am much more flexible than I was in my twenties. Stuff doesn't get to me as much anymore. That said, I've lived by myself for a lot of years, so the thought of community life is kinda scary.

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andrearaven
Is there any way that I can find out why my mother left the convent back in the 1960's? She did make her final vows and was at Notre Dame at one point. It's important for me to know and understand why.

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Sister Marie

I'm assuming that asking your mother is not an option.  That would be the best way to get the most complete account of her time in the convent and why she left.  If you contact the community, they probably won't be able to tell you any details but they would most likely have archives in which they could tell you about where your mother was stationed, what she did, for how long.  Possibly there would be a sister who knew her personally and would be willing to speak with you about what your mother was like and maybe about her struggles but generally information on why someone left isn't shared with those outside community.

 

May I ask why it is so important for you to have this information at this point?  Please don't reveal anything too personal on here.  If you want to PM me, please do so. 

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AnneLine

Hi, AndreaRaven,  welcome to Phatmass!   

 

I was thinking much along the lines of Sister Marie, but also have one other thing to mention... something that occurred to me as a person who is slightly older and was around during the 1960's.  That was a VERY tumultuous time for people in general and especially for religious.  A lot of communities made a lot of changes, and the style of religious life changed a lot.  MANY, many women left during that period, so don't think it is necessarily a negative that your mom decided to leave.

 

As Sister Marie said, don't put too many details on line -- anyone can read what is on Phatmass.  You may especially want to look over what is posted at the top of Vocation Station regarding privacy -- it isn't because we don't want to help, but it is to safeguard you and your mom, and all those sister and brothers and priests who have made the difficult decision to leave.

 

You're welcome to PM me as well, if I can be of any help.  (I may be able to help you figure out which community she was in, if you are not sure, and how to contact them, for example.)

 

Praying for you and your mom!

Edited by AnneLine

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SNJM

It has been my experience in Spiritual Direction that all people have very individual stories and experiences, but to answer one question that seems to linger, those who DECIDE to leave as opposed to those who are ASKED to leave do much better in finding their center again. I can only compare it to being in a relationship - the one "dumped" is usually (even if they also felt the relationship wasn't working) sometimes takes it harder than the "dumper." I can also tell you that it is really important to take advantage of the formation time, that's what it is there for - if, for whatever reason, you feel as if the community isn't the right place or you're not fitting in - take it prayer, talk about it, and leave if that's what you must do. It's much harder to leave (on everybody) when one has these feelings and doesn't act on them (sometimes for years).

 

Lastly, back to my original point - no matter the circumstances of the separation, one can always expect a sense of loss, embarrassment, disappointment, rejection and many other feelings. These are normal and should not be ignored. If you find yourself leaving a community - or being asked to leave - please seek professional counseling along with a good Spiritual Director. Some of what may come up should be shared with someone who can truly listen and guide you. And don't underestimate the interpersonal dynamics of community living, which some of you shared stories about - sometimes, like many families, communities are not healthy and can be dysfunctional. These are things you might not have ever expected until you lived the life and got to know the individuals. Again, communities and the particular way of life (monastics vs. active as an example) make a big difference.

 

I hope this helps. Many of the stories that have already been shared are very powerful and even today, painful to read. As for the person wondering about their mother leaving the convent, again, depending upon the community, they would have kept records about her - especially since she made her final vows. Since the person mentioned Notre Dame, I don't think any of us need worry about breaking confidentiality since there are so many different communities of Notre Dame Sisters, here in the US and in Europe. She could have been anywhere, in any one community with Notre Dame in the title of the congregation and that information wasn't given. But, good advice in not giving out too much information since this public. If your mother is no longer living, I would imagine the Administration would in fact answer your questions, since her departure would have been recorded thoroughly. It's much more difficult to leave religious life - then and now - after final vows as many of you know.

 

I hope this helps,

 

Rose

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BarbaraTherese

Well stated, Rose - and I am quite confident your post will be helpful.  Prayer for those who leave religious life whether it is their decision or not.  And prayer too for those 'dumped' in any way - and for the one who 'dumped' (sometimes not an easy decision).  Knowing what is right or wrong for a situation can be a very dark area indeed at the time - possibly only hindsight will give an answer - and sometimes further along still before one knows for sure it was the right answer.  I think perhaps too sometimes too one just has to move along in one's journey without a clear answer with confident trust in The Lord alone.

 

Prayer too for andrearaven and her question about her mother. I hope you will find your answer since it an is important question to you.

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maximillion

I think the age thing is a little bit of the above - a belief that older people tend to be more set in their ideas and so harder to 'form'. It is also a little bit of a leave over from that past when it was acceptable for people to enter not having had any higher or further Education. Now that lots of people do they then often have student debt to pay off, which can delay things further age wise.

 

From what I see, the trends are changing though, with many communities willing to accept older women.

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oremus1

This thread is seriously creeping me out. This is so sad. I remember on a vocation visit where I told the prioress about the relationship with my dad and I. She actually told me that I deserved the various abuses that he did to me. She insisted that in her experience with abuse, there is no innocent party. So to her, I was at least partially to blame for some of the abuse. I believed her at the time, but not anymore. I had trusted her so much and so I thought that she knew best. She seemed like such a wise woman. I don't believe that she intended to hurt me at all, but that she was simply uneducated and didn't know how to properly handle the situation. I know I mentioned that on another thread in the past.


Wow thats awful. what if you had entered without knowing, and you found out that she was abusive later.

 

I cant believe it. i thought nuns were supposed to love God and be holy.

 

i am a kind balanced person and if i was a prior i would never wish pain suffering or abuse on anyone.  yet is so common. and the person who leaves is told it is THEIR fault. they were NOT called. they failed in their vocation.

 

this is why i suppose the CV vocation is the fastest growing form of consecrated life.

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maximillion

oremus1, you are making a whole ton of sweeping generalisations here which I do not like.

 

 

and the person who leaves is told it is THEIR fault. they were NOT called. they failed in their vocation.

 

 

This has been the case and it may happen occasionally.

 

However, it is NOT usual. 

In many cases the person and the community discern together that that community is not the right fit.

I think you need to take care out of charity not to take the experience of one person and extract from it, applying it to everyone.

As you yourself have mentioned elsewhere there are communities bursting at the seams - this hardly means that people are turning to CV because someone was horrid to them when they tried life in the convent, which seems to me to be why your post implies.

 

My opinion is that CV is growing precisely because it does not demand one to enter into a community. That is not a criticism, simply an observation.

The call to being a CV is not one that one turns to (or should not be)because someone in a community somewhere was nasty to you.

 

 

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