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St.Veronica

Impediment to religious life?

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St.Veronica

Hi,

I started discerning religious life since early 2014 for about a year and a half and then I have been off and on. Are multiple events of fornication and cohabitation (for a few months) considered impediments to religious life? What about coming from an abusive family? I was told communities wouldn't want to accept people with family backgrounds of abuse because communities are afraid that they would be running away from their family. 

Would communities even consider that candidate? Or let that candidate into the novitiate and eventually take vows?

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Lou

Interesting that you post this as we read the Sunday's reading from St Paul on fornication and our bodies! (UK missal)

Community to community- it all varies. I think practising chastity for two/ three years before entering is generally the rule, but I'm not certain of the technicalities in that. However, I do know people who have had massive conversions in their late 20s or 30s that have led them to religious life and they have been previously cohabiting. It's about your conversion and your life as lived on the discernment journey! You can only live out of your own experience.

As regards an abusive family... it depends on how much healing you've undergone and whether or not there was psychological abuse or illnesses stemming from that abuse. There is no blanket rule- discernment of the Lord's call always varies from person to person. Also formation is different for everyone so of course you'll have to pass a psychological assessment and speak to the vocations director about it all and about how you've dealt with the abuses. However, if the Lord has made you for religious life, there may be barriers to overcome but, God provides! And He will guide your path and those directing your path. 

It is sometimes thought that entering religious life is an "escape" from your tenuous family background. But if you've shown that you can life independently and lead a life that it unattached to an abusive home, then it's not an escape.. because you've already 'escaped'! It's not to a convent/monastery that one should be running to if they're trying to 'escape' anyway! 

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Sister Leticia

Welcome!

There are three separate issues here.

Firstly, previous sexual experience and/or cohabitation are not barriers to religious life. If a congregation says they are, then would they also say that earning and spending a lot of money is a barrier because the person might struggle with poverty, or being in a senior position at work is a barrier because the person might struggle with obedience? Would they really say that God is unable to enter someone's life and captivate them so much that they are willing to give up things (and people) they previously enjoyed? No, surely not! And if a congregation does say this, then don't spend your time knocking on their door.

Secondly, is the issue of coming from an abusive family. As Lou has already said, it really is a question of how [much] the individual was affected; what healing may have happened; how the person's history of abuse affects their ability to form relationships, to trust, to deal with difficulties etc; and the person's capacity for continued growth and healing. 

Most orders will ask candidates to have a psychological assessment, which will help to flag up potential areas of concern, and where and how support might be needed.

And the third issue is where you say "I was told that communities wouldn't want to accept... in case they would be running away from their family". I've never heard that as THE concern about people from abusive backgrounds (especially if the person is an adult and has already been living independently, as you must have been). Concerns are more likely to be about how much a person would be able to live in community, to be loving, able to relate in simplicity and trust, not to be forever fearful of authority figures and so on.

So who told you this? Was it the vocations director of a religious order? Or someone who you think knows about these things, but maybe they don't? Beware of believing people who sound authoritative and as if they're experts when maybe they're not - and beware, therefore, of worrying so much about what they've said that you don't move forward. 

Blessings on your discernment, and your searching

 

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TheresaThoma

In addition to what has been said above I would definitely encourage you to seek out a good Spiritual Director. I know sometimes it can be hard to find a spiritual director but God always provides.

Blessings as you continue on this journey!

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