For Love Alone

I have been waiting with great anticipation to announce this news, and am so excited to finally share it! On September 8, 2020, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I will be entering a religious community of Catholic sisters in Ottawa. What exactly does that mean? In simple terms, I’m moving to a convent to become a nun. So in some ways, this is the equivalent of an engagement announcement. Unlike typical engagements, however, this one lasts for 6 to 9 years, until I eventually take final vows as a religious sister and bride of Christ, God willing.

Religious formation and preparation for a life of consecration is a long process, and requires a great deal of discernment, growth and trust – both before entrance and after. This was not the path I initially expected my life to take, and may be a shock to some of you, so I would like to share a little of my journey, from resistance and denial to joyful anticipation. But first, to provide some context, I’ll give a very brief explanation of what religious life in the Catholic Church is, on a broad scale.

(FYI… There is so much more I could have written in this post, so please feel free to ask any and all questions you might still have after reading – big or small! I can’t promise I’ll have all the answers, but I’ll do my best.)

Religious life is a form of Consecrated Life within the Church. For something or someone to be consecrated means to be set aside for a specific service or purpose, in this context, a sacred service. Consecration literally means “to associate with the sacred,” ie. God.

The Consecrated Life, deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord, is a gift of God the Father to his Church through the Holy Spirit. By the profession of the evangelical counsels the characteristic features of Jesus — the chaste, poor and obedient one — are made constantly “visible” in the midst of the world and the eyes of the faithful are directed towards the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven.
        In every age there have been men and women who, obedient to the Father’s call and to the prompting of the Spirit, have chosen this special way of following Christ, in order to devote themselves to him with an “undivided” heart (cf. 1 Cor 7:34). Like the Apostles, they too have left everything behind in order to be with Christ and to put themselves, as he did, at the service of God and their brothers and sisters. In this way, through the many charisms of spiritual and apostolic life bestowed on them by the Holy Spirit, they have helped to make the mystery and mission of the Church shine forth, and in doing so have contributed to the renewal of society.

Vita Consecrata, 1

Religious life is meant to be lived in community, and all religious profess vows to live out the Evangelical Councils of poverty, chastity and obedience, with some communities professing a fourth vow relating to their unique charism. Some of the most well known religious orders include the Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines, Carmelites, Salesians and Augustinians. The community I’m entering is called the Queenship of Mary Community, founded only 13 years ago, with 12 current members, so they are still in the very early stages of development.

My community recently released their new website, which you can find here, and on Victoria Day, they hosted a virtual celebration which you can find on YouTube here. The first half has some great information about their founding, who the Queenship is, and how their apostolates (works of service) are developing, so please check it out if you’re interested. The video and website give a far better overview of the community than I could provide here, and you’ll get to ‘meet’ the Sisters.

Here is what I can tell you. I was one way, and now I am completely different, and the thing that happened in between was Him.

Mary Magdalene, The Chosen

If you had told me in high school that someday I would become a nun, I would have thought you were crazy. I hadn’t yet met Jesus (that happened at the very end of grade 12, just before I turned 18), and even after that first encounter, it still took years for God to soften my heart enough to consider what He might be asking of me. 

My journey towards religious life began in the fall of 2013. I was riding the city bus one morning on my way to class, reading Where There is Love, There is God by Mother Teresa. As I sat, reflecting on the gift of her spiritual motherhood and my own deep desire to love others in the way she had, I heard God whisper these very clear, unexpected, and frankly unwelcome words in the silence of my heart, “You could be a mother to far more people as a nun than you ever could be as a biological/adoptive mother.”

For years afterwards, I tried to dismiss those words but I never fully managed it. I resisted partly because religious life didn’t seem like a real option, but more because my life-long desire for marriage and children had been so strong, I was actually unable to consider another possible vocation. It took a few years and several conversations with actual religious sisters and other consecrated women, to realize my natural desires for marriage and children are actually necessary in order to live out the fullness of religious life. There ultimately came a point when I could no longer ignore the persistent tug I felt from the Lord to surrender my plans to Him.

You might well wonder why on earth a young woman living in the 21st century would give up marriage, children, a career of my own choosing, financial stability, and many other things to pursue this path in life. From a human/worldly perspective, it really makes no sense. All I can say is when I came to believe Jesus Christ really is who He claimed to be, I began to ask Him what more I could give. Despite growing up in the Catholic Church and receiving all my Sacraments as a kid, it took a powerful personal encounter for me to finally take Jesus at His word. When I came to believe that He is a real, living person, who walked the earth, freely gave His life out of love for me, and then rose from the dead, pursuing me into eternity, I realized He was worth giving everything for. Despite my initial enthusiasm as a new believer, it still took years for me to open up to the idea of a vocation to religious life. I could fill a book with the story of that journey.

As my relationship with Christ deepened, and the Lord brought people into my life who were living witnesses to a life of total consecration, my perspective on religious life completely changed. This did not happen overnight, but it is one of the most evident signs of the Lord’s work in my life. He literally transformed my heart, and after years of patience, He re-presented an invitation I no longer wanted to resist. I came to recognize God as the true fulfillment of all my desires, who wants nothing more than the totally unique love of my heart, and I began to long for a life of total surrender to Him and His beloved children – whatever that looked like.  

Before I go any further, lest it seem like my journey from that moment forward has been smooth sailing, let me assure you, it has not. When I began seriously discerning religious life (back in 2017), I thought the biggest hurdle would be to let go of the longing I felt for marriage and family life, and all the plans I’d been dreaming of since I was a little girl. Then came the mutual discernment process with actual religious communities. That was a whole other hurdle, at times very painful and difficult, as I searched for the place and the religious family God intended for me. Very few people speak about that part of discernment. It is not as simple as showing up at the door of your nearest convent and saying “OK, I think I have a religious vocation! I’m ready to join you!” In this process, there are more parallels to a dating relationship than people might realize. It is very much a two-sided process of discernment. 

As I’ve let God more fully into my heart and mind and allowed Him to lead the way in my life, I have come to see that Christ wants every part of me – my plans, hopes, dreams, gifts, talents, as well as my fears, sins, lies, inadequacies, and failures. Yet in my surrender, He always returns infinity more than I can give. In the words of one of my favourite women, Mary Bielski, “there’s a beauty in laying your life down for Love itself, because love requires something of us. It’s not always easy. […] But the truth is, there’s a Lover and a God who will set us free” (LoveLife Conference 2020). This is true for each of us, my dear friends. God longs to redeem and transform our broken places so they shine with light, love and glory. This has been my reality, and I know with absolute certainty that despite any challenges that will come, I am gaining far more than I am giving up in offering my life to Him as a religious. I have long had a missionary heart and a desire to “choose all” like my saint-sister, Thérèse of Lisieux. For loved ones worried that I am throwing away my education and the future I could have had pursuing a career designing, travelling, teaching, etc. – God is not asking me to give up the many passions I have dedicated my life to. He has asked me to surrender them to Him so He can bring them to fulfillment in a way that, yes, might look different than what I’d planned, but will actually be better than I could ever have imagined. I believe this with every fibre of my being. He calls each of us to a unique and epic adventure with Him. This is mine. 

The relationship I have with Christ, from its very beginnings, has radically altered my life. There is nothing I desire more than to love Him wholeheartedly and make His love known to others. He is my “pearl of great price” – worth giving everything for. A religious vocation is not a mark of holiness. Each one of us is equally called to sanctity, in whatever vocation God intends for us, whether that’s marriage, the single life, consecrated single life, priesthood or religious life. As Cardinal Collins emphasized in one of his recent homilies, “it’s a universal call to holiness, not to mediocrity – we are all called to be saints!” The Catholic Church has been loudly proclaiming this since the Second Vatican Council. I know so many incredibly faithful and holy people living out the vocation of marriage, and it is beautiful to behold. This just happens to be the particular way God has made my heart to love. My heart belongs so completely to Him, I could not give it to another man in the way marriage requires. I have come to believe that He made me for Himself alone.

September is just the continuation of my “yes” in response to God’s love. There is still a chance He might ultimately lead me in a different direction, but right now, this is how I’m being asked to follow Him, and in imitation of Mary – who, more than anyone else, has been the one leading me ever closer to her Son – I say, fiat mihi (let it be done unto me)! 

∞∞∞

A few practical things…

  1. Come September, I will no longer be using any social media. Unfortunately, that means this blog will also become inactive. However, I will still have my email address, andreaquinn94 [at] gmail.com. I sincerely hope many of you will remain in touch with me that way. Also, if you know me, you know how much I love snail mail – both sending and receiving it. I will definitely be keeping up written correspondence and would love to receive letters, cards, postcards, etc. from anyone who wants to send them. Please contact me if you want my new mailing address.
  2. Second, I would love to pray for any intentions you might have. Please feel free to reach out anytime. Once I enter the Queenship, I can have my sisters pray for you as well. We have several hours of prayer throughout the day, which provides lots of opportunities for intercession. I would also very much appreciate your prayers leading up to September 8th and beyond, as I continue to discern God’s calling on my life and progress through years of religious formation – that I might be a vessel of God’s Merciful Love.
  3. Finally, if you would like to support me in other practical ways, you can check out my newly-launched small business on Instagram, Magnificat Anima. Along with my friend Emily (who will take over the page in the fall), I’m selling many different handmade items (rosaries, prints and original drawings, jewellery, paintings and commissions). Entrance into a religious community requires the candidate to be debt-free, so this would help cover the last bit I have left from grad school. Covid caused problems with my full-time architecture work this summer, so I’m getting creative with ways to earn money. Since I’ll be getting rid of nearly all my clothes, I’m also considering selling certain pieces, so keep an eye out for those on my social media.

Again, if you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to ask.

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