ME TO GIVE MYSELF TO CHRIST IN A RADICAL WAY.'
an interview with
Sr Mary Benedict
What were your misconceptions about Religious Life before discerning it?
Probably that the most total way to give myself to Christ had to be the most difficult way, the way most contrary to nature. This was instantly dispelled when I came inside the enclosure here at St. Cecilia’s. I could see that the well-balanced life and the warm family atmosphere here (both Benedictine trademarks) would allow me to flourish both humanly and spiritually, which is certainly what the Father wants for each one.
Who inspired you on your journey?
I have an aunt and cousin who are Missionaries of Charity and it was through sisters of that congregation that I began to consider the religious life. I was always drawn to the integrity of their lives and their joyful conviction but it came as a bit of a shock when I realised I wanted something similar for myself!
What was your greatest worry when discerning your vocation?
That I didn’t have one! There is always that element of mystery we must respect and no matter how much you want it, it is the Lord that decides the matter, so I was afraid that some unforeseen impediment would crop up. I was also hugely shy about everyone finding out; pursuing a vocation was a very public statement about things that felt very intimate to me. Though I couldn’t help either of these fears, neither were worth wasting my energy on; the first fear was a very good sign and as for the second, I received huge support from both obvious and totally unexpected quarters when I told people.
'It is an honour to hold humanity and its needs before God in prayer and so to participate in the redemption wrought by Christ.'
How is the lived reality of your vocation different to how you had perceived it?
The three week live-in I did with the community before entering gave me a very accurate idea of the life and the general spirit of the house. It has really just been a case of entering into it all more and more deeply as time goes on, to be formed and nourished through the life. In one way, the life is consistent in its rhythms but I never get time to notice that as I’m always so busy adapting to the newness when another layer peels away.
How has living your vocation brought you joy?
It allows me to give myself to Christ in a radical way without exterior or interior limits. One of the things that drew me to the cloister was seeing how much He is neglected and forgotten in the world, but here I am wholly available to Him and nothing comes before Him. It is a great privilege to live in this way when so many of the faithful have important responsibilities which keep them from doing this in the same way. It is an honour to hold humanity and its needs before God in prayer and so to participate in the redemption wrought by Christ.
'Not actually committing to anything is like getting stuck at the crossroads and only serves to delay your own happiness.'
What have been the highlights of living out your vocation?
Of course, I will never forget the days when I was accepted to be clothed, the clothing day itself and then my profession. There are also the more private ones, too, when you can thank the Lord for sustaining you through a difficult moment or when you catch yourself being overcome by gratitude for the sisters He has surrounded you with. Our Lord was being very modest when he described our reward as only being a hundred-fold.
What would you say to someone else considering Religious Life?
Be brave! Nothing done in good faith can ever be a mistake. Pursuing a vocation is simply pursuing the Lord’s will. The Church tells us how precious the consecrated life is but even if the journey doesn’t ultimately lead there for everyone, that doesn’t mean a wrong road has been taken, it means you are further along the right one. Wanting to delay by keeping all your options open and not actually committing to anything is like getting stuck at the crossroads and only serves to delay your own happiness. Trust in Him and make a leap!