There are several reasons I am attracted to the religious life. One of them has already been mentioned. I would like to explore a second today. What is it, you ask? Well, in short, it is the inherent ability of the religious state to help one “Love all the Peoples!”
A religious sister I know once told me that when she was young she would dream of being a mother. Sitting in front of the mirror, brushing her hair, she would imagine her future children, what they would look like, what their names would be, etc. One day, as she braided her locks, she tried to figure out how many children she would have.
Four? No, four was not enough.
Ten? Ten was nice.
…no, not ten. Fifteen!
Still not enough.
The number went up and up until she arrived at sixty.
That was when she realized she needed to become a religious sister, because religious are mothers. This might seem like an odd thought, seeing as religious are not even mothers in the physical sense, but as I have pointed out before, “mother” is a verb. To mother means to love and serve unconditionally, and as human beings—but especially as religious—we are called to love and serve everyone in this way. Religious and Consecrated are freer to do this than those in other states.
“It is the vow of chastity that gives us the freedom to love everybody instead of becoming a mother to three or four children.
A married woman can love but one man;
We can love the whole world in Christ.”
The purpose of marriage is to get yourself, your spouse, and your children to heaven (a wonderful and admirable goal). But the purpose of the Religious is to get themselves and as many people as they possibly can to heaven. They are only able to fulfill this goal because they are unconstrained by the obligations of a natural family, the distractions and duties of the world.
“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs. Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world – how she can please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7: 32-34)
I have always felt the need, more or less, to “love all the peoples”. So while I would love to have “my own” children* I have had to think about the quandary of how I am going to bring that homeless couple to a restaurant if I have a bunch of kids at home to worry about. I cannot very well go about giving all my money to the poor when I have a family to support. I cannot pray six hours a day if I have kids to homeschool or a house to clean or a job to work. While I would love to have a husband, and all the intimacy that that entails, especially emotionally, I cannot help but wonder if that would leave me free to be a spiritual support to others. Wouldn’t my husband be jealous of my time and attention? When I spend hours talking to someone about their vocation, when they call me at 1:00 in the AM crying out of sheer frustration (and they have) wouldn’t it only be reasonable for my husband to be a bit frustrated and put out himself? It would not be fair to expect him not to be!
With so many people directly dependent on you, you have to prioritize, and you have to let some go. You can’t help everyone…and you are not really free to actively try. That is not a bad thing, it simply is, and I simply do not want to be limited in this particular area. I do not want to be a mother to a few, I want to mother many. I want to actively love and serve all the peoples. That is the point of a Religious, and that is one of the reasons I am attracted to the religious life.
*I put this in quotes because, while here I mean “my child” in the biological sense, no child is really ours. They are Gods, put into our care for a while by Him, and when you think about it for a while, it doesn’t matter how He puts this child into your care, the end result is the same. So any child can be your child, if God has placed him or her in your care.