Chastity – Disciple – The order has made me beautiful
May the Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! My name is sister Antonia and I am a member of the community of Missionary Sisters of the Most Holy Redeemer (redemptoristines). I’m 32 years old and I have lived in a monastery for 14 years. Since I have worn my habit and professed my vows I have never regretted my life choice.
People often ask me: “You are so young and so beautiful, why have you chosen religious life?” Those questions are asked with pity, but I have this answer: “Before I joined the order I had never heard those words. No one has ever told me that I’m so young and so pretty. In that case, it means that I’ve become like that in the order, living close to God in his great love makes us beautiful sisters”.
In marriage, spouses promise one another love, faithfulness, sincerity and obedience. The same situation is in a monastery: we promise God chastity, poverty and obedience. It can look like a prison for some people but for us it is true freedom. I do not know if you have ever experienced great love but when a person falls in love with another person he or she will never seek someone else or something better because it is clear for him or her that every good thing is second best.
I was 17 years old when I first heard the call to religious life. It was such an amazing experience that I realised that any other style of life would not suit me. I wanted to live for all my power, to use my all strengths, possibilities, gifts and talents but I didn’t know anything about religious life. When I joined the order I realised that it is a place just for me where all my dreams came true and I could fulfil my love. When people think of monastery as a prison it is a great joy to say that, in fact, it is a zone of the greatest freedom, which I love with all my heart. In religious life we live our vows: chastity, poverty and obedience. The vow of chastity or virginity, as it is also called for some people, can mean only: living without husband, children, love or sexual intercourse. For me, chastity is the greatest and the deepest relationship, the biggest and the highest love. This love will never betray you. I’m very weak, small, and inexperienced… but I know even if I betray God – in small or bigger issues – He will never, never ever betray me. He is the greatest love and the greatest trustee.
In the Holy Bible there are beautiful words: “We love because he has loved us first”. These words are fundamental to our vow of chastity. Every one of us who has joined the order (I’m not any exception) has experienced love that you cannot refuse. This is why we answered the vocation call. Yet, a human’s love is very small, very often we feel it is lacking and so we search for it every day. Where can I find it? Where can I recharge my love batteries when they are empty – only 1% of power. Prayer is the best source of love energy we have. Both liturgical and individual prayer recharges our batteries and fulfils us. When I experience God’s ineffable love during my prayer, I am able to go to the world, bring this love and share it by loving other people like I love Christ.
People who don’t have a correct knowledge of religious life think that religious people have missed a lot of life because we don’t have a family. But it is not true. I have a beautiful family with my sisters. In this family, for the first time in my life, I have learned true friendship – in which I can trust. I am listened to and understand everything. I have learned love and service. We serve and help each other and we also learn that from other sisters. Our vow of chastity manifests itself in everyday routine: in big and small deeds of love. I implement it by cooking and tidying – I just do those things from love, even if I don’t like doing them. I implement my vow of chastity in my job. My religious life is a mission. This is why I’m working with people of every age – from young children to elderly people. Every person that God sends to me I can call my child because I bring him or her God’s love. I’m an instrument of that love and my vow of chastity gives me strength to show that love as best as I can and in the most visible way. Yes, it is true that I don’t have my own children but, in fact, I have a lot of them around the world. They are there wherever I am on parish mission or during a retreat. I can call my children those who I’ve prepared for first Confession or solemn first Holy Communion. My vow of chastity reveals itself in my maternal heart, which can listen to people, and is able to notice in everyone I meet, the eyes and hand of our God and in fact, God Himself.
I work with the youth. Young people need love the most. Before their 18th birthday they already seek love in a very intensive way. I have the opportunity to empathise with them, to see their problems, lead them and raise them up. I can seek true love with them, not any fake love. In this case my vow of chastity helps me understand them and I leave behind my egoism, my own needs. I listen to them not only with my ears but also with my heart. My vow helps me to seek with them to find where that love is hidden – together with the young we search for God’s love. I also help young people to discover that God loves them unconditionally. Thanks to them I learn to live according to my vow of chastity more properly and deeply. It’s because it is well seen how I live my vows because we make our vows in public in Church during the Liturgy, and all of the community are our witnesses. So that, they can later say: “You live according to your vows” or “You do not live according to your vows”. I have the opportunity to ask other people how I fulfil my vow of chastity. Do they see this in my life?
Living according to my vows depends on one thing – how do I build my relationship with Jesus. The more God is in my life, the smaller my ego will be. The more Christ is in my life, the closer I will be with other people and the stronger my love and understanding will be. Then it would be possible for me to look upon other people like God does. Our vow of chastity reveals how we love other people who are difficult to love, those who annoy us, those who we see every day on a bus, people who are mean to us, those who do not respect us, atheists or people who are spitting on us or say something rude because they see our religious habits. This is my love exam, my vows exam. Do I notice God in that person? Do I notice someone who is lonely and hurt? Maybe I can notice only a person who attacked me? My vow of chastity helps me see more in other people and helps me see God’s creation, not only a sinner.
Today many people believe that it is impossible to live in chastity and be faithful. Nowadays, when 60% of marriages end in divorce there is a religious order which live faithfully. Maybe my life is not only a challenge but also proof that you can be faithful to the end, in wellbeing and in suffering, to death. And maybe it is possible to show others that you can live not an egoistic life, but a life of true love.
I’m calling you. Search for love but only the true one! Do not settle for any other! Amen!
Author: s. Antonia, redemptoristen
Translation: Dariusz Dudek