The older I get, the more I realize you just have to tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. So here it goes:
I had a serious discussion with my wife Sandy recently. I said, “You missed your vocation. You should have been a cloistered nun. All you do is say your prayers, your household chores, tend your garden and read spiritual books. That sounds like the Benedictine life to me. Or maybe you should have been a Poor Clare so you could spend more time in Adoration.”
Not to be morbid, but throughout history, women entered the convent after their husbands passed into the Great Hereafter. A few even became saints. OK, it’s not something I’m encouraging, but you never know what the future holds. Whenever I tell her, “You missed your calling. You should have been a nun,” she doesn’t disagree. Heck, it’s one of the few things we agree on.
In the middle of the night, she’s on the Hallow app, praying her Rosary—or watching the Hallmark Channel on her iPad, which is something I’m sure they don’t do in the convent. I wish I could say we do that together, but when you’re a guy, if you’ve seen one Hallmark movie, you’re set for life.
However, I urge Hallmark to push the entertainment envelope and make a movie about a young woman who’s rejected what society has to offer and leaves it all behind to become a bride of Christ. After all, there are countless former professional women in the Sisters of Life, the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Poor Clares and other orders that are seeing an increase in candidates.
Some of the Church’s greatest saints were women whose spiritual journey took a new direction when their husbands passed. They found new meaning and purpose, and ultimately changed the world.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was 29 and had five children when her husband died, leaving the family destitute. She eventually converted to Catholicism because of her belief in the Real Presence, even though she was ostracized by friends and family members in high society. She founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s to care for the poor and sick and also began the first Catholic schools in the United States.
You’ve probably never heard of St. Monegundis of Chartes, who lived in the sixth century. She married at a young age and had two daughters, who died in childbirth. Grief-stricken, she asked her husband to let her become a recluse so she could live alone in prayer. She built a hermitage in France and became a spiritual director for women who wanted to follow Christ.
St. Paula was a wealthy Roman woman who married at 15 and had five children. When her husband died, she began to serve the poor, and moved to Bethlehem with her daughter, where they began a convent. She became a colleague of St. Jerome and assisted him in translating the Bible into the vernacular.
St. Jane Frances de Chantal married at 20 and had six children. After her husband’s death in a hunting accident, she entered the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, which she and St. Francis de Sales founded. In the following years, she established convents throughout France.
St. Rita was forced to marry an abusive husband, even though she wanted to enter the convent. This torment continued for 18 years. Her husband ultimately repented but was killed in a dispute, and Rita entered the Augustinian convent of Cascia.
Other women have followed the same path to Christ, including St. Louise de Marillac, St. Elizabeth of Hungary and St. Matilda.
Now, I don’t know for sure whether Sandy would be willing to “reinvent” herself, as they say in the professional world. Nevertheless, my point is a simple one. All of us, women and men, should embrace the principles of the religious life as much as we can in this troubled world.
It’s easy to introduce a contemplative dimension into your life, and once you do, you’ll crave more quality time with Christ. Instead of settling for the bare minimum and squeezing Jesus into our weekly schedule, we need to put him at the center of our lives. That means more prayer, more silence, more meditation and more Adoration.
So I’m going to follow the example my wife sets … and maybe I’ll even set aside a little time for the Hallmark Channel.