When asked “How do I know if God is calling me?” on the blog A Nun’s Life, Sister Cheryl Rose assures her readers that “God will speak in a way that you can hear”:
If you are a quiet spirit, God will speak gently or softly. If you are a tough cookie, God may use (as one of my discernees used to say) a “two by four” to get through to you!! Whatever it takes … a voice you will recognize.
None of the religious in Novalis’ new book, Love Is Giving Everything, have been whacked over the head with a two-by-four plank. But each has a similar story: Jean talks about how “Jesus watched over me and discreetly whispered to me: ‘Come on, follow me, leaving everything else.’” A Carthusian monk describes “an ever more intense and resounding voice: ‘Come!’” And Paula, throughout her life, has always heard “a little voice reminding me of this choice of the Lord.”
Other religious talk about “winks,” “kisses,” “the light breeze” and radiance. Emmanuelle recounts how “breath, wind, breeze and air are words which resonate deeply in me.” But the most common theme throughout the book is God’s calling as a voice.
And in that sense, it must take a great deal of courage to follow that voice. There are a lot of voices in today’s world, and many of them talk over others. Nuns and monks in the book have stories about separating from their families, experiencing intense periods of doubt and depression, and being unsure about whether to follow the voice speaking to them. Gabriela, who became consecrated to religious life during the period of communism in Romania, says: “It does not come from oneself, like an automatic pilot, where one presses a button and… off you go! No. It’s a long association with God; it’s friendship. God takes away nothing of what we are, but instead wants to work with what we are.”
But in reading the book, one thing becomes clear: out of the roughly ninety testimonials, at least half of them contain the word ‘love’. One of the reasons that I’ve enjoyed reading Love is Giving Everything so much is because of the pictures included with the text. There pictures of nuns sitting in pews and monks at candlelit prayer, but there are also men and women in everyday life—playing the harp and kicking a soccer ball with kids, reading an iPad, sitting in a knitting circle and playing at the foozball table. And all of them, without fail, are smiling from ear to ear and practically glowing with happiness: people in love.
On page 53, Anne-Elizabeth is asked by a catechism students: “How did God call you to become a nun? Did he call you on the phone?” –a literal interpretation of the voice of God’s calling. “Oh no,” she answers, “God didn’t phone me, but He lavished me in my parents’ love. It was on my mother’s knee that I learned how to pray.”
-Gillian Robinson, Production Editor