Say Yes: Religious Vocations and ‘Giving God Permission’
A Dominican sister points to the road leading to joy.
It’s the month of October, traditionally dedicated to Mary. A new book by Dominican sisters says that Mary’s Yes Continues: Religious Vocations in the New Millennium, as it promotes vocations to religious life. Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, O.P., foundress of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, talks a little about the love of her life and how it relates to everyone on the search not just for sanctity but also for sanity.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Who are the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, and why is it important to the world and not just the Catholic Church that you exist?
Sister Joseph Andrew: It is important to the entire world that we exist because our lives are consecrated to the salvation of all people, not just Catholics! Each person bears an immortal soul that is predestined to live with God forever but is not forced to do so, because love cannot be forced. The prayer and witness of our sisters hopefully raises all humanity closer to the Heart Who alone can complete each of ours. And we, too, need the holiness of others to raise us to the Same!
Lopez: How is it that “joys abound when young people are knowledgeable and open to the Holy Spirit’s promptings”?
Sister Joseph Andrew: What a beautiful and truthful proclamation! Inside each heart is the desire to be a hero, to somehow change the world for the better. This desire burns brightly in a young person’s heart as life, so filled with possibilities, lies close before each one. As youth should be a time of freshness, openness, and energy, it is prime time for the Holy Spirit’s promptings to make a difference in their own lives! Of course, because of our free wills, this is possible only if we allow God to speak, direct, influence our lives. And from those who respond with their own “yes,” joy exudes. In the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas, O.P., joy is the delight in possession of a present good. It might also be called “love’s rest.” It is intense, secure, overflowing, and constant and rests in one’s authentic knowledge of the possession of the heart’s deepest desires.
Lopez: How best to help young people or anyone be open to such a thing? And be able to know it’s true?
Sister Joseph Andrew: I appreciate this question because I do believe it is one that plagues young people today. “How can I know truth? How can I be certain of anything?” Young people are growing up in a culture that sways in every direction with the slightest breeze of anyone’s thought. Sadly, there are not enough witnesses of commitment, the joy of fulfilling God’s will, the knowledge that we are all intimately loved by the God Who created us out of love. Witnesses are needed today. In Greek, the word “martyr” means “witness.” We need more who are willing to place their lives on the line in fidelity to their faith by prayer, sharing the beauty of God, teaching truth, and loving to the point of sacrifice. Youth will imitate the example they are given. What example are we giving to them? Perhaps that’s the more pertinent question.
Lopez: “Contemplation is the gaze of the mind in fascination and wonder at beauty, truth, and goodness.” How is that a good use of time? So much so that you would dedicate some significant time in your day to it? And cloistered nuns, their lives! Silence and meditation are essential to maintaining a necessary inner peace in the midst of the pressures of the world. If the world is now saying this, the Church has always known it.
Sister Joseph Andrew: Professional psychological studies are proving that silence and meditation are essential to maintaining a necessary inner peace in the midst of the pressures of the world. If the world is now saying this, the Church has always known it, because that contemplative gaze toward the Divine — along with the time it takes to absorb His reflection within oneself — has always been a priority in Mother Church. Without it, we fall apart! With it, we go out into the world, carrying the One Alone who can really make the holy difference in others’ lives. Cloistered nuns fill their lives with this contemplative gaze, but it is essential for all religious to spend time with our Spouse, just as time together is essential for any friendship that lasts the stresses of time. We hope that our example of setting precious time aside to be with the Beloved Jesus can serve as an impetus to our students, their families, and all others. We might venture to say that prayer is not only necessary for sanctity; it is necessary for sanity!
Lopez: How is Christian contemplation Trinitarian?
Sister Joseph Andrew: The dogma of the Trinity — the Blessed three Persons in one God — teaches us above all that love needs another. In the words of Saint John Paul II: “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it” (Redemptor Hominis, 10). Therefore, the Christian, through prayer, seeks to get to know and thereby to love even more fully each Person of the Trinity. After all, the purpose of our lives is to gain that Eternal Beatitude whereby we will live with the Godhead forever.
Lopez: How can you be so sure that “God desires happiness for all those He has made”?
Sister Joseph Andrew: Because all Sacred Revelation teaches us that, in the words of Saint John the Evangelist, “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). Love for each one of us impelled Christ to come to earth so that he could live in our flesh, suffer and die in our flesh, and thereby win for us the promise of Redemption. If that doesn’t prove love, nothing else ever will. And with love comes the desire for the beloved to be happy!
Lopez: In the book, Mother Mary Agnes Donovan of the Sisters of Life notes that when the late Cardinal John O’Connor of New York first met Mother Teresa, she urged him to “give God permission.” For what? How?
Sister Joseph Andrew: Mother Teresa would wish to urge us all to open to the Divine, to fulfill God’s designs on our heart for perfect happiness and holiness. Who wouldn’t want that for each and every person?
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review. Sign up for her weekly NRI newsletter here.