Two years ago, when talking about God’s call, I told you something that I had hoped you would remember, and it’s this: “I gave up a happy life for a happier one.” Ever since I can remember I wanted to become an architect, because I loved designing things and looking at blueprints. But I discovered I had a deeper desire to help people. I could have gotten married (believe it or not), but I found something even better: being with Jesus and imitating Him.
Sometimes we need to be reminded of this: that God calls us to a happier life. We have our own plans, but these are small compared to God’s. Jesus says today, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
When He calls us to a better life, He says we’ll recognize His voice (Jn 10:4). One way to know if it’s Jesus’ voice or not is if He asks us to let go of our old life. You see, our culture always offers us pleasure but without sacrifice. It says we can lose weight without changing our diet; we can become fit if we buy a treadmill (Don’t talk about using it, just buy it!); we can become happy by buying things; we can make the world better without changing ourselves—this is not the authentic call of Jesus.
The authentic call of Jesus is like this: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field… a pearl of great price… In his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Mt 13:44-46). What God offers must be so good that we need to sell everything to get it. We’ve talked about this in other ways: In order to obtain level three and level four happiness, we can’t focus on levels one and two. If we want more happiness, we actually need more discipline. If we ever hear a voice that promises us happiness without a cost, chances are it’s not authentic.
A few months ago, someone said we’ve talked a few times about vocations to the priesthood but “What about the girls?” Today we’re going to fix that. We’ve invited Sr. John Mary, who is a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist, to speak about the call of Jesus to follow Him in a radical way.
I’m personally interested in hearing about her calling and congregation because Sister wasn’t always a sister. She told me that, when she was a teenager, she would skip Mass but go to the church, pick up the bulletin, and then bring it home to show her parents. So if there was hope for Sister, there’s hope for us.
Jesus asked her to give up a happy life for a happier one—that’s the authentic call of Jesus. Sister, welcome!
“I want to thank Father Justin and all of you for giving me this opportunity to share with you about my call to my Community, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, and how through my Community I have been called into a transformative and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. I echo Father’s words and can state, without hesitation, that the sacrifice of letting go of my old life, did in fact take me from a happy life to a happier life of becoming a Bride of Christ.
I was blessed with a wonderfully happy upbringing. My family was not perfect, my parents were not perfect, and as Father just shared, I was not perfect. But within my family I knew a great love and joy, even through times of great sacrifice and sorrow. My parents witnessed to their children the beauty of the call to Sacramental marriage, and the great goodness that flows from a marriage centered by God and rooted deep in our Catholic traditions. They had a marriage that made both of them better and brought both of them closer to God.
Therefore, I lived most of my youth and young adult life expecting that I, too, would get Sacramentally married, because I wanted the love and happiness that I saw in my parents’ relationship. I dated and had the gift of dating some very fine, young, Catholic men. But there was always something within me that knew my heart longed for something more. Although they were good relationships, they did not give me the same sense of joy and goodness that I witnessed in my parents’ marriage.
Being an athlete, with five older competitive brothers, I loved that these Sisters knew how to work hard, and enjoyed getting their hands dirty while doing hard, physical labour. They also seemed to have a lot of fun together and truly enjoyed relating to one another. They worked with children and supported families, which appealed to my love of marriage and family life. I began to understand and see that their strong individual and communal prayer life, was the source of their outreach, hard work and great joy. My heart was captured, and I knew that I had to, at least, give this relationship a chance. And as you can see, the chance, after nine years of formation, turned into my perpetual vowed commitment to God, His Church and my Community.
What I have come to love about my Community is that we have a deep sense of the sacredness of all creation, from the earth, to all creatures, and most especially the sacredness of human life, created in the image and likeness of God, from the moment of conception to natural death. This is why we work in diocesan pro-life offices, have an adoption agency, a school, counselling centres and a homecare and hospice agency. Through these outreaches we uphold the sacredness of life, and help people become fully alive in their humanity, intellect and spiritual life.
Our Sisters work in a wide variety of professions, as pharmacists, computer programmers, nurses, mental health counsellors, teachers and professors, and many more professions. This both allows the particular charism of each sister to be fostered, and allows us to be sacred witnesses in the secular world. We have a strong commitment to our Holy Father, and the entire teaching authority of our Catholic Church, and we work in complement collaboration with deacons, priests and bishops. Friendships within our Community and with other religious communities are nurtured and are seen as a way of collaborating with others in order to build up the Body of Christ. Our older Sisters are deeply loved, cared for, and seen as a source of wisdom and prayerful support of all that we do. Our older Sisters, in return, see our younger Sisters as a sign of hope for the future of our Community and continuity of our call. And within our Community we have a commitment of growing in trust of one another and being centered by the God-given authority of our leaders.
These are some of the aspects of my Community that I love. What I have come to understand is that WHAT WE DO as Religious Sisters for our Church, is secondary to WHO WE ARE for our Church and the entire world. As Religious Sisters, WE ARE a witness that, in sacrificing the goods of this world, we gain a happiness that comes from a deep and perpetual commitment to each other and through each other to Jesus Christ. In making my perpetual Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, I have been set free to follow Jesus Christ as His bride. In laying down and sacrificing my own limited wants and desires, I know a deep joy that comes from my spousal commitment to He, who is the source of all happiness, and I have the great privilege of being the visible face of Mary, the Virgin Mother of all God’s children. Therefore, my youthful desire to be a bride, a spouse, and a mother has been fulfilled in ways which I could never have even hoped.
Now, I have one challenge for you: I have heard that this parish likes to be challenged. Although, my family was the first source of nurturing my vocation, we did not exist in a vacuum. We were a family of families at our parish, Saint Gregory the Great, and it was the witness of the entire faith community that gave me a fuller sense of the beauty of our Church and the joy that comes from a community that is united in faith and in a shared relationship with our God. My challenge to you is to be a faith community that witnesses to each young person; that it is in sacrificing worldly happiness that we are set free to embrace a happier life of commitment to our Lord and His Church. If you live this witness, I am sure that vocations to the priesthood and religious life will naturally flow out of Saint Anthony of Padua Parish.
I thank you, and I ask you to please pray for young men and women to be open to the call of the priesthood and religious life. I know that you have an Adoration chapel here, which is a great place for these prayers. I leave you with this short video which speaks to our own Eucharist centering, that is essential to who we are as Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist.”