Contemplating Religious Life

The religious life traditionally is used to describe the life of a religious (in this case a noun, not an adjective), a monk or a nun or sister, a “professional,” if you will. After a bitter disapointment recently, I started thinking, I ought to just join a convent! I’ve always had an immense admiration for women who consecrate their lives to God, foregoing the comforts of marriage and family life to life fully for Him. Their lives run a widely diverse range of service, from the active service of rescue work Mother Teresa of Calcutta made famous, or to teaching and nursing, to the cloistered (fully separated from the world) and devoted to prayer.

So I started looking at the internet at religious orders. Most have an age limit of 35… I passed that a LONG time ago! LOL — I’ll be 48 in three weeks! — but several very appealing orders have age restrictions as high as 60. This is in both active and contemplative orders.

But the more I think about uprooting completely, disposing of my home and furnishings, relocating to another part of the country (if not the world!)… starting as a complete and total novice at the age of near-50 (and likely would be past my fiftieth by the time I could be admitted)… I feel rather strongly dissuaded from even trying.

Fortunately, there are options, it’s not strictly a matter of all or nothing, convent or fully secular life. There are opportunities for lay men and women to affiliate with religious orders as laypeople, take certain limited vows, and to remain in the world as a lay member of the order. The Franciscans and the Carmelites have what they call Third Order affiliations; the Benedictines have a program called oblation.

The word oblate comes from the Latin, meaning “offering,” and that is just what we are called to do: to offer ourselves fully to God, to live as His called people, in His service, in the world.

The vows a Third Order or oblate takes are of daily prayer, acts of Christian piety, and participation in an affiliate group, in addition to specific emphases of the particular order. There’s a Third Order Carmelite group up in Raleigh, and a Benedictine Abbey which has a strong oblate program over in Charlotte. I think this is going to be the best avenue I have of achieving what I want in my Christian life.

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