What makes someone give up the life of this world for the life of the Spirit and total dedication to God, the Father and Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Savior? Marriage, career, and all the pleasures of non-liturgical friends, as well as sometimes a less than closeness to the biological family is a mystery to many. Yet, there are those who have felt the call of God throughout the decades to do just that… to concentrate on prayers and relief for the peoples of this world.
For some, it is a complete removal from everyday life, but for others, it is not only prayer but the reaching out to the world of hurt and despair. Who are these people? What makes them come to these drastic decisions? Is it God and the Holy Spirit who gives the call?
How does one know when God is truly calling? Most will say that they “know that they know.” For those willing souls, He leads in uncertain paths to this life of quiet repose. It is not an easy decision and often comes with inward struggles. It is something they feel they MUST DO. I know I felt this way when I ventured out to teach in Mongolia and Ukraine. The verse in the Holy Scripture that stood out to me and brought tears to my eyes was:
“I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Isaiah 6:8
No, I didn’t hear an audible voice, but a voice in my spirit that would not go away.
Fortunately, for those who become nuns in the Episcopal or Roman Catholic churches, there is a time to consider. There are steps to be made before the actual confirmation of the life-time of service. It is a period of prayer, reflection, deep personal thought and finding if it has truly been a call from God.
This blog will share with you the history of a convent of Episcopal nuns located in New York on 26 acres in the mountains over the Hudson River. St. Mary’s is the oldest Episcopal order of Episcopal nuns in America. It is 135 years old and began with a few women who we would call today, “party girls.” Can you imagine that?
God has a strange way of moving a person from that life of frivolous activities to one of total dedication. It usually comes through hardship and disappointing sadness. Mostly, it comes with the desire to serve God with all the heart, mind and soul. In fact, it is God who looks on the heart.
My husband, an Episcopal priest, and I led a group of Christians to Greece before the Pandemic. We were fortunate to visit a convent perched on the high, rocky peeks of Meteroa. One was a convent, much like the one that I will share with you today…Yet…in a far away land. The dedication is the same.
Of the six functioning monasteries of Meteroa, the Holy Monastery of St. Stephen and the Holy Monastery of Roussanou are inhabited by nuns while the remainder are inhabited by monks. The total monastic population of the Meteora monasteries in 2015 was 56, comprising 15 monks in four monasteries and 41 nuns in two monasteries. (Wikipedia) All the churches built on these cliffs were built with no roads, as there are today. All supplies were lifted up in baskets. In the beginnings, it had to be truly athletic men who could climb and endure.
The history of the St. Mary’s Order of Sisters is as follows: In 1865, through perseverance and hard work with the poor in New York City, the five founding sisters convinced Bishop Horatio Potter to receive them as a monastic community. Not since the dissolution of the English monasteries in the 16th century had an Anglican bishop dared to officially constitute a religious community — one meant to be a true monastic body, not just a philanthropic sorority. The Episcopal Church was slow in giving full recognition, and our place in the Church was not truly affirmed until 1878, when the yellow fever epidemic in Memphis killed Sister Constance and three other sisters (along with several Episcopal, Roman Catholic and Methodist clerics) who had sought out and nursed the abandoned sick and dying. (Website: Lesser Feasts and Fasts, Sept. 9)
St. Mary’s website gives this description of their calling: The Sisters of St. Mary in Greenwich, New York, live a vowed life of poverty, chastity, and obedience in Community, centered around the daily Eucharist and a five-fold Divine Office. Our way of life is a modern expression of traditional monastic practice, strongly influenced by the Benedictine ethos, including silent meals in common, plain chant in English for much of our corporate worship, a distinctive habit, and a measure of enclosure.
The modern-day Sisters of St. Mary have decided to share their stories and lives with us. They are very personal and bring to us the stories of God’s calling them to be committed to Him in this world of the Convent. I think you will find them as people very inspiring. Most are quite educated and had careers before entering the convent. One even served in the military. They are writers, artists, bakers, and much more.
Take some time to hear what they have to say in the following video. It will be worth your while. Click on “Watch on YouTube…if says Not Available.”