This is a sampling of some of the most common types of questions we frequently receive from women inquiring about a vocation as a Handmaid of the Precious Blood. For those who are not called to our community for a variety of reasons, we seek to provide resources to assist them in finding their vocation. Various helpful vocations sites can be found here [See Vocation Resources At This Link] or on the sidebar of our Vocations pages.
Do Sisters use phones or email? Or write?
Sisters may receive calls on their birthdays and at Christmas and Easter. They are expected to call their parents on their birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Email is used only for monastery business and duties and not for personal communication. Sisters may write and receive letters though not during Lent and Advent.
Can Sisters go home for family visits or can family visit them and how often?
Typically family members can visit a sister once a year for three full days. Visits home to family are usually on an emergency basis only, for example at the serious illness or death of a parent, and are limited in duration.
How long does it take to enter?
This varies greatly individual to individual depending on ability to visit and easily exchange information with the Mother Prioress. It could be months to years. Above all else, it should never be rushed or hastened simply for the sake of convenience. The Holy Spirit opens the doors as he wishes when he wishes.
Why does formation take 9 to 12 years?
Precisely because we want to make very sure it is God doing the calling and that the vocation is not only authentic and true but that the individual can really persevere living that call for the rest of her life. This is until death and meant and ordered for Eternity. It behooves us not to rush into a commitment to God.
Why is the commitment lifelong? Can’t I get a dispensation if I change my mind later?
Would you get married only because you thought a divorce was an option if it didn’t work out? What would that say of your love and devotion for your husband? Just because annulments exist doesn’t mean we should take marriage lightly. So too with perpetual vows made to Christ to be his Spouse. It really isn’t about ‘you’ or changing ‘your’ mind. It’s honestly addressing the question, “Is God calling me to this vocation in this religious family for the rest of my earthly life and am I responding to the grace to do so?”
Why is there an age limit?
Once women pass a certain age, though there is no hard and fast rule about this, it is less and less likely that they are able to be formed in the charism of a religious institute because personal habits, concepts, and ideologies become more ingrained and less open to easy change or adaptation. Similarly, there is the question of declining health over time and the desire not to place the candidate who has sacrificed career and family to attempt religious life in a position of uncertainty and risk if they do not persevere and must re-enter society and find employment and healthcare at an older age.
I’m a retired widow and have grown children and always wanted to be nun. Is it too late for me?
It would be difficult to adapt to a life of papal enclosure later in life, especially with family. Although children may be grown and no longer dependent on the mother, they will often have understandable need for contact more than other family members.
Before my conversion, I lived a very sinful life. Can I ever be a nun with that kind of past?
Yes. Each person’s history will need to be discussed to establish if there are any problem areas to address prior to entry. Living a solid Catholic life for a substantial period of years after conversion is needed.
If it’s a contemplative life, why the emphasis on needing good communication skills? Isn’t prayer the most important thing?
Our enclosed, cloistered life, while separate from the world and focused on prayer, is nonetheless one of family community. Sisters in Christ living under a Mother Prioress and striving together towards union with God. It is imperative that we can live as a family, able to express to each other, our confessors, our spiritual directors, and our superiors the interior workings of our spiritual life as well as the simple day to day demands of human communication that charity and gentleness demand in our tasks and duties.
What things should I consider or have done prior to entering?
– Eliminate any outstanding debts and obligations on loans etc. [Consider the Laboure Society to assist accepted candidates with resolving remaining debts.]
– Simplify simplify simplify.
– Fulfill all remaining duties and responsibilities.
– Educate family and friends on the process.
What happens if you get sick or need lots of care after you enter? What do you do with your older Sisters?
The community has an obligation to reasonably attend to the health needs of all the sisters. Likewise we have striven to provide in house care for our elderly sisters until absolutely no longer physically possible. We grow, age, and suffer together as a caring family; helping each other carry each other’s crosses.
What about a pre-existing health condition?
It depends on the condition, its severity and impact on the ability to undergo formation and live monastic community life in enclosure well. It is entirely possible to have a physical health problem and still enter the cloister.
What if medication is enough to control my medical condition?
It depends. If a particular health condition is managed well and continuation of the treatment is foreseeable and practical, it may not be a problem. Each case is treated individually to ascertain its impact on a woman’s ability to live the life.
What about a condition like Level 1 ASD (aka Asperger’s)?
While each candidate must be evaluated individually, the spectrum, because it is a social skills disorder, would have greater impact in the enclosed environment because the normal coping mechanisms and outlets do not exist. Depending on the woman’s capability to adapt to a setting where spiritual communication and close relationships are fostered deeply, it may be difficult to assess and discern an authentic call to the cloister. If factors like a uniform schedule, diet regimen, and other monastic disciplines (like sacrificing sleep for nocturnal adoration) produce frustration, ordinary means to deal with it (coping outlets) typically found in the world will not be available. If there are attendant issues (anxiety, depression, phobias, OCD) present along with even high functioning autism, they will, in all likelihood render living in papal enclosure a trying and stressful experience at best (for both candidate and community) and impossible or damaging at worst.
Why is a history of depression, anxiety disorders or other mental illness often an impediment to the enclosed life?
Even those with robust health and a sound, balanced and mature psychological profile will find, upon entering religious life, that ultimately it is a spiritual combat within the candidate. Each phase of formation has its own challenges, some more intense than others. The worldly coping mechanisms that we are accustomed to which allow us to be distracted from the hard work of purifying the soul and facing our true selves and all that God wants to heal in us are not available in the enclosure. No TV, no radio, no surfing the internet, texting, chatting, phoning, or taking a vacation, sabbatical, or retirement. Likewise, typical means of dealing with common stressors [changing venues, locations, removing oneself from a situation, getting with a peer group to vent, getting away from an annoying person, deliberate distraction through entertainment etc] simply do not exist. There are no cliques. A woman called to the enclosed life purposefully lives with a set group of women (not of her choosing) in one location with a minimum amount of interaction with the world. This is done to allow a life solely given unto Christ to be more easily lived in joy without the dissipation of worldly stimuli, but it also denies the usual ‘outs’ we all want to resort to, to escape something that may be unpleasant. If someone were coping with depression she would lack the resources present in the world when depressive episodes arise when they lack that outlet. This would be harmful to the woman suffering from depression as well as to those around her in community.
If I am taking anti-depressants for depression and they are working, can I attempt the life?
This is still an impediment. The concern with depression or anxiety related problems, even well managed with medication, is that the varying factor becomes no longer the availability of medication but the actual stresses inherent in the attempt at enclosed religious life. By design, the life is, quite frankly, unnatural. Without grace, it cannot be lived by anyone joyfully. The environment cannot be manipulated by the individual to cope with natural stress as it can in the world and current treatment may not adapt to the radical change of life. The pressure to want to ‘make it work’ and find one’s health unsuited to the demands only adds to the mental strain and anguish. Manifestations of these kinds of trials moreso impact not just the candidate but the entire community that already lives in close quarters and they can be quite harmful to both.
I’ve recovered from clinical depression and am not on meds anymore. Can I join?
Papal enclosure may not be the best vocation to pursue in this case.
I’ve never had clinical depression but my family has a history of it; is that a concern?
It is not an automatic impediment but something to note should trouble with depression arise in this area during formation.
I’m a recovering alcoholic but have been sober for years. Is this a show stopper?
Not necessarily. A solid stretch of sobriety (5-7 years) must be evidenced before attempting the life as well as addressing the underlying causes of the addiction. We bring our weaknesses and attachments across the cloister door into the enclosure and in our fallen nature we’ll tend to find another way to give into them even without a supply of alcohol answering the temptation. Very often the strongest people are those that simply and honestly know they are actually the weakest and in what area their weakness lies. So a recovering alcoholic is not an impossibility in the cloister.
Is a history of some addiction a problem?
It depends on the type, severity, and duration and how well an individual has been able to overcome it. See the answer regarding a recovering alcoholic for example.