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"The Lord has moved heaven and earth for our vocation"
And man, did He MOVE
It brings me great joy to share with you that on August 4, I have been admitted into postulancy with the Daughters of St. Paul! Or, to put it another way: I’m taking the first step towards becoming a nun (more accurately, a religious sister).1
Just that alone probably elicits a number of questions and curiosities, and I don’t think I can adequately get to all of those questions in this one post—and to be clear, I welcome all the questions and will do my best to answer them to the best of my ability!
But for today, I thought I would share a little bit about the religious congregation that has admitted me (the Daughters of St. Paul) and also reflect on the quote used for the title of this post.
I remember going to conferences and hearing talks about how God is able to use everything in our lives. Even the things that we think are mistakes can be used for His glory. In that way, how much more will He utilize the gifts that He’s given us?
Many of you know that I graduated with my degree in Communication from SFU and also spent three years working for SFU in various communications and marketing roles. You may also know that I’ve had a long-standing love for radio and podcasts, hosting a radio show with Vancouver Co-op Radio for over two years, working at the CBC, and co/hosting and producing a number of podcasts like The Feminine Genius Podcast among many others.
As it happens, the Daughters of St. Paul (also known as the #MediaNuns2) are a congregation of women religious devoted to spreading the Gospel using the means of social communication and the media. Founded in 1915 by Blessed James Alberione, the Daughters of St. Paul are present around the world and work in a variety of ministries, ranging from selling books and media in their book centers, publishing, editorial, design, radio, TV, film, podcasts, social media, and more.
On paper, it seems like a match made in heaven—literally. But the interesting thing is that the Daughters don’t have a presence in Vancouver: they have a house in Toronto and most of the other convents are in the United States, with the closest two on the West Coast being two houses in California. And even more curious is that when I first had even the slightest (and I mean slightest) interest in looking into religious life, in all my searching online, I hadn’t come across the Daughters of St. Paul!
It’s here that I want to call back the quote that makes up the title of this post, from Bl. James Alberione himself, “The Lord has moved heaven and earth for our vocation.”3
At a particular time in my life, the Lord introduced me to the Daughters of St. Paul by literally bringing them to me. I remember months later being on a discernment retreat where this quote was shared in a presentation. It stuck with me in a profound way. There was something incredible about the majesty and power of God, who has control and dominion over everything, to make a way for a vocation to take shape. And what’s more, He opens up His movement and plans to us as humans: He gives us free will and a chance to interact with His plans. We have the free will to say no, but we also have the free will to say YES.
What makes things even crazier is that most of my discernment happened within the time of the pandemic. A crucial part of a woman’s discernment is being able to visit and spend time with the communities they are discerning with—and for most women, those communities may not have a presence in their hometown, which requires a lot of travel.
If I’m being honest, there were many moments where I wanted to give up because it seemed like the pandemic was going on forever. If God really wanted me to pursue this, why didn’t He make this easier on me? Why not give me this inspiration sooner before the pandemic hit, or better yet, get rid of the pandemic all together?
In hindsight and with the benefit of God’s grace, I saw that this only strengthened me and my resolve to face what would be even greater hurdles as I went along: The closer I got to completing and submitting my application, tensions and temptations appeared and new choices arose. God was giving me a free choice to continue on or walk away.
Choosing to discern religious life was hard. Choosing to continue in this direction has been even harder, because it means saying no to things that are just as true, beautiful and good: staying in my hometown with familiar people and settings, advancing my career, being present for major life milestones of family and friends, falling in (human) love, and fulfilling once-upon-a-time dreams of starting a family of my own.
These things are a natural part—a truly good part—of our human existence. Simultaneously this is the paradox of our relationship with God and the cost of discipleship: He gives us comfort, but we’re not meant to always stay in what is ‘safe’ and ‘comfortable’. At this point in my life now, I feel that this is the cross the Lord has given me—and He’s calling me now to pick up this cross and follow Him exclusively.
Thanks be to God, through His continual faithfulness in me, a faithless human being, He continued to move heaven and earth so that I could have just a taste of what it means to live fully alive with and in Him.
While there is so much more to say about this life update, I’ll close with a passage from St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
When my grandmother passed away in 2004, the second reading was taken from 2 Timothy, chapter 4. I was 7 at the time, and nearly 20 years on that passage still resonates with me.
I realize now that there maybe isn’t a coincidence to this seemingly random piece of trivia. When I think about how the past 3+ years have unfolded—from my first encounter with the Daughters of St. Paul in Vancouver to this moment, writing this—it really felt like a marathon. As I mentioned, I wanted to quit a few times because I couldn’t see the finish line. And while this passage from 2 Timothy makes a little more sense in the context of funeral liturgy, I find it apt for the journey that I’m about to embark on. In that regard, receiving this admission and sharing this news with all of you isn’t the end. Discernment doesn’t end just because I’ve received the joyful phone call and wrote this blog post: it’s only just beginning.
While I hope that upon entering postulancy I am walking into eternity, the reality is that no one knows what will happen next. I’m walking in ready to give my entire self to God, entrusting my life to His providence and seeing where He will take me. I’m fully aware that His providence could lead me to perpetual vows (AKA becoming a full-fledged sister who will profess vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for life) or in another direction entirely, one that may be outside the walls of the convent.
In that regard, “keeping the faith” as St. Paul says to Timothy is so important. The trials will come, and the race will sometimes feel endless. But as I came to discover just a few years ago, the reward from God is priceless: “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
For now, all I can do is continue to run the race that is set before me—and I trust that His grace is sufficient for me to do so (2 Corinthians 12:9).
In the meantime… please pray for me and my family during this time of transition, for the Daughters of St. Paul and my co-postulants who I look forward to being with soon, and for an increase of vocations to religious life.4 Please also know of my prayers for you!
United in the Eucharist,
While the terms “nun” and “sister” are typically used interchangeably, nuns and sisters are not one in the same: All nuns are sisters, but not all sisters are nuns. The fundamental difference is that nuns are cloistered or semi-cloistered (i.e., set apart from the rest of the world by living in an enclosure like a monastery and never leaving), whereas religious sisters are mostly active-contemplative (i.e., many sisters live and work in the world and carry out a specific ministry). You would still address a nun as “Sister [Insert Name Here]” in the same way you would a sister. For now though, I’m still Rachel.
Again, as per the above, the hashtag “#MediaNuns” is a bit of a misnomer… but you have to admit it’s pretty catchy. You can find many of the sisters on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok!
Blessed James Alberione, in a meditation given to the Daughters of St. Paul in Rome on July 31, 1954. (Big thank you and props to my vocations director, Sr. Emily Beata Marsh, FSP, for her tireless searching and helping me find this citation!)