"A folly in the eyes of men, but not to God."
After years of discernment, Stephanie, a 26-year-old teacher, has made the decision of her lifetime: to enter the monastery to offer her entire existence to God. We met with her a few days before she joined the Benedictine community of the Abbey of Our Lady of Pesquié in the Ariege region of France.
Aleteia: When exactly did you rediscover the faith?
Stephanie: I never really “lost the faith.” After I lost my sister, my faith became somewhat dormant, and it was revived: I started to believe deeply and to wish to progress spiritually. My sister died in 2005 on her way to World Youth Day in Cologne. That certainly played a part in my discernment. Her death was a real turning point in my spiritual life. I realized the importance of our lives, that we were on earth for a limited time only, that we come from God and that we will return to him one day. Certainly, I come from a very religious Catholic family, but I think that up until that point I went to church more through habit and mimicry.
When did the idea of entering the convent begin to grow?
A few years later, in 2008, after a pilgrimage, during Mass I felt an attraction to God and a strong desire to love him. From that moment on, I lived with a thirst for the Absolute. The idea of dedicating my life to him and entering a convent became more pressing. I felt a genuine love of God, as if I had fallen in love with him. I needed to go to Mass every day to spend time with him.
This great desire only lasted a few months. The years passed: I had set the question aside, although it came back to me from time to time. I started to work as a teacher and was leading the ordinary life of a Parisian. I was happy but I was not fulfilled. Over time, the desire to put God at the center of my life grew. I started to pray every morning and prayed to God so that He would help me give direction to my life. As I was going off on a retreat, my spiritual father asked me why I did not offer my life to God. The idea that had never really left me then became obvious…. But this evidence was breathtaking! I felt a thirst for God but the decision was hard to make as it was such a radical choice.
Who was the first person to whom you announced your decision?
I went to inform my manager first even before my own family or my spiritual father! She was flabbergasted. My parents received the news with joy and emotion although they knew that we would be seeing each other less often now. But I admire their courage and faith. Mom told me that she had always considered her children as a gift of God and that, ultimately, they belong to him.
What saints have guided you throughout this journey?
St. Teresa has helped me to live the present moment. Through her I became aware of my littleness before God’s love … St. Benedict also guided me since I made my decision on his feast day. I especially like the prayer of abandonment by Blessed Charles de Foucauld ; I try to recite it every day.
What is your outlook on this life that you are about to leave: aren’t you going to miss the parties, your daily routine, romantic relationships?
No. And to be honest, all that even seems a little superficial. That is not where one finds happiness but rather in deep relationships. My faith tells me not to live superficially because that is not where God is … I will miss the moments spent with my family and friends and I am aware that I am giving up many things but I know that I was really missing the most important thing of all and that I will find it there, in the abbey. It is true that in the eyes of men it is perhaps folly to give up life in society, but not to God.
In your opinion, what do the religious bring to society?
Nuns both distance themselves from the world and are present in it. They keep abreast of the news and do not lose a moment to pray for all humanity. Their prayers are important, they are true sentinels of the invisible: nobody sees them and yet they are essential to society. The world we live in is individualistic and has lost its points of reference: it needs the spiritual presence and the prayers of the religious more than ever.
Translated from the French by Liliane Stevenson.
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