29-year-old María makes her temporary vows as a novice in the monastery of the Poor Clares of Lorca, Spain.
In full wedding attire, her father walking her down the aisle, María approaches the altar with a smile on her face and a bouquet in her hands. As she gets there, her mother cuts her hair and helps her dress in a coarse robe. This is not a regular wedding. It is that of a young woman with her Divine Spouse.
Sister María de los Milagros del Divino Amor (Mary of the Miracles of Divine Love) took her vows in Lorca (Spain), after spending three years with the Poor Sisters of Saint Clare in the monastery of Santa Ana and Santa María Magdalena.
Journalist Susana Mendoza Bernal, editor of the Media Delegation of the Diocese of Cartagena (Spain), describes the event on the diocese’s website. In it, she explains the ceremony closely resembles the actions of Saint Clare herself who, dressed in her best finery, escaped her house and went to the Porziuncola, where Francis of Assisi was expecting her.
“There, she traded her dress for a sackcloth, wrapped a knotted cord around her waist, and cut her hair. This nun did the same thing this past Saturday: she changed her white dress for a brown habit, headdress and veil included; she tied the three-knotted cingulum around her waist, and let her mother cut her hair. She also traded her heels for the customary Franciscan sandals,” the note reads.
The note also explains that the knots tied in the cingulum represent their three vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, but that these contemplative Poor Clares also make an additional vow —that of remaining in the cloister.
Sister María’s vows are temporary. After three years, she will decide whether to renew them or not for two more years. Once this five-year period is over, she will be allowed to profess perpetual, permanent vows.
Sister María de los Milagros explains her experience
“I always felt this thingie inside, something I was unable to put my finger on. Every time I saw a nun, something inside me would shake.” This is how Sister María remembers her first steps into discovering her calling.
At the age of 25, María went through some particularly difficult moments. She recalls realizing God was the only one who had stayed with her throughout everything. It was then when she began to deepen her spiritual life, and soon felt a special attraction to religious, consecrated life. Although she was not yet sure whether this was her calling, she decided to give it a try.
Holding her hands, her mother told her: “I know you, and I knew that you would eventually do this. I knew it was going to happen.”
From that moment on, she visited different congregations and orders, both active (which was what she was really looking for back then) and contemplative. She giggles when she remembers that, during those days, she felt a need to be “in a deeper relationship with the Lord; as if sharing a bubble with him, so to speak.”
One day she decided to visit the convent in the church where she used to go to Mass on Sundays —that of the Poor Sisters of Santa Clara de Lorca, in her hometown. Even if she felt something special during that visit, she kept on looking elsewhere, until she finally decided to go on retreat with them. She spent 12 days in the convent. At the end of the retreat, she was crying tears of joy. It was something, she says, “that she had never felt before.” Two months later, she entered the monastery.
Now, three years after that decisive experience, she defines her calling as a happy adventure. Her constant smile is proof that is indeed the case.