by a Carmelite Nun, a Seton Graduate
Once there was a beautiful princess who was born in the likeness of her father. Now, her father had many daughters and his kingdom was a glorious creation. As a young girl, the princess loved exploring the kingdom with the king; she would relate to him her every desire, and he took pleasure in making her happy.
As the princess got older, the king began to allow her more liberties, and she indulged in the goods her royal lifestyle provided: fine jewels, angelic symphonies, gorgeous stallions and delectable pastries. However, every time she obtained her desire another would attract her, so she constantly suffered from an empty and lonely feeling.
One night, her eyes welled up with tears; she ran to her father crying, “Why is there never a gown gorgeous enough or man handsome enough for me? This kingdom is perfect; my sisters are happy, but nothing makes me happy.”
The king planted his lips on his daughter’s forehead and replied, “Your sisters are happy because they are loved and they love. Your heart is unique though, and it will only be satisfied by loving in a very special way. This kingdom is not perfect; it needs your love.”
Frustrated and confused, the princess went for a long walk through the kingdom. Finally, the sun began to rise, and she realized she was very thirsty and far from civilization. Suddenly, a carpenter appeared on the outskirts of a forest, and the princess shouted, “Sir! Do you have something I could drink? I’m exhausted.”
As he turned around, their eyes locked, and she knew she was loved. Dazed, she whispered, “You must be thirsty. Where can I fetch water for us?” The carpenter pointed to the top of a hill and began to walk beside her.
The water was cold and refreshing, and the princess suddenly realized that her painful loneliness was gone. She looked out over the kingdom and saw villages of thirsty people. The two filled up pitchers of the life-giving water and journeyed down the hill. With her eyes forever on the carpenter, her bridegroom, she ministered to the people and loved them.
She was finally happy – eternally ever-after.
A Deep Mystery
This is a fantastical illustration of the call to religious life: a mystery that takes place in the innermost depths of a young woman’s heart. Because the call comes from within, religious in every country, from every family setting and academic background, can tell the story of how the Lord called them to a special life of happiness and love. As the oldest of nine children in a homeschooling Catholic family, I can attest to the fact that my childhood environment nurtured the vocation planted on my heart.
It is difficult to discuss the actual particulars and effects of a homeschooling education because it varies from household to household and even child to child. Universally, though, I think the education requires active participation and personal responsibility from the student.
Most of the learning process takes place during solitary study and then is reviewed or tested by mom or the tutor. This is a beautiful foundation for life – especially religious life. Although a young woman receives the call to become a consecrated religious, in order to persevere she must be responsible and actively participate in her discernment and formation.
Most growth in the spiritual life takes place through solitary prayer and an ever-increasing in self-knowledge, while areas of difficulty or new understanding are discussed with a spiritual director or superior. I think it may also be true to say that a special thirst for knowledge and truth is fostered in the homeschooler. The textbooks (hopefully!) are rooted in the Truth.
I never had to worry about “relative truths” or a contradiction in “opinion” from teachers. As classes built on the foundations of previous classes, truth built on truth. I consider this continuity in my education a great blessing which has given me the confidence to seek and follow the truth, even when Truth led me to the convent!
The Mother’s Role
Since all women, whether married, single or consecrated religious, are ultimately called to share their feminine genius as a spouse and mother, it is very important for young girls to see women living motherhood joyfully.
A homeschooling environment presupposes a stay-at-home mom. Her daughters, while receiving their education and participating in extracurricular activities, are able to observe their mother’s self-sacrificing love. Oftentimes, too, the young girls are able to help their mom change diapers, entertain younger siblings, shop for groceries and cook meals.
The religious vocation is one of faith: we love a spouse we cannot see, and our children, though many, do not have our eyes or nose. I feel very blessed to know what motherhood concretely entails, so I can better apply it spiritually. And, just so you know, we still have to change diapers at our daycare!
Religious life is often discussed as counter-cultural. Well, for the homeschooled aspirant, her entire life has been counter cultural. “So do you wear pajamas all day?” inquiring peers would ask me. “Well, God bless you!” a cashier would say as my mother tried to defend her eight gallons of milk with the jaw dropper, “I have nine kids.” The world does not understand the need to homeschool when free education is down the road.
The Personal Witness of Family
As a teenager, merely going to McDonald’s on vacation with my entire family was embarrassing: our family’s mere size conquered the Play Place, and I thought that our anarchy was threatening the other four parents and three kids. Now I know that the world is thirsting for a witness of family life that is not based on media messages or Planned Parenthood propaganda but, rather, on the truth, goodness and beauty that is available to us on earth.
The eschatological witness of religious life is equally essential: to bear witness to the truth, goodness and beauty yet to come. “So, do you wear pajamas?” curious girls will now ask me.
“Yes,” I reply, while thanking God for allowing them to see that I am different and praying that the witness goes a little deeper.
One does not have to look far today to see that our culture is superficial, selfish and egotistical. People still know that they want to be happy, but they look for immediate fulfillment with no commitment or suffering. I believe one of the greatest gifts the homeschooled child receives is stability and security in family life: she knows that the essence of her identity is committed love.
As all fallen mankind, she is prone to the superficiality, selfishness and egoism of the world, but, hopefully, she has witnessed her parents’ formula for happiness: sacrifice and self-giving love. Maybe one day, she will begin to feel a tug on her heart, a pull from her innermost depths.
She will begin to spiritually understand that the committed love which has given her an identity is ultimately from a committed and faithful God who is thirsting for spousal union with her. Realizing her own unworthiness but convinced that she is being called, she will say, “Fiat! I will forever love Unconditional Love Himself!”