It dawned on me a few weeks ago that it is now twenty years since I applied to become a candidate with the Society of the Sacred Heart. So it's twenty years since I wrote a life-changing letter outlining why I felt called to religious life and to the Society in particular.
I had been told to write to the Provincial; and then told that she would be away until the end of August. I therefore spent most of that month writing my letter "tomorrow". It was a warm, sunny month, and I made the most of opportunities to meet friends or just sit on my patio, reading and relaxing, all the while, in the background, hazily composing the letter which, I knew, would turn my life upside down. Finally, I realised that the end of the month was nigh, and so I sat down and in one sudden burst wrote and posted the all-important missive.
I recall that saying why I felt called to religious life was the straightforward part - but why the Society? What drew me there, made me feel this was "the one"? This is a question I've been asked a couple of times recently: Why the Society? How did you know? And it's a question I recently asked the sister who met and discerned with me, all those years ago: I know I never talked about anything connected with Sacred Heart spirituality, so what did I say? What made you feel I might be called to become an RSCJ?
There's so much on websites now about charisms and spiritualities, that it may be hard for today's discerners to understand that all I had were a leaflet and a few visits and meetings! All I had, really, was a strong sense of being truly, deeply at home; a strong sense that something had "clicked" from the first moment of my first visit. Yes, there were other things too: the individuality and commitment of the women I met, their strong contemplative core, a vague sense of the charism - but really, fundamentally, something just clicked with the Society and nowhere else. And the sister? - all she could say was there was nothing specific about what I said... it was just something about the way you talked about God, that made me feel yes...
On the Feast of the Visitation I posted a poem (here), which, had I known it twenty years ago, I might well have quoted from. My heart turns over... I could have said, to try and explain how I was feeling. In fact, the joy of the journey has been that my heart continues to turn over, and to be turned over, in ever new, ever-deepening ways.