In some ways, the vocations of marriage and religious life are similar. The newlywed couple and the newly professed religious start in a honeymoon phase, wearing rose-colored glasses. They begin what they believe will be their happily ever after.
Then reality sets in. At some point, the shine can wear off and they reach a crossroads: Abandon their vocation or go deeper into it.
Truth is, your vocation is not meant to be an escape from the struggles of life. It’s the battlefield where you prove your love against obstacles that sometimes seem insurmountable. A vocation is a call to war and you will undoubtedly receive spiritual gashes and bruises.
It’s especially easy for those of us who are not religious to overidealize that vocation. While it can be a life of great beauty and joy, it comes with its own struggles. Here are a few.
A monastery isn’t as quiet as you might think.
Some people prepare for religious life by spending hours in silence before the Blessed Sacrament, in a room where no one is making a sound (except for that one person who occasionally falls asleep and starts snoring).
Although monasteries have their quiet times, there is talking and activity going on. That’s why monks and nuns go on silent retreats sometimes!
Be prepared for an all-out war with the forces of evil.
A holy religious and a brother once went to a brothel to evangelize. They only found two demons there. They then returned to the monastery and found it surrounded by an army of demons.
The devil knows he has to take out the heart to kill the body and religious are the beating heart of the Church. They sustain us with their prayers and sacrifices.
The devil won’t let them accomplish this task without a fight. That’s why you should include religious in your daily prayers.
Much discipline is required.
You may like the idea of praying for hours a day. But if you were to start doing it regularly, you would realize just how tough it is.
Plus, the majority of each day is planned out for you. Letting go of your freedom takes some time.
None of this is meant to scare off those discerning religious life, just like the challenges of marriage shouldn’t dissuade those called to that great vocation.
Rather, let these facts inspire you to a more practical discernment so that you know what you’re getting into and — with God’s grace — are better prepared to enter your battlefield and win.