By Sr. Maura McAndrews, OCD
“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers.” (1 Thessalonians 1)
In this year dedicated to Consecrated Life, and in my 25th year of religious life, I thank God always for the gift of my vocation in the heart of the Church and in my religious order of Discalced Carmelites. Each moment of my religious life, I rejoice in the grace of a vocation and I am eternally grateful for all who are so supportive of me, and our religious and our Diocese of San Jose.
When I entered the monastery 26 years ago, I thought I would be the one giving and sacrificing. As the days and years passed, I realized that I was the one receiving endless gifts of love and support…first from our beloved God, then from my Carmelite family and our Diocese of San Jose. How beautiful are the bonds of love that unite our Church.
I have been blessed in my birth family, my parish family, and the priests and sisters who have taught and nourished my faith during my 16 years of Catholic education. Although I was nurtured by my extensive family, and parish’s exemplary faith (they planted the seed and watered the sapling), I never felt called to religious life until I was introduced to the Discalced Carmelite community.
When I was studying at Santa Clara University, I was laying the foundation for my career as a certified public accountant. I loved accounting and it was good career choice. However, during my junior year at SCU, a group of friends brought me over to the Carmelite Monastery located in Santa Clara. (It is good to have friends who will lead you to Jesus and who will help you to follow the Gospel.) Thereafter, I volunteered my time to the nuns, in whatever way they needed – painting, gardening etc.
As I worked and prayed at the monastery, I felt a tugging in my heart. I felt as St. Augustine phrased it: “You inspire us, O Lord, to delight in praising you, because you made us for yourself; our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” The contemplative life, which embodied for me the joy of Christ’s friendship and praising Him in the life of prayer, was calling me. The Lord was knocking at my door; was I ready to hear Him? I needed to grow in Wisdom and receptiveness to His call. Then one day, I was open that it was God’s will for me to be a daughter of St. Teresa of Jesus in the Carmelite family. Since that day, I treasure my journey in Carmel and my vocation in the Church.
My discernment to enter religious life was, and is countercultural, and many are not willing to travel it. When I revealed my decision to enter the monastery, some of my loved ones wondered if I had lost my mind. Also, because of the cloistered life of Discalced Carmelites, they thought I would be cutting myself off from them and from the world. But through the many years, they learned that in fact my vocation would bring their lives and the entire world closer into my heart and the prayers of all the nuns. It is a great privilege of the Carmelite nun to embrace the whole world’s joys and sorrows in their prayer before our Lord.
A Carmelite nuns’ vocation is a most rewarding and beautiful life; bestowing “the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21) My Carmelite life, surround by a loving community, allows space for communion with Christ, rooted in a life of faith and prayer for our holy mother the Church.
I give thanks for the past 25 years; I look forward to the next 25 or 50 years of rejoicing in our Lord.