It is almost every little girl’s dream to be a bride and get married. It was my dream. And really, it still is. Growing up, I always wanted to get married. I did not really know anything about religious life at all. There were not many sisters around. However, at one point in middle school, I was introduced to religious life, and was told that I should pray to know God’s will for my life and to do it. I began praying this prayer: “Lord, tell me what you want me to do with my life and I will do it.” I did not really know what I was doing, but I started praying it when I remembered. So I continued on with my life. I was really involved in school-I was a cheerleader, in band, in sports, in clubs, and I worked. I dated a lot of guys and thought I was living the normal life.
Towards the end of high school, I got involved with a youth group and, for the first time, I began to learn who God was and that He loved me. I was set on fire for him. All this time I was still dating guys. However, I began to think I was called to the religious life. But I didn’t want to give up dating or the chance to get married. So I pretended to be open to do God’s will, but I continued dating and living the “normal” life.
I went to a Catholic college, Franciscan University. I began to meet all kinds of great Catholic people. I decided then that I was definitely getting married because there were all these great guys to date. I decided I didn’t want to be a sister and that was it. I was not open to it at all! However, after a few years, things started happening. I began studying St. Francis of Assisi and his way of life. I was so attracted to it and I knew I wanted to live a Franciscan life. However, I still was not going to be a sister, so I decided that I would join the Secular Franciscan Order, because you could still be married and live a “normal” life. Then I started having more than a few people start asking me if I was going to be a sister, and I of course answered absolutely not! Then a priest asked me if I was scared God was calling me to be a sister, and I said “No, because He is not!” But it really made me start thinking. I knew I was not open to God’s will, so I started praying that I would be open, because I figured if I was open to religious life, God would tell me that I could get married.
So I began to pray. One day, I was praying, and I knew what He was calling me to, but I was not ready to accept it. Finally, I just said, “OK God, tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it. I’m open.” And it took a lot for me to say it. And at that exact point, a sister in the chapel off to the side of the one I was in stopped singing and started talking about her community. I knew it was God speaking to me. Through many other little signs and series of events, I knew I had to visit that community. I realized that God had changed my heart. I wanted to be a sister with my whole heart. And I knew that this was what God was calling me to. And yet it was still hard. I wanted to get married still. I wanted to experience the love between a husband and his bride. I didn’t know what I was going to do. But the Lord continued to show me that religious life was able to fulfill all my desires, even better than marriage could. I also started talking with other people about it. I talked to sisters, priests, and friends.
That fall I attended a discernment retreat with the community and fell in love with it. The whole weekend I was there, a phrase kept running through my heart and mind: “This is what I want! This is what I long for with all my heart!” I did not know where it was from, but assumed it was a psalm or something from Scripture. However, a week or so later, as I was studying for a class on St. Francis, I came across those words. They were his words when he had heard the Gospel passage from Luke 10 preached and realized it was what he was called to live. What a confirmation that was to me!
Over the next year and a half I spent a lot of time with the community. I began to see what religious life really was. In marriage you give yourself to your husband or your wife and together you give yourselves completely to Christ. Religious life is a total gift of self to God alone. That is why a sister can’t marry another man. They have already given themselves completely to God alone. As I struggled with the fact that I could not get married, I began to understand this more. On one level, I just really wanted to be a bride. And then I saw that I was going to be a bride, and not just for a day, but for my whole life. A sister is a bride of Christ. That is why she wears a veil. Just as a bride wears a veil on her wedding day as a symbol that she is the bride and she is to be wed and she will be this man’s alone, so a sister wears a veil her whole life to symbolize that she is a bride and that she is Christ’s alone.
And so, I am a bride, allbeit in a different way than marriage, but a bride of Christ.