The Call to consecrated life- A Mysterious gift

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The previous night of my elder brother’s wedding. Most of my relatives were at home. In those days the wedding meal used to be prepared during the night, very much a communitarian task. Children used to enjoy thoroughly such times, intermingling with the adults and trying to understand adult conversations. Suddenly one of my aunts turned to me and said, “it will be your turn next…” I shook my head vehemently in negation. Then she said, “Oh are you going to join a convent then?” I did not answer her at all. Then another aunt said, “if she joins a convent she will be back within a week. She will not stick to convent life.” Another aunt added, “even if she stays on there, she will make others to get out…” Everyone laughed.

Though I was studying in class X at that time, I did not have a desire to join religious life. All that I knew was that I did not want to get married. I nurtured a secret desire to be of help to people who are suffering. I thought of becoming a doctor in order to help the sick and the suffering. After getting my class X results, my grandfather did not allow me to go for higher studies. He wanted to get me married as soon as possible. After one year I expressed my desire to study further and to my surprise he agreed to send me to college. I wanted to take the Science stream with biology for the 12th but my father insisted that I take mathematics instead. My dream of becoming a doctor got shattered. Gradually I lost interest in studies.

After my 12th exam, one day I was all alone at home. Suddenly the thought about my future began to trouble me. I wanted neither to pursue my studies nor to get married. Nonetheless I desired to dedicate my life in service. The thought of joining a convent came to my mind again and again. But each time I brushed that thought aside because I used to be very critical of the way many religious lived. According to me they were far away from living gospel way of life. At the end of four to five hours of struggle, suddenly an idea came to my mind as a flash of lightening. It was about joining the Presentation Order. It was like a Eureka experience. I felt so peaceful. I had heard about Presentations through my cousin sister who joined the order a few years back. She told me that ‘Presentations are not like that’ whenever I complained about religious in general. I was so certain that I have to follow this inspiration. I ran to my friend’s house to tell her about my decision. After hearing me she thought that this was my latest joke!!

It was only after a month that I told my parents about it. My father felt so upset and angry. He had to face his friends and relative who questioned, “Why are you sending your daughter to the convent? Isn’t she good looking? She is good at studies, suffers no disabilities, then why do you push her to a convent?”When my grandfather came to know about my decision he too was very upset and blamed my father. My mother who had already offered all her children to God even before they were born supported me in my decision. She tried to convince my father. At last he gave me permission to join. But he was still very sad and upset. He even told me that I am as good as dead to him.

Reliving my ‘call experience’ during this year dedicated to Consecrated Life, I fail to comprehend the mystery of my call. I was never a pious girl who was interested in going to church or eager to join the family prayers. Even today I feel that my siblings were far better. Why did God choose me then and not them? Of course I used to feel compassion towards the needy, the poor and the sick even as a young girl and I had a desire to be of service to them. That was my only qualification.

During the course of my initial formation God purified my motivations and to some extent my understanding of vocation to religious life. While in novitiate, I had opportunities to interact and share with senior sisters who used to visit us occasionally. Gradually I realized that there is no community life – be it family life or consecrated life or for that matter any human organization – that is devoid of problems and issues, from which Presentation Sisters were not immune as well. That realization shook me very badly. I regretted joining religious life. I could not forgive myself for making such a foolish mistake in my life. I kept blaming myself. Days on I struggled. I could not share with anyone else.

Then one day while I was praying, I opened the Bible. My eyes fell on the passage from John’s Gospel. “You did not choose me, no I chose you” (Jn 15:16). That sentence went straight to my heart. Until that moment, I thought that it was I who joined religious life and it was I who took the decision. My thinking changed suddenly. If Jesus has chosen me to this life, then I am not to be blamed. He is responsible for bringing me to this place. Ever since that incident I had no doubt about my religious vocation even when I passed through difficult times.

Over the years, I do not claim that I understand fully why I am called or chosen to this way of life. All I know is this. It is a gift given to me, a mysterious gift. I am not sure whether I deserve this gift at all but it is given to me unconditionally. Since it is a gift, I have nothing to boast about. This awareness helps me to walk humbly with my God (Mich 6: 8).

There are thousands of consecrated persons in our country today who find meaning and purpose for their religious calling through intimacy with God in prayer, communal living, service to the needy, working for human dignity and rights, etc. even though they may not fully understand the mystery of their unique call.

Sr Shalini Mulackal

Shalini Mulackal is a Presentation Sister, teaching systematic theology at Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. She has completed her Doctoral studies from the University of Madras and did her research on Religio-cultural practices of Dalit women. Currently she is the President of the Indian Theological Association (ITA), member of Indian Women Theologians Forum (IWTF), former coordinator of Ecclesia of Women of Asia (EWA), and board member of Centre for Dalit Studies (CDS) Delhi. Her recent publication includes two volumes of Biblical commentaries from a Dalit perspective, one on Ruth, Esther and Judith and the other on the Minor Prophets. These have been published by CDS as volume 6 and 20 of the Dalit Bible Commentary series.

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