Have you ever imagined school as never-ending, with no graduation in sight? Many might say my life is much like that. Ten years ago, in a desire to respond to the Lord's call and to answer love with love, I left everything: my father, my mother, my sisters, my friends, and my work, to dive into a world unknown to me. Embracing consecrated life, especially monastic life, was certainly not in keeping with the times.

When one joins a religious community at age 28, one has already lived a bit and gained life experience, at least at a professional level. I soon realized that despite my desire to swim in deep waters, I had landed in a universe filled with various guidelines. Reality hit me in the face: a large part of what I was bringing was of no use. There was a real need to truly give birth to something new that willingness could not guarantee without the help of grace.

Of course, walking in Christ’s footsteps is what a consecrated life is all about. Nobody conforms to it completely, though. Working with one’s hands, cultivating solidarity, living the love, feasting on the Word of God, as one serves and obeys others, means living a life in the image of Christ’s life.

This is a path for apprenticeship and conversion that is rough, yet filled with joy: the joy of silence and solitude filled with His Presence, the joy of His Word meditated and partaken, the joy of liturgical prayer sung daily; the joy of living as a fraternity with city dwellers at the heart of the town; the joy of encounters, etc.

It is a school of life, but for life because in the end one must live the Gospel in an ordinary life, with one’s eye upon the horizon, awaiting a vivifying encounter with the Lord.

Chastity, poverty, obedience makes sense only in the perspective of this Encounter. This is my joy! It means living simply in fraternity in the company of others, waiting together like the watchman expecting to hear the footsteps of the Beloved adorned in various gowns.

When, on 2 February 1997, Saint Pope John Paul II instituted the Day for Consecrated Life on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, his wish was to make it a day of thanksgiving. So, how can I not add my voice to that of the Church, giving thanks to the Lord for a consecrated life which takes roots in the baptismal consecration and promotes an evangelical dynamic within a permanent process of conversion?

Yes, I bless and give thanks to the Lord for his call, which has found an echo in the heart of many people over the centuries. Still today, he never ceases to call men and women to a life in His Presence at the heart of the world. Ageing and the decline linked to the vocation crisis is a reality in several communities, but the “Yes” pronounced one day and vouched daily is always fertile, even when it is said in a state of poverty. This is a school that brings life and sustains it.

May the Holy Spirit renew in each baptized individual the awareness of this common call to Sainthood, and give them the courage and the desire to answer His call personally, in the secret of their hearts, with generosity, love and confidence.

Sr. Arlette (Fraternités Monastiques de Jérusalem)