saints and sisters

Not long after I learned of Katie Davis’ remarkable journey, I stumbled upon another story, a young woman equally articulate about God’s call on her life. It’s a very different call: Tracy Kemme is a Catholic Sister in training.

I landed on her blog in a roundabout way, trying to sort out the concept of a saint. I find All Saints Day (Nov. 1) quite curious. How are saints identified? Why are they venerated? The whole idea of relics and such? I’ve never really gotten that.

I’ve been thinking about the way Mary, the mother of Jesus, is revered. I’ve been thinking about the apostle Paul, trailing along 2000 years behind him in Italy, Turkey and Greece this summer, reading through his New Testament works for the past year. Standing on the steps of the amphitheater where a crowd riled against him, in clear view of the prison in hot and dusty Ephesus, he seemed ever more saintly.

Some people, like my Aunt Bea, seem destined for sainthood. But the scriptures say all who believe in God are called saints, are called to be saints. Most days I feel anything but saintly. Certainly not on the St. Peter, St. Paul, or St. Mary scale! But, somehow, I think they might have felt the same.

Shoulder to shoulder with the saints are brothers and sisters of the cloth. On the Diary of a Sister In Training blog is an eloquent explanation of why Tracy is in training to be a nun. In responding to a challenger, Tracy reveals her decision was the only one she could make to gain freedom and be at peace. She acknowledges her own questions but remains steadfast and unapologetic in her resolve. God has called. She has answered!

These are commitments most of us can’t imagine making, certainly not I. Vows of poverty or celibacy are serious statements of intent, as courageous as Katie’s ministry in Uganda, as radical as determining to adopt orphans in lieu of bearing children.

Tracy captured the essence of it perfectly, paraphrasing from the Song of Bernadette,

“For those who are called, no explanation is necessary. For those who are not called, no explanation is possible.”

These decisions come at significant personal cost. They are especially poignant when considering how bright, strong, beautiful, and capable the women who make them. It doesn’t make sense — in worldly terms — to give up “everything” for “nothing”. But it does present a powerful testimony of a human heart in tune with God’s. These are saints (scriptural, not religious) for sure.

It struck me for perhaps the first time that one might be compelled — not just choose — to do something difficult, even radical, but yet completely sane, when called by God. As a forty-something, I’m especially impressed by the potential of a twenty-something life so wholly devoted to Him.

Hero of the faith, Jim Elliot, got it right:

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

She, neither.

So I’ll journey on. I’ll try to be still enough to listen, quiet enough to hear His call for me in this next season.

~René Morley

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