To Live in Community

The real reason for a Community of Religious is that God has called them. This call has two choices, either to work in the world or to leave all and enter a community. Whatever is chosen is God’s will for them. The rich man chose to stay as before (Mark 10.20). A true saying about the religious life came from the brother of Dom Gregory Dix. Father Dix said, ‘If you have been called by God to the religious life, nothing on earth will stop you going, but if not called nothing on earth will keep you there.’ This is obviously true and has been proved many times since I entered the Community in 1947.

The Love of God

The first priority is to love God and the second priority is to continue in prayer for the world, to be a strong tower to keep off evil in heavenly places. The only gift that a man or woman is able to offer to God the Creator is one’s own free will. A religious community provides the milieu or setting in which this kind of surrender can be made by being relieved of the individual and more pressing responsibilities of marriage and family life. Both are vocations in different ways.

Each sister has a responsibility of building up her community in love, seeking the divine gift of Agape (1 Corinthians 13). This is not ‘soul-saving’ (1 John 3), but a union with the sacrifice of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We try to make our personal self-sacrifice a donation to our Lord’s self-giving for the redemption of the world. Therefore, the monastic life is primarily the contemplative life because contemplation is the purest form of absolute surrender to God.

The sanctification of time

The community also provides for the celebration of the Liturgy in Mattins, Mass, Midday Office, Vespers and Compline. Over the day, there is the work of intercession for the world’s needs at Midday, works of mercy, quiet days, hospitality, chosen types of activity which are the by-products of monastic living and not the end products. It is the totality of the ‘corpus’ of the community offering, its unified life to the glory of God in union with Christ’s words, ‘For their sakes I sanctify myself’ (John 18.19).

My own experience of the religious life is that what one gives up so reluctantly is returned a hundredfold. This is a true saying.

Vocations arise … as the Spirit ‘divideth to everyone severally as He will.’ Thus each one divinely chosen has a part with our Lord in the fulfilment of the purposes formed in the mind of God from everlasting, and each soul who is faithful to any true vocation will rejoice with Him in endless blessedness in his day of perfect joy.

From hence, then dear Sisters, has arisen what you have experienced in yourselves – the consciousness of the call of God gradually growing in strength, the drawings, the visions, the longings, the resolutions, the expanding views, the developing forces, the settled purposes, the advancing hope of the perfect enjoyment of an absorbed possession of the love of your Lord, and afterwards, as these preparations of heart have been trained and disciplined, the sense of the accepted state, the felt impression of the Divine witness in the power of the Holy Ghost, God openly acknowledging, through the ministry of His servant, His own secret work of grace. (‘The Religious Life’, Spiritual Instructions, T. T. Carter (Longmans 1898), p16)

Sister Katherine Margaret, Sister of the Society of Bethany