So why do I want to be a Daughter of Charity?

Monday, May 9, 2011

When I was 17 and first discerning religious life, I never would have imagined that I would be here. But alas, here I am. The Daughters of Charity weren't what I was looking for, at first. If you had asked me five years ago what kind of community I was looking for (if I ultimately decided religious life was for me), I would have told you that I wanted one without a habit, preferably American and focused primarily on foreign mission.
Blessed Rosalie Rendu (1786 - 1856)
 being her awesome self

The Daughters of Charity are a French community with a modified habit with a focus on serving the poor, not necessarily foreign mission. Go figure. But God always sends us curve balls.

So then, why do I want to be a Daughter of Charity? I've been searching for a long time, even an extended period with the Salesians when I was a volunteer with them in Bolivia. But I like to think I've found it here.

The Daughters love the poor. I know that sounds very general. To illustrate my point, I could give you a list of various Sisters and tell you their dedication to the poor. But I could go on and on and, I will save that for another post.

Bl. Rosalie Rendu, one of the great although often forgotten Daughters of Charity saints, said once “I have never prayed so well as I have in the streets”. (If you have the chance, read about her!). St Vincent de Paul said, when founding the Daughters, that the Sisters will leave the chapel during prayer time if ever a poor person knocks on their door and that they would be “leaving God for God” - that is, they would be leaving the God in the chapel for the God in the poor. And I think that says it all.

They are down-to-earth Sisters not afraid to be themselves. I've met about thirty Sisters at the very least and lived in two different houses. I've met Sisters who are young and old, introverted and extroverted, bookworms and sports fans, social workers, teachers, and nurses, converts and cradle Catholics, thinkers and feelers. The point is they're all different. Yet they all have this gravitation and love towards the mission – serving Christ in the poor – and their community. That overcomes all their differences and allows them to embrace them with joy.

They are saints. They are saints not only because of their utter holiness but also their bravery. St. Louise was the first founder of a religious community that lived and worked outside the convent – what courage that must have taken! Bl. Rosalie Rendu almost got herself killed when she crossed a barricade during one of the crazy revolutions in France, while shots were fired all around her, in order to serve the wounded on the other side. The four martyrs of Arras were guillotined because of their refusal to sign an allegiance that would contradict their beliefs and the mission. It was a bravery for the love of Christ but for the love of the poor, in which they found Christ. I am convinced that the Sisters today exemplify that very spirit – they carry it in them - and many are saints themselves.

A Daughter of Charity, to me, is someone unafraid to be herself, someone committed to Christ both in her prayer and in her actions with the poor, someone with a love for the Church, someone who follows in the 400 year old footsteps of the founders but with modern shoes, and someone who lives out joy in her community and her work. And I couldn't ask for anything more than being one of them.

Saint Louise said “I want all of you to become order to do this, dear Sisters, we must have continually before our eyes our model, which is the exemplary life of Jesus Christ. We are called to imitate this life, not only as Christians, but as persons chosen by God to serve Him in the person of the poor”. (Saint Louise to Sister Anne Hardemont, 29 August 1648, L. 217, SW 260-61)

To all those out there discerning, I do not want to say that the Daughters of Charity are the best community out there – because not only is there no “best” when all are loving and serving Christ, but what may be for me may not be for you – but if the Daughters catch your eye somehow, if any of what I have said “sounds like you”, don't be afraid to “jump” and take the next step by emailing, asking questions, going on retreats, reading about the Daughters.....because you never know when you just may have found God's call for you.

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