Called by Name
I was talking with a friend recently about a conversation she had with a religious sister about her name. They happened to share the same Baptismal name. The sister said she felt that the name she received at the profession of her first vows was not a replacement of her Baptismal name but rather a deepening of her Baptismal promise and a strengthening of her identity as a daughter of God.
Our identity as a member of the body of Christ is sealed onto our soul at Baptism. Rooted within Christian life, our path to holiness (vocation) is designed by God to embody a specific calling (Vocation). In this sense, God calls us to our Vocation by name because he prepared it specifically for us.
At the Baptism of Jesus, God the Father used the name “Beloved” to describe his son. “Beloved” actually appears 47 times across the Old and the New Testaments and is used repeatedly to express God’s infinite affection for his children.
In 2013, at the very beginning of my Vocational discernment, God used this word to describe me, during a women’s retreat in Miami. After a wonderful day of speakers and small group discussions, we went into the Church to pray as a group.
I felt the Holy Spirit pour over me and say, “This is my beloved daughter, with whom I am well pleased.”
I didn’t know where those words came from in scripture. At the time, I was not aware that God said them at the Baptism of Jesus before the start of his public ministry, or that the Holy Spirit was preparing me for my own Vocational journey, but I knew in that moment that no one could ever love me more than God.
Just a couple of months later, I had the opportunity to go on what we called in Miami a “Nun Run.” It was a visit to multiple convents over a weeklong period for women who were open to learning more about religious life before entering a formal discernment process with a specific order.
Seven of us piled into a minivan and drove from Miami to visit five different convents: the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother in Jacksonville, Florida; the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee; the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Hanceville, Alabama; the Little Sisters of the Poor in Louisville, Kentucky; and the Passionist Nuns in Whitesville, Kentucky.
Spending the night in the homes of these religious communities, God poured his love over me in very tangible ways. From the chicken enchiladas (my favorite food) ready to go into the oven after a long day of driving through Alabama to get to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, to a hilarious game of kickball with the Nashville Dominican sisters on a beautiful hill lined with flowers, his presence was everywhere.
One night, we kneeled together praying in a tiny Adoration chapel, so small that I could reach out and touch the Lord in the monstrance.
This time, he did not call me his beloved; he called me by my name.
Again, I felt the sense of peace that only comes from God and that no one could love me like he does. This infinite affection, unfathomable as it seems, is what gives us the freedom to choose God’s plan for our lives over our own.
As we visited convent after convent, a thought arose in my mind that I would never forget: The goal of every Vocation is union with God for eternity in Heaven. Whether that’s through life in a religious order, consecrated virginity, or marriage, the goal is the same. Intimacy with him is the way we reach it. Only God knows how he will draw you closer to him, but rest assured, he will call you by name and he will love you in the midst of your discernment, just as he loved you into existence at the time of your conception.
I visited five convents in seven days and returned home with the simple yet profound conviction that God wanted me with him in Heaven at the end of my life. As I continued discerning my Vocation, I was able to find a renewed sense of peace each time I meditated on God’s love for me as his beloved daughter.
If you have not heard God say your name, you don’t need to go on a Nun Run to convents across the country. To encounter his love for you, look no further than the pages of Holy Scripture. He may call you Sarah, Mary, Talitha, Woman, Daughter, or Friend, but in all of these he is affirming your identity as his beloved one.
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Renee lives in Arlington, VA, and works for an international development firm in Washington, DC. She loves leading Walking With Purpose Bible studies at her parish and trying new cuisines from local restaurants. She has a Master’s in Latin American Studies from GWU and a Bachelor’s in Communication Studies from the University of Miami.