FOR those considering a religious life, next weekend will provide ample opportunity for gathering information on what a vocation really entails. The Benedictines at Cockfosters hold a weekend of lectures and discussions concerning monastic life, and the Vocation Sisters open a Residential Counselling Centre at. Angmering, Sussex.
There has been, over the last few years, renewed interest in religious life, with a 30 per cent increase in inquiries about both active and contemplative life. Inquiries are generally from young people in the 18 to 30 age range, and are often from graduates.
The growth of meditation groups and mysticism may account for this renewal of interest in all aspects of religious life. A recent "Contacts Weekend" at Vocations House was attended by 12 girls aged 17 to 28, nearly all of whom were interested in a different order.'
The only decrease in interest seems to be in teaching orders, which may be due to changes in educational policy.
In the vocations field there is much more teamwork among religious these days with joint ventures at schools, including talks, films, discussions, liturgies and exhibitions.
These last about a week, and the children are invited to join the nuns and priests at office. Since this was started by a vocations sister in Brentwood, several parishes have asked for a similar event.
Girls interested in entering a convent are made aware that it does involve total commitment for life, but the whole process from the initial entering until final profession takes about nine years, with a renewal of the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience every two years.
Each order has special vows in the spirit of their foundress, also to be renewed.
Relgious life does bring its own problems, and there are great restrictions on one's own free time. The rule of obedience involves deferring to the wishes of superiors, and poverty means that there are restrictions sometimes put on one's own personal money. Such restrictions may well impose limitations on relationships with friends and family.
The new Vocations Centre in Sussex was set up not only to give information to people contemplating a vocation, but also to help resolve problems of people already in religious life, or to give them a rest in peaceful surroundings where they can think and pray if they are unsettled in the life.
An ordinary day in the life of a nun involves getting up at between 6 and 7 o'clock, depending on the order, having morning prayer for about a quarter of an hour, followed by 30 minutes' meditation, and then Mass.
Breakfast follows and then the nuns do their normal day's work which may range from teaching or visiting the poor in an active order, to prayer and meditation in a contemplative order.
Fifteen minutes' prayer in the evening is followed by supper, and then night prayer, rosary, meditation and spiritual readings, Stations of the Cross.
People generally enter because they feel that it is what they were meant to do and want to do, They may join at any age (even widows can become nuns) and the nine years or so before final profession should give them ample opportunity to change their minds.
For further information on religious life contact the Vocations Sisters, Residential Counselling Centre for Religious, Syon House, Angmering, Sussex.