A Nun’s Journey
First things first! I never wanted to be a nun: my desire was to get married and have my three children, two girls and a boy! And then God intervened and turned all my plans upside down and helped me find meaning and true joy in my life!
I am originally from Zimbabwe, the last born in a family of six. I was brought up a practicing Catholic and owe to my parents the gift of my faith, especially my dad whose unconditional love for me taught me to believe in God’s unconditional love for me just as I am! As I grew up I begun to take my faith for granted, and it was only in my 20s that I started taking my faith seriously and to search for meaning and direction in my life, whilst at the same time to discern God’s will for me, which I hoped would be marriage. At this time in my life I had also experienced being in love and having a heart break, but was still full of imaginations of the lucky man who was going to capture my heart and marry me.In April 1999 I came to England with no desire whatsoever of becoming a nun. But in September of that same year I attended a ‘Life in the Spirit’ seminar and there I had the misfortune [now I say fortune] of meeting a lovely Franciscan Sister who God used to plant the seed of religious life into my heart.
For some months following this encounter I struggled a lot with these two decisions; the more I resisted religious life the more insistent the call became, but at this time I still had a lot of fight left in me! In the year 2000 I came across a vocations group for people discerning their vocation in life. Here I was to receive immense encouragement and support from like-minded people discerning their vocations and facing the same struggles that I too was going through. From this group, six of us decided to set up a lay community to further our discernment and to offer each other support and encouragement. This was another gift from God – it taught me community life.
In deciding which Order to join I was greatly inspired by St Thérèse of Lisieux and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Like Thérèse I wanted to be a Carmelite and give myself totally to God by living a hidden life and praying for the whole world. Like Mother Teresa I wanted to be a Missionary, to leave my own country and go to another country to spread the Good News about God’s love for us! But after visiting the Carmelites I did not feel drawn to them which was a disappointment. One of my sisters then suggested I visit the Poor Clares, another contemplative Order, to which I replied that I had no desire of becoming a Poor Clare at all. What a surprise it was for me when I finally decided to visit them anyway, and at that very instant I knew that God was calling me to be a Poor Clare – but I still had a lot of sorting out to do. With this revelation also came a lot of pain, indecision, and struggle as I realised all the sacrifices this would involve, like being so far away from my own country, enclosure, etc. So I thought that maybe I could perhaps join an Order that wasn’t enclosed and was a bit freer than the Poor Clares, but I couldn’t find any peace in any other Order except with the Poor Clares. After further discernment and more struggling and pain I finally joined the Poor Clares in 2004, Feast of the Annunciation. And now I realise that God has fulfilled both my desires: I live a hidden life of prayer and I am also a Missionary away from my own country.
I have had people asking me whether I am happy to be a poor Clare. How can one really define happiness? It is like trying to describe being in love, you know you are in love but you cannot put it into words! For me being a Poor Clare means that God is fulfilling my deepest desires, for that which I desire most is also God’s desire for me. When I say I am happy I am saying I feel fulfilled and alive in this life; it brings me true joy and peace at a deeper level. This is not happiness without struggles, pain and constant challenges, but a deep felt happiness at the very centre of my being regardless of what life is throwing at me daily. Choosing to be a Poor Clare means I am able to give myself totally to Jesus [whose love draws me daily] in a way that I feel I cannot in any vocation other than as a nun, and in my hidden life I can lift up all the needs of the world in prayer and petition.
Sr Clare Ruva, a Poor Clare (Arundel)