Giving My Life and Getting It Back—With Interest
I grew up Canadian, an hour east of Vancouver, British Columbia, but I left after high school to attend Christendom, a small Catholic college in Virginia. I must confess that although I grew up Catholic, the faith was not the main influence in my decision to attend the college. In fact, once I arrived, I began to go to daily Mass only to impress a boy I liked. It worked—but it also had the inevitable consequence of deepening my faith. Holy hours, Rosary processions, even classes took on a personal importance as I felt an unexplained desire to absorb everything Catholic. (Ironically, that “boy” is now an ordained priest and here I am in the convent!) In 1998, I finished my studies in theology and began to teach.
After a few years of “coasting” (moving from the east coast to the west coast and back), I eventually settled in Delaware, teaching junior high and high school. Learning was fun, but I could never keep it to myself. The excitement of showing others the beauty and the wonder of it all made me love to teach, from a time even in grade school when my brother and sisters were unwilling pupils. And so I taught, trying to form my students into whole persons, academically, morally and spiritually. Little did I know that at the same time God was molding me for a Dominican vocation. All the signs were there, even with the schools where I taught: Our Lady of the Rosary and Aquinas Academy!
In the midst of this teaching, I received an article published in a Sports Illustrated magazine. It was about a young woman, an international professional basketball player, who loved what she did, was good at it, had great friends, family, boyfriends and money…everything. But for her it wasn’t satisfying; she gave it all up to join a cloistered Poor Clare community. It was a very disturbing article for me to read—there were too many similarities of disposition. With a leap of faith, five months and a visit to St. Cecilia later, I bought a one-way ticket to Nashville.
I thought coming to St. Cecilia Convent would be a sacrificial act for me—a complete renunciation of the world. But even more, I thought that I would have to renounce myself to fit into the “sister” mold—stretching, shrinking, squeezing into it at all costs. I have come to learn that religious life is not about negating or erasing anything, but developing and discovering who I really am. Now I am in the same place as my former students, but God is the teacher, forming my whole person and chipping away the fears and faults that cover up the person I am. In doing so, He has given me more happiness, freedom and energy than I could ever have imagined! The irony of giving your whole life to God in religious life is that He gives it all back, with interest! The sacrifice is real, but God works with nature and enriches it with his grace.
Sister Mary Martha professed her perpetual vows on July 25, 2008.