“Wow!” Imogen’s eyes shone as she opened the Christmas gift. There under the bright wrappings was Felicity’s complete jewellery collection in a huge wooden box. And then the smile on Imogen’s face disappeared. “I wish Felicity were here with us. I’d rather have Felicity than have her jewellery.”

Eight weeks earlier, Felicity had left home to enter an enclosed monastery as an aspirant. It was our first Christmas without her.

Before she’d left for the convent, Felicity sorted through all her possessions. She found something very special to give each of her brothers and sisters. “I’ll wrap them up and you can give them to everyone on Christmas Day,” she’d said. All Felicity’s treasures were given away. She kept nothing for herself. She kept nothing back just in case.

Felicity didn’t think about ‘just in case’: just in case it doesn’t work out, just in case I change my mind, just in case I come home. All these were, of course, possibilities but Felicity didn’t think about possibilities. She went away intending to become a nun. She wouldn’t be coming home again unless God decided differently.

Felicity was 18 when she decided to join an enclosed order of nuns. She’d done a lot of soul searching during the previous months. It wasn’t an easy decision to come to. It was a decision which would involve much sacrifice. But eventually Felicity knew she had to answer the tug that was pulling her towards religious life.

How does a mother feel when her daughter announces she is leaving home to become a nun in an enclosed order? Overjoyed? She is giving a child to God. Shouldn’t she be happy that her child is willing to answer the call? Everyone congratulated us; everyone was thrilled for us; it was an occasion for celebration. But that was only half the story. I was willing to let Felicity go. I was happy. But I still grieved.

Felicity told us she was leaving for the convent. I hugged her, I was proud of her and I was happy for her. But I cried. The thought of saying goodbye made my heart ache. I knew we’d be allowed to see Felicity now and then. We could visit as a family and spend a couple of hours with her every so often. But Felicity would never be allowed to come home. She’d never sit in the armchair across from me as we chatted, wrinkling up her nose in her characteristic way as she laughed. We’d never share another coffee while out shopping. We'd never even be allowed to share another meal. She’d never joke and act the fool while doing the dishes with her siblings. She’d never teach them another song or share another movie. She’d never again share our pew at Mass. She’d never again come along to me and say, “Hey Mum, what do you think about…?” So many things we would never do again.

When a daughter enters religious life in an enclosed order, it is necessary to let go completely. When Felicity became a novice six months after leaving home, I asked Mother Prioress what my role now was in Felicity’s life. “You will always be her parent and Felicity has an obligation to pray for you but from now on, I am her mother. I am responsible for her physical and spiritual well being.”

It is very difficult for a mother to hand over a daughter so completely. A big hole was left in my life. I was no longer needed by Felicity. I no longer had a say in anything to do with her. I worried. Was she eating properly? Was she working too hard? Was she getting enough exercise? How was her life really? Was she coping? Was she happy? I could not ask about such things. They weren’t my concern. My daughter was no longer my daughter. And although I sometimes didn’t feel I could admit it, I felt sorrowful. I felt like a bereaved parent.

Felicity spent 2 years in the convent. Eventually she came home. Although she wanted to give her life to God in this way, it wasn’t meant to be. She came back and tried to pick up the threads of her old life in the world.

But you can never pick up where you leave off. The world had moved on while Felicity had been away. Friends had gone along different pathways. They’d changed. We had become different people too. Our mother-daughter relationship would never be the same again.

Sometimes I want to go back a few years. I want to avoid all the heart ache. I want to say, “Felicity you are too young to give your life to God. Wait until you are older. I don’t want you to go.” But I could never have done that. Why not? Other people were saying such things. Because Felicity had begged me, “Mum, you won’t stop me doing what I feel God is calling me to do, will you?”

And that is the problem. Don’t we all have to try to go where God is leading us even if the pathway ahead looks difficult? Even if sacrifice is being asked of us? Even if we’d really prefer to do something different? So it didn’t matter what I wanted or what Felicity wanted. She had to leave. 

Felicity wanted to do God's will and make an offering of her life. Things didn't turn out as she'd hoped. But I don't think that really matters. Success was always in God's hands, not hers. It was the offering that was important, not the outcome. I know Felicity was willing to give up everything for God. I know she was willing to make the offering with all her heart. And this is why I am so very proud of my daughter.

Post a Comment

  1. Wow, what a beautiful and honest story of a mother losing her child to God and then getting her back. It brought tears to my eyes. Very beautiful.

    I am brand new to the blogging world (a whole 2 1/2 weeks) and I hope I am able to tell great moving stories too! I am not a writer but I have a desire and feel the pull to do this.


  2. Thank you Noreen, for visiting my blog and sharing my stories. How good of you to stop and comment! It can be difficult sometimes being open and honest. I could worry about what people will think of me. But I have found everyone is so kind and accepting. I am sure your stories will be a great success. I am looking forward to visiting your blog. Perhaps we can be friends? God bless.

  3. I would love it if we became friends! I'm sure I can learn a lot from you!

  4. I don't feel I know much. But we can be friends!!

  5. this is a very powerful read. I asked dh to read it, we reflected on a great loss in our life after reading this. thanks Leanne

  6. Thank you for reading my story, Leanne. I wasn't confident about publishing this story. I have so many different feelings about this experience, some of which I feel guilty about: wouldn't every Catholic mother rejoice if her daughter wanted to join a religious order? Why would we grieve? But I grieved like I did when we lost Thomas though not on such an intense level. There are so many issues involved that I did not foresee. It is really Felicity's story and I am just telling it from my point of view. She had the much more difficult part. God bless you.


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