Thursday, February 5, 2015

It Must Be Love!

by Andrea Koverman

Vow preparation is the central focus of this year, and my fellow Apostolic Novice, Tracy and I have spent the last several months intensely studying, deepening understanding, and discerning our readiness and willingness to make vows. I would like to share some of what I’ve learned, but also the inner shift that I experienced over the course of these months, which is a lot harder to put into words.

I must admit that I approached the topic of the vows with reserve and a little apprehension. Though my understanding of the vows had broadened a little during the canonical year, they still seemed more like a list of “don’ts” than an avenue for spiritual growth. Stories of how power and authority were wielded over Sisters in the past are still told, and I wondered how I would handle it if shades of that culture lingered on into the present. I have proceeded from one stage of formation to the next with the thought that until I bumped up against something that made me say, “No,” I would keep saying, “Yes.” What if one or all of the vows were the wall I would hit? What if it felt like they would drain the life out of me instead of filling me with joy and enthusiasm? Like each aspect of formation that had come before, I wouldn’t know the answers to my questions until I faced them. I committed myself to a wholehearted exploration of the vows, hoping I wouldn’t encounter something that would stop me in my tracks. I knew it would break my heart if I couldn’t go on, but I also knew I could not make solemn promises that I didn’t believe in. My constant prayer was that I would have the grace to be open and to let my desire to want what God wants to guide me.

We were provided with a set of articles and discussion questions to use as we investigated each vow in turn. We also had two excellent resources from last year: notes from Simone Campbell’s presentation of the vows as seen through the lens of social justice, and Elaine Prevallet’s publication, In the Service of Life: Widening and Deepening Religious Commitment. My Novitiate house community and another group of personally selected Sisters formed my two discussion groups. After reading, reflecting and praying with the articles given, we met for sharing and discussion. The wisdom gained through decades of living the vows as the world around them changed was generously shared. I paid close attention to what resonated with me and what did not. Writing a prayerful reflection to conclude helped define and clarify my own understanding. Here is a seriously condensed version!

I came to see that poverty is not about self-deprivation and miserly scrupulosity, but about recognizing that all is an unearned and undeserved gift given to us by a God of unconditional love. It is about being in right-relationship with God, relaxing into the truth of our human limitations and dependence. Poverty means creating space for God to dwell and work through us. It is a source of deep joy and peace, not the cause of discontent.

Celibacy is not simply the obvious sacrifices: no husband, no sex, no children. Celibacy is the natural and logical result of a passionate quest for God who never fails to intrigue me, to hold my attention and fascinate me. God has a primary claim on me, and what I choose to commit my time and life-energy to. Celibacy is not about living without intimacy, but loving the way that God loves: openly, inclusively, but without exclusive possessiveness. It is not about turning my feelings off, but making myself available to an increasingly wider circle of people. As my Affiliate director once told me, if you practice celibacy authentically, you are going to fall in love over and over again. 

And what about obedience? What contemporary empowered woman of integrity would forego the right to make her own decisions? Fortunately, that is not what is at the heart of evangelical obedience! Rather, it is a promise of intentional discernment as to whether or not our decisions are in keeping with the mission of Christ. We are really promising to remain attentive and responsive to facilitating the coming of the Kingdom by doing God’s will, to prefer God’s will to our own.

More remarkable to me than any particular thing I’ve learned is the transformation in the way I feel about the vows. Though I know there will be challenging times ahead, all the apprehension and hesitation I felt at the beginning of the year have been usurped by an absolute conviction that not only can I make vows, but that I want to more than I’ve ever wanted anything before. How did that happen? What’s got a hold on me? There is only one explanation: it must be Love! I have fallen deeply in love with God in response to being deeply loved by God to begin with.

Follow the link below, but be warned: you won't be able to sit still!


  1. Such a beautiful testimony Andrea. My heart soars thinking about the experiences and joy you have grown into. God bless your every breath as you allow "Love to get a hold on You"

  2. Your words deeply touched me, Andrea, and renewed my own desire to live the vows in response to the lure of a loving God. Thank you, and continued prayers as you walk the way of Charity with ever surer steps.

  3. Andrea, your words struck such a deep chord within me that I am printing your thoughts on the vows to put in my journal and reflect on often. Isn't is wonderful, I made my first vows 59 years ago, and still find new beauty and deeper meaning in them when my sisters share with me their experience of vowed life.


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