REYNA: Discerning consecrated life aided by perseverance, prayer
October 6, 2023
For a long time, Reyna Ramirez had an inkling that she might be called to religious life – something that at times has seemed scary.
One of the most vivid examples was when she was just 7.
“I had this dream where I walked into this church and I saw a group of sisters,” Ramirez said. “The first thought was: Am I late? And I was like ‘OK, this is weird.’ So I look at my hands, and I had a habit.
“It was very scary. … I told that to my mom and the first thought was … you’re going to be a nun. And I’m like 7 years old. I did not want to be a nun.”
Her mother shared the dream with other people, she said, “but I actually kept it more as a secret.”
When her family moved to Mexico, “that dream got buried.”
After several more moves, her family settled in Norfolk. When she went to a church there, she realized that it was “the church that I walked into in that dream.”
Still, Ramirez resisted the notion of religious life.
“I think the hardest step was acknowledging that this could be a possibility,” she said. “I remember I was 16 years old … telling the Lord, can you please not bring it up until I graduate?”
“After that He was patient. He was kind. But it was really hard because after that I kind of entered into this desolation … just trying to find where I’m going to go after school, and all these other questions that were coming up.”
The desolation – not being able to hear God’s voice and having doubts about Him – lasted for years. Ramirez said she would go to Mass and retreats, pray the rosary and not feel anything.
“There were nights where I would just go and fall asleep crying because it felt like I was lonely.”
Ramirez, like others discerning a call to the religious life, sometimes struggle with that calling. The Archdiocese of Omaha’s October Rosary Rally for Vocations is a monthlong campaign calling on the faithful of the archdiocese to pray the rosary for vocations in support of these young Catholics.
Currently, 22 men from the archdiocese are in seminaries discerning priesthood and 24 men and women are in formation for consecrated life, said Father Scott Schilmoeller, the archdiocese’s vocations director.
Amid Ramirez’s time of desolation, there were a few times when she felt God’s presence. “He gave me peace. He was there. He gave me strength. So I think that allowed me to persevere and just keep expecting that the next day He would show up, expecting that the next day I would feel Him. And eventually, after several years, that happened.”
Now, she said, she can look back and see the desolation as a good thing. “But in the moment, it was one of the hardest processes of my life.”
When she went to adoration before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and felt nothing, she learned to stay with Him. Deep down she knew: “He’s always been with me, so why would He abandon me in that moment?”
“That prayer time and just sitting there was very important,” she said. “Now that I look at it, it’s like that extra minute that I took sitting there, now you can see the graces of it.”
“I think one time in prayer, I was sitting there – and I usually wouldn’t finish my Holy Hours, I probably would leave before. But one day I just sat there and I finished. And I felt the Lord saying “I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you for staying because you always leave. But I’m proud of you.”
“Those little moments where He would show up in the ways I’ve always known Him” helped her through the desolation. She said she’d treasure those consolations until the next one happened, “which you didn’t know if it was going to happen the next day or three months from then.”
“That time in desolation and the prayer has helped me discern my vocation today, has helped me to just understand that the extra minute that I spend with Him is really good, and it’ll have roots even if I don’t see them immediately.”
After the spiritual dryness, Ramirez could hear the Lord’s voice again.
“It took me more than a year to actually admit that I was discerning religious life,” she said. “It was really hard because I have friends who are discerning, too, and each journey looks different.”
Discovering that God was guiding her toward a specific path felt freeing, Ramirez said. “In that moment, I didn’t know if it was going to look like I was going to enter into a convent or a community, but it did feel like the Lord was inviting me to a deeper intimacy with Him.”
She’s happy that people will be praying the rosary this month for young people like her who are discerning their vocations.
It’s astonishing to think “I have an army praying for me right now, and I’m not alone …”
Prayer is “one of the most beautiful gifts you can give,” Ramirez said. “It’s a very inexpensive gift, a very simple gift, but a very powerful one.”
“Discerning is a very difficult thing. … Prayers are very essential.”
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