While in the convent, my class read Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. I had read this book a few times in my life before the convent and I was excited to read it again. If you have never read it, it is one of those books where you notice so many “new” things each time you read it.
Because my class was reading it together, we discussed it at times during recreation. One of the parts that some of us had difficulty understanding discussed abjection. What exactly does abjection mean? If you look up “abject” in the dictionary it says:
- utterly wretched or hopeless
- miserable; forlorn; dejected
- indicating humiliation; submissive: an abject apology
- contemptible; despicable; servile: an abject liar
In this section St. Francis de Sales discusses accepting and even cherishing abjection. (If you want to read this section, you can read it here). I feel that the time after one leaves the religious life is a perfect time to put this into practice. But why do I say that?
When you live as a sister or nun in a religious community you are poor. You know that going in and you are happy about it! When people hear about what you are doing, they generally respect you for it. “Oh Sister, let me buy some food for you!” If your habit is getting a little tattered and stained, someone might offer to purchase material for you so you can make a new one. If you run out of gas because you are lost and don’t have money to buy more, it is probably pretty easy for a stranger to stop and fill up the tank for a woman in a religious habit. If someone spits on you in the subway, you’ll know it’s because you’re a woman religious and you can joyfully accept “all for Jesus!”
But what about when you return to the world? You are still poor. But it’s different. It’s abject poverty. When you go out wearing the same clothes every day because you only have one outfit, people might notice and judge you. If you run out of gas, will anyone stop and help you? If you can’t look quite “together” for your job interview, will you get the job? If someone sends a rude gesture in your direction for no apparent reason, how will you handle that?
St. Francis de Sales encourages us to use these situations as opportunities for growth. Sure, it’s easier said than done. But God allows every situation in our life for our sanctification. Even if we felt that being in the convent was our path to holiness, it isn’t right now because we are in the world. This isn’t easy to accept, but it is worth considering and taking to prayer. May God bless you!
by Jane F.