Poor Clare novice sees great joy in a life counter-cultural to that of mainstream world
By Nathan Rumohr
Two years ago Sister Agnes Marie Jose, OSC, was a driven 22-year-old university student who had the world at her fingertips. The woman once known as Angel was on a path to serve God as a scientific researcher. Instead God brought her into contemplative life at the Poor Clare Monastery in Mission.
"The consecrated life is a beautiful life," said Sister Agnes Marie. "It's one filled with sacrifices and hardships, but also overflowing with love, peace, and joy!"
Sister Agnes Marie understood the need for prayer in the world was great. While a life devoted to prayer under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience would scare off most women in their 20s, Sister Agnes Marie sees great joy in the "counter-cultural" lifestyle.
"Living the life we do seems crazy to the world."
She said life as a nun is very challenging because the world has become atheistic. "Just being a good Christian is challenging in itself!"
Adding to the challenge of cloistered life is the fourth vow of enclosure taken by the Poor Clares. Once a nun takes her final vows at final profession, she stays at the monastery for the rest of her days, apart from necessities such as medical appointments. Sister Agnes Marie will take that vow in 2014.
There are three stages to becoming a finally professed cloistered nun: one year of postulancy, two years of novitiate, and three years of profession.
On New Year's Day she became a novice. She describes it as a "beautiful day."
"I gave my 'yes' to God in a much deeper way. God is never outdone in generosity."
She said the most dramatic part of her choice came with the cutting of her hair as a sign of consecration to God.
"The cutting of my long hair (12 inches, at least) was, for me, a sign of cutting off from the world with all its vanities and superficial happiness in order to be wrapped in the
true joy that only Jesus can give. It was at this point that I realized the impact of what was happening."
Sister Agnes Marie's journey has come at a special time for the Order of St. Clare. Since April 16, Poor Clares around the world have been celebrating the 800th anniversary of the religious consecration of their founder. Pope Benedict XVI has granted a plenary indulgence for the jubilee year.
"The Holy Father wanted to empty out purgatory," said Poor Clare vocation directress Sister Claire Marie Blondin. "This is a phenomenal year for us."
The Poor Clares dedicate many hours to prayer throughout the day, following the Liturgy of the Hours. The nuns are also encouraged to study Scripture and other Catholic works. However, this is not forced upon on them, as their primary mission is to model St. Clare's good friend St. Francis of Assisi, and "become prayer."
"Every day we are imbued with the word of God through the Eucharist and the Scripture, because our life revolves around the liturgy," said Sister Agnes Marie. "The Holy Mass and the Divine Office are the centre and backbone of our day; everything else comes after them."
In lieu of performing missionary work in the community, the Poor Clares pray the petitions of the faithful. The sisters encourage Catholics around the Lower Mainland to send prayer requests to the monastery.
"We want people to know that someone is praying for them for everything," said Sister Claire Marie. "That gives hope that they're not alone."
"Every thought, word, and action is centred on God, done for Him, and in Him, for the sake of love and the salvation of souls," said Sister Agnes Marie.
Prayer requests can be sent to the Poor Clares by phone at 604-826-2818 or by mail to PO Box 3370, Mission, B.C. V2V 4J5. More information about their way of life is available at the same numbers.