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Is it bad to 'convent shop'?

Cheryll asks:

Dear Fr Anthony,

A friend has told me that I may have a vocation and I think I do. I have seen 2 convents already and sought help from my spiritual director. He gave me additional 3 more to check out. From those 3, I visited only one, and I've been coming back to that convent ever since (they run a nursing home and I volunteer there). At times, I visit the other convents that I went to, but regularly at the nursing home. I am not sure really if I am called to be a sister there. My question is, since I haven't decided yet where to enter, how do I tell the other convents that I am regularly visiting another convent? Would they feel betrayed? Is it bad to "convent-shop"? How do I tell that "this is the order" that God wants? I feel that I just go there because its near my place...Thanks so much and God bless.

Dear Cheryll,

While you are in the process of discerning where God is calling you, it is quite normal and advisable to visit whatever convent or order you think may be the one. I can't imagine a vocation director or superior feeling in any way betrayed if you check out another order, since you are honestly trying to see if God is calling you there. It would be much worse if you were to join one order and still have the thought lingering in your mind that God might want you elsewhere. When you join an order you have to close the door definitively on all the others so as to give yourself wholeheartedly to your vocation. So if you think there is somewhere else you have to check out more, now is the time to do so, not later.

I see no problem with “convent-shopping” between orders you are familiar with and those your spiritual director recommends to you. The problem is the endless shopping and comparing that is based more on our own likes and dislikes, often in petty things, rather than on God's call. The place you are called to is somewhere you feel at home and yet at the same time are challenged to grow and give yourself more generously. When you find it, and they are willing to accept you, there is no need to go seeking more unknown places to check out. Nevertheless, if God in his providence, places somewhere else in your path, then by all means look into it.

You end by saying, “I feel that I go there just because it is near my place”. You are going to have to think and reflect a little more on that one. Obviously, that would be an insufficient motive in itself to join a convent, there would have to be something more. Do you get the impression when you are there that this is home? Do you fit in, are you at ease there, could you imagine yourself a sister there? If your answer is yes, then there is more to it than just being close by. Maybe being close by is simply God's providence directing you there.

Don't forget to take your concerns to Christ in prayer. Tell him it is all about him and serving him. That is what you want to do.

God bless.

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