Sr. Ann Francis

Sr. Ann Francis

Sr. Ann Francis

My journey into religious life started with a question: Is friendship with God possible?

The above question struck me forcibly when I was about fifteen and has never left me since. It led me to consider what potential there was for prayer. I usually experienced fervent bouts of devotion around exam time but could my prayer go beyond asking God for stuff? Eventually I began to wonder if I was called to some kind of religious life where prayer would be important.
I should elaborate.
Prayer is important in all lifestyles and in all forms of religious life, but I knew absolutely no-one in religious life whatsoever: the only nun whom I had ever really ‘seen’ was Mother Teresa on television, I finished school and went on to college where the idea of religious life waxed and waned at times but never really left me.

Then one day when I was nineteen I came across a booklet relating the story of St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). What resonated with me was not so much what she did but her understanding of prayer as an intimate friendship with God – loving him whom we know loves us (see ‘Life’ chap 8 ).

With this booklet I plucked up the courage to began to take my first tentative steps towards Carmel. At this point my mother knew what I was up to and while she was supportive of my finding my path in life and making my own decisions she was a bit apprehensive as well. Neither of us knew alot about religious life. I stayed at the Carmel for a number of ‘live-ins’. When I eventually decided to enter, my experience of telling people was surprisingly very positive.

While some found it hard to understand why I would choose such a life, and especially an enclosed life, as time went by they were happy and supportive because they saw I was happy. To me, Carmel with its orientation towards prayer makes space for the living God in our lives, not just as individuals but within a community. We share our lives with each other. A phrase from the Carmelite Rule (of St. Albert) that embedded itself in me is that Carmelites are called to live “a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ” (Rule 2).This phrase has a prophetic ‘Elijah-like’ ring about it that constantly challenges and charms me. Since coming to Carmel, I understand that as well as being a personal relationship with God, prayer is our primary work. The purpose of our lives is to praise God and to intercede for his people, something we begin afresh everyday. Naturally this life is not without its own struggles or its own joys – but ultimately I can see that a call to religious life is a gift to be responded to and cherished; doing so leads to happiness and peace of heart.