.- After years of working as a pro-life news reporter, a Catholic journalist discovered that she had a vocation to be a contemplative nun and that God had been using her work to prepare her to answer the calling.
On Oct. 14, Kathleen Gilbert, former LifeSiteNews U.S. Bureau Chief, will begin her first year as a postulant for the Discalced Carmelites in Buffalo, N.Y.
Although she was raised in a Catholic household where religious life was always seen as “a very good thing,” Gilbert told CNA she never felt “pushed” in any particular direction and was “totally free to pursue whatever I wanted to become.”
Early on in her life, Gilbert said she wanted to be an apologist – someone who teaches the Catholic faith and defends it from misinterpretation – especially since she frequently “practiced” explaining Catholicism to her Presbyterian father.
With prayers and a strong faith formation from her family, Gilbert said she “entered adulthood knowing that the path I chose would be my own creative response to God, not just aimless self-determination.”
Gilbert wanted to study exorcism and demonology, but eventually became a journalist, giving up her post-graduate studies in theology to write full time for LifeSiteNews.com, a non-profit online news site dedicated to covering stories from the culture, life and family spheres.
But that shift in plans was possible only because of the spiritual nature of her work, which was “enough to satisfy my desire to do good and, especially, fight evil,” she said.
“It was an absolutely spiritual workplace. Our daily bread is prayer,” she said. “Being able to bring such single-mindedness towards God into one's daily work routine is a real privilege.”
As a journalist, Gilbert said she dealt with “darkness” and “occasional discouragement” because of the news she reported, but she still approached her work with a strong sense of optimism.
“I never really felt any reason to fear or despair,” she said. “Any darkness we encountered just became all the more reason to roll up our sleeves and get to work shining light on it.”
In Dec. 2011, after working as a journalist for three years, Gilbert began to seriously discern the possibility of a religious vocation.
She explained that she has always felt “a bit of that sense of detachment from the world,” as if she were an “onlooker” or “exile,” but simply attributed it to being “a member of the City of God.”
However, when that feeling “began to gnaw,” rather than just “tough it out” for any longer, Gilbert began to listen to the ‘still small voice’ and made her first visit to a Carmelite monastery during Christmastime of last year.
“Since I had never envisioned this future before, the suddenness of it helped me conclude that it wasn't just my own idea,” she said.
Gilbert knew that if she did have a religious vocation, she needed to look into the Carmelites, or as she calls them, the “Marines of the Church.”
She felt drawn to those who live with an “emphasis” on “total union with God in contemplative prayer.” In this way, she said, Carmelites strive to “devote our whole lives to being the contact point between Heaven and Earth, drawing down the graces that priests, missionaries, and families distribute to the world.”
And although she is giving up writing for a living, Gilbert believes that working in the news was a “brilliant way of getting to know what to pray for” in the convent. Gilbert will also take with her all the relationships she “cultivated in the pro-life world.”
Although she will no longer be working for the news agency, Gilbert hopes she can still help LifeSite as their “staff nun” who will be working “full-time in the higher echelons of power.”
Ultimately, Gilbert hopes that her work as a journalist will have “saved even one unborn child's life, or softened the heart to the dignity of the human person, or given another a little spark of hope that set it on a path to true freedom.”
“If I've done that,” she said, “well, I win.”