She also helped found the parish’s now flourishing young adult group and initiated “Christ in the City” Eucharistic adoration — evenings of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament that she hoped would help young adults discern God’s will for their lives.
Going to the cloister would mean leaving all those projects, but Clemens is excited about the new work God may be asking of her as a nun.
“We are called to live this life with eternity in mind,” she explained.
“By giving everything up, so to speak, and withdrawing to a cloister to contemplate God … sitting at the feet of Jesus and to pray for the world, the salvation of souls – that in and of itself is a witness that God is sufficient,” Clemens added.
While Clemens is happy about a possible religious calling, she acknowledged that it won’t come without sacrifice — including of marriage and children.
“I love children, and so the idea of not having children really pulled at me, and I really wrestled with that — with not being a wife and a mother,” Clemens said.
But according to the church, she explained, “as women, we are all called to be mothers” — physically or spiritually. That gives Clemens peace — if she is called to prayer in a cloister, she will be nurturing souls spiritually.
In the cloistered monastery, Clemens said, that means carrying “within your heart the cares of Christ” — including the much-loved souls for whose salvation a cloistered nun spends her life praying.
Spiritual motherhood is a hard idea for some to grasp, she observed, particularly parents who see religious life through the lens of their own vocation of marriage.
“Their thinking is… ‘I am so happy being married and having children, I just want that for my own son or daughter.’ …but God might be calling them to something a little different than what they’d imagined,” Clemens explained.
Living in the cloister also means separation from parents and siblings. During her month-long visit to the cloister in February, Clemens said many of the sisters acknowledged that while families can visit, being away can be hard.
But Clemens banks on the fact that “God gives you the grace you need when you need it.” And she keeps eternity in perspective. “God willing, we’ll all be in Heaven forever,” she added.
In the meantime, Clemens’ faces another divide from her family. Her Protestant family opposes her investigation into religious life. While she understands their position and respects them, she said, “I must be faithful to go where Jesus is calling me to go. Jesus spoke more than once on the cost of following him.”
Still, “there is always hope” for accord, she added. “All things work for good for those who trust him. I firmly believe that.”
Another cost that Clemens faces is educational debt that must be paid before she can enter the monastery. She has been working to meet those obligations — and also now, she is connected to the Labouré Society, a non-profit organization that raises funds to help would-be religious resolve school debt.
There’s no guarantee, but she continues praying.
“If this is what God wants for my life,” she explained, “then he will make way.”
'We only have today'
One’s vocational discernment can be a long road, but it starts today, Clemens believes.
“One of my favorite quotes is by Blessed Mother Teresa… ‘Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.’”
“Sometimes, you kind of have to step back out of your life and really take stock of where you are and what it is you’re doing and not doing,” Clemens explained. “Spend time with God in prayer” and go to the sacraments, she urged. “Ask God, ‘What is it that you want me to do?’ and be open to the answer.”
“God knows us so much better than we know ourselves,” Clemens added. “He knows what is going to truly fulfill and make us happy.”
“Cooperating with the working of God in your life,” she said, results in “being transformed to be the person that he created you to be.” And the aim of that is “to know him, love him, serve him and be with him for all eternity.”
Printed with permission from CatholicAnchor.org, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.