Sr. Teresa Reyes
“An understanding of the theology…of consecrated life and what it really means to be consecrated to the Lord was absolutely essential to me to be able to discern the call,” reflects Sr. Teresa Reyes. After all, if she didn’t understand the what the call was, how could she answer? She remembers asking herself, “What was the Lord calling me to?” and “came to know more about consecrated life to imitate Christ’s own life of poverty, chastity, [and] obedience.” Through this imitation, she discovered that the call to consecrated life is the call “to be a sign,” to be an “eschatological witness,” of the spousal love of Christ. The more she delved into this witness, the more she became informed of the theology of consecrated life, especially that it is not a sacrament and that it is not only about the work. Rather, consecrated life is about living the “reality (of the spousal union)” and letting God “make it efficacious.”
To learn more about the theology of consecrated life, Sr. Teresa highly recommends JPII’s Vita Consecrata, an encyclical about the nature of consecrated life. This encyclical illustrates the beauty of saying “yes” to the Lord through an analogy to the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration was to prepare Peter, and, as Sr. Teresa remarks, “We’re called to be transfigured,” but “it doesn’t end at the Transfiguration. We’re called to live in the Transfiguration and apply the foretaste of heavenly glory to our daily lives because the “mountaintop moments prepare us for times of trial when we’re called to imitate Christ on Mt. Hermon [and] on Mt. Calvary.” By living in this foretaste of Heaven, we not only better appreciate our lives but also better appreciate our vocations, no matter what they may be. We see the “importance of cloistered contemplative life…of active apostolate…of works of mercy” because we see that “all forms are valued…needed…all ways of imitating Christ.” First and foremost, our vocation is to be Christ to the world.
We can only be like Christ if we know Christ, and we come to know Christ through learning about Him, uniting theology with prayer. Theology “keeps us grounded in the Truth” because it teaches us “who we are and who God is.” Whom we believe God to be guides and directs our prayers – if we believe Him to be all-powerful, all-mighty, and all-merciful, we approach Him with a vulnerable authenticity, unafraid to share our hearts; if we do not believe He loves us infinitely in His goodness, we become apathetic about the significance of why we continually show up to prayer. Therefore, “bring all (theology) to prayer,” and “ask Him questions.” Knowing God is not just reading about Him, but praying with what we learn, living what we learn, embracing what we learn. After all, “what is prayer, but having a relationship with God” that causes us to go out to transform the world?
This call to knowledge and to transformation does not begin or end in religious life but is lifelong. Regarding how she learns theology at the TOR Motherhouse, Sr. Teresa notes, “As a community, we have an hour of silence before the Blessed Sacrament,” during which some sisters choose to read theology “that can be a springboard for prayer.” Other sisters choose to read during or after their silent breakfast or throughout the day. No matter when they choose to learn, all sisters commit to “ongoing formation” after their final vows, during which they “seek to be formed in faith…and allow [themselves] to be formed by the documents of the Church.”
Just as the Church guides our faith, the Church gives us the opportunities to learn and grow in knowledge of our faith. This knowledge serves as the source and the guide of our prayer through how it teaches us about God and about ourselves. We must never stop learning so that we never stop growing, the call to conversion constantly pulling us onwards, because through this conversion, we transfigure our hearts more completely to His own.