My name is Sarah Golden and I grew up as the oldest child in a large Catholic homeschooling family. I have always loved God’s creation, from my family’s pets, goats and horse to the wildflowers which fill the woods around our house. I also love poetry, the artful investigation and communication of one’s perception of reality, and music, especially the Catholic Church’s rich treasury of Gregorian Chant.
I was blessed with the grace of awakening to my faith at an early age. I was reading Mary Fabian Windeatt’s children’s story of the life of St. Francis Solano when a thought suddenly struck me: I realized that sanctity is not reserved for the flat, perfect people which populate saint picture books. Sainthood was something real and tangible that even I could attain. At that moment I resolved that I too would become a saint. My resolution flagged in my teenage years; I regarded my spiritual aridity with frustration and disgust, but did not know how to snap out of it. That began to change when I enrolled at Christendom College. As a freshman I threw myself into the rich religious life on campus by attending daily Mass, spending time in adoration, praying the rosary and Vespers, singing in the choir, and joining the student-run group which cleaned the chapel on a daily basis. My love for Christ and my faith deepened as God prepared His daughter for the first advances of her divine Spouse.
One day in the Spring semester of my sophomore year, I was leaving a building on campus when a friend of mine sitting nearby called my name. “Sarah!” he said. I stopped, turned around and replied, “yes?” The question that followed startled me. “Have you ever thought of becoming a nun?”
Up to that point in my life I had not considered a religious vocation. I had never felt any particular attraction to it, so I assumed that if Our Lord wanted me to be a religious sister He would let me know. Well, now He was letting me know, because from that moment on, the idea never left me. I must admit that at first I was angry at God for wanting to mess up all my plans for my life; but slowly I came to realize that whatever He desired for me was all that would ever make me truly happy. And the more I thought about my plans for the future — such as majoring in Wildlife Biology, getting married, and having a family — the more I realized how faded and grey they seemed next to this new, vibrant, colorful dream for which my heart longed with such earnest joy.
The following semester, as I studied abroad in Rome, Italy through Christendom’s study-abroad program, my classmates and I made a pilgrimage to Assisi. I had never had any particular devotion to St. Francis, but as I walked the cobblestone streets of the Medieval town, gloried at the radiant sky above, and gazed down on the fertile valley below, I felt the deep, passionate presence of the Italian beggar, standing next to me and praising the beauty of His homeland which spoke God’s breathtaking love. Then one day I went to pray before the cross of San Damiano.
Called to Serve
I knelt before the cross asking the same question St. Francis had as a young man seeking God’s will in his life: “Lord, what do you want me to do?” Then I heard the most beautiful voice in my heart. It was a voice that did not speak in words so much as it did in love, and my heart leapt with joy as I knew it instantly as that of my Jesus. He answered me, saying, “Come. Come. Be mine. I love you.” I could barely contain my joy as I cried “yes.” I felt gloriously helpless in the arms of His love — how could I answer His beloved voice with anything other than consent?
Later, after some serious reflection, I decided that I should regard the grace of this incident with some openness — perhaps Our Lord was calling me to a deeper intimacy with Him in my spiritual life, not necessarily to a life as a religious sister. Yet His call only grew in my heart along with a magnetic attraction to any Franciscan or Poor Clare I met in Rome. When I returned to the United States I knew I needed to investigate the Poor Clares and their charism, a search which led me home to Bethlehem Monastery of the Poor Clares in Barhamsville, Virginia!
The Franciscan charism is especially marked by a devotion to the person of Christ, God Incarnate among us. St. Francis organized the first living Nativity and was the first recipient of the stigmata as a living sign of the extent to which he lived St. Paul’s saying, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). The Poor Clare lives this ardent love of Christ in every aspect of her life. She lives a life of complete poverty, both materially and in spirit, as an expression of her utter self-surrender to the One whom she trusts to provide for her every need and authenticate her very existence. As the bride of Christ she is also a spiritual mother to all His children. Although the Poor Clare physically separates from the world by entering the embrace of the cloister, she does not do so to reject the world. She does it so that her heart may expand to embrace each specific individual in the entire world with the overwhelming love of Jesus, not only her own Spouse but also the Lover of every human soul.
I humbly beg your prayers for me and my fellow men and women who Christ is calling and who desperately wish to answer His love.