“Ask a Priest: Do We Give Up Our Talents on Entering Religious Life?”

Q: I’m thinking about a vocation. I want to be a nun really bad. I can’t imagine myself being married, and I really want to be a contemplative. But I also have a musical talent. I play music at my church, and my mom says that it is just a natural gift. I don’t know that I’d be able to utilize this gift if I become a nun. Does God give people talents just so they can offer the sacrifice of not using them? This is the question that has burned in my mind for a while. – K.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s great to hear of your vocational interest in being a nun. It’s a beautiful way for a woman to commit herself to Our Lord.

You pose an either-or question. “Either I use my musical talent or I let it languish.” Often in the Church things are a bit more both-and.

That is, you could be a nun and use your musical talent. Music is a big part of liturgy, and it’s a special way to give praise and glory to God.

So don’t think that you would necessarily have to give up your musical talent if you joined religious life.

One of my brother priests was a medical doctor before entering religious life. He now uses his medical knowledge in the field of bioethics, which is a great service to the Church and the world. St. Hildegard, a Doctor (in the sense of “teacher”) of the Church from the 12th century, used her musical skills while being a religious. So God has a way of channeling our talents for his purposes.

For the record, though, it is worth noting two other things.

First, there is no guarantee that our specific skills will be used, or used in the way we think, if and when we enter religious life. That is for superiors to decide. The key here is that God blesses whatever we do under obedience.

Second, people who enter religious life already give up a gift: their physical fertility. Yet, in your case you could have an extremely fruitful life by being a spiritual mother to the countless souls you pray for.

In any case, it would be good to intensify your prayer life and sacramental life, and to start contacting religious congregations that might attract your attention. You might find this resource on discernment helpful: Called and Chosen: A Retreat Guide on Vocation and the Calling of St. Matthew.

And remember, God won’t be outdone in generosity. Count on my prayers.

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