After observing the behavior, commitment, and holiness of a cloistered religious... one makes some almost unintentional assumptions. "This is what she was always meant for, she is made for prayer, nothing else could have made her so happy, she is stronger than others, and gifted with more virtue..." While all of these are, in a sense, correct, there are some harmful misconceptions here.
When I was first introduced to the saints, I viewed them as elevated beings. I felt that I too had to be elevated in order to be a saint... that I had to be naturally above normal. Now, if I had not been such an ambitious person by nature, this could have been really detrimental to my progression of sanctity. If I had said "I am far too below these blessed ones to consider sainthood, I do not have this strength, nor this capacity for virtue..." I probably would not have pursued it and found, in doing so, that holiness is for everyone.
Although a cloistered religious is given special graces through the merit of her vocation, she is not free of feelings and faults and needs. Although a cloistered religious is chosen by God for this particular path, it does not mean she could not be happy and successful in the world. Although God provides the means for a woman to become a religious, it does not mean there were not major road blocks. Although God calls a cloistered religious to a higher and tougher way of life, it does not mean she does not experience depression and spiritual difficulties. Although God calls a cloistered religious to a commitment to pursue perfection, it does not mean she is not full of faults. If you think that a religious is an elevated human being, who has reached heights that aren't available to you, you are wrong.
Why do I speak of this when religious are so often saints? Why do I say this when humility is a virtue, and we should naturally recognize the sanctity of others? So many people have a religious vocation and are afraid to follow it. So many people think that this way of life is above them. So many people see other paths open to them... such as marriage, success in studies, and talents... and think that because these paths are open, the cloister is wasting God-given talents. But the cloister is not for those who have nothing to give, it is for those who have much to give. What is our sacrifice if we leave nothing behind us when we go?
In my life, this understanding has been very important. As a little girl I aspired to be a singer, but asked God to take away my gift for singing because I longed for something more, the gift of humility; He heard my prayer. When I was a preteen I was highly gifted in taking care of animals. I learned quickly and handled, raised, bought, showed, birthed, etc. a variety of animals. But I knew that the convent was yet a greater achievement, and gave this too up in order to attend college and thus be prepared for the cloister early. Although my academic education was severely lacking, as I was not serious about it until 10th grade, I scored high A's in my high school and college courses. I love to study, and this showed me very obviously that I could be successful in higher education. But as soon as I realized I was called to a Poor Clare Community, when I realized that my greatest wish had been granted, I knew that I had great pride in my unusual academic success and that I would need to put it aside to grasp for that which I have been begging Jesus for such a long time.
Since then, I have realized that the goal which I am pursuing is the only goal in which I will never be able to take any pride. I am reaching for that thing which I can never grasp on my own, and which only submission and humility can obtain. Only by admitting my imperfections and faults, only by showing myself if all my weakness and suffering, only by literally putting myself in the hands of God to lift me up to my goal, can I achieve this greater gift I desire. I am attempting to do that only thing which I cannot do on my own, and that is obtaining holiness.
Why do I tell you this? I do not say this to boast on my own spiritual revelations, or to give a sermon on those things I have learned, I say this to show you that seeking the love of Christ is worth everything. Pursuing a religious vocation, when one has been granted that gift, is the greatest ambition... and it is worth giving everything else we have to obtain. We go to the cloister to find that pearl in the field... and it is worth giving all we have, and all we are, to find. If you have gifts, which I know you must, know that this is not necessarily a sign that you are called to pursue all those things that you can do. Whatever our gifts, we should give them heartily into the hands of God, if He will accept them as a dowry for His Son.
But circumstances don't only include what we are, and our capabilities. What about the situations of our lives? My life has been very easy... my parents totally support my vocation and, though some whom I tell are sorry to see me "waste my life", I have never received anything but kindness and respect concerning my vocation. What of those who are discouraged, and who's families are opposed to their decision? Is this a sign that they are not called to a religious vocation? Certainly not. While support is nice, it isn't necessary. Often God allows people to endure this persecution for their own benefit, to purify their motives and detach them from all things that keep them from God. I am grateful that God has granted me so much love from others, and I am grateful for the patience of those who's lives I have been a part of, but I often wish that God would grant me this particular trial, and oftentimes He hears my prayer.
We are all called to be saints, to a deeper spirituality, and a greater capacity for receiving Christ into our hearts. Many of us are called to this great experience of heaven on earth that is found in the cloisters, and to the precious gifts of love and suffering that only the spouse of Christ can receive. God gives us our persons, our talents, our needs, our situations... and He tells us to do with them as we wish, while secretly He desires us for Himself. Don't be afraid that He does not want you, He always wants you. Don't feel that because you are materially gifted, or non-gifted, that you are restricted to the material. Jesus makes Himself available to you, and He is worth seeking!