I love sisters. I have one actual, biological sister, and I love her. I also have an ever-growing number of female friends who have entered consecrated religious life, though, and I love them, too. For the record, I also love my friends who have become priests. I tend to hang out with people who follow Jesus pretty seriously, sometimes even into vows with him and his Church.
One of my nun* friends, Sr. Dede (who I knew first as a nun, but who became a friend) said once, in a reflection on her vocation, that she sought to “be the stained glass window through which the light of Christ may shine.” I took that to heart, and I offer that phrase in my prayers to this day. It is in that spirit of shining with the light of Christ that I approached Light of Love, a hour-long film by Imagine Sisters. The organization is dedicated to making Jesus loved “by introducing the world to religious sisters in love with Christ through media.” In the film, I got a lamp-lit view of what it means to follow Christ with your whole heart and your whole life. Sisters are a great example of how to love Jesus.
Light of Love features the stories of five vowed female religious, told in their own words to the camera, who have lived in their communities for up to (and over) twenty years. In their apostolic work, they are a teacher, a doctor, and a thrift store shopkeeper. In their communities, they are a superior or just another sister. They live across the United States and abroad. They share the joy, peace, and hope that comes from giving their lives entirely to Christ.
Before I watched the film, as directed, I reflected on what I was expecting to see. Personally, I wanted to hear about the sisters’ sense of certainty in their discernment. I wonder all the time whether I am really doing what God wants from me. I could easily do what I want, be happy, and decide that my happiness is confirmation of the will of God, but that’s not necessarily true. I also expected to get a sense of the joy and peace of religious life and the thoughtfulness that spending so much time with the Lord must bring.
What I saw was joy and peace, yes, but also hope. One of the sisters recalls her encounter with a woman who was an atheist whose mother had recently died. Not believing in God meant that she didn’t believe in heaven, either. The sister saw that conversation as an opportunity to show kindness and generosity to this woman and to rejoice herself in the hope that comes from being a Christian. Without the hope of eternal life, death is depressing. Our role as Christians is to share that message of hope with the world because we believe it, not because others do.
If I could ask for anything more from films such as Light of Love, it would be a focus on community. More than one sister spoke about or showed her community life, but I wanted to see even more of it. Having lived in an intentional Christian community, I have experienced its incredible value and distinct challenges. It is definitely a “good source of purification,” but it is also an opportunity for grace and listening to the Spirit speaking through those who know you so well.
Perhaps the best part of a film such as this is giving people who do not see sisters in their everyday lives a glimpse into the world behind the walls, so to speak. Not everyone gets to have nun friends. Even finding examples of holy marriages these days can be tough! If the idea of sisters is just an unseen concept to you, Light of Love invites you to imagine something different. I think even men can find something of value here: the example of a life that hinges around prayer, an outreach that is not sacramental, an openness to the voice of God.
*Although nuns live in cloistered, closed communities and sisters in the outside world, I use the terms interchangeably here and when I’m speaking with non-Catholics. I love precision of language, but sometimes it gets in the way of the message.