God and Woman at Harvard
A 2010 summa cum laude heads to a convent.


LOPEZ: What’s your advice to high-school and college girls who have considered a road similar to yours, but who maybe don’t know where to look or how even to talk about it?

MARKS: Spend a bit of time each day talking to Jesus, before the Blessed Sacrament if you can, or in a quiet place free of distractions. Start with 15 minutes and work up to half an hour. You can’t know what He desires for you if the two of you aren’t good friends. Ask Him and His mother for guidance. And check out some community websites, maybe starting with those listed on the website of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. If a group piques your interest, send the vocations director an e-mail and see what happens! Vocations directors are not recruiters; they are seasoned religious with long experience helping young women to discern God’s will for their lives.

LOPEZ: You wanted to go to graduate school but discerned that God wanted something else. Why would you give up your free will like that?

MARKS: Part of the answer is that when Love asks you to be His spouse, you don’t quibble about the when and where. The other part is that anything worthwhile in life requires an ongoing, freely willed surrender of one’s freedom.

LOPEZ: It’s August. What does your life look like in the coming days, weeks, months, years?

MARKS: Right now, I am savoring my last few weeks with my parents. When not helping them around the house, I’m sewing my postulant outfits for the convent and preparing the rest of the items we are asked to bring with us. I am also working to publish my senior thesis as an article, finishing another article I’m co-authoring with the other two Harvard commencement orators on the oration experience, and planning a trip that the vocations director of my community and I will be making to Boston in October. Yesterday, I visited the Sirius radio studio in Manhattan to be interviewed on Lino Rulli’s The Catholic Guy about my vocation.

On August 27, my parents and I will be starting the drive to Ann Arbor to arrive the following afternoon. In a short and simple ceremony, 21 other young women and I will be accepted into the community as aspirants. During our first year, our daily schedule will include prayer, recreation, classes, study, and free time, and duties around the convent like cleaning, preparing meals, and gardening. We will also go on the occasional field trip and help the sisters with apostolic work like retreats and summer missions. After the first year, we will receive the habit and our religious names, becoming novices for two years until first profession of vows, which we will live for five years until making the lifelong commitment to religious life at final vows. Alongside this eight-year timeline for spiritual formation, there is also professional preparation: After four years of classes in the convent, we will attend a local university to obtain the degrees necessary to teach, and will student-teach in the Detroit public schools. We will then be sent to one of the growing number of schools around the country to which the sisters have been invited.

LOPEZ: Are you happy?


LOPEZ: For all those, younger and older than you, who are in pursuit of happiness or have given up on it: What is it and how do you hold onto it?

MARKS: Happiness is the sense of peace and joy that stems from knowledge of and union with the One Who created us and Who loves us infinitely. We will attain it fully in heaven, but we can achieve it to a significant extent beforehand by battling our desire to remain independent of God, ignoring the voices that label religion boring and unnecessary, and better acquainting ourselves with Truth through study and prayer.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online. This piece has been amended since posting.