Biography of Sr. Tiziana of the Sisters of the Interior Life
In my life, I had never thought about becoming a nun. More so, becoming a nun was not even on my list of things to do. When I was seventeen years old, a chance meeting with someone changed my life completely. As it was raining cats and dogs, I entered a church in order to not get wet. As soon as I entered, an American girl, Susan, approached me. Susan was in Rome because she met an Italian priest, who is now the founder of our community in her parish in California. I was surprised that she approached me, and hearing her foreign accent, I thought that she needed some directions or the like. So, I asked her ‘You are not Italian right?’. She answered, ‘No, I come from the United States.’ From that moment on, a deep friendship was born between us. In the course of our first conversation, she asked me ‘Do you know what the purpose of your life is?’ I had pondered this question many times in the past, but it was always an unsolved mystery in my mind. I come from a very strong Catholic family, and I used to go to Mass every Sunday, but sadly, it was only by force of habit rather than because of any conviction.
As a person, I was always very vivacious, dynamic, outgoing and mischievous. But, every so often, I would have an existential crisis, although it was something that I never shared with any one. I always wore a mask. I led a normal life, like any girl of my age, but I had always felt different from the others. Superficial conversation, weekend dances, and just hanging out at friends’ houses chatting the whole night away all left me feeling empty. I felt that I wanted to do something for the others, but I didn’t know where to start. The studies that I undertook (humanities) prompted me to reflect much. Above all, I was particularly drawn to philosophy. I was really searching for the ‘why’ of my life, and Susan’s question was the opportunity to find the answer to this question. Immediately, I asked her the same question in return, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ Her response was, ‘The goal of your life is to become a saint.’ I smiled and said, ‘Perhaps this is your goal, but it is definitely not mine, I have no desire to become a saint.’ At that time, I had a false concept of sanctity. She explained to me that a saint is not one who is a mystic, or one who does extraordinary penance or one who does miraculous deeds. To be a saint means to be oneself, to develop the gifts that you receive from God and to put them at the service of others. When God creates someone, He has a plan for him, and in fulfilling that, that person attains sanctity. To do God’s will is not to do the will of someone who is not interested in me and what is good for me. Instead, to do God’s will is to do what makes me really happy. Therefore, to do God’s will is to do our will purified from selfishness. ‘How can I know God’s plan for me?’, I asked. She answered, ‘Ask God. Start praying.’ Usually, the only times that I did pray was when I had a specific need – an upcoming test , a sick relative… And even, I said the Hail Mary or Our Father quicker than the speed of light. Practically speaking, I used to say prayers with actually praying, without listening to God. Prayer is a dialogue with God, but in my case, it was simply a monologue.
Susan taught me how to meditate upon God’s Word, and she recommended some books to me that helped to interpret and to live out God’s Word. Since then, I dedicated half an hour each day to meditation. In addition, Susan explained to me the value of Mass. I rationalized that since Jesus was in the Mass, and sanctity is the union with Jesus, the natural consequence would be that the more I went to Mass, the more united I would be with the Lord. So, I started to attend daily Mass as well. Gradually, my life changed. At the conclusion of daily meditation, it is important to make a resolution for the day to live out a particular aspect of the Word of God. In doing so, one grows day by day in virtues.
A year following my ‘conversion’, I met my soul mate at a friend’s house. We started dating. On the one hand, I was very happy because I liked to be loved and the center of someone’s life. I was flattered because someone loved me. On the other hand, after our dates, when I returned home, I felt as though I had wasted precious hours of my life. I wondered to myself, ‘Tiziana, you wanted to be loved by someone, and now you are. Why do you still feel this emptiness?’ The answer wasn’t long in coming. I made the decision to date this guy without even consulting God, even more so, I wanted to simply do my will, and not listen to God. I felt drawn to and admired people who renounced marriage in order to give themselves completely to God, at the same time, I felt very attached to my Prince Charming. Every once in a while, I thought about sisters and priests and understood that their radical lifestyle was the fruit of their love for the Lord. It didn’t mean that they didn’t feel the desire to have family and get married, but they had a discovered a greater love – a divine love for the Lord. It is very natural to fall in love, but whoever decides to consecrate his life to God, he does this despite the attraction he feels for the opposite sex. I felt sad because I wasn’t generous. Later on, a friend of mine sent me a book by Saint Ignatius of Loyola. I was struck by what he said about vocational discernment. An essential requisite for one to choose in accordance with God’s plan was interior indifference. This meant a disposition to completeness openness to whatever God has in store for you. One can understand his vocation only if he is free from prejudices, preconceived ideas and self-interest. One has to be able to tell God with complete sincerity, ‘Lord, do with my life whatever pleases you – it matters not whether you want me to get married or be a nun.’ I realized that I didn’t in the least bit have this interior indifference. I was terrified of God’s call. I used to tell Jesus, ‘Ask of me whatever you want, but please don’t call me to be a nun.’
The days went by, and I remained in this crisis. St Ignatius’ words haunted me. One night, it was Christmas night actually, I went to church before midnight Mass. In the quiet, dark stillness of the Church, I was alone with Our Lord. These words came to my heart – “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life.” (Matt 19:29). Those words pierced my heart like an arrow. They were not words of a man, but the words of God, and God can never lie. I reflected, ‘I’m not mature – neither humanly, nor spiritually. I should break-up with my boyfriend for a while, and the Lord, when I am older, will most certainly give me the reward. I will make this leap of faith only for Him, in order to reach interior indifference. In several years, when I will have discovered my call, and if this call is to marriage, Jesus will either let me meet this same guy again, or He will let me meet another guy, this time one a hundred times better (he did promise a hundred times more on earth right?). Therefore, why should I doubt? Why should I have fear to break this bond?
In that moment, I cried a lot because I clearly understood what Jesus was asking of me. I promised Jesus that I would leave my love as soon as possible. This was the best way to become more spiritually mature. The more frequently you are with the person that you like, the less objective you will be.
After the Holy Mass, I left the Church peaceful, although my senses complained. To put this promise into practice was not easy. I was even more committed to prayer and to my daily duty. Shortly after, I understood that Jesus was calling me to be His spouse. How did I understand that?
I didn’t hear any voices, I didn’t see any apparitions. I simply saw the passing of my days and understood that time is very short and each one of us has a mission to accomplish. Always, even if your call is to serve God through marriage, you should renounce your own instinctive satisfactions and carry forward the commitment to build a Christian family. The more I prayed, the more I was aware of the number of people that were deprived of the light of God. My desire to dedicate myself wholly to them became impelling.
I wanted to spend my time in prayer, in learning about the things of God and in helping spiritually my neighbor. There was no better way than to become a religious. I decided to devote the rest of my existence to work for the others with God’s help – like that American girl had done for me.
After years of formation, I pronounced my vows of poverty, chastity and obedience – the words of Jesus came true: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life.” (Matt 19:29)
In telling this story, I do not intend to tell people that they should consecrate their lives to God, but I want to invite all to ‘interior indifference’, the necessary condition to chose whatever really makes us happy.