People have many misconceptions about what living in a convent is like. One assumption people have is that religious sisters are so much easier to get along with than other people, (because a habit must be some kind of magical, automatic saint cloak). We put it on and BAM, we’ve got a saint on our hands.
But unfortunately, religious life is not some kind of magic silver bullet to sanctity. The convent is a saint-making factory, and all of us are in various stages of completion.
Besides our varying states of sanctity, which only God can really know, there is the reality that people, regardless of holiness, sometimes clash.
Some might expect religious sisters in a convent to have a lot in common. It’s true that we all love Jesus. But, we are also very different from one another. I think God purposefully plans it this way so it can create situations that lead to holiness (and frustration!).I used to joke with my co-novice, (one of the woman who entered the convent in the same year) that we could not have been more different from one another. Getting to know her was a baffling experience for me. It led me to realize that in my normal life I usually surrounded myself with people who were, on some level, like me or complementary to my personality. This meant that I often screened out people who really might have challenged me or opened my mind to understand different ways of thinking, (and I am not just speaking of superficial differences like politics, although that is a start).
When I have struggled with learning to relate to others in the convent, I have tried to look to Jesus as my model and I have found several things that have helped me.
I talk about some of them in my Tuesday column at Aleteia.
Check it out if you are interested.