Every order is different, so the best way to learn about convent life is to experience it yourself by going for a visit. We’ve tried to give a general overview below.
When you join a religious community, you join a family.
Living in a religious community is much like living in a family: communities are of different sizes, and include people of varied ages, all pooling their gifts and talents and sharing responsibilities. They are united by a common love: Jesus Christ, and a common purpose: bringing to fruition the charism and mission of their order.
Created in the image of a Trinity of Persons, of a “community of persons,” community living is integral to our holiness and imaging of God. If our earthly lives are the preparation for eternal life in communion with the Body of Christ, then one’s ability to live in communion within the religious community is an essential element of their growth in holiness.
A day in the life
Like every family, every order is a little different, but these are some general characteristics of the horarium, or schedule of a convent:
- A common time for rising each morning
- Community prayer to begin each day, which might be meditation, Lauds (Morning prayer of the Divine Office), Mass or other prayers established by the Community
- Time for apostolate, work or ministry to which each sister is missioned
- Community prayer in the late afternoon, which would often include Vespers (Evening prayer of the Divine Office)
- Evening meal
- Evenings activities vary greatly from Community to Community; they might be a time of study, continued apostolic works, recreation, meetings or prayer
- Compline (Night prayer in the Divine Office)
- Preparation for sleep and the next day’s activities
In addition to the daily prayer time, sisters may share cooking or cleaning responsibilities as well as collaborating on special events during the week, or liturgical year, that make the convent a home, a family really, dedicated to the flourishing of each member in the convent.
Those who’ve newly entered (aspirants, postulants and novices) tend to live in the motherhouse or house of formation, which is often the “headquarters” for the order. For the most part, a sister’s time of formation is focused on prayer, study, community life and recreation, responsibilities around the house (like cooking and cleaning), and some apostolic work.
Once out in the apostolate (which varies very much by the order), the sisters may work in schools, hospitals, missions, or offices; they may pursue advanced degrees, or they may do a mix of things. In the midst of their busy schedules they strive to remain faithful to their common life: praying, eating and recreating together to stay connected with Jesus and with each other. Sisters in the apostolate may travel back to the motherhouse for annual retreats, feast days, and other get-togethers with the rest of their order.
In most congregations the Superior of the house is responsible for the schedule, or horarium, of the convent. She is also the person to grant permissions for necessary items or any activities in which each sister would participate or need. It is important to remember that the vocation to religious life is one which calls forth maturity and sacrifice; therefore it is as adult women, seeking to grow in holiness through God’s Will, that the horarium, the asking of permissions and the acts of charity toward each sister become essential elements of daily life.
Again, the best way to experience convent life is to visit for yourself, so we encourage you to learn more about different orders, speak with their vocation directors, and spend some time with them.