When she was growing up, every time she saw a nun on television, Jade Banks would pray to Jesus – “Don’t make me do that.” So what made this vivacious 23 year-old girl decide she wanted to become not only a nun, but a cloistered Carmelite?
In an interview with Huffpost, Jade Banks explains how it happened, beginning with her days as an animal science major at Colorado State University. She was on her way to realizing her dream of becoming a veterinarian when it became clear to her that something was missing.
“Even in high school when I was volunteering at a veterinary hospital, I used to come home at night and pray to God, saying: ‘I like this, but I’m still not satisfied. I want more!’ I couldn’t see myself living a ‘normal’ life with a simple career forever. My heart knew better, but my brain had no clue at the time.”
And then one day she attended a Catholic conference and heard a talk on the lives of the saints given by a young and beautiful Sister of Life. Her talk was about Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity, a woman who knew by the age of seven that she was set aside for Christ.
“The only thing on my mind at age seven was Cheetos,” Jade admitted.
But the talk continued and she listened as the sister told about how Elizabeth’s mother wanted her to marry and sent her to military balls with the hopes of attracting a suitor. It was this part of the story that had a sudden and profound impact on her.
“The profound statement I am about to mention next is when I instantly knew that I was being called,” Jade recalled. “All the men at the military ball one evening told Elizabeth’s mother: ‘We can’t marry her, look at her face…she is already taken.’ I realized being called to the life of virginity is for one reason and one reason alone, to console the Beloved Jesus, to be His spouse. To ‘lay down my life for my friends,’ for my Jesus.”
She knew this was her destiny and began the search for the right order. Every time someone would ask, “What will you do all day?” or “Don’t you want a husband and children?” she would “mentally roll my eyes.” But knowing that she once thought exactly like them is what gave her the patience to politely answer those questions.
“Only through grace was I shown the beauty of this life. The very life that most resembles Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I wrote a blog called “Celibacy, the Misunderstood Calling”, which tackles all of these questions through my own personal experiences.”
As her imovie explains [see below], she decided to enter Carmel, one of the strictest orders in the Church where she will be cloistered from the world.
“No technology. No cell phone. No email. No music, not the worldly type (I’ll explain). Only snail mail! I can only write one letter a month (total) to my family. No letter writing during lent and advent! Once I am a fully professed nun (God willing) then I can respond to friends,” Jade explains.
As for the music, it’s very much a part of the Carmelite lifestyle. “Just like the angels singing at Christ’s feet, we sing all of our prayers for our Divine Office and The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin. It’s a Gregorian chant style, it’s the most beautiful style of music I have ever heard. It’s supernatural. I imagine more of a chant style of music in heaven over Jay-Z and those Highway to Hell jams. HA! I don’t see angels rapping, no offense to the world!”
But what will she do all day?
Pray! This is what sets the Carmelite apart from other orders, she explains. Unlike sisters who are called to teach, preach, or serve the poor, the Carmelite is called to serve God directly, to sit at His feet like Mary Magdalene.
“Our whole day and life is a prayer. Prayer for salvation of souls, prayer for priests and serving the Poorest of the poor- Jesus Christ Himself,” Jade said. “The world calls it a waste, but Jesus calls it the ‘better portion’.”
And because Jesus is never outdone in generosity, He made sure that Jade would live out her vocation in a ranch-style convent with plenty of animals such as cows and sheep, cats and dogs.
Was it tough to leave it all behind? Of course! But, “as much as we need engineers, lawyers and veterinarians… the sad truth is we have WAY more engineers, lawyers and veterinarians than prayer warriors. We need laborers!”
For those young women who are feeling the call to serve God in the religious life, she has nothing but encouragement.
“Be not afraid to choose a radical and unworldly way to follow Jesus. The world we live in today teaches us to forget that we are ‘temporary travelers.’ When we die, Jesus will not ask you what degree you got, how much experience you had, how many friends you had or how good your hair looked. He will ask… Did you LOVE? Ask yourself, ‘How can I best do that?’ Not a worldly love, but a supernatural love. The last commandment Jesus left us was to LOVE one another, even our enemies. Take courage, and remember where you are weak, He is strong. With God ALL things are possible as Saint Gabriel told Mary when She was told that She was to be the Mother of God. Ave Maria, God bless you my dear sisters in Christ! And who cares what the world thinks, laugh at it! “I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)