How the sound of silence helped Martina Purdy to find her true vocation
When any young woman leaves a successful professional career to become a nun, people sit up and take notice. And if that person is a well-known television journalist like Martina Purdy, there is an even greater widespread interest.
Some two years ago, she left BBC Northern Ireland, where she was a top political correspondent, and joined the Adoration Sisters in Belfast, where she is now known as Sister Martina.
On Monday week, October 17, at 8pm, she will talk about her extraordinary spiritual journey at a meeting in St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast, and she is certain to draw a large audience.
This is part of a widespread programme of events created by Brother David Jardine's Interdenominational Divine Healing Ministries, which last month held a well-attended Day of Prayer in the cathedral.
In the past, anyone who decided to become a nun, or a priest, was treated with a special kind of reverence, certainly in Irish society, and it is said that many a mother felt that her life's mission was complete when one of her children took Holy Orders.
Times have changed and it is well-known that the Catholic Church in Ireland, and in many parts of the Western world, is seriously short of recruits for the priesthood. This is matched by the relatively small numbers of women who take up the vocation of a nun.
Nowadays, there is a mixed reaction to those who take such distinctive steps in their spiritual journey. On the one hand, there is genuine respect for people who make such a selfless decision and, on the other, there is a sense of surprise that a young person will enter into such a strict discipline, thus turning his, or her, back on marriage and a family and of providing the parents of the cherished opportunity of becoming grandparents.
Martina Purdy has received particular attention, not only because she is a vivacious young woman, but also because she worked in the particularly demanding area of reporting on Northern Ireland politics.
Some cynics might suggest that the job of covering Ulster's politics each day would drive anyone into a path where such bickering, in-fighting and at times sheer bloody-mindedness would be too much to bear. However, this is a rather too facile analysis.
Other women in less stressful jobs also decide to become a nun, or to serve the wider community in a very different and unselfish way, often through important charity work.
This is also part of the emerging pattern, where many people tire of the daily rat race and long for a more meaningful and worthwhile existence.
Only this week, the Prime Minster, Theresa May, the daughter of a former Church of England vicar, told the Tory party conference of the importance of Government in playing a positive role in trying to help people, rather than allowing them to be exploited by others - including the rich and the powerful. She made an inspiring speech at a time when the entire UK needs a strong and visionary leader and we can count ourselves fortunate in having such a strong and confident woman at the helm.
Business cynics, whose world is encompassed by making money, might not like the higher tone of Mrs May's speech, but she is following her own vocation of trying to help people.
Other people also have high motives and several of my colleagues left journalism to become clergy in the not-too-distant past.
Thus, in one sense, Martina Purdy's choice to leave journalism and become a nun is by no means unique, but what these people share in common in the search for a new life - and they should be commended as such.
Perhaps Saint Teresa gave the clue to what that search means. She once wrote: "We need to find God and He can't be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence. See the stars, the moon, the sun, see how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls."
Does one need to say more?