Wednesday, 26 October 2011

"Young Nuns"

In a rush, poppets. Read what I wrote over here, come back, discuss in the combox.

All I want to add is that the French nun who spoke to Catherine and the cameras stressed that a vocation can be judged by how much you want it. It is a falling in love.

"Falling in love with Jesus" does not necessarily mean becoming a monk or nun. You have to fall in love with that kind of life itself, and with a particular Rule, and with a particular group of people living the Rule. Jesus is the spouse of every Christian soul, so perhaps it is wrong to overemphasize the "Bride of Christ" aspect to religious life.

17 comments:

Chris said...

No one seems to understand why anyone wood become a nun (http://m.jezebel.com/5853122/why-would-anyone-become-a-nun). It's odd-- feminists, despite railing against society's marital expectations, seems to think choosing a life of chastity and charity is equal to consigning oneself to death. Even if this presentation is a bit offin some ways, at least it helps make the point that you don't have to be crazypants to make this choice.

Mustard Seed said...

Sounds like an interesting documentary! I wonder if there's any way to watch it in the U.S.? I do agree that society seems baffled about the choice to become a nun, perhaps because in some ways it is a very counter-cultural decision.

But I love that you emphasize how one's vocation is truly about falling in love, responding to God's invitation, and going after something that you *want* to do. It seems so simple yet I think it can be a misunderstood (or at least mysterious) aspect of why people choose the religious life or priesthood.

This also brought up a question in my mind. In your other combox, Fr. B. talks about deferring the pursuit of his vocation until he was mature enough and ready for it. How does one know when (s)he is ready to pursue it? Suppose someone feels 99% sure about her given vocation, but it seems like doors aren't opening? I guess the answer is to wait, or is it to keep searching and try harder?

Anyway, thanks for the link :)

Claire Christina said...

Now I know I'm biased because I am not seriously discerning a religious vocation, though I've had close friends who have/are, but I fail to see how it is appropriate to reduce emphasis on the "Bride of Christ" aspect of religious life? It seems to me that, while I am the bride of Christ, as is everyone around me, there is something so much fuller about the nuptiality of a religious vocation. Even many ceremonies of religious profession directly reflect this, with bridal imagery.

My analogies seem to always come back to my training in liturgy, but here goes. Even if we agree that it is only symbolically that a nun is more fully the Bride of Christ than a layperson (i.e., the symbol value is clearer in sister than in me), doesn't the Incarnation raise that mere symbol to a sacramental level wherein the symbol actually makes present what it signifies?

Again with the liturgical examples. One receives the whole Christ - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity - in just the host or from just the chalice. And yet the Second Vatican Council encouraged increased use of Holy Communion under both kinds, because though the whole Christ is received in the one, the sign value is more clearly evidences the mystery being received. (Whether the current frequency of the availability of Holy Communion under both kinds is what the Council intended is another story, and not relevant to my comment.)

Seraphic said...

Short answer as I am at library with uncertain computer: Because it leads to "Me and Jesus" thinking instead of "Me and These Women My Sisters Who Have Chosen Me and Jesus" thinking.

Imagine if this happened in marriage, somewhere else where Jesus is present. But of course it is much more likely that Jesus will be the party forgotten about in Christian marriage.

One thing that strikes me about the documentary was how little C and C were filmed speaking about the individual, concrete sisters they thought they'd like to spend their lives with.

Annie said...

Seraphic,

I must admit I'm always pleased when I see a blogger post about religious life. As a formerly reluctant and now enthusiastic discerner, anything that relates back to my path in life instantly piques my interest.

Thank you for pointing back to the image of the "Bride of Christ" and how universally, the identity of a Baptized Catholic is that of the bride of Christ. Just as we are called into God's family as beloved sons and daughters of the Father, we are also made brides of Christ, meant to be fully receptive to His grace and love as a wife is with her entire self to the gift of her husband's entire self. I've found that few people actually know just how deeply our relationship with Jesus is with that first sacrament and I am grateful you highlighted that.

Despite the universal call to lives as brides of Christ, I disagree that such language can be overemphasized in the consideration of religious life. While I am only someone deep in the discernment process and not one who has entered a religious community, I am perplexed as to how the "Bride of Christ" could be anything less than central to discernment. To fall in love as a future religious is called to is a complete abandonment of one self to the love of the Lord. To discern is to allow oneself to be courted by the Lord until He asks, if it is His will to ask, will you be mine and only mine forever? Will you make the gift that a wife makes to her husband, to receive the fullness of only me, to be concerned with only me, to serve only me? (1 Corinthians 7:32-35) Will you live differently, as a symbol of my love and devotion to you and all humanity? Will you let me lead you, knowing that I will lead you, confused and surprised yet joyful as you may be, down this seemingly crazy path?

Religious life, and consecrated singleness which is closely connected, is the only vowed or promised vocational state that does not require a sacrament. A sacrament is not necessary because, as you rightly pointed out, we are all called to a spousal relationship with Christ. To be Christ's Bride in religious life is to forsake all others, to live the fullness and the completeness of the baptismal call. The radical nature of religious life can only be understood in the context of bridal language, in the fullness of bridal language.

Seraphic said...

I don't see any mention of community here. This line of thinking might be great for Consecrated Virgins and hermits (both wonderful callings), but not necessarily for women who are going to be living in community.

The reality of wanting to live with a religious order is that if you want to join them, THEY are a bride and YOU are a suitor until you join their number.

Yes, obviously your relationship with the Lord must take precedence, as a married woman's relationship with the Lord also takes precedence, but women who want to be nuns must remember that that life also takes into consideration the other nuns. In short, it is Not All About Her. And in vocation discernment, particularly to the priesthood and religious life, too many young people start off with the mindset that it is All About Me and the Great Drama of the Wonderful Sacrifice I am About to Make When I Could Have Been Married/CEO.

Seraphic Spouse said...

Oh, on the bus home it occurred to me that a lot of orders, particularly "modern" (which doesn't mean new) ones, do go out and try to hunt down novices like a women searching for husbands. I'm not sure how successful that is.

It may make young women more like spoiled men: expecting people to throw themselves at them. Frankly, the only orders that really interested (and interest me) are the orders girls seemed to be breaking their necks to join or that have stubbornly hung onto traditional Catholicism and interpretations of their Rule. And those orders aren't showing up at Vocations Days at the Newman Centre. No no no!

Really, if it were me, and I had something to offer an order (she scratches her 40 year old, twice-married, undowered head for what THAT might be) I would fling myself at the lovely nuns at St. Cecilia's or an order with access to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

sciencegirl said...

The people I've known who were discerning were actually overwhelmed by the numbers of possibilities out there; they didn't seem vain at all. I think if there are ditzy girls, they quickly learn that life in community isn't like a Catholic movie.

But I will say that the Bride-of-Christ thing comes from the nuns themselves, who experience the full complexity of communal life. They are a sisterhood, but not a sorority. Finding a community of nuns to live with is not the same as pledging Gamma Kappa or whatever -- it's actually not about just going and finding the women you like the best. The other nuns are not just fun roommates you have vowed to live with forever. The centrality of Christ really does make a huge difference, though the community is how and where a sister lives out her call. It's a mutual discernment of God's will, and it's rather different from falling in love with a man and hoping he'll ask you to marry him. If a woman would not live well in community, it's a good sign she is not called to be there, but the emphasis of every nun or religious sister I've ever met has been on Christ and His call, not on how much she liked the sisters.

Seraphic Spouse said...

I'm not saying that there is no room for the nuptial metaphor and I'm not saying that Christ is not central. I am just saying that girls have to consider the Sisters as well!

As they soon find out.

Sarah said...

I am struck by FrB's comment about "drifting through life".

What should we do until we find that thing that makes us fall in love? Whether that is a person, a career, or religious community?

And want would you say to those who say that what makes us grow up and stop being adolescents is choosing something and sticking with it? That "it does not matter which life we choose, only that we live it well"?

theobromophile said...

First marriages fail like crazy these days, and it occurs to me it is because we are all teenagers for so much longer. I do not know why this is so, but it is so. And teenagers are not particularly sensible when it comes to life choices.

Back in the day, parents played a much larger role in finding spouses for their children. Sometimes this is a bad thing (such as when it lead parents to consenting to marrying their underage daughters to old men), but many times, it is borne out of knowledge that parents are generally better than their children at making these types of decisions.

This would be the basis of all of your advice to find a man who is like your dad and your brothers, who fits in well with your family. (Totally dysfunctional and toxic families are, of course, a different story.)

Also, one of the big things that happened when divorce laws became more liberal is that a slew of marriages broke up - old marriages as well as new one. (Divorce peaked in the 1970s, I seem to recall.) A lot of people who were unhappy with the choices they made "way back when" and couldn't find a way out ran out when they could, which is to say that not all marriages that lasted a long time were happy ones.

Hence the basis of your advice to always bear in mind that Single is not the least happy state in life - unhappily Married is.

Seraphic Spouse said...

How to explain what it is like to think you were tricked and now trapped in a life you can't get out of? That's what it's like when you marry the wrong person. I would never, ever, ever suggest a woman get married just as a way to "grow up."

I do not know what the solution is to the extended immaturity of so many of my generation and your generation. Possibly the economy will settle that my removing the vast buffet table of choice. Once upon a time, you knew at 10 that at 20 you'd be helping Dad and Mom with the family business, or at 16 you'd be going down the mines, or 18 you would go into your favourite teacher's religious order (if they would take you), and that was that.

We read and see so many books and movies about someone longing to break out of a narrow confine into the wider world of excitement and choice. There are fewer movies about people with so many possibilities that they are frozen to the spot with fear of choosing the wrong ones, and losing ones that were better.

However, love isn't like that. "Perfect love casts out fear" says the Bible, and that is true in my experience.

The rest of it I'll have to think more about. But in the meantime I would think that sticking with a job you absolutely hated until you had reached a milestone or earned a certain sum would definitely be a maturing experience.

Mrs Doyle said...

Sarah, I think the point is that we should all be living our Christian vocations as well as we can before we can start to listen to the Holy Spirit asking something else of us in the way of a particular vocation.

It seems to me that a lot of people forget about our Christian vocation received at Baptism and renewed at Confirmation and instead get really worked up at about the age of 25 and start having a vocational crisis.

An adolescent is someone who doesn't want to ask God what His will is.
It's not a matter of 'choosing' something (anything!) in order to stick to it, it should be asking God what He wants for You and saying YES!

After all, a Christian life is one lived for God. Our 'real' Christian life doesn't start once you can tick a box on a vocational possibility list - you're living it now! Whether God has a personal invite to issue you later on is something the Holy Spirit will deliver, but only if you can recognise his voice.

I would recommend reading 'Christ is Passing By', or 'Friends of God' by St Josemaria Escriva for a great insight on the Christian vocation - I've found his writings extremely useful.

sciencegirl said...

Heh, the reality of being a nun (if you are not called to that state in life) is so much more boring than the nun fantasies. They are like princess fantasies. Folklore princesses are exciting, have adventures, and wear gorgeous dress all the time, or disguise themselves for more adventures. Real princesses do loads of dull things in occasion-appropriate suits and conservative dresses. Blah. I wanted to be like St Therese in my kid's picture book of saints: hold cross, hold flowers, look angelic and impressively holy. I said I wanted to be a nun. My parents said "Why don't you talk to the nice nuns at the Catholic bookstore?"

The nuns were nice, and they had pretty blue habits. But they were running a cash register, not cuddling a crucifix and bouquet, so I was not so interested. At the time, the word "Meh" had not entered my vocabulary, but it expresses my 8 year-old feelings perfectly.

Women with real, proper callings to religious life do not feel "Meh" at the realities of that life, but joyful. Like my friends have done who became nuns, and like you marrying B.A., they think less of what they are giving up, and more of the joy to come.

Seraphic Spouse said...

Very good observations, Science Girl. The publicity photo of Catherine in a white mantilla, eyes cast soulfully upward, definitely plays to the Nun Fantasy. (The photo of Clara is better.) I don't blame Catherine for this, mind you: the photographer probably made her do it.

theobromophile said...


I do not know what the solution is to the extended immaturity of so many of my generation and your generation. Possibly the economy will settle that my removing the vast buffet table of choice. Once upon a time, you knew at 10 that at 20 you'd be helping Dad and Mom with the family business, or at 16 you'd be going down the mines, or 18 you would go into your favourite teacher's religious order (if they would take you), and that was that.


True... and some of it was that people needed to start working wherever they could when they could in order to make ends meet, save for retirement, start a family, etc. The stunning affluence of the last several decades, as well as parents having fewer children (thus having more resources per child) has given young people the illusion that they need not yet be responsible and do boring responsible adult things.

I suspect that the economy will drive home the desire to work, to save, to grow up, because so many young people are forced into a child-like life - delaying marriage, delaying buying a house, delaying moving out of their parents' home - that the trappings of adult life and adult responsibility will be welcomed.

Emma said...

Seraphic's comments about the "me and Jesus" mentality vs. living for Christ in a community reminds me of a post from The Anchoress blog. She posted a video about a young woman who had become a cloistered nun. She talked about how when she first joined the religious order, she thought that it was going to be her and God. Then she had to make room for her sisters in the community. Then she had to make room for the souls of the world for whom she prayed.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theanchoress/2011/08/11/dear-st-clare/

That has the link to the video. Scroll down to see Solemn Profession of a Poor Clare nun.