Saturday, 22 March 2014

Suor Cristina and Soeur Sourire

Yes, I saw the clip from "Voice of Italy". No, I'm not impressed. Nun have been singing for over 1500 years. Many of them, if not most of them, have been fine singers.

What I am is terribly frightened for Suor Cristina. Behind those glasses, she looks very young and pretty. And confident. Too confident.

I do not see why this nun felt inspired to go on television. To show that nuns can sing? Or that they listen to Alicia Keys? What it showed me is that even women in religious life can get sucked into the razzle-dazzle of the entertainment world.

Taking part in the show might seem so innocent right now. She has a gift, and she wants to share it with the world. Maybe she will make a record, and its sales will help her community so much! Never mind that the entertainment industry is...well. Two words: Miley Cyrus.

Two other words: Soeur Sourire. (Yes, I linked to that yesterday. It's such a horrible story, it haunts me.)

One thing I have noticed about many young NGCs. Young NCGs think they are impervious to the big bad sins of the world. How their friends end up sleeping with their boyfriends--- after long girlish conversations about the beauty of chastity--is a mystery to them. And if young NCGs are really shrewd, really clever and really rooted in reality, they recognize evil when they see it and keep out of its way. But not all young NCGs are that shrewd, clever or rooted in reality. Some are easily tricked by shrewd, clever and wicked people.

One thing to add to the end of my "Nun Week" is that although many, many nuns are holy, not all nuns are shrewd, clever or rooted in reality.

Sorry to be a downer, but I admire most those nuns who spend their whole lives anonymously (or pseudonymously) in prayer and work. Listening to cloistered nuns sing is a wonderful privilege that I am willing to travel the length of the UK to hear. But they don't sing pop music. They sing the Office.


Sherwood said...

Um...for a moment I thought you meant music from The Office show!!! :D

I'm sure you have heard the lovely CD's recorded by the contemplative Benedictines of Our Lady of Ephesus. They are chart toppers, and I don't think any of the singers' names are given out. They are mysteries to the world, as they always have been.
I saw a program on them the other day and the abbess' joy, peace inner quiet and serenity illuminated the room. Those are things I'm missing in my life. I'm going to look into them.

Seraphic said...

When I was in Rome one day, feeling extremely grumpy and snappish, I looked at the radiant, joyful young nuns around me outside St. John Lateran and thought, "What have you got that I don't!?!"

Before I visited the Benedictine Abbey at Ryde, I never really thought a lot about contemplative vocations. But now I want to tell all young women: visit a contemplative order! Really, honestly. Go see if it is for you. Never mind the active gals--sisters as opposed to NUNS--if their lives have never really attracted you. Find an old-fashioned honest-to-goodness Benedictine convent and ask the ladies some serious questions, e.g. "Are you happy? Why? What goes on here? "

Seraphic said...

Oooh! The sisters you mentioned are served by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter! Double-like! Benedictine life with the EF!

My goodness. Well, if ever BA "puts me aside" to go into a monastery....

Sherwood said...

...then we might see each other there! (Though I'm sure BA will never do that.) :)
This is all very newly transpired, but I have a good feeling about Our Lady of Ephesus. I never felt any desire to join active orders, or even other contemplative orders, but this one seems...right.

Anonymous said...

I think, though, what is truly stunning about this video is not the nun singing, but the reaction of the hosts and audience. They were so in awe of this person for being a nun that sings well, but mostly for being a nun... sure she has a great voice, but it was the nun aspect, the religious aspect, that blew them away. That A-Jax fellow (or whatever his name was) had tears in his eyes. To me, this is a great sign that the Italians still hold some respect or awe of the religious life state, so perhaps the culture hasn't fallen to such a state where it can't recognize the beauty, in combination with a talent they relate with, of a self-sacrificing life.


Julia said...


I just listened to the performance for the first time after having ignored it steadfastly on Facebook.

I'll just say I'm not a fan.

Julia said...

Seraphic, check this out:

And a video:

And yes, I have heard this sung at Masses. Sigh.

Canadian Doc said...

I have to say that I disagree with you. I thought the nun looked confident, but confident because she is rooted in Christ. I also loved seeing her fellow nuns supporting her, as well as her family. The reality is that for many in our world today, religion is irrelevant, and the sexual sins and disconnect caused by our Church have a long way to be healed. I love Pope Francis, and I think his approach is what the church has needed for a long time. And when I saw J-Ax in tears on the show, it is because he realizes the beauty of God's message for us, trying to reach us in a way that meets people where they are at. Nothing wrong with cloistered, quietly praying nuns, but I think people need to be evangelized, too.

Jam said...

It's so strange for me when people are agog at something like this! A NUN who knows a POP SONG???? Why, it's almost like she's a real person who lives in our world, instead of an alien dropped in from another planet, or someone who has spent her entire existence in an airtight box!

Nuns singing, priests skateboarding, monks watching sports... none of this speaks to me at all. It seems both unremarkable and not particularly illuminating. I mean, it's fun, but in the same way that seeing another person enjoying anything is fun. (For that matter, I don't think a girl drinking whiskey, smoking a cigar, or spending time at the rifle range is automatically cool either... but that seems to work for a lot of the Young Republican crowd.) But CLEARLY for many people it is in fact a revelation. Clearly many people, including young people in the church, are thrilled to recognize that "they" are somehow "just like us". Is it that fewer people have any personal connection with religious/clergy? Is it that some laypeople believe, deep down inside, that "fun" things are contradictory to a "Christian" life, and so when they see religious/clergy partaking in them, it's a relief and a delight? I really don't know. And as I said, it doesn't work for me; but I'm glad if it *does* help people to see the Church and religion in a positive light.

(I hope this isn't too harsh on anyone who did enjoy the video. Mostly I take exception to the notion that it's some *huge thing*.)

Antigone in NYC said...

Eek. I feel guilty because I didn't actually find the nun to be all *that* talented? I mean she can certainly sing, but I feel like the clip got more play because she was a nun and not the world's best new voice. But she seemed to be having a ball and her sisters were delightedly supportive---I hope they continue to have a fun & positive experience.

Seraphic said...

Antigone, I've heard people say the same thing about Susan Boyle. Her voice is not THAT great. It's distinctive but... However, tears sprang to my eyes when the ugly duckling sang so beautifully. My initial disgust--the fat aging woman with Aspergers shaking her hips suggestively--was transformed into astonishment and delight. In this case, it's, oh, a young nun can really belt out a pop song like she's had her heart broken a few times. instead of like an innocent girl with a direct relationship with God. What an overturning of expectations...! Etc.

I'm interested that the scary tattooed man said "I'm the devil and you're holy water." How many readers have written in this combox about smooth guys saying the same sort of thing to them? Really, the more I think about it, the more frightened I am for this girl-nun. I hope she is forgotten as soon as possible, except for the few girls who felt a tug towards religious life when they saw her.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think that is what bothered me about all this. The choice of song. There are plenty of songs that are not about how in love you are with a man and how much you want him. It just seemed......wrong. I would feel creeped out if a priest or monk was singing about how much he wanted some woman too.

Aussie girl in NZ

Nzie said...

I didn't think her voice was so much above the norm (good but not amazing), but watching the American version of The Voice, I sometimes think that about contestants who get 4 chairs turned here.

I don't have a problem with her singing in such a competition. Her congregation clearly gave her permission, so I'm not going to second-guess it. She seemed joyful and faithful, and maybe can counteract the idea that nuns are all old, sour and dour. I doubt she'll win, and her congregation can put the brakes on it if it starts to become a problem. I also noticed that both Imagine Sisters and Ask a Nun shared it on Facebook. They're run by faithful orders (indeed, ones that sing). They also, however, clearly don't labor only in obscurity, which is not, for what it's worth, every nun's calling, or every order's charism.

As for the "holy water and the devil" comment, two thoughts. First is that I was wondering if it were from a colloquial phrase in Italian, because the other judge basically said, 'You stole my line.' Second is that at least in the US version they make comments of a similar type, with this meaning: we're really different, so I'll be a good match for you because I can stretch you. Am I thrilled with the phrasing? No. But absent more information, I'm not going to assume he meant he was evil, or would try to hurt her.

Or, tl;dr version: I can see the danger, but don't think there's enough evidence at this point to assume so many bad things.

Michelle_Marie said...


I ended up watching the video because my irreligious co-worker forwarded it to me. She seemed to be quite in awe of the sister. I in turn forwarded it to another irreligious co-worker, who in turn was genuinely moved. This from people who don't miss an opportunity to take the p*ss whenever any religious topic comes up.

I for one believe we need to reach out to this culture. We need to capture ground that we have lost, not pull away into our own insular worlds and therefore lose more ground. And this nun seems to be doing that. Any further fruits of this we shall have to wait for.

Meredith said...

Seraphic: I thought you were being paranoid, and then I read the story of "Sister Smile." Good Lord, how horrifying! And I thought nothing could top the nuns in LA who went crazy for Carl Rogers and enneagrams in the 70's and ended up becoming lesbian activists... it seems like a lot of Catholic girls in denial about their lesbian longings must have joined convents in the 50's.

Seraphic said...

What awed and moved them?

It is fascinating that just seeing a young nun belting out an emotional song awes and moves irreligious people. If this genuinely works as a evangelical tool, then that is great.

I think the idea is that the nun thinks of the beloved in the song as Our Lord Jesus Christ. If so, that's great, and great that people are moved by that.

What I don't think is great is pretty young nuns having celebrity thrust upon them, especially via the entertainment industry.

Seraphic said...

As for reaching out to this culture, we've been doing this since the "beer 'n' pizza" Masses of the late 60s/early 70s, and the culture has decayed more and more. From poor Soeur Sourire to Miley Cyrus in 50 years.

In what way are our cultures "more Catholic" since the beginning of our reaching out? The only exception I can think of are countries that overthrew atheist communism, so that Catholicism is more obviously a part of public life. And that came not from "reaching out" but from fiercely opposing atheist communism and its values.

Michelle_Marie said...

I think evangelizing and distorting liturgy are two different things.

In this culture, evangelizing can even consist of being a joyful, orthodox nun or priest, abiding in the public square. It's hard to do that nowadays, especially in North America since we don't have much of a public square left due to the atomizing of the culture by cars and suburban life. So in effect, Youtube is the new public square, and a viral video like that can reach millions.

Like I said, though, I'll still await the fruits of this before pronouncing any sort of judgement, and I hope meanwhile that this sister has some solid spiritual direction and is holding to her vows of obedience.

Michelle_Marie said...

And one more point about why this is potentially a good thing: because the sight of an orthodox, joy-filled sister can genuinely bring people comfort like nothing else.

People are living in such soul-crushing emptiness and meaninglessness in this culture. We take our access to grace for granted, but those who have never been exposed to it are soooo thirsty for goodness.

The sight of a good, holy sister can remind them that there is good in the world, and give them a clue as to where to find it.

Just my two cents.