Ask the Wannabe Nun

Wowee! I can’t think of any questions but will read this thread with great interest. I suspect I don’t know enough about nuns to know what to ask.

How is that non-catholic priests cope then, do you think? Should this be the priest’s call, not the church’s?

Does your order sing the office regularly? Does manual labour form a part of the daily round, as well as study?

I registered just to post here! (Well, I’ve been lurking for a while and planning to get around to it sometime.) I’m writing my master’s thesis on 17th-century French nuns at the moment. I’ve always found them some of the most interesting women in history, and having read a lot on the topic recently, it seems I’m not alone - many historians, primarily women themselves, really admire and somewhat idealize them.

I’ve sometimes felt a bit sad that I’m not Catholic (I’m Protestant) because I can rather picture myself in the religious life. At the same time, I can’t really imagine taking that step, in this society. I’m about the same age as you, 24, and I can’t even picture what people would say if I announced that I was becoming a nun. What kind of reactions have you had from friends?

Also, if women could preach in the Catholic church, would you want to be a priest?

OK, I thought of a question! It’s kind of dopey, though. Do nuns still participate in the daily offices, and are they still in Latin and everything? Or what? Would you be participating in that? (This would be very cool IMO.)

Congratulations and best wishes!

I have to say that some of my favorite teachers were nuns. If that is your chosen ministry, know that you will influence (and likely bless) many children in your vocation. Some of them may even grow up to become Dopers. :slight_smile:



It is indeed possible for women to preach in the RCC. I don’t know about giving the homily at Mass, however. The Priesthood is more about celebrating the Mass & performing the Sacraments than it is preaching.

Congrats, MissM!

You mentioned “Mom” upthread.
I’m sure you’ve discussed your intentions with your folks. What are their feelings towards your decision?

I suppose their are some people who consider nuns to be “brides of Christ”. I haven’t put too much thought into that title. Their are some aspects of being a bride/wife that a nun portrays, but their are other that she wouldn’t. I would look at that title as a metaphor to describe the vocation to someone with little knowledge of the RCC.

If a Benedictine sister (or brother) decided not to do her (or his) job, the prioress (or abbot) would discuss the problem with the person. The Rule of Benedict has several chapters relating to the proper handling of those who, for lack of a better way of phrasing it*, break the rules. Going with the spirit of St. Benedict, you have to mess up a lot and consistently refuse to amend your ways before you get kicked out. Because a situation like this would be happening with rational adults, what would most likely happen is a lot of discussion about why you aren’t pulling your share and prayerful discernment about whether living in the community is God’s path for you.

As far as staying in shape, it’s just like any other group of people, it varies from person to person. I imagine that if your weight was affecting your health, the sisters would act like your family, which they are, and share their concerns about you.

There is actually something like the freshman fifteen with women who join this community. The food is all really yummy and there is always desserts with both lunch and dinner. It’s really easy to overeat and I’ve heard from a couple of the newer women in the community that it took them a little while to adapt to that.

*I’m still waiting for the coffee maker to finish…I’m not quite as cognitive as I normally am yet.

Honestly, I don’t know a whole lot about the duties of non-Catholic priests to make a call. I vaguely recall talking about the duties of Southern Baptists ministers with my BIL once and him saying that all of the ministers he’s ever had also had regular jobs a part from the church. It isn’t as if they had a full time office job, Sunday and weekday Masses to celebrate, meetings in the evenings, dinners scheduled regularly at parishioners’ houses, emergency anointing of the sick in the middle of the night, and various other duties. Of course, being a good Doper, I know that the plural of anecdote isn’t data. That was my BIL’s recollection of a small handful of Southern Baptist ministers. It in now way speaks for every non-Catholic person in a priest/minister/preacher position.

As far as whether it should be the individuals’ calls or the church’s call, if you truly believe that God is guiding your church in important decisions, then why not let the church make the call?

Sorry, Protestant ignorance showing! Actually, I do know that women can preach in that way. I was using it as shorthand for being a priest. Would you have considered being a priest, if there were women priest in the Catholic Church?

The Hours are sung during Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. They are recited during Ordinary Time. I don’t know what they do during the Triduum.

Manual labor figures into daily life as much as it does for any US adult. All of the sisters who are able have jobs, some within the community and some outside of it. Some of those jobs are more manual than others. Sr. Pat is in charge of keeping the grounds looking beautiful. She doesn’t do it entirely on her own, but she’s the one who organizes it and she certainly does a lot of manual labor.

For postulants and novices, I believe that study ends up being a bit bigger role than work, although there are a certain number of hours in your ministry that you’re supposed to work each week.

Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Boards! There are some ecumenical orders out there, so don’t write off being a nun just because you’re not Catholic. There’s even some Ecumenical Benedictines in Wisconsin.

As far as reactions from friends, people have been totally not shocked. They’re like, “Yeah, that make sense.” Most are very supportive. There are a few who aren’t unsupportive, but they don’t really get it.

If women could be RCC priests, I don’t think I would want to be one. I don’t feel like that’s the life I was made for.

So, what is your nun name going to be or can us Doper’s pick it for you?

Sister Mary Black and Decker…she was our shop teacher. …obscure?

Yes, they do! St. Benedict outlined the hours very carefully in his rule. Many attribute the Divine Office to him (this could be a bit like attributing a^2+b^2=c^2 to Pythagoras though). OSBVA always meets for morning, noon, and evening prayer, with compline thrown in during certain times of the year.

Upthread, I mentioned that I visited a group of Franciscans over Christmas. They also pray the hours, but it was a bit quicker paced, probably more like a normal person would say it. I love praying with the Benedictines because it’s rather slow and contemplative. I’ve never timed it, but I would guess morning and evening prayer are both in the twenty minute time range, maybe a little longer. Each Psalm, reading, and prayer is separated by silence, which I think is lovely. It lets the prayer settle on the group, sinking into our minds, or at least that’s how it seems to me.

OSBVA prays in English.

Thank you for the kind words! I’m going to blame the fact that I’m only halfway through my first cup of coffee, but the first time I read your post, I could have sworn that it said, “…know that you will influence (and likely bless) many children who may even grow up to follow in your vocation as a Doper. :)” Caffeine is a very good thing and a vice that many sisters embrace.

Ok, serious question.
Having had three nuns in the family ( my mom, who got out before the final vows. and her two cousins) I’ve a little more insider knowledge that the average schmoe.

Do nuns have to prove/show financial self suffienciency in your order.

Whatever order the cousins are in, Possibly Dominican, dunno - they were all teachers and would faint at my punctuation in this post - they did a nationwide ad campaign a few years ago looking for new recruits and anyone that turned out ( I think it was a total of three really good candidates for the entire nation. None signed up, btw.) were all required to show they could support themselves financially so that the church would not support them. ( No free rides…)

OK, thanks. So it’s 3 times a day most of the time? Why/when was it changed? All the things I’ve read have one in the middle of the night, one in mid-afternoon, etc. as well. I can’t remember all the names or anything, but I thought it was more like 6x/day.

Thanks for your response. May the Lord be with you and the other members of the order.


My family is all happy for me. Mom’s Methodist and she was the hardest person to tell. She had it in her mind that I would make her lots and lots of grandchildren. This was a bit odd and disturbing for me to hear when I was still in college, without a real job, and had two sisters who were already married. Somehow, I was the one who was getting hassled to make babies. I told her over the phone (we were in different states) and the conversation went a lot like this:

Me: Mom, I have something to tell you and it’s something I’ve been praying about for a while now. It isn’t something I’m just telling you on a whim.

Mom: Yes?

Me: I think God wants me to be a nun.

Mom: <silence>

Me: <bursts into tears>

From there, my mom kicked into mom-mode. She realized that at least a part of my happiness is tied to her happiness. She said that if that’s where God wants me to be, who is she to argue? Over Mother’s Day weekend, I took her to the monastery. After the visit her response was, “That seems really neat. I’m a bit jealous. I think I could enjoy that life.”

Everyone else in the family was very much like my friends. “Oh, that makes sense.” You see, I confused most of my family. I got a BS in Applied Mathematics and then started working part time as a second grade TA. Most of them were expecting me to go to grad school and eventually do some cool mathy job in cryptography (I love, love, love number theory!). Being in discernment about a religious vocation has settled their minds.