Update on Monastic Life From the Wannabe Nun

Several people have inquired how life in the monastery is going for me. For those of you who didn’t read past threads, I am a twenty-three year old Catholic lesbian who is discerning life as a Benedictine nun. Right now, I am living in a monastery to try on the life. I moved in on June 21, some of July and all of August away to help out my sister and BIL with the birth and first month of life for my niece (she’s the cutest baby ever). I returned just before Labor Day and have been there since. It is a wonderful, but busy life.

A weekday for me begins at five in the morning. I get dressed and drink tea in my bedroom until six, when Morning Prayer begins. We pray the Liturgy of the Hours together in the morning, noon, and evening. Morning Prayer lasts about half an hour. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, it includes the Eucharist. On Wednesdays, it is immediately followed by Mass. Silence (outside of prayer) is kept in the morning until the breakfast bell rings, so after prayer most people gather in the living room and relax in a recliner in silence while we wait for the breakfast cook to finish and the table waiter (both breakfast cook and table waiter are jobs that are rotated throughout the community) to set out the meal. Weekday breakfast is usually oatmeal with cinnamon, raisins, and prunes that you can add yourself, eggs, bagels, toast, and cereal.

After breakfast, I head across the lawn to the K-8 school that the community started years ago. I teach one class of eighth grade pre-algebra there. The school is an itty-bitty Catholic school. There is only one class per grade and a maximum class size of 22 students. I have all of the eighth grade pre-algebra students, which adds up to a grand total of three girls. They’re wonderful young women and, from an educator’s perspective, it’s great to have just the three of them because it lets me give them the personalized attention they need while still allowing for peer interaction in class.

After class, I usually have a couple of free hours. I generally use that time to nap or rest; I’m still not quite use to getting up at five in the morning. When I’m feeling more industrious, I’ll use it to clean my room or do laundry.

Midday prayer is at noon and only lasts about fifteen minutes. After that, it’s time for lunch, which always consists of a soup, a salad, and some sort of main dish, usually something in the sandwich family. Today we had cream of asparagus soup and hamburgers. If there are leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, that might make it to lunch as well. There is also always a dessert, sometimes fruit and sometimes stuff like cake or cookies.

After lunch I usually have more free time. Sometimes, this might get used for a nap too, but it’s also when I run any errands that might need done. Some of my free time is also spent doing charges. There is a charge list that has all of the chores of the community on it, things like breakfast cook, table waiter, dish crew, portress, etc. Portress, so far, is my least favorite charge. The portress sits at the desk in the front office for shifts of three hours. She’s the one who directs visitors where to go. The part I don’t like is answering the phone and paging people. It’s getting easier each time I do it, but I still don’t completely have the phone system down. There’s still the fear that some important call will come in and I won’t have a clue what to do with it.

Dinner is at 5:30 each day. It is usually a salad, bread, two vegetables, a main dish, and plain chicken pieces. The chicken is there because the Rule of Benedict states “that every table have two cooked dishes on account of individual infirmities, so that he who for some reason cannot eat of the one may make his meal of the other”. Some of the older sisters have delicate digestive systems and eat the plain chicken most nights. Exceptions to this meal pattern is on Thursdays, when we have soup (two kinds!) and bread to remind us to pray for vocations to the community, and Fridays when we have fish. There’s also dessert each night, similar to what we have at lunch.

Evening prayer is at 6:30 and lasts about half an hour. After evening prayer, some of the sisters go on their own to have quiet time before bed and others hang out in the living room and watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. Jeopardy is huge with the nuns. It reminds me of being at my grandparents house.

Several evenings a week, tonight included, I have to skip dinner and evening prayer with the community. One of their ministries is a transitional home for women and children and I work there part time. My job is mostly secretarial type stuff. It’s pretty boring and, in actuality, involves a lot of internet surfing. The bummer part of it is that I don’t leave until ten at night. Before coming here, that wouldn’t seem so bad, but by the time I take my shower, and get settled into bed for the evening, it is usually almost eleven. I’m used to a full eight hours of sleep. Falling asleep at eleven makes five o’clock come awfully quick, hence the nap times scheduled into my day.

I’m enjoying the life and really think it is for me, but, as with any life, there are some hard parts. I’m the youngest person in the community and some days I feel that more than others. The person closest to me in age is nine years older than me and I’m pretty sure that she feels every one of those nine years. I hope I understand that better when I’m thirty-two. The next oldest people are in their mid-forties. It just keeps going up from there. For the most part, this isn’t an issue. Most of the members of the community treat me like they would any other adult. There are a few who treat me more like a child than an adult, but I have a feeling that might say more about them than it does about me. It is rough sometimes though not having someone in my peer group to talk to. I’ve found myself calling one of my sisters (sister as in someone who has the same parents as I do, not religious sister) more than I used to and I wonder if that might be a result of feeling that lack of people close to me in age.

The other thing I’m having trouble with, which surprises the heck out of me, is figuring out what it means to be a lesbian in discernment. Being gay is a pretty small part of who I am, but it is still part of who I am and isn’t something I necessarily want to hide. I spent all of college out and I feel like I somehow ended up in the closet again, which is a bit bizarre feeling. The community as a whole isn’t concerned about sexual orientation. It came up during my interview for the live-in program; it isn’t an issue. I don’t think it would be an issue for the sisters as individuals either. It’s just two parts of who I am that I’m trying to find a balance with. The fact that it’s something on my mind is still surprising to me, so I’m probably not even verbalizing my thoughts on the subject very well.

So those are the downsides. The upsides? Absolutely everything else. I’m in love with the life. I’m surrounded by people that I love and who love me and who love God. It’s a wonderful life. It isn’t perfect, but I think it might be perfect for me.

So, there’s my crazy long update. I’m open to questions. I may not answer them if they’re too personal, but I like to talk about myself, so most questions will probably get answered.

Thank you for sharing that. I’ve always been curious as to what daily life is like for nuns and other religious.

If you decide to join this order, is this pretty much what you can expect life to be like permanently? Is there flexibility in terms of geographic location? What if, for instance, someone wanted to stop teaching and do other work? Or do most nuns stick to one place and one job? If there is mobility, how much of a say do you have in where you go? Are nuns assigned similarly to the way priests are assigned?

Thanks for those very interesting details MissMossie. I’m still praying for your vocation.

Do you sing the office or recite it?

Would there be any opportunities for further study?

Thanks for a very informative OP, MissMossie.

How many sisters live in your community with you?

Yes, that’s more or less what daily life will be like. This monastery has many different ministries, so I might not teach forever. I don’t know if I want to teach forever. Ministry is decided with a lot of prayer by both the sisters and the prioress (head nun). Ultimately, the prioress decides what each sister’s ministry will be, but the Rule of St. Benedict provides for some wiggle room if a monastic doesn’t feel capable of doing the assigned ministry. One of the things I really like about this group of nuns is that they seem to be really emotionally healthy. Nobody is being forced into doing something they can’t stand. Everyone wants their sister to be happy and works towards that as a common goal.

As far as mobility, Benedictines take a vow of stability. This monastery in Virginia will be my home forever if I join. That appeals to me a great deal. I can’t stand much traveling, so I would be miserable being sent on mission halfway around the world or even across the country.

Thank you for your prayers!!!

We both sing and recite the office. Sundays, Holy Days, and possibly Advent/Lent is sung. Regular old days are recited. I think. I’ve not been here for a full year, so I may be wrong. That seems to be the pattern. It’s a blessing because my singing voice isn’t top notch early in the morning. Some days, its a struggle to get out the one hymn without embarrassing myself.

There are most certainly opportunities for further study. The first two years of officially being part of the community (postulancy and novitiate) are spent taking classes about being a nun. Beyond that, it isn’t unusual for sisters to go back to school in a more formal way. If I continue teaching, I will need to get my license. Currently, I’m okay with just my B.S. in Math because I’m just teaching one class. Beyond that, I need more school. Like ministries, further education is one of those things that is decided on through prayer by the sister and the prioress.

I believe there are thirty-three, including one postulant and to novices. There are also four live-ins (including myself!) and one more coming in November. The newbies are taking over!

On an off topic note, multi-quote rocks!

MissMosssie - I’m glad things are going so well. If teaching isn’t for you, you could become another Cheese Nun!

I can’t imagine, especially with Benedictines, that your sexual orientation would be considered an issue. Your Prioress should be able to help you disseminate the info without feeling like you were taking a bullhorn and shouting “I’m a lesbian!” to the community.


Not sure what this means. What does this “discernment” involve in your context?

Via Google:


Even better:

I imagine that it’s a reference to discerning whether or not **MissMossie **has a vocation to the religious life.

Thank you so much for the update. It’s nice to see a detailing of the decision you’re trying to make!

What drew you to the Benedictines rather than some other order?

What is your specific uniform?

How is your Latin?

Father José, who usually leads the Children’s Mass in Mom’s parish: “If God wanted me to sing like a nightingale, He would have given me wings.” flaps his arms “Nope, no wings.”

What subjects does your pre-algebra class involve? I’m sure I studied pre-algebra at some point, but it wasn’t called that :slight_smile:

This is fascinating. Thanks a lot for taking time out to share this with us; I don’t think i’d have much of a chance to learn about monastic life otherwise. All I can really offer back is a wish of good luck with it! And of course to trouble you further with a couple of question… :wink:

What kind of visitors do you usually get? What would you say are the more common misconceptions or misunderstandings of people looking in on monastic life?

This is a loaded question and feel free not to answer, but, with that said, do you feel that if you weren’t a nun that having gay sex, in marriage or out, ala the orthodox Catholic viewpoint, is a sin?

Second, as a fellow Catholic, I’ll pray for you if you pray for me, or even if you don’t :slight_smile: The world needs more nuns, especially kind and intelligent people like you. I’m cheering for you!

Other people have answered this already, so I’ll just say that they’re correct; discernment is the Catholic lingo for figuring out what in the world your vocation is (religious life, married life, and single life being the three choices).

I know there are some posters who this’ll sound hokie to, but I think the Holy Spirit drew me to the Benedictines. It feels like sheer luck to me. The quality that got me to stick around is the strong emphasis on community.

My uniform is whatever is appropriate to my ministry. Right now I’m wearing olive green slacks and a polo shirt. This group, and many other groups of Benedictines in America, are plain clothed nuns. No funny black dresses.

My Latin is near non-existant. At some point I will need to memorize what all of the letters on the Benedictine medal stand for and that will involve some Latin, but I don’t know them yet.

Thanks for the mental image of a priest flapping his arms. :slight_smile:

It’s getting close to time for prayer, so I can’t list off all the pre-algebra topics now, but its mostly a really intense review of everything you’ve learned in math before that point with some light equation solving sprinkled in. I can post a more detailed list of topics after class if you’d like.

Thank you everyone for all of the good wishes and prayers! They are very much appreciated.

Our visitors are usually people making private retreats. They’ll join us for meals and maybe prayer, but spend most of their stay on their own. They may make an appointment with one of the sisters who is available for spiritual advising; they may not. They’re mostly Catholic, but there is also a decent number of non-Catholic Christians who stay too. I don’t think many non-Christians visit, but they would certainly be welcomed. St. Benedict wrote that each guest should be welcomed as Christ. In my experience, the sisters are quite good at doing that.

I’m not sure about what the common misconceptions are, or even if there are any, at least with people in my age bracket. I grew up not knowing any nuns. The closest contact I had to nuns was watching Sister Act. I didn’t have any misconceptions about religious life because I didn’t have any preconceived notions about what it would be like at all. It’s hard to make assumptions about a lifestyle when you don’t even have a starting point for what the life is like.

I haven’t really made up my mind about whether gay sex is a sin or not. I think sex outside of marriage is a sin, but, in the grand scheme of things, I also think people get too hung up on sex being a sin. The problem is, of course, that the church doesn’t allow for gay marriages. My gut says that just isn’t right, but I also try to have faith that the Holy Spirit is leading the church. As a result, I pray regularly that the church and I will one day see eye to eye on the subject. Our views conflict and, so far as I can discern, only one of us is right. I hope the Spirit leads whoever is lacking understanding to see the truth.

Thank you, Autolycus for your prayers. I have actually prayed for you in the past and continue to do so when I see your name on the board. I forget what it was you said once, but it was something that caused me to think you were have a (perhaps momentary) bit confusion in your faith life. As such, you got added to my mental list of Dopers to pray for when I read your posts.

I’ve been wondering how you were doing with the “nun thing”. It’s funny you posted this now, since by odd linking coincidence yesterday I was reading a nun blog, anunslife.com - I love that she tries to post a lot of pictures of real nuns living their lives so that when you Google Image “nun” you don’t end up with just Nunzilla and porn. As a librarian myself I have a lot of sympathy with people in other professions who are sterotyped as overly severe or outrageously oversexed. :slight_smile:

As long as they don’t start singing “How do you solve a problem like MissMossie?” I’m sure you’ll be fine. :slight_smile:

Just wanted to say blessings on you, MissMossie.

My sister is a nun – a religious sister, actually – and a teacher, and she’s been happy in her community and work for 15 years. (She’s also the best person I know, but that was true before she entered religious life!)

I hope that, if this is indeed your vocation, it works out as well for you.

May the Lord be with you thru out your life, whatever you find, and you are in my prayers.

If you are willing, I covet your prayers on behalf of the new Bishop of New Ulm John LeVoir, who is very dear to me.