Each year, thousands of Catholic women in their late teens and early twenties choose to marry Jesus. This entails giving up all their belongings, moving to a secluded convent and taking a vow of chastity, poverty and obedience for life. They will never have children, they will never have sex, they will never have a margarita with their girlfriends, they will never move to New York to pursue a career in journalism. They will get up very early, pray in silence, clean the convent, study scripture, do community service, and play the occasional basketball game in their veils and robes. To most of us, choosing to live this life is absolutely unimaginable. But to the women Oprah and Lisa Ling interviewed, it’s liberating.
Oprah Show correspondent Lisa Ling brought all her news cameras into a Michigan convent to spend the night with the nuns, see how they live. Her experience and interviews of the nuns are detailed in this article on Oprah.com, which I highly recommend. It’s fascinating– one woman describes how she “just knew” that she was supposed to give her life to God at the age of 18 when her fiancé brought her to a convent to watch his sister’s vows. She went from being engaged to giving up men for life in a period of about a week, and is now happily chaste and obedient to Jesus.
What’s especially surprising is that these nuns have such a sense of humor about their choices. Sister Mary Judith jokes to Oprah, “[Jesus is] a hard husband to be married to because if something goes wrong in the relationship, I know it’s me.”
I feel like I’ve spent more time around nuns than most people, as I went to an all-girls Catholic school and my grandmother’s sister is a nun. Most of the nuns I’ve hung out with have been really funny and full of life. Sister MacDuffy, my religion teacher, lived in a little cottage on campus with approximately 400 animals. She had dogs, cats, birds, hedgehogs, rabbits, and a massive vegetable garden. She was definitely not the kind of nun with a ruler in her pocket– one time I ran into her at the grocery store, and she was wearing Birkenstocks and carrying a six-pack of beer in each hand. She was 80 years old at the time.
My great aunt, “Sister D,” used to meet us in Florida every year for the 4th of July. She’d wear her habit out on the speedboat, make lemon meringue pies and whoop all of our asses in Balderdash. You would think that nunship would attract a certain kind of person– maybe the kind of person that had no friends and a really rough life. But that is not the case. Perfectly normal, happy, wonderful women vow to marry Jesus, and that’s what makes the whole thing so incredibly fascinating.
Anyway, I’m going to post the link to that article again, because I really think you guys would enjoy reading it. It offers a glimpse into the kind of life that no one ever really thinks about, but thousands of women live every day. And the median age in that convent is 26!
My mind is officially blown.