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Catholic Nuns Today? I Hope Not

Envision a website dedicated to attracting young women to life as a nun. I look to the Nashville or Ann Arbor Dominicans as examples of flourishing and vibrant young communities leading the way. So when I visited the Catholic Nuns Today website that is what I thought I would find. I was wrong.

What I found is ... this.

And that is the best part. The rest of the website is a bad acid trip down irrelevant lane. Take this pitch for instance. "Come be a nun, don't worry it won't get in the way of your day job." Think I exaggerate?

Does being a Sister limit your career opportunities?

Not at all. And, our life is much more than a career. Our professional gifts are focused in service of God and of others. We use our gifts as physicians, teachers, missionaries, spiritual directors, social workers, psychologists, advocates for social justice, lawyers, counselors, ecologists, musicians, writers and artists to fulfill our vocation and our call.


Now meet Sister Linda Gibler, OP, of the Dominican Sisters of Houston. Sister is a former waitress who felt something was missing. Thank goodness she found it.
When I came to the Dominicans, I already had my BA in Sociology. I later received a Master's in Pastoral Studies. My first jobs as a Sister were as a chaplain in a county hospital and in parish ministry. Later, when I saw the first of the pictures from the Hubble telescope, the beauty of the Universe overwhelmed me and I wanted to learn more about the relationships between philosophy, science, and religion. I went on to receive another Master's in Philosophy & Religion. As I was studying, I investigated the "cosmocentric" aspects of Roman Catholic celebrations especially the use of water, olive oil, and fire in the sacraments. My Dominican congregation was extremely supportive of me and very encouraging throughout my eight years of discovery. I have just obtained my Doctorate in Philosophy & Religion with a concentration in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness.
Now you might have noticed that none of the nuns look like, well, nuns. That, they think, is a selling point.
Where have all the habits gone?

For many years, Sisters wore the long habits which were fashioned after the common dress of pious women in Medieval times. Even those Congregations founded in more modern times adopted similar styles of dress. The styles were handed down for generations, with only a few modifications, until the renewal of religious life following Vatican Council II in 1965. Since then Sisters have had the option of retaining the traditional habit or changing to a simple, modest contemporary style of dress. Some Sisters still prefer the traditional habit. You may recognize a Sister who does not wear a traditional habit by some small sign, a cross or pin, that is a distinctive emblem of her Congregation.

Were I doing this piece as parody, I bet some people would write in the combox that I overdid it. The future lies in growing traditional communities. Cosmocentric T-shirt Communities of 1972 like the Dominicans of Houston are the past; they just don't seem to know it. I suppose the dinosaurs on the verge of extinction didn't know their number was up either. Catholic Nuns Today? I don't think so.

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52 comments:

John Hetman said...

You may recognize a Sister who does not wear a traditional habit by some small sign, a cross or pin, that is a distinctive emblem of her Congregation, along with pastel polyester, color coordinated clothes, and that special apostacoiffure that signifies that she is more in tune with Susan Sarandon than Benedict XVI.

Jeremy said...

My friend relayed a story about the high school kids she works with where they have come up with acronyms for the various species of nuns.

They boiled it down to LPNs and RNs - "Lapel Pin Nuns" and "Real Nuns".

Adoro said...

Jeremy ~ I've worked with LPN's and RN's; don't insult them. My Mom was an LPN. And not a nun of any sort. You shouldn't insult hard working nurses that way.

Anyway, that said....

There are SOME congregations that never had the habit, even before V2, so keep that in mind before you paint with too broad a brush.

For myself, I'm looking at congregations and communities that DO wear the habit; because if I wanted to wear bad pantsuits and live in a commune I'd smoke pot, iron my hair, and do tarot and ouigi with a group of overgrown hippies in California during the Religious Conference in LA.

Sorry, was that snarky?

Patrick Archbold said...

Adoro
Broad brushes are all I have. Besides, these broads need some brushing.

Red Cardigan said...

Some real nuns for you, Patrick:

http://www.sisterservants.org/

(My sister is a Sister there.)

Brendan said...

Here's a nice picture from the website:

http://www.catholicnunstoday.org/images/Sr-rosanne-and-pat-tn.jpg

Anonymous said...

Compare and contrast.

Here is wonderful new community in Western Australia

http://www.mg.org.au/

Please pray for them.

RC said...

Oy. Here's one:

"I found that ministry when I began organizing in San Antonio with Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS). COPS is part of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a leadership development institute,"

Great: go into religious life so that you can work with the Alinsky-founded IAF! Isn't that nice? They have something in common with Obama.

Mau said...

". . . along with pastel polyester, color coordinated clothes,"

Hey, John, you forgot the comfortable shoes!

Thankfully our girls have excellent role models for nuns in our community. We have a congregation of Sister Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara just down the road from us. They hold an oratory on Saturday afternoons for girls aged 5 and up and my girls absolutely love going to it each week. You can visit our congregations website here with links to the parent site: http://www.cmswr.org/member_communities/SLVM.htm

LarryD said...

Cosmocentrism? Does that mean they think the universe revolves around them?

M. Swaim said...

file under "social workers that don't date."

also file under "endangered species."

Felix said...

modern nuns are "physicians, teachers, missionaries, spiritual directors, social workers, psychologists, advocates for social justice, lawyers, counselors, ecologists, musicians, writers and artists"

wow, how middle class can you get?

Anonymous said...

file under "social workers that don't date.(men)"

Cathy said...

I'm sorry but I have to point out the obvious (living as I do in eastern MA, I have abundant experience here, believe me): they all (all!) look like the prototype lesbian. Really. Are they? Who knows. Does it matter? Well...yes, particularly if you want to recruit young women.

Steve said...

"You may also recognize us in virtue of the fact that 99% of us resemble the stereotypical image of the modern American "bull dyke"..."

Seriously, I hate to point out the obvious or to use so crass a term, but the shoe seems to fit so well...the short cropped, style-less hair, the lump-shaped body, the frumpy clothes. Is there an intentional connection?

Steve said...

Looks like Cathy and I were thinking the same thing...

Patrick Archbold said...

Ok. Enough of that please.

Steve said...

Enough of what? Is it not a valid observation? It's from their own lexicon, though they seem to have shifted the term toward "butches" now. It's not that they don't have self-identified archetypes, and the resemblance here is stunning.

Francisco said...

The photo Brendan linked is epic. Like, leather-clad-motorcycle-nun epic. Maybe her bio states she prowls the badlands... an outlaw nun hunting outlaws... a Renegade.
Seriously, I fear "Catholic Nuns Today" might make CMR's parody pale by comparison. Stranger than fiction, indeed.

Cathy said...

Without getting into what I do think is derogatory language, the photos do look like the archtype, no question (it absolutey was my first impression). And that is a problem if you are trying to grow an order, unless you are deliberately seeking those members.

Anonymous said...

A little charity here please. These women are actively committing their lives in service to God and His people. You want to disagree with their fashion sense? Fine. You want to mock their vocational pursuits? Okay. But at least respect the fact that they are doing SOMETHING to alleviate the suffering of our brothers and sisters in ways in which they believe God is calling them. That deserves at least a modicum of charity from us. My prayers are with them.

ad abolendam said...

The thing about cosmology and cosmocentrism is not as silly as you are making it. In the Middle Ages there were a slew of "De Anima" treatises, many written by Cistercians, that considered the notion that the human soul is a microcosm reflecting the four elements. Thus the connection between cosmology and consciousness is not necessarily a "far-out" or "new-age" idea.

Mack said...

I dunno, Anonymous, most of this ad seems to be me, me, me, my, my, my, my discovery, my journey, support me, blah, blah, blah, like a 16-year old's facebook.

And why Anonymous?

Father Cory Sticha said...

I think it's telling that none of the pictures show a young sister. All of the sisters shown appear to be no younger than 40, and many look to be in their 50's and 60's.

This could be a big turnoff for younger women. We live in a culture where young people look to their peers more than their elders. I don't think this website will help a lot of young women to give serious thought to a vocation, as it shows religious sisters old enough to be their mothers and grandmothers. There's absolutely no mention of what it means to be a young person with a vocation.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you would not care much for Susan Boyle since appearance is so important?
http://deacbench.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

"Broad brushes are all I have. Besides, these broads need some brushing." Groucho couldn't have said it better.

Patrick Archbold said...

Anonymous @11:01
I did not make fun of their appearance. I poke fun at their choices. Read my post, I said nothing about their appearance other than their reasons for choosing t-shirts over habits. Somehow I doubt whether you care what I actually wrote.

Rick said...

The essence of religious life is the consecration of the person, the setting aside of her life to God. An effect of this is that one becomes a sign of eschatological realities. But if the consecrated person becomes indistinguishable because of her secular attire, then the symbolism is obscured if not lost. So, showing that they are reserved for God by a religious habit has value. They don't have to look like the flying nun but if the Moslem women can wear veils, why not the "brides of the Lord"?

Paul Stokell said...

Quick! How many here have read Perfectae Caritatis, which guided the reform of religious in the Church? And how many of these sisters are taking it seriously??

(crickets)

Erin said...

I think people are being too judgmental. Yes, some modern sisters are radicals and heretics; others are dedicated servants of God who provide essential services in their communities. I guarantee you you can't tell which are which by looking at their photos on the websites.

Does anyone know of more traditional orders where the sisters continue with or develop professional careers in law, medicine, academia, etc? One of the major barriers to women's vocations is that many traditional Catholic women also have successful and intellectually challenging professional lives and don't want to give that up (and it would be great for the Church to have more orthodox religious college professors, attorneys, doctors, etc).

Anonymous said...

I pity these women more than anything. Yes they are lost in a lot of bad teaching from the 60s and 70s, but then again, these women were young then and were taught this stuff. They were taught that habits were demeaning to women etc. I have a good family friend (kind of like a grandmother) who is a SM, no habit and on the liberal side. She however runs a education center for unwed mothers and young mothers who need help with life skills. Is that not a fitting ministry for a sister? She does fine work for the Lord even though her theology is a little messed up. We should pity many of these women. That time period messed up a lot of people and we are only now fixing it

C.L. said...

One of the major barriers to women's vocations is that many traditional Catholic women also have successful and intellectually challenging professional lives and don't want to give that up.Bollocks. Formidable women from all strata and classes of society have been founding religious orders for centuries, many with unique charisms. Now, more than ever before, women are free to develop apostolates which are both new and orthodox. If they're so brilliant, let them act. Here is a former successful lawyer, night-clubber and sports car driver who just founded a religious congregation in Perth, Western Australia. Note the attire, note the inspiration.

Fr Bill P said...

It is like a who's who of dying religious orders...how sad.

Toni said...

You might do well to re-read your Good Friday post. I found nothing odd about the advertisement. There are many ways to serve God's people.

Maeana said...

Contrast that with the Benedictines of Mary (benedictinesofmary.org) where the average age is something like 23, and they are growing so fast they have to double up on cells. It's just funny that these convents see the lack of traditional habits and traditional ideas as a big positive in their vocations campaigns. You'd think they'd look at what is actually working and then go with that.

Walter said...

I actually feel sorry for these Sisters. They think their "relevant" appearance is a draw for devout young women. It is not and that is why they need marketing like this website. Young woman discerning the religious life do not want something "cosmocentric". They a community that us Christcentric.

Instead of mocking these Sisters, many of whom I am sure love Christ and his Church more than us here,but let us pray that they rediscover the charism and habits of their order.

Daddio said...

"these broads need some brushing"
Hey now, I used the B word here once and got chastised!... ;)

I especially like the chubby one with the trombone.

By the way, their site mocks old fashioned nuns with habits and rulers. Why can't we mock new-fashioned nuns with bad haircuts and civvies?

Daddio said...

Seriously though, what's the point of being a nun if you still have a day job? I thought people with day jobs were called "lay people". They could join any number of lay organizations related to religious orders, such as Opus Dei. What's the point of a "religious" that doesn't work and live as a religious?

The more challenging and demanding the call, the more attractive to new recruits. Leave your nets, leave your boats, etc.

Is this like the military reserves? One weekend a month kind of a deal?

Liturgeist said...

As a young, intelligent Catholic woman discerning a possible-probable oh let's just admit it vocation to religious life...

What the...?!!!!!!!

It is just so sad... not that they don't do good work... just that they have forgotten *what they are*. Good people, pious people... possibly material heretics... but they have forgotten that they are religious.

Plus, what is the point if you don't get the habit? ;-). The wimple, bring back the wimple!!!

Joe said...

I have never met an "out of the habit" sister who was orthodox in her beliefs. Have you?

Francis Beckwith said...

Is this the audition for the Indigo Girls tribute band?

Dalmatia said...

"One of the major barriers to women's vocations is that many traditional Catholic women also have successful and intellectually challenging professional lives and don't want to give that up"

I would be willing to bet that the person who said this is an American.

Anonymous said...

Catholic nuns today are a joke. No wonder the convents are empty--what's the point of being a nun when being a nun is just like not being a nun? Today's nuns have gym memberships and have jobs. At least Catholic monks have not ditched religious habits, but the women are a disgrace. These Novus Ordo nuns have "Protestantized" Catholicism. Traditional (habit) convents are flourishing, however. Eastern Orthodox nuns still wear traditional habits, but Roman nuns have all become "Protestant," proof that the Roman Church may not be the true Church after all.

Anonymous said...

Roman Catholic nuns today are a total joke. They look like lesbian feminists with their stupid short hair, droopy earrings, and miniature (microscopic) cross pins. Combine that with liturgical dancing and you have a real farce. Yes, the Catholic Church isn't what it used to be. Catholic nuns are indeed the worst.

Anonymous said...

Even Muslim "laywomen" wear full religious garb but a Catholic nun is now ashamed of wearing a religious habit! Think of the damage Catholic women would do the priesthood if they were allowed to be ordained! They would substitute communion hosts with cookies or large pita bread slices. Things would go downhill from there!

CJ said...

" But if the consecrated person becomes indistinguishable because of her secular attire, then the symbolism is obscured if not lost. ...... if the Moslem women can wear veils, why not the "brides of the Lord"?

What kind of habit did Jesus wear?

Honestly, Jesus told the APOSTLES (and you can't get much more consecrated or set aside than the Apostles) to "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? (Matthew 6:25)", and He castigated the Pharisees for their style of dress, which was designed to announce to the world how pious and holy they were ("But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments"(Matthew 23:5)

WE are not supposed to emulate the Pharisees or the Moslems, or try to "do them one better".
We are Christians, and we should be doing the OPPOSITE of what the ungodly do, who dress the outside to appear religious.
Jesus said to forget about the outside, and work on making our insides more like Him.

I think that part of the attraction of the habit-wearing orders to younger women is the appeal to CARNAL religiousity and the desire to be part of a group -- to an immature young girl, the habit is a visible thing that a person can put on, and voila, the wearer becomes a nun simply by donning a costume, in much the same way as the Pharisees and modernday Moslems displayed their religion to the world in their outward attire.

And finally, Jesus said, "(Matthew 7:16) Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?"

Judging by the snarky tone of this posting and the sarcasm and name calling in many of the comments here, I'd have to call even the most heretical and feminist nuns Godly in comparison.
Ain't no figs in this thistle patch, nosirree...

Anonymous said...

These feminist pant suit Big Hair prototype lesbian nuns have brought the name calling on themselves. They are really Protestants. Thank God these Newchurch Novus Ordo secular religious orders are fading away, while traditionalist convents are flourishing!

Anonymous said...

"You shall know them by their fruits..." Yes, Vatican II = liturgical abuse, clown masses, the destruction of church interiors, eradication of high altars, vanishing belief in the Real Presence, the clergy sex abuse crises, tacky secular Catholic hymns, and so called Newchurch Novus Ordo nuns in stretch pant suits and Big Hair. These pretend nuns are all about social justice--Jesus did not establish a Church on earth as a vehicle for social justice. These nuns are dying out, thank God. Their secular religious orders are fading away. Traditionalist convents are flourishing!

Anonymous said...

Catholic nuns today are a joke. No wonder the convents are empty--what's the point of being a nun when being a nun is just like not being a nun? Today's nuns have gym memberships and have jobs. At least Catholic monks have not ditched religious habits, but the women are a disgrace. These Novus Ordo nuns have "Protestantized" Catholicism. Traditional (habit) convents are flourishing, however. Eastern Orthodox nuns still wear traditional habits, but Roman nuns have all become "Protestant," proof that the Roman Church may not be the true Church after all.

Anonymous said...

Catholic nuns today are a joke. No wonder the convents are empty--what's the point of being a nun when being a nun is just like not being a nun? Today's nuns have gym memberships and have jobs. At least Catholic monks have not ditched religious habits, but the women are a disgrace. These Novus Ordo nuns have "Protestantized" Catholicism. Traditional (habit) convents are flourishing, however. Eastern Orthodox nuns still wear traditional habits, but Roman nuns have all become "Protestant," proof that the Roman Church may not be the true Church after all.

Anonymous said...

You may also recognize us in virtue of the fact that 99% of us resemble the stereotypical image of the modern American "bull dyke"..."

Seriously, I hate to point out the obvious or to use so crass a term, but the shoe seems to fit so well...the short cropped, style-less hair, the lump-shaped body, the frumpy clothes. Is there an intentional connection?

Peter said...

I was taught by two orders in the 50s and 60s -- Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVMs) and Religious of the Divine Compassion (RDCs). Both wore the traditional full habit. I always felt that the full habit evoked more respect. I can understand modifications being necessary so that nuns and sisters are more comfortable and better able to fulfill their apostolates in today's world but I wonder if the sharp decline in Catholic schools is in some ways linked to the extremely secular dress styles adopted by so many orders (as with the two aforementioned ones that taught me) after Vatican II. Unless you can easily spot that little lapel cross or pin you might not even know you were in the presence of a religious. In my opinion, a more recognizable religious habit needs to re-adopted.

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