More than ever I feel the need of having Thee close to me.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Friday, 2 September 2011
Being a nun is no longer habit forming
It always amuses and bemuses me that charity 'fun run' type activities invariably feature half a dozen 'nuns' dressed in habits to the ground and face enclosing wimples. How sad that the traditional habit of a nun is only seen on mindless idiots these days, whilst the real nuns prance around with blue rinse perms and M & S cardigans (complete with the stainless steel cross brooch - they are religious after all!).
But then, what on earth would make a woman believe that she had a vocation today?
I am leaving the traditional orders out of this equation as, it seems to me, that they have got it right; they might not have vast numbers of novices coming onstream but, they are moving in the right direction.
In short, what woman would give up a secular life for one of doing what? Being parish administrators? Catechising the catechumens? Dancing around the Sanctuary holding hands?
The religious life for most orders has become a pale mix of assisting here and there and doing something else, the Lord knows what, behind the Convent doors.
There are horror stories about nun's activities that I will not go into here; except to say that, within my knowledge, they only extend as far as plotting and scheming against the parish priest (they are not the dancing naked around a fire at midnight type of scandal).
The Tyburn nuns lead a life of prayer and penance
The teaching orders seem to have all but vanished and the same goes for the nursing ones. There are, admittedly, many fine rest homes run by nuns but one gets the impression that this is an exercise in keeping the order afloat first and adoring God, second.
Before my combox descends into burn out mode let me just spell out a few orders where good works are still carried out; the Poor Clares, the Missionaries of Charity, Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate...ummm.....and that's about it in Great Britain, apart from a few traditional communities from the Dominicans, Carmelites and Benedictines.
But back to the habit. Nuns today are instantly recognisable; they wear a light smearing of make-up, badly applied, their hair looks as if it had been cut by a demonic hairdresser on speed and they all wear the mandatory cardigan and mid calf length skirt, either in dark blue or clerical grey. They are always the ones (when they have to attend an EF Mass) who refuse to kneel and instead stand and offer their hands for reception.
St Therese would never have worn twin set and pearls!
They also take on the role of arbiters on all matters doctrinal. I remember once speaking to a newly converted couple and mentioning Purgatory to them. They looked appalled and just could not see the logic behind Almighty God's love for us that makes this such a saving contrast with the stark Protestant routes of Heaven or Hell. They set off post haste to confront the nun who had catechised them and returned the next week looking much relieved. "It's OK" they said: "Sister X said that the Church doesn't teach Purgatory these days"
And the old chestnut about the habit being a barrier between the laity and themselves just does not make sense. Many of the laity appreciate that 'barrier', it helps them cope with the social niceties of mixing with nuns (or priests for that matter). Take away the habit and you are left with a rather sad 'auntie' sort of figure that people find hard to relate to.
Bringing back the habit is, of course, only part of the remedy. Much more needs to be done if young women are to consider a life of poverty, chastity and obedience dedicated to Christ. No one is attracted by a soft option but an amalgam of prayer, charitable works (real ones), teaching (real teaching), working with parish groups and, especially, picking up on my post of 31st August, (here) re-establishing the young women's guild of Children of Mary - a possible prelude to the Legion of Mary and then, who knows, a vocation.
Ttony made the apt comment that the Children of Mary equates well with the Archconfraternity of St Stephen and removes, in one swipe, the division over altar girls and altar boys; a separate and distinct role for each sex, both carrying merit and parity and both with the capacity to encourage vocations.