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A Nun's Life Blog


Why did you become a sister?

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 21:01:12 +0000

A Nun's Life had the privilege to sit down with Sister Jane Frances Nabakaawa, DM, and listen to her story of how she became a member of the Daughters of Mary, Uganda.

A Nun's Life: Why did you become a sister?

Sister Jane Frances: For me, I feel that I was called. There is no doubt, I was called. My call is surrounded by very many circumstances, but one of them is to take care of the needy.

I know and I feel that God is present in everything, is present in everyone, but in the needy, [God's presence] is more evident, as the Gospel of Matthew talks about it. Jesus is in [them]: "Whoever takes care of them, takes care of myself,” as he states.

Watch Sister Jane Frances's interview:

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Learn more about Sister Jane Frances's congregation by visiting the Daughters of Mary, Uganda.

Give a gift. Make a difference!

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 16:14:23 +0000

Click here to donate now!

The Thanksgiving holiday is just around the corner here in the United States. It's a time to reflect on the things that we’re grateful for and to give thanks.

In the spirit of the season, I want to give a big-shout of thanks to everyone in the A Nun’s Life community. Your prayers,(image) donations, and encouragement make this ministry possible!

Thanks to your support, we’re able to offer content that’s inspiring and uplifting! Our blogs, podcasts, newsletters, and social media posts are created with you in mind. We listen carefully to you and others in the online community—via website comments, chatrooms, social media interactions, emails, surveys, and more. Your input helps us better understand what’s meaningful to you on the spiritual journey!

We also rely on you for help with the costs of the ministry. They include things like operating the website, developing content, and keeping our technology up to speed. (We sometimes comment on podcasts that our broadcast studio is powered by hamsters on a treadmill, but really, it’s electricity....)

I also invite you to make a gift in honor of Sister Julie Vieira, co-founder and co-director of A Nun's Life. She leaves the ministry after 11 years of awesome service to the online community and to religious life. “It has been amazing to walk with people on their journey as they discover and grow in their vocation," said Sister Julie. "I have loved this mission. I have also loved working with Catholic sisters and nuns from across the world and envision continuing that in the future.”  

Please take a moment to donate now! Your gift of any amount will be of great value to us and to the thousands of people who find at A Nun’s Life a welcoming online community where they can grow in faith and friendship.

You and your loved ones are always in our hearts and prayers!   

Sister Maxine

Discovering My Devotion to Mary!

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 14:24:06 +0000

A Nun's Life welcomes guest blogger Sister Christina Chavez, CDP, who writes about her experience of discerning and being a canonical novice with the Congregation of Divine Providence in San Antonio, Texas. What does it mean to have a “Marian devotion”?  I come from Mexican heritage so I had always seen Our Lady of Guadalupe images around and was aware of the deep devotion that many people have for her. But as strange as it might seem, I didn’t quite feel that closeness with Mary. I’d been able to more readily form a relationship with Jesus. But Mary—not so much.  During my Novitiate experience, I’ve been able to reflect on the status of my relationship with Mary. Maybe it started with my Grandma, who was devoted to the Rosary. I wrote in an earlier blog post that it was at Grandma’s funeral that I sensed a calling to be more like Mary and dedicate my entire life to Jesus. Perhaps that was the impulse that kept me moving forward in my spiritual journey. When I think of that moment, I remember that it was Mary who ultimately gave me a reason to look into religious life. Thanks to my Grandma, and her devotion to Mary. Along my path of spiritual growth, I also had an opportunity to attend the Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles. I’m not sure why, but I was attracted to the session on “Mariology,” the study of Mary. What happened was that I began to seek out a deeper understanding of why the Catholic Church emphasizes Mary’s role in salvation history. Was this when my devotion began? Later on, I tried very purposefully to develop a relationship with Mary. I thought it could be accomplished through a literal Marian devotion that takes 33 days so as to consecrate myself “to Jesus through Mary.” Makes sense, right! I hoped that after 33 days of reflecting on Mary’s role and how she brings us closer to Jesus, surely I would have a strong emotional connection with her. I’ve even been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit several Marian shrines throughout the world--from “La Macarena” in Sevilla, to Lourdes, France, and to Mexico and Our Lady of Guadalupe, with many more in between. I would like to tell you that all these things worked and I developed a really close relationship with Mary. But here’s what really happened: I DIDN’T FEEL A THING. When I added it all up, I’ve spent five years of slowly learning more about Mary--researching and reading and seeking--and it seemed to bring me no closer to Mary. What was going on? Why couldn’t I seem to get this right? Then it dawned on me! All the time that I was seeking a relationship with Mary was actually time I had devoted to Mary. Imagine my surprise--I did in fact already have a Marian devotion! For me, this realization was a turning point: it changed the way I looked at Mary’s role in my life. Now I can think of many, many examples of why or how Mary has been important in my journey, and how I’ve become closer to her and to God. Is there an unexpected relationship in your life that brings you closer to God?   Tags millennial prayer novice mary devotion [...]

Relying on God in tough times

Thu, 02 Nov 2017 18:24:59 +0000

Sister Teresita Richards, SND, shares her journey from grief to peace after the death of mother. This #nunday video was produced by Sister Maxine Kollasch and Julie Brown. Watch the video below!

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How did you know God was calling you to be a nun?

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 13:46:12 +0000

No two vocation stories are the same. That mysterious call is as unique as the person being called. What made me certain of my call may sound strange or foreign to another person, but here’s how it unfolded for me.  I grew up with an awareness of God, not a scary judgmental God but a very loving Someone always watching over me. As a child, when walking to the store for my mother, I would talk to God and see God shining down on me through the clouds in the brilliant rays of light. Reading about the saints as a child, I fully expected—or hoped—I would someday be like them! I had wonderful, kind and loving nuns in my grade school, but my life plan was to marry my grade school crush, Jeremy. I also thought maybe I’d become a Disney Mouseketeer on TV once some agent discovered me. I also remember asking my Dad if he thought I could win the Miss America pageant when I grew up and was surprised at his less-than-enthusiastic response to that idea. So I had many vocational dreams! For the 7th grade essay contest on “Why I Want to be a Nun,” I didn’t take it seriously but had my eye on the $50 prize. At lunch on the day it was due, I begged my married mother of three to write a nice essay about why I’d want to be a nun. She bailed me out, and I didn’t win the prize. I kind of felt God saying “hey, don’t make fun of this!” In my sophomore year at a big Catholic co-ed high school, something quietly was happening in my heart. A priest taught me how to pray with the New Testament Scriptures and I began to really read and HEAR the stories of Jesus and his amazing message and mission. There is no other way to say it: I fell in love! I couldn’t get enough of Him. I thought about Him all the time.   I was totally involved in my social life of friends, school, dances, dating---but Jesus would pop into my mind in the midst of a football game, as I was jammed into the stands with my friends, or as I danced the last dance of the night with my boyfriend. It was as though Jesus was saying, “you know who you belong to….”  I decided I would live high school to the max and then do the convent thing. Back then, you  typically entered the convent right after high school, and I knew, as my love for God grew stronger, that I wanted to become a Sister. I could see myself teaching and guiding teenagers and being part of a group of dedicated women doing God’s work in the world. But the single most compelling reason I entered was out of LOVE! I wanted to give God my whole life—all of me, every minute every day—to be as immersed in God and God’s work as I possibly could. When you love someone, you want to give your life to them and be as close to them as possible! So my call from God began in my early years and was unfolding all along in quiet, unsuspected ways. This call has been the utter fulfillment of my desire, and God has been faithful and lavish with me beyond measure or expectation. Each of us has our own sacred story of our vocation, whether to marriage, the single life or religious life. Thanks for listening to MY story. And what about you? What is your sacred story? When did you first sense God’s presence?  And how has God’s call unfolded in your life? Tags saint Mouseketeer miss america [...]

Ninth Graders ask the Nuns

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 21:29:24 +0000

Sister Joan Krajewski, OP, and Kate, a student at Regina Dominican High School, had the opportunity to chat about Sister Joan's calling to religious life. (Scroll down to watch the video of the interview!)

Kate: What made you want to become a nun?

Sister Joan: I think the joy that I saw in the group of Adrian Dominicans that I [now] belong to. That’s at Regina now, too—there’s a lot of joy. Sister Jean [Director of Mission Integration, Regina Dominican] has made sure it stays in that school. All that happening: the joy that was with nuns, and I loved the work they were doing, I loved how they were doing it, I loved how they loved each other.

Kate: It was so inviting.

Sister Joan: Inviting—you got it! That was the whole thing!

Kate: It’s really welcoming—I love the environment that’s instilled at Regina!

Sister Ann Fallon, OP, and Elie, a student at Regina Dominican High School, had the opportunity to talk about it's like to be a nun.

Elie: What do you think people should know about nuns?

Sister Ann: They should know that we are real people like they are. And that we’ve devoted ourselves to this life because we care about people and we care about the world that people are in. There’s a lot of efforts in today’s world around social justice. Religious are very determined to be a part of that because of all of the concerns we have about the poor and those who have needs, and that’s who we want to serve. And we want young people like yourself to help us to do that because you have the opportunity to learn and recognize all of this. I know that it’s part of your faith, too.

Elie: Yes, it is!

Watch the interviews with Sister Joan and Sister Ann:

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Learn more about Sister Joan and Sister Ann's congregation and their sponsored institutions by visiting the Adrian Dominican Sisters.

The life-changing experience of being a Sister

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 11:45:57 +0000

A Nun's Life welcomes guest blogger Sister Belinda Monahan, OSB, an archeologist who retraces her surprising journey to religious life. She is member of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago.

Shortly after I became a postulant with the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago, I ran into a woman I had known from my previous church. As we chatted, I outlined my daily schedule for her. “Oh,” she responded, “so becoming a Sister has pretty much just been a change in schedule. You pray earlier in the morning than you used to." 


Even less than a month into formation as I was at the time, I knew that this was not true. Becoming—and remaining—a Sister is more than the things I do, when I do them, or with whom. Being a Sister encompasses all of me, every day. It forms me in ways I never could have imagined when I began the journey. That formation may not always be pleasant while it is happening (indeed, growth can be painful), but it is leading me closer to becoming the person God dreams of me being.  

I had not felt unhappy in my life before I felt called to religious life. I had a job I loved, a place I enjoyed living, and friends and family (and a cat) with whom I shared my life. Nor is my sense of call a pull toward doing something different with my life: instead, religious life offers me a different way of being in the world. The gift of this life has not simply been the myriad of opportunities offered to me as a Sister, but also the relationships I have developed in and out of community and the aspects of myself that have emerged as a result of these experiences. Being a Sister has broadened my perspective rather than narrowing it. 

There are definitely things I am not free to do as a Sister. I cannot, as I once dreamed of doing, spend months every year doing archaeological fieldwork. Even my decisions about my daily life are shaped by the needs of my community as much as my own desires. Should I skip community prayers to go to dinner with friends? Is a conference more important than a community meeting? In learning how to make those decisions, I am learning to listen to the voice of God in the everyday events and people of my life. 

Being a Sister changes the very context of my life. It presents me with great joy and also with great challenges and decisions that I sometimes wish were not there. But in the midst of it all, I recognize that for me, religious life is the path to becoming who I am called to be. 

In what ways is your vocation shaping your life?

Hope for the Future of Religious Life

Sun, 01 Oct 2017 19:36:19 +0000

A Nun's Life had the privilege to sit down with Sister Michelle Lesher, SSJ, and talk with her about her hopes for the future of religious life.

A Nun's Life: How do you see the future of religious life?

Sister Michelle: As I look forward, I feel really excited, because I know that we’re in a place of moving toward something that’s new and something that’s different. I don’t think that we really see yet exactly what that's going to mean. But what I see are a lot of people who are committed to living the gospel, to being about relationship, to being joyful witnesses of God at work in the world. That really energizes me to stay faithful and to try to live wholeheartedly into whatever that future is going to be. So in a way, I know less about religious life than I thought I knew earlier on … and that’s very exciting to me! I feel drawn to give myself wholly into this picture and see what happens.

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Learn more about Sister Michelle's community by visiting the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia.

What are signs of being called to religious life?

Tue, 26 Sep 2017 20:07:22 +0000

Facing important decisions about life choices is never easy, and discerning a call that is “the road less taken,” religious life, can be very confusing. God doesn’t inscribe your call across the heavens or deliver a crystal clear invitation. You have to listen to your deeper self, to the quiet movement of your heart. From my twenty plus years in vocation ministry, I’ve found there are signs to pay attention to or take seriously if you are wondering about a possible call to religious life. Let’s start with some of the little signs--behaviors or choices that might indicate the potential for a call by God to religious life. You are seriously interested in a deep friendship with God or Jesus.  You have been developing that relationship for awhile—possibly attending retreats, workshops, or courses that feed your spiritual hunger You find your thoughts frequently turning toward God. You like to pray; you like hanging out with God. You read Scripture and have a strong desire to be a follower of Jesus, one of his disciples. You are active in your parish, youth group, or group that supports your spiritual growth. You are drawn to service and are generous with your time and gifts for those in need. You seek people with whom you can have deeper and more meaningful conversations. Hmmm--anything sound familiar? Here are other signs that are a little more telling and might indicate that some deeper knowing in you has already begun to consider religious life: You know some religious whom you admire, who are mentors, or who inspire you. You hang out with religious--working, socializing, visiting. You like spending time with them. Other people (family or friends) may even ask you something like, “Why do you hang out with those nuns (or priests or brothers) so much?” You’ve started reading about religious orders and checking out websites, and you are intrigued by their lifestyle. You’ve done a “Come and See” retreat or had a live-in experience with a community. You've made a discernment retreat, and maybe you have a spiritual director to help you discern your call. You find yourself thinking about or imagining religious life as an option for you. You may be asking God to please let you know if this is your call. Still checking items off? Here then are serious signs, which might be scary if the decision about religious life has been a hard one for you. It’s important to remember that these signs are serious indicators of a possible call made by a tender, persistent, respectful God: The idea won’t go away…even when you try to put it on a back burner and try other options for your life. It reminds me of the Jeremiah Scripture (called “Jeremiah’s Interior Crisis”) that we recently had at Mass: “I said to myself I will not mention him. I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart…I grow weary holding it in.” You may collect lots of reasons why religious life would not be good for you. Your head is busy talking you out of it! But your heart still stirs, feeling a persistent nudge. Even the heavy-hitter question, “But how can I know for sure?” doesn’t dissuade you. And lastly, other options that you “try on” leave your heart empty, unsatisfied, sad, or restless. You experience what discernment calls “desolation,” a lack of peace or joy. My dear reader, with God we need not have fear. We can be totally honest in exploring our life call with God, because no one wants our happiness more than God. Ask for clarity. Ask for courage. Seek wise counsel or guidance. And don’t be afraid. What question in your heart do you bring to God today? Tags jeremiah signs [...]

The Nuns ask the Ninth Graders

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 21:53:42 +0000

Sister Susan Van Baalen, OP, and Ashley, a student at Regina Dominican High School, had the opportunity to chat about the unique experience of attending Regina.

Sister Susan: Do you notice much of a difference [between Regina Dominican and other schools]?

Ashley: Yes, there’s a big difference! At Catholic school, there’s more of a community sense. In public school, everyone’s kind of independent, doing their own thing in their little groups.

But at Regina, there’s definitely a huge sense of community and everyone knows everything and everyone is friendly to each other.

Sister Susan: Great! I’m so glad to hear you say that because that’s the kind of atmosphere that we try to create in the school so that it’s a place of peace, a place of comfort, and a great experience of learning!

Sister Margaret Pachucki, OP, and Emma, a student at Regina Dominican High School, spoke about the community atmosphere that is present at Regina.

Sister Mary Margaret: Going to Regina Dominican, what do you find is good about being in an all girls’ setting, which was different than in the grade school?

Emma: First of all, I feel like when there are not boys around, girls speak up a lot more. It was a big thing in my grade where no girls would speak up because if they got the answer wrong, the boys would all make fun of them, and then [the girls] would get embarrassed and no one would speak up any more.

When I came to Regina, I saw how everybody just spoke up about what they believe in. I felt a lot more welcome and I felt like this is where I belong because I like to speak my mind, and I felt like I’d be welcome with open arms here.

Watch the interviews with Ashley and Emma:

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Learn more about Sister Susan and Sister Mary Margaret's community by visiting the Adrian Dominican Sisters.

Living into the Questions

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 19:19:23 +0000

A Nun's Life had the privilege to sit down with Sister Michelle Lesher, SSJ, and talk with her about what questions she encountered when she was in the initial stages of discerning religious life.

A Nun's Life: What questions did you have when you were discerning?

Sister Michelle: I did have a lot of questions, and I think that these questions shifted over time. Early on, I wondered what it would be like to not be in relationship with one person who was “my person.” I wondered if I would be lonely. I am only child so I had a lot of questions about that, not just about myself but for my parents: what would this be like for them? As I got a little bit older--still discerning, still in formation--I started to wonder about not having children. Would I miss that at some point? What would that be like?

I think that what I have learned and what has been so wonderful is that, for me, the best thing about being in religious life is relationships. In fact, my world has not gotten smaller, as I thought it might by choosing this life, but it’s actually expanded. There are so many amazing ways that I’m in relationship with people that fill in or help me to know myself better or to know God better, and [I’ve learned] to just appreciate and enjoy relationships in a lot of ways. So instead of getting smaller, I feel like my world expanded. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about community. Community really is this great place of companionship and coming to be my best self. So I don’t feel lonely.

Watch Sister Michelle's interview:

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Learn more about Sister Michelle's community by visiting the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia.

Discernment Advice from Sister Michelle, SSJ

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 18:43:51 +0000

A Nun's Life had the privilege to sit down with Sister Michelle Lesher, SSJ, to talk about some of the advice she would give to someone discerning religious life.

A Nun's Life: What advice would you give to someone who is discerning religious life?

Sister Michelle: First and foremost, I really encourage a people to cultivate a life of prayer, a sense of listening and really trying to come to know herself in a better way; and come to know God and how God is inviting her in relationship in any way, shape, or form. I would also encourage a person who is thinking about religious life to spend time with sisters, visit lots of different congregations to get a sense of mission and charism, and a sense of where [she] might fit best. [Visiting provides] the opportunity to see sisters in their everyday life ... and to get to know them.

Watch Sister Michelle's interview:

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Sister Michelle is a member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia.

Can I dedicate my life to God without being a nun?

Tue, 22 Aug 2017 19:38:06 +0000

Here’s a question that pops up often in my work with people sincere in trying to connect with God’s intentions and discern their life calling. There are several layers to this question—the desire to respond to God, perhaps even to dedicate oneself to God, and I suspect a struggle between the draw to marriage and family, and the scarier, less-understood question of a call to religious life. 

Since Vatican II proclaimed the “universal call to holiness” and encouraged lay people to pick up their baptismal call to be disciples of Jesus and friends with God, we have witnessed the awakening call of many to serve God in Church ministry, in service, and in justice work. We have seen great men and women balance the demands of family with lives of prayer and service in the Church. So yes, you can dedicate yourself to God and not be a nun.

But what about the vocation to religious life? How is it a different way of dedication to God? I answer this as one who made that choice many years ago and who would make that choice again today! 

The heart of the decision, or discernment, is the question, What is your deepest heart’s desire? Just as in marriage there is a unique call to one particular partner, so in the choice for religious life, there is a desire for an exclusive, single-hearted, laser-focused, total gift of self to God.  There is a desire to have no primary responsibilities or commitments other than complete attentiveness to God, streamlined of distractions as much as possible, with an availability and readiness to go wherever God wants to send us. 

For me, I wanted a way of life in which I could focus on God with a laser-beam intensity and with few material distractions. Religious life offered that to me. It’s not that there aren’t mundane tasks that are necessary to live and work in this world, but I know that my primary  call allows a freedom to respond to the primacy of prayer, the call of the Gospel, and the needs of the poor.

So it’s not really about dedication. All friends of God can live a dedicated life. It’s about how you want to live that out--how you want to spend your days loving and serving God.  

What are your feelings as you read this? What do you hear in your heart? 

A Journey from Doubt to Holy Boldness

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 17:46:43 +0000

A Nun's Life had the privilege to sit down with Sister Jenny Zimmerman, SND, and talk with her how she discovered her calling to religious life.

A Nun's Life: What attracted you to religious life?

Sister Jenny: I didn’t mean to do this -- I never had a plan to be a sister! My best friend entered the [Sisters of Notre Dame] community a few years before I did, so by visiting her, I got to know the sisters a little bit. I saw the joy that they had, the peace that they had living in society -- that’s what I was looking for! I was trying to do that in many other ways. So, I decided, OK, I’ll show God. I’ll try this and I’ll show him that he has the wrong person and that it’s not for me. I was giving myself about a year … I thought a year tops and I’d be out of there and then I’d know for sure that it wasn’t for me. That was 13 years ago.

A Nun's Life: What would you say to someone who is having doubts about being called to religious life?

Sister Jenny: Try it. Prove God wrong on that one. Give it a shot. See what happens. Be open, live with boldness, and see where you go.

Watch Sister Jenny's interview:

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Learn more about Sister Jenny's community by visiting the Sisters of Notre Dame Toledo Province.

Discernment starts with a question

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 15:21:47 +0000

A Nun's Life welcomes guest blogger Sister Belinda Monahan, OSB, an archeologist who retraces her surprising journey to religious life. She is member of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago. When I first started thinking about becoming a sister, I was far more surprised than anyone else in my life. After I finished my PhD at Northwestern University, I had become more and more involved in the Sheil Catholic Center: attending daily Mass, becoming more involved in liturgical ministries. Because none of this was a conscious decision, at some point, I realized that I needed to talk to someone about why I was doing all of this. I began spiritual direction with Mary Deeley, the pastoral associate at Sheil. In our very first meeting, she asked if I had ever thought about becoming a nun. I laughed and, very honestly, dismissed the question. It was true, I never had thought about becoming a nun. I more or less assumed that she asked every unmarried woman over the age of thirty the same question. At least consciously, her question did not spark any thought at all. About a year later, I was sitting in Eucharistic Adoration and--while I don't want to say that I heard voices (one of the times I did use that phrase someone asked me what the voice sounded like, and I really have no idea)--the thought popped into my head: "You need to think about becoming a nun." I may actually have looked around the chapel to see who this was addressed to, it certainly wasn't me. Jane would be a far better candidate, or how about Anne? She likes helping people (for the record, both Jane and Anne are happily married now). To say that I was unnerved by this idea is an understatement. Panic was closer to describing how I felt. I told myself I wouldn't think about it, but the thought wouldn't seem to let go. I didn't really want to, but I was so frustrated and confused that within a few days, I went to my spiritual director and told her--and more or less demanded that she tell me why this could not happen. Needless to say she declined to do so; but at least I felt less terrified after meeting with her. The only other time when the panic abated in those first few weeks, I was sitting in the chapel before morning prayer. As usual, I was trying to push these thoughts away, but at one point, I said, "Alright, God, if this is really what you want me to do, I'll do it," and for one moment, I was calm. Then I added, "But you're really going to have to work hard to convince me," and the panic started up again. When I began very hesitantly to tell other people what I was thinking about, the most common response was, "That makes sense...." or "I thought you might be thinking about that." It seems that I was the last person in my life to figure this out. It might have been less scary and painful if more people in addition to Mary had suggested I think about religious life. Even though I dismissed Mary's question, the very fact that she had asked it was very important. It meant that I had a safe person to go to with questions when the idea emerged in my own mind. Have you ever asked someone to consider religious life? Tags vocation discernment spiritual direction calling surprise [...]

What's the best thing about religious life?

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 14:12:02 +0000

A Nun's Life had the privilege to sit down with Sister Lakesha Church, C.PP.S, to talk about the joy of the journey in discerning religious life.

A Nun's Life: What is the best thing about religious life?

Sister Lakesha: The most wonderful thing is to be here on this journey; it’s a continuous journey. And I don’t know what happens tomorrow or what happens the next hour—I even have my schedule planned until July, but so what! The journey is what it is all about. It is the journey, the road we are traveling, and it’s a blessed one. It is a blessed one!

Watch Sister Lakesha's interview:

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Learn more about Sister Lakesha's congregation by visiting the Sisters of the Precious Blood.

Would God take away my happiness to get my attention?

Mon, 24 Jul 2017 14:38:18 +0000

Recently we received a question—a dilemma really—of someone who was happy when she recently graduated from college but now feels something is wrong. Does God want her to be a nun, even though she is not drawn to it and it “feels forced”? She feels guilty for not wanting to be a nun and thinks God has taken away her happiness over this. These are the kinds of knots we can get ourselves into when wrestling with the seemingly elusive will of God. I’d like to comment on two things here that really catch my heart—the sad wrestling with God and the guilt over the nun dilemma. First, we need to remember that God does not play games with us. Years ago there was a book called The Games People Play. In our human experience, we have seen complicated, painful games that people play in their interactions—from excluding others on the playground to deceiving or betraying others in work or love. The refreshing and consoling fact we must remember is that God does NOT play those games. There is no tricking or misleading or retaliating in our encounters with God. God is utterly trustworthy, incapable of willing anything but our greatest good and ultimate happiness. When we turn away thinking that God is hurting us and taking happiness away, we are suffering needlessly. How God must want to grab us and look deep into our eyes and say, “My precious child, there is nothing you can do that would make me take happiness from you. I sent my Son to show you how to find fullness of life and happiness.” God’s way of thinking has no room for coercing, forcing, or giving up on us. The second part of this woman’s dilemma is actually something I have heard before—wondering if God wants one to join religious life when there is absolutely no desire or draw to it. Do we think that God would request someone to be a nun when everything in them desires another vocation such as marriage and motherhood? This question is really about discernment, which we have addressed before in this blog. The general wisdom about how God communicates with us is that God speaks in the depths of the human heart. If you sincerely want to follow God’s will for you, then you can presume that the Holy Spirit will stir your heart in the right direction. So if God is calling someone to religious life, there should be some desire to live the life, even if it would be challenging. God would not call someone to a life that would break their heart. So let’s put down any worries or defenses with God, and know that God speaks tenderly to us, drawing us with bands of love to the vocation that will truly fulfill our heart’s desire. Tags heartbreak vocation god's calling discernment [...]

Sister Jean Marie's ministry of presence

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 18:17:49 +0000

A Nun's Life had the privilege to sit down with Sister Jean Marie Fernandez, RGS, and talk with her about how she lives out the life and mission of her community, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

A Nun's Life: How are you a good shepherd to others?

Sister Jean Marie: Currently, my ministry is working with the homeless population in San Francisco. I work as a counselor and case manager at the drop-in center, where we have about 70 men and women who are guests. We call them guests, not clients. So my work with them is “presence”—a presence of healing, a presence of serenity, a human contact with those who are isolated, stigmatized, invisible in society. Healing, reconciliation, and the dignity of a human person—are very key to our charism. One soul is more precious than the whole world, so I take that value into my ministries, in my current ministry, and wherever I go.

Watch Sister Jean Marie's interview:

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Learn more about Sister Jean Marie's community by visiting the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

Perfect Prayer Not Required

Fri, 07 Jul 2017 20:33:44 +0000

A Nun's Life welcomes guest blogger Sister Christina Chavez, CDP, who writes about her experience of discerning and being a canonical novice with the Congregation of Divine Providence in San Antonio, Texas. When it comes to prayer, I used to feel like I had to do it “right” or not at all. I used to think prayer should be totally solemn, still, and … perfect! After all this is the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE, doesn’t that require the best? This put so much pressure on prayer that sometimes if I didn’t have time to do it right, I just didn’t pray at all. Despite that, I still felt a strong desire to grow closer to God, which is what moved me into seeking religious life. This past year in formation, known as canonical novitiate, I have learned that prayer is not about achieving an arbitrary standard of perfection. Prayer is first and foremost about growing in relationship with God. The key word here is “relationship,” which has truly been the focus of my formation this year. Canonical novitiate has been a gift to me because it is a time devoted to prayer, reading, and discerning which has allowed me to seek a new perspective and explore just how I was relating to God. Once in spiritual direction, my director helped me see that how a person interacts with a friend can be incorporated into prayer. She helped me see that in each of my close relationships with family and friends, I have cultivated one-on-one time, talked about dreams, complained about difficulties, and celebrated one another. This too is what I can bring to God in my prayer! I have learned to reflect on what makes a relationship important in my life. With my lifelong friends, there are some with whom, even after a lot of time apart, it is simple to pick up where we left off. With others, there is a strain and it takes time to reconnect. For each relationship, no matter how or where it started, time and commitment are required in order to grow and develop. My best of friends are such because of all that we have gone through together over years of communication, challenges, and celebrations! Now I see how it can be the same when it comes to my relationship with God! With these new insights emerging about prayer and relationships, I have tried to be more intentional about incorporating prayer throughout my day. Sometimes it is about seeing God our Creator in all living beings and appreciating the abundance of God’s Providence in Creation. This doesn’t always mean that I have to stop my life to retreat to a solemn space and sit in silence. When I do spend time in Chapel, I do so in order to “waste time with God.” I set aside an hour in Chapel as my way of showing my love for God and my commitment to grow our relationship. This can take the form of meditation, centering prayer, or just sitting in silence -- all of which are still difficult for me because I would rather use words. I am challenging myself, and even when I am not perfect, I remind myself that each distraction provides me the opportunity to CHOOSE to come back to my prayer, to God. I also commit myself to do a Marian devotion 30 minutes every morning, and to reflect on the daily Scriptures for 30 minutes each day. Reading the Gospel daily means I am reading about my friend, which has greatly improved my connection with Jesus. This is what I call my “formal” prayer time, yet the important thing is to set aside some time to spend with my friend, or else how will we have a bond? During this past year, I have been able to better understand the beauty of this lifelong journey. Prayer will [...]

What's the best thing about being a Catholic sister?

Mon, 03 Jul 2017 14:42:28 +0000

A Nun's Life had the privilege to sit down with Sister Maryanne Tracey, SC, and talk with her about the great adventure of religious life.

A Nun's Life: What's the best thing about being a Catholic sister?

Sister Maryanne: I guess for me, the best thing about being a Catholic sister is being a Sister of Charity because of our ministry, because of our charism, and because of the many wonderful people and selfless women who I have come across in my 52 years. Wonderful relationships of people in the community and of people whom I have met in ministry along the way.

Watch Sister Maryanne's interview:

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Learn more about Sister Maryanne's congregation by visiting the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth.

NUNDAY with Sister Sharon Dillon, SSJ-TOSF

Mon, 26 Jun 2017 16:10:07 +0000

A Nun's Life had the privilege to sit down with Sister Sharon Dillon, SSJ-TOSF, and learn more about her ministry as executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference.

A Nun's Life: How do you live out the gospel in your role as executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference?

Sister Sharon: The first thing that comes to my mind is ... I love our church. And I mean that with a capital "C" and small "c." And I think that it has huge arms, arms that embrace everyone and so there is room for everybody. And if we could just center ourselves and recognize the spirit that's within me is a continuation of the spirit that's within you, that holy spirit that unites all of us. And I see that in the sense of the small community of church as well as in the large community of church.

Watch Sister Sharon's interview:

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Learn more about Sister Sharon's congregation by visiting the Sisters of Saint Francis of the Third Order of Saint Joseph.

Learn more about Sister Sharon's ministry by visiting the National Religious Vocation Conference.

How can I make time for prayer when I barely have time to eat?

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 13:51:50 +0000

This question is common for sincere people desiring a relationship with God but living in a fast-paced culture. The breathless pace of our lives only seems to accelerate as we take on more responsibilities, more expectations, and instant everything! So yes, we are rushing from thing to thing — rushing through our lives — and don’t have time for God and our inner world. Is prayer a waste of time when you could get more pressing chores done? Imagine how that pause for spiritual refueling and the grace God could enrich you and impact all the lives you touch!

Prayer should not be just one more thing on our already packed to-do list, any more than breathing should be. Prayer is every bit as ESSENTIAL to the life of our soul as breathing is to the body. If we could believe how deeply it affects our well-being, in every way, we would see prayer as a non-negotiable. Perhaps we still think of prayer as something we owe God, or something we do so God won’t be upset with us or give up on us. That scenario is impossible — God giving up on us. Our prayer does not ensure God’s favors, nor keep God from feeling lonely or forgotten. The real purpose of prayer is to connect us with our own deep soul and with the deep heart of God. Prayer is our lifeline to the truth. In prayer our vision gets clearer and we see things more as they truly are and not through the distortions of an egocentric world — which confuses and blinds us. How can anything else be more important for our real health than prayer? It should be the one thing we can’t live without.

I used to think of prayer as more of an obligation, a "should do" task, until I grew to realize how much I needed that daily tuning into my own inner world. Prayer eventually became less about talking at God, and more about listening and receiving God’s guidance and gentle support. Just recently I came across a quote from a wise bishop: “I always pray one hour a day. When I’m too busy, I pray two hours!” Or the familiar sign declaring: “A week without prayer makes one weak.”

The busier your life gets, the greater your need for the grounding and remembering of prayer — remembering who you are and remembering who God is.

What practices help you set time aside for prayer?

What does Jesus teach us about discernment?

Thu, 25 May 2017 15:57:15 +0000

In a recent gospel reading, Jesus uses a powerful metaphor for himself—he is a shepherd who knows his sheep. We don’t know much about sheep and shepherds anymore, but we catch the tender, protective relationship the shepherd has for his sheep. For all the times I’ve heard this reading, something registered this time that has a lot to do with discernment.

“…the shepherd walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.” As discerners and seekers, we want to follow him, but here’s the clue from Jesus about how to ensure that that happens—we have to recognize his voice! The sheep follow because they recognize, from all the other voices, the Shepherd’s familiar voice. Jesus goes on with his important instruction: “But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” Wow!!

What an instruction about discernment! When we think of the many loud, alluring, empty voices of the prevailing culture, these are the “strangers’ voices.” They do not know us, they do not have our deepest welfare in mind, they cannot lead us to our true self, our true home.

Only the Shepherd—to whom we belong, who knows us intimately—cares about our true happiness and will safely lead us home to our true self. The core of discernment is listening for the voice of the Shepherd. And the only way we come to know that voice is by spending time listening to that voice, until it is etched in our minds, in prayer. Through the practice of regular prayer we become attuned to the Shepherd’s voice; it becomes unmistakable amid the many other confusing, strong voices around us. The sheep have seen enough examples of the Shepherd’s tender care to know that he will never deceive them or lead them to a place that would not be for their greatest good.

Do you know the Shepherd’s voice?

Digging In: Being an Archaeologist and a Nun

Wed, 17 May 2017 03:43:29 +0000

A Nun's Life welcomes guest blogger Sister Belinda Monahan, OSB, who writes about her experience of being an archaeologist and a Sister with the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago, Illinois. I always wanted to be an archaeologist. There is a family story that I was about six years old when my mother hollered out the back door, "Belinda, it's November! If you must play in the sandbox, come back inside and put some shoes on." I went on my first excavation to Tell Safut in Jordan at seventeen and was hooked. I loved the people I met and the work we did. I didn't even mind the occasional tedium and the hot sun. I completed my PhD without ever seriously questioning whether this was what I wanted to do. The idea of becoming a Sister emerged much later in my life; several years after I finished my degree. It seemed to me (although for almost no one else in my life) to be a bolt out of the blue. "But," I wailed to my spiritual director in one of the first meetings that we discussed the subject, "I don't want to be a teacher or a nurse." I honestly had no idea that Sisters could – or did – do anything else. The more deeply I discerned, the more I discovered the variety of ministries in which Sisters engage. When I entered the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago, it was with the idea that I would be able to continue to pursue archaeology as a ministry. I have to admit that not everyone in my community has always approved of this choice. But most now agree that it fits in well with community life. Benedictines have a long tradition of acquiring and storing knowledge, and archaeology follows that tradition. I have even been able to put it to use for the Benedictine world by cataloguing some of the historical material culture from the first Benedictine women's monastery in the United States. Archaeological "emergencies" are rare. The animals that form the core of my research (I study animal bones in order to understand the political and social organization of past peoples) have been dead for thousands of years. They can wait awhile longer while I attend a community meeting or help another Sister. Being away from the community for a month in the summer to work in the field is a strain for both me and the community, but for the remainder of the year I can be present to the community in a way that a traditional job does not allow. Moreover, being an archaeologist gives me an appreciation for the long span of history. It allows me to see the issues facing women religious including smaller numbers and an aging population – from a different perspective. Grounding myself in the past makes the present less alarming and gives me great hope for the future. Both archaeology and religious life share a tendency to be romanticized; the former is associated with Indiana Jones and the latter with the Sound of Music. Being both allows me to see the bigger picture behind the sometimes mundane dailiness of life and so to live with joy. What have you felt God calling you to do? Tags vocation ministry benedictine discernment archaeology [...]

The Fear of Becoming a Nun

Tue, 02 May 2017 13:34:54 +0000

Becoming a nun was one of the most awesome decisions of my life. I say “decision” as if it was something that I had thought of myself, eagerly pursued, analyzed, planned for, and implemented. Not at all! The Spirit was (and is) definitely in charge, beginning with the invitation to draw closer in my relationship with God and then patiently walking with me as I would take a step forward ... and then another ... and then another until I ended up on the steps of the IHM Motherhouse! The process did involve some decisions. It wasn't always pretty. I had to face my own fears, denial, and the ever-popular what-ifs. For myself, over the years I've discovered that when I feel fear, I can choose to launch forward into an adventure, and I can retreat and crawl deeply beneath the covers of my bed and never come out. (Not saying I know that from personal experience.) So that is the back story for when I read a Facebook message that just came in. Our visitor said that she wondered how to know if becoming a nun is her calling. And though she said it’s been on her mind for a while, she said: “I’m not going to lie and say it doesn’t scare me when it does.” I get you. Recognizing that you are scared – and not lying to yourself is an incredible first step. It took me a long time to name that one of the feelings I had was fear. Once you name it, you can claim it. And if it rhymes, it must be true. ;) In my experience of fear, there’s never an absolute either/or – either you enter into the adventure or you crawl into bed never to emerge again. I did both. Simultaneously. I discovered eventually that both fear and attraction can exist at the same time. It takes prayer, time, freaking out, and discernment to bravely hold them together and not be frozen. And you have to let it go. Letting it go means giving over to your deepest desires, even if they are unnameable at first. It means giving into both fear and joy, resistance and attraction. It also means believing that God always -- always -- wants the good for us. Think about the story of the Annunciation where Mary is confronted with an angel on her doorsteps! -- THAT is unnerving! Scripture says that Mary was troubled by the angel Gabriel’s greeting (Luke 2:29). But what I think is that she was freaking out. She was probably like, “O.M.G. There's an angel on my doorstep! For realz?!” We know the end of THAT story. Though Mary is scared, she also enters in, opens herself to God, not knowing what would come of it exactly. Anyone feeling some fear about God’s calling needs to go hang out with Mary. She’s been there. Calling from God – to become a Catholic sister or to any vocation – is an awesome adventure that will bring a potpourri of feelings and thought. We just have to hang in there and know that we have it within ourselves, thanks to God, to be bold … and to take a next step. What is the next step you need to take? Tags immaculate heart of mary discernment fear calling to religious life [...]

How can I share the message of Jesus in my everyday life?

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 20:45:12 +0000

On Saint Mark’s feast day, we hear his Gospel account, Mark 16: 15-20, of Jesus’ final instructions to the disciples right before he leaves them to ascend into heaven: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” As followers of Jesus, we are called to a discipleship that is more than assenting to his messages and believing the way he lived. We are called to spread the message, to pass on the good news to others. Jesus seems to be recruiting us to carry on his work! We can do that in a variety of ways. Whether our vocation is religious life, marriage, priesthood, or single life, we are his disciple. A disciple not only believes the word of the Master, but also helps spread it.

Jesus mentions some signs that will accompany the disciples as they evangelize; serpents will not harm them, they will drive out demons and heal the sick. Could he mean that if we follow him, we will not be as susceptible to the death-dealing forces of life without him? Does he mean that if we truly LIVE his life we will help others come to life and wholeness because of our presence? Jesus tells his disciples—and us—that we will speak new languages. Does he mean that by our meditating on his words and example, we truly will be speaking a language different than the empty, hollow rhetoric of our culture?

Being a disciple of Jesus does not mean we will not encounter hardships or frustrations, but Jesus calls us to trust in the love that God pours out for each one of us and to share that love with the world. So, let’s pick up the call to speak a new language! Let’s tap into our Easter grace, catch fire, and spread Christ’s message where we live and work!

How is Jesus calling you to "proclaim the gospel to every creature"?

On Being a Millennial and a Nun

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 15:39:53 +0000

A Nun's Life welcomes guest blogger Sister Christina Chavez, CDP, who writes about her experience of discerning and being a canonical novice with the Congregation of Divine Providence in San Antonio, Texas. I wasn’t born “convent ready.” I don’t have some magically superb spiritual gene. I didn’t even know I wanted to be a nun. I didn’t, actually. There was never one shining moment of lightning that inspired me like a burning bush or an angel or a dream. I was in college living my life in my early twenties, looking at an entire world of possibilities and feeling scared that I didn’t have my life figured out yet. As graduation approached, I felt like a failure because I didn’t have a plan in place for my future. I was searching for something in the world that had a purpose but didn’t know how to choose a direction. Yet for some reason, if the idea of becoming a nun would enter my mind, I’d suppress it quickly by saying “no, that’s weird! I’ll never do that.” Honestly, I can’t even remember the first time it ever crossed my mind because I ignored it for so long. I moved into a house with roommates, and discovered that one of my roommates had an aunt that was a nun. I met this aunt when she gave a talk at an Awakening retreat using only her iPod for notes. I was so impressed at how normal and joyful she was! I figured if this friend already had a nun in the family, then she of all people wouldn’t think being a nun is weird. So after a while I was finally able to admit to her that the thought to become a nun had been in my mind which opened my heart to this lifestyle as a possibility. I graduated college without a clear career plan or path set out for my life. Sure I had admitted the “nun thing” to a friend, but I continued to ignore God’s invitation. Shortly after graduation, my grandma passed away. At my grandma’s funeral the priest spoke of Grandma’s devotion to the rosary and I remember thinking that I want to be like Mary and devote my whole life to Jesus. That day I googled “how to become a nun” from my iPhone. I found the VISION Vocation Match website and filled out the survey. For someone who didn’t know anything about what it takes to become a nun, that was a good starting place. I found out that the “process” to becoming a Catholic Sister was actually very long. And to be honest, that made everything seem less daunting! It’s not like I was going to step foot in the convent and be locked in forever. I could see that there was lots of time devoted to prayerfully finding out whether or not you “fit” a specific order. Providence led me to find a flyer from the Congregation of Divine Providence in Texas (CDP) so I reached out to see if I could visit them. When we met, it was providential because one Sister was moving close to me and another came to help her. We had dinner together and I liked them right away! The Sisters were wearing regular clothes, had iPhones, and seemed to be very relatable people. They even shared their own stories of how God led them to finding the Congregation. Like me, they had also experienced a series of providential events. Specifically the quote that resonated with me the most was, “I was a woman of Providence before I became a Sister of Divine Providence.” I was invited to visit the convent in San Antonio and continu[...]

It's impossible to feel supported when I want become a nun!

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 12:46:06 +0000

One of our visitors writes in and says that she can't find support for her desire to explore nun life. I am wondering why no one seems to want to help me decide whether I am called to be a nun. It is not only difficult, but I am finding it impossible.  I'm sorry if I sound irritated, but I have been seeking such a life for many years now, and I am admittedly experiencing some impatience at being ignored. It is tough to feel unsupported and ignored when you are discerning a call to become a nun. A lot of people (including our dear family and friends) may have a difficult time understanding the life of sisters, let alone why you would be interested! Plus it can be hard for our own selves to be able to articulate it! I remember feeling the nudge from God but having no framework and no words that sounded sensible to respond to their questions. The other challenge of feeling supported -- a point that our visitor mentioned -- is that the world around us can be hostile towards Catholicism (indeed, religion in general). When Sister Maxine and I attended World Youth Day, we met so many young people who voiced these same concerns -- to the point where they felt that they couldn't speak of the Catholic faith or even of God! They felt unsupported in their desire to listen to how God was calling them in their life. What to do? The most important thing is to find the support that you need as you explore your attraction to becoming a Catholic sister. When the "usual" people aren't able to be there for you, there are some other places you can go. Your parish: Pastoral leaders and wisdom-figures in your parish community are there to talk with you about your relationship with God. They can listen and offer advice and support. They can help connect you with other people who may be discerning too or who have experience in walking with people who are discerning. Your campus ministry community: If you are in school, campus ministers are great to have a conversation with! They can help in some of the same ways that the parish community can help. Spiritual direction: There may be spiritual directors in your area with whom you can work and talk out how God is active in your life and where God may be leading you to. Here's more info on spiritual direction. A trusted mentor: You might find that there is a person within your circle of family and friends with whom you can talk. Maybe it's an aunt that is very committed to her church's soup kitchen or a friend that is comfortable talking about spiritual stuff. It may be someone you never would have expected! Sisters themselves: Connect with sisters in your area and ask one of them if you can ask some questions and tell them about your desire. There are also Vocation Directors at each religious community that can help you discern. A Nun's Life Ministry: Here at A Nun's Life we have walked with many, many people who are discerning their calling, including a calling to become a nun. We work with sisters across the country who are here to help. We also have prayer podcasts with chat and a program called Discernment Chat where you can connect with a sister and other discerners. We're here for you! We'll keep in our prayers you and all those are looking for support on the vocation journey. Readers! What else can you suggest to our visitor? What questions do you ha[...]

What can Lent teach us about discernment?

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 17:22:42 +0000

Not long ago my Facebook account was hacked. For days friends were sending messages informing me that I must have been hacked. A few messages I received were actually touching to me: “I thought I was talking to you, but it didn’t sound like you.” In different variations, I received several comments like that, and I thought, Ah! My friends know my voice. They know when what they’re hearing is not coming from me. I’m sure there were things that were coming through that were a sure tip-off, but I had this realization that that is what discernment is like--being able to tell when what you’re hearing does not sound like it’s coming from God.

Discernment relies on tuning into God’s “voice," God’s movement of your heart, God’s stirring of your spirit. How wonderful when you can begin to tell that something doesn’t sound like God’s voice, doesn’t reflect the “tone” you’ve come to know in God’s communication with you. How do we come to know when something sounds like God or doesn’t? How do we come to recognize that Voice that knows us better than anyone, and would only give us unerring direction and guidance? By spending time in prayer, in regular conversation with God, we become attuned to that Divine voice and grow to trust it.

Perhaps this Lent, rather than focusing on what we’re giving up, we could focus on adding something to our life. This Lent we could commit to deepening our familiarity with God, deepening our friendship with Jesus, by a renewed practice of daily prayer. In this way, we will hone our discernment skills, and be more able to recognize when it is God’s voice we hear amid the million voices that claim our attention every day.

What are some of your prayer practices during Lent?

Casual Nun: The Band

Thu, 02 Mar 2017 16:37:14 +0000

I just met Casual Nun! In my regular forays in to pop culture I stumbled -- happily -- upon a UK band called Casual Nun. Of course I found this intriguing, given my nun tendencies, so I plugged in my headphones and listened to a couple tracks on their new album, Psychometric Testing By.... Though it's not my usual listening style, I must say I liked what Christian Eede of London-based online magazine, The Quietus, called a "doom-inflected stomper, punctuated by guitar squalls and ... curious, submerged vocals." Sounds like my spiritual life at times! Quick note: the vocals were so submerged I could not catch them all so I can't vouch for it being free of anything explicit, heretical, or otherwise displeasing. ;) As I listened I became more curious about the name of the band. So what's a nun to do? I contacted them and Casual Nun band member Matt Ridout responded immediately. Sister Julie: Hi, I happened to see your band name pop up in my Google Alerts because of the "nun" part. I am curious as to what the title means. Casual Nun: Not really any direct connection to nuns no :). I was on holiday in Sardinia with my girlfriend and, while waiting for a bus, thought I saw a woman in a nun's habit who was wearing a T-shirt and shorts. I said to my girlfriend, 'look, casual nun.' Turns out my eyes were just deceiving me, and it was just a woman with very dark hair and a wide white headband. Around that time we were looking for a name [for the band]. I suggested it, and it stuck. Sister Julie: It's a great name! I find that the best names for stuff come from experiences like that.... And let me know when you come out with a nun-esque t-shirt. I always like to look hip and cool. ;) In addition to having a cool name, I was interested in Eede's remark that Casual Nun's new album "sees the band embracing a more improvisational approach to their writing and recording process, with the entire recording having come from one session." I can totally relate to that! Not in terms of music--(about all I can do on my electric guitar is pluck a tune that may or may not resemble "Amazing Grace")--but in terms of what it means to embrace the moment, to allow for all the possibilities in "one session." For me this means being present to the moment, recognizing that improvisation can happen here and now. There are many things in life that are scripted, that have a certain formula, a "right way" of doing things. Yet I find that within improvisation we often find an openness to the new and creative. I have seen very clearly the work of the Spirit in those moments where anything can happen! So thank you, Casual Nun, for the reminder of what it means to be present to the moment and to allow the creativity of the Spirit to soar! What band or piece of music have you found a surprising gift of the Holy Spirit? We'd love to hear from you -- just use the comment section below! Tags music band pop culture [...]

What happens when you actually apply to become a nun?

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 22:59:34 +0000

Perhaps the hardest thing about becoming a nun is just coming to the decision to begin the journey! We can find ourselves dragging our heels deciding what to do about that nagging nudge from God that keeps popping up ... or a restless sense that our present life is not enough! What to do when there is an emptiness that keeps turning us back to God? Deciding to take the first step towards sisterhood is the hardest. Most religious congregations have a similar process of working with an applicant during their discernment time, then giving them an application form to fill out when they seem to be ready to move ahead. A number of other steps follow such as writing an autobiography, completing physical and psychological exams, gathering school transcripts, sacramental records, and submitting references from those who have filled out a questionnaire about the applicant. All these steps in the application process are to help the community and the applicant to assess readiness for life in a particular apostolic or monastic community. It is important for the applicant and the religious order to not be misled in seeking entrance to the particular congregation. Does the applicant have sufficient physical and emotional health to undertake entering a new lifestyle at this time? Are there unresolved family or personal issues that would make it difficult to enter the formation process freely and peacefully? Is there an average healthy readiness to begin life in community, and to become engaged in the life and ministries of the congregation? Often after writing a letter of request to enter the community, there is a face-to-face meeting with the congregation’s major superior or leadership personnel. After the paperwork is in order and the meetings have taken place, then a time of joyfully preparing a welcome ceremony if the applicant is accepted for entrance. It's a wonderful time of celebration for the applicant and community! While there can be cases of cold feet during this discernment and application time, there is often a sense of peace and confirmation that comes from moving on the Spirit’s call. The God who calls will give the grace and strength to respond to that call. God initiates the process and will faithfully assist and accompany us in every step of the journey leading to the fulfillment of our vocation! What are some other questions you might have about the process of joining religious life? Tags become a nun application process discernment readiness for vocation [...]

How do I choose a religious community?

Wed, 25 Jan 2017 15:13:54 +0000

A person discerning a call to religious life actually has two important questions before them: Am I called to religious life? And to what community or order am I being called? While religious communities have much in common—the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; a formation program; and living a life of service and prayer—they also are different. Each community has a distinct charism, that is the gift they are to bring to the Church, for the good of God’s people. The charism arises through the inspiration of the Spirit when the founding sisters or brothers respond to God’s call to begin a new order. The charism puts a particular focus and spirit within a congregation. When and where the congregation is founded can imprint a culture and personality on the community that gives it a particular “feel.” A community founded in France in the 1800’s might have different customs than a community founded in 16th century Italy or 20th century United States. To help in your discernment as you ponder whether religious life is your call, visit some different communities to get to know them. Read about them on their website or visit their social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Find out how members of the community live, minister, and pray. When you're ready, schedule a time to visit a community. Visit local houses, and especially plan to visit the motherhouse—maybe for an overnight, a retreat, or a “Come and See” event. As the call to religious life becomes more clear, you will begin to notice that you feel more "at home" with one group than another. It doesn’t mean everyone in that order is alike, or is just like you. One gift of a religious community is the diversity of its members. But usually one order just feels like it “fits.” You can imagine yourself becoming “part of the family” and with God’s grace and a little trust you take that first step of beginning the journey toward membership! What other questions might you have about choosing a community? Let me know in the comments below. Tags community choosing a community discernment vocation charism [...]

Get to Know A Nun's Life Ministry!

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 16:49:07 +0000

Lessons from a hero, Carrie Fisher

Wed, 28 Dec 2016 14:04:52 +0000

There's definitely a disturbance in the Force. I am mourning the loss of one of my heroes, Carrie Fisher. I first saw her on the big screen in Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode 4) which I watched in the company of my Dad. I thought she was the awesome! I did not know at the time that she would become one of my first strong role models. As the character Princess Leia Organa, she was unlike any other princess I had encountered in the world of childhood stories. She was a leader, she was dedicated to her mission. She could engage in high level strategy, and be on the front lines. (I was seriously impressed by her handling of a blaster.) She was beautiful and intelligent. I grew up with Princess Leia, immersing myself in the mythology of Star Wars and the unfolding of her character. Just days before her death, I saw her yet again, albeit in CGI form. Although "Carrie Fisher" was a household name in my family, I didn't really appreciate her as distinct from her role in Star Wars until I was much older. While she still appeared in films and was a screenwriter, I was particularly attracted to her work as a writer. Being a writer myself, I felt a sisterhood with Carrie Fisher. Through her writings, Carrie Fisher revealed her struggles with drug abuse and mental illness. This is where I found the true strength of Carrie Fisher, a royalty that far exceeded Princess Leia's own formidable presence. For example, when speaking of what it's like to have bipolar disorder, she said, "I define it, rather than it defining me.” Further, in an interview with Charlie Rose in 2009 she said:  “I’m proud of myself that I’ve been able to get through this stuff, and I’ve been able to — I can’t overcome it, but I can use it. ... I have problems, problems don’t have me.” Certainly a good lesson for each of us as we face whatever struggle is presented to us. Last night, the day of her death, I watched Star Wars: Episode 4 A New Hope in Carrie Fisher's honor. It reminded me yet again, how blessed I am -- and we are -- to have such good role models in pop culture and in life in general. I'm grateful for the legacy that Carrie Fisher has left us, and I'll continue to marvel at her presence in this world. In this world where we face so many joys and struggles, may we follow the awesome example of Carrie Fisher and be able to say at the end of it that we have been handed "Hope". I'd love to hear your reflections on this remarkable woman -- or someone else who has been your hero! I welcome your comments below. Tags carrie fisher star wars princess leia hero [...]

How do the spiritual themes of Advent connect with discernment?

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 23:03:56 +0000

In our culture, Advent is often experienced as the pre-Christmas season of frenzied shopping, rushed decorating, and endless parties and gatherings—oh! and Churches decked out in purple. We know Christmas is more than Santa Claus, rich cookies, and a nativity scene. But this short, sacred season can sweep past us in a blur and we barely ponder why we are once again waiting for a Messiah who came 2000 years ago. I love giving retreats and evenings of reflection in this short but spiritually hefty season of themes that are not really part of any other time of the liturgical season. So what are the rich spiritual themes of Advent—and how do they connect with discernment? Advent is about waiting for something that you need but don’t have, someone you love but have not seen, something you can hope in amid the world’s overwhelming darkness. If you have ever been perplexed by the events of life, confused by the presence of suffering or oppression, saddened by the seeming lack of meaning or of goodness in the world, then you need a Messiah! Yes, Jesus came in history over 2000 years ago, but you, WE, need the Messiah to come afresh in our world with His message of hope and His promise of Light. During Advent we are called to hold the darkness, and in that space yearn for God to come again into our world, into our lives. But in order to do that, we have to stop long enough to see that all the tinsel and all the wrapped gifts still don’t fill our hearts with peace. All the loud carols and bright decorations cannot bring deep inner calm like the voice of God experienced in the quiet of our prayer. People who are trying to make an important or weighty decision in their life are living a kind of Advent. They are waiting for God’s guidance to come with a clarity that will bring light into their life and a focus into their living. They are waiting to see the face their soul longs for, the face that will look back at them with complete love and acceptance. If you are one on the path of discerning, put on your Advent spirit and wait in the dark until the Light of God springs forth! For it will come. It will surely come. “Be stouthearted, wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) He is coming! How will you "put on your Advent spirit" this season? Tags advent discernment spirituality waiting darkness [...]

Your Holiday Shopping Can Help the Nuns!

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 10:56:42 +0000

When you shop online, your purchases can do double duty--you get an item, and A Nun's Life gets a donation! A Nun's Life Ministry partners with two online organizations -- Amazon Smile and iGive, both of which send a percentage of your purchase price as a donation to the ministry. Pretty cool, eh? So whether you are shopping for yourself, family, work, gifts, or whatever, please consider using one of the links below -- there is no extra cost to you! Amazon Smile "AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization" ... A Nun's Life!! :) Just go to our Amazon Smile page now! iGive iGive is a program that works right with your Internet browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Explorer) and lets online stores know you want a percentage of every purchase you make donated to a cause or charity -- in this case A Nun's Life Ministry. All you do is visit and download the app thingie-mah-jig and go about your normal online shopping. It's free, safe, confidential (none of your shopping/personal details are disclosed), and best of all, it supports this ministry! Here are some stores that you may be using already (plus there are many, many more!): 1-800-FLOWERS.COM Adobe Apple Store Bass Pro Shop Bed Bath and Beyond Cafe Press eBags Entertainment Books Guitar Center Holiday Inn Home Depot Joann Fabrics Kohl's LL Bean Lands' End Macy's Nordstrom Office Depot and Office Max Old Navy Oriental Trading Performance Bicycle PetSmart and Petco Radio Shack REI Sears Sierra Trading Post Sirius XM Radio Staples Starbucks Toys R Us Vistaprint Walgreens Click here to begin at If you'd like to skip the shopping and make a direct donation to this ministry, just click here: donate now. And you are always welcome to send a check to A Nun's Life at PO Box 8704, Toledo, OH 43623. Many thanks for all the ways that you support our ministry! Tags shopping igive amazonsmile holiday support the nuns [...]

What spiritual reading would you recommend for a person who is discerning?

Tue, 15 Nov 2016 23:02:40 +0000

Spiritual reading has long been a tool for people serious about spiritual growth and developing their relationship with God. In this noisy world where we are bombarded by instant news, perplexing world problems, and loud advertisements, it’s hard to make space for the quiet, persistent voice of the Spirit. It’s hard to believe that God is talking to us, and speaking words of guidance to us personally. We can learn to tune in to God’s voice in times of quiet prayer. We can also open our minds to divine inspiration and guidance through good books on spiritual topics. Why allow our minds to be filled, cluttered, maybe even polluted by empty, shallow, glitzy, meaningless information? It’s like trying to grow healthy from a steady diet of junk food. We have to take care to FEED our souls with solid nourishment that will lead us deeper into the sacred space of God’s wisdom. There are a number of authors that have fed me and others with goodness, inspiration and guidance. Sister Joyce Rupp has great, readable books on a number of topics, but her book entitled Prayer is a great primer on prayer. Margaret Silf has several good books including Inner Compass; At Sea With God; Wise Choices: a Spiritual Guide To Making Life’s Choices. These titles are filled with exercises, practical tips, and good examples about living a discerning life Pierre Wolf has a classic book on the Ignatian process of discernment entitled Discernment: The Art of Choosing Well. Books by authors such as the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr, Father Ron Rolheiser, Henri Nouwen, or Sister Melanie Svoboda, address how to grow spiritually amidst the experiences of our daily lives. Sometimes reading a book about an admirable or inspiring person (Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, or one of the saints) can give us good role models other than mainstream media. But I must say that the greatest way to come to know and love God, and to put on the mind and heart of Jesus Christ is to quietly read and ponder the words and revelation of Scripture. Meditating on the stories or guidance God pours out in the Bible, particularly the New Testament—the Gospel stories and Paul’s letters—or the Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah from the Old Testament, is a way to hear God’s voice within our own heart. Praying with Scripture attunes our heart to God’s voice, deepens our desire for God’s friendship, and supports our listening to the One who knows us well! Who are some spiritual writers that you turn to for inspiration or guidance? Tags prayer discernment spiritual reading [...]

How can I avoid distractions when I pray?

Thu, 27 Oct 2016 20:42:26 +0000

One of the most common problems people have with prayer is the feeling that their prayer is not “good enough.” Let’s begin by saying that WE are the one judging our prayer, NOT God. We are harsh critics of many things we try to do, especially something as ethereal and unmanageable as prayer. Like Olympic athletes, we somehow think that if we can perfect every little detail of what we say and how we say it—we will be successful at prayer. And that by eliminating those “failures” such as distractions or feelings that we haven’t contacted God, we will eventually achieve the gold medal for excellent prayer! In many ways, prayer is about letting go of control. It is about surrendering in LOVE to Someone with whom we are trying to connect. Prayer is not about perfecting a method. It’s about seeking a relationship, spending time with Someone who is becoming a friend of ours, Someone we want to be closer to and know more deeply. I am presuming we want more than just visiting God with a big wish list or a set of serious requests. When we grow beyond asking for things and move into relationship building, prayer gives way to something more fluid and natural and satisfying. When we come to pray, we are stopping our other activities to spend time with “the Friend,” as the Sufi poet Hafiz calls God. Our prayers do not bounce off the ceiling—they move straight to God’s heart. As soon as we make the DESIRE to pray, we have already released a burst of energy from our soul to God. To desire to pray is in itself prayer. Imagine how God is moved to see that desire in us! We will never be able to fully avoid distractions as long as we have a mind! But there is a deeper place in us where our soul beholds God all day long! Prayer is a time when we go into that deeper place and hang out with God, the Friend. There are things we can do to lessen distractions: pray when we are not tired, have a special spot where we pray regularly, put wordless music on, light a candle—train our body to be still. A word or phrase from Scripture or a spiritual book can take us into prayer. Perhaps the best thing is to just gently let go of the distraction as soon as we realize it’s there, and don’t judge your prayer. Let it go and turn our gaze lovingly back to God! Tags prayer discovering gods call reflection [...]

How do I decide between becoming a nun and having a family?

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 21:13:49 +0000

When pondering this question about deciding between becoming a nun and having a family, I couldn't help but think of that famous song "Dueling Banjos". Discernment is a process where sometimes there are dueling ideas fighting for prominence in our mind and heart. As the Jesuits remind us in the Ignatian process of discernment, it is always a choice between two goods. That’s what makes it so hard. Neither option is bad, and we can often see ourselves doing either one. Thank God we are not figuring this out by ourselves!

We are not unaided in this important life choice process. Recall the verse from Isaiah, “Although the God gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" (Isaiah 30:20-21) I just LOVE this word from God. How reassuring to hear that we shall hear God’s voice in our ear! So knowing that the Spirit is working with us to guide our important choices, we can trust that the Spirit will move our hearts.

One of the key discernment guides is the consolation/desolation tool. Presuming we have committed our decision to God for assistance, and that we are listening regularly and seeking wise outside help, we can use the desolation/consolation practice. Try on the thought of marriage and family for a while and see what you hear in your heart. Does the thought of this option bring great peace, a lifting of your heart, a deep peace, a desire to be even more faithful to God? Or does it bring your spirit down, a feeling of discouragement, restlessness, or like something is missing? Now do the same process with the choice of religious life. Does something move you toward this way of expressing your love for God? Does it bring a quiet peace even though it may be challenging, or a desire or yearning for God that might not make complete sense? Or does it bring a feeling of desolation, darkness, or heaviness?

In this time of discerning, work with a wise spiritual director or guide, and listen over time to guidance that comes from nudges, conversations, books, dreams or daydreams. And most importantly listen in regular prayer to the stirrings of your heart where God is speaking to you.

Top 10 Favorite Nun Moments

Mon, 12 Sep 2016 15:53:24 +0000

Sister Julie and I had tons of fun as we reflected on some of our favorite moments over the past 10 years of A Nun's Life Ministry. We have 100s of moments but chose only 10 so we wouldn't break the Internet! 1. The Original GoPro If you've been hanging with us for the last 10 years, it's no surprise to you that a photo featuring the "original" GoPro AND Sister Maxine would make the Top 10. In the early days we didn't have the fancy pocket-sized cameras with fancy attachments, so we improvised. Not to worry, no nun was injured during the filming of those bike rides. Check out other nuncam moments! 2. Chloe the Convent Cat ... and Jane Chloe the Convent Cat made her social media debut back in 2006 when A Nun's Life first went live (because cats), but we like to think she was a star before cat videos were even a thing. This pic of Chloe with Jane is one of our faves because they look like they're about to be up to some serious mischief! 3. You know you're in a convent when ... That moment when we realized we could make a photo series out of the totally awesome, amazing, and quirky things found in convents was a moment for the NL history books. This is the picture that inspired that series. You'll find the series on our social presence at Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram beginning with the words "You know you're in a #convent when ..." 4. Dancing with the Saints Why dance with Stars when you can dance with Saints? For our 2013 Fundraiser, our good friend of A Nun's Life, Mariko, created these epic videos. Seriously, where else can you do a jig with Saint María Guadalupe García Zavala? 5. Road tripping in the early days Ahhh, one of our first road trips! This pic was from back in 2011 when the Racine Dominican Sisters graciously opened their priory and let us in! Get a load of some of that equipment! When we officially launched the Motherhouse Road Trip back in 2013, we basically packed the full-size studio mixer and strapped Sister Maxine to the roof of the car. My how far we've come! 6. Live-tweeting Call the Midwife Besides being one of the best shows in the history of shows, Call the Midwife is even better when watched while live-tweeting. We gather up the NL team, snacks, kleenex, and cry, laugh, and "awww" our way through every episode while hanging out with our tweeps! 7. Squad Goals There is no better squad than the NL team. These are the peeps that keep A Nun's Life Ministry going every single day, and we couldn't be happier to be on mission with those who love God, this community, and the world the way they do! 8. Macgyver Nun Nuns. Is there anything they can't do? From wrenching bikes, to building hospitals, to serving those in need, to whipping up a dinner for 20 (in literally 5 minutes), nuns can find their way around anything! One of our nuns once said, "No is just the first step towards Yes." LOL. 9. The Circus Nun comes to A Nun's Life Studio In 2014 the NL team hung out with Sister Dorothy Fa[...]

Handmade Gifts by Nuns and Monks

Thu, 07 Nov 2013 21:02:30 +0000

Make your gift-giving extra special year round by buying gifts handmade by Catholic sisters, brothers, nuns, and monks. Did you know that you can purchase handmade rosaries, breads, cards, beer, coffee, blankets, prayer shawls, mustard, coffins, and more?! As religious women and men we truly live Saint Benedict's maxim, "Ora et labora" -- "Pray and labor." With every shawl or batch of beer we make, we pray our way through our work all the way to you the recipient. Throughout the gift-giving season -- and indeed the whole year -- consider buying gifts that benefit the recipient and the religious communities who made the item. Chances are you'll feel gifted too! In the listings below, you'll also find other items for sale such as books, medals, DVDs, and more that the nuns and monks don't actually make but the proceeds of which help the religious communities and their ministries.  Let us know if you have others you'd like us to add to the list -- must include handmade items by Catholic sisters, nuns, monks, or brothers and be accessible online.  Made with Love ... and Prayer Here's a list compiled with help from the A Nun's Life Facebook community: All Good Things - ceramic tiles, soaps and lotions, original cards and prints, peace cranes, prayer pillows, and more Artaura - original artwork available on mugs, t-shirts, posters, necklaces, prints, and more Brigittine Monks' Gourmet Confections - fudge and truffles Cloister Shoppe - Seignadou Soaps, lip balms, candles, books, and more For Heaven's Sake and Simply Divine Bakery - sisters' crafts, books, religious items, baked goods, and more Gethsemani Farms - fruitcake, fudge, and cheese plus an Abbey Gift Shop with religious items, art, and more Holy Spirit Monastery Gifts - food items, religious items, and more Monastery Candy - caramel candies, chocolate-coated caramels, mint candies, chocolate hazelnut candies, truffles, and caramel sauce Monastery Creations - candles, art, music, soap, and more Monastery Fruitcake - fruitcake, truffles, and creamed honey Monastery Greetings - food and drink items, books, CDs, cards, pet items, and more from a variety of abbeys, convents, monasteries, and hermitages; some popular items not found elsewhere: Trappist Preserves Praylines Chimay Trappist Ale Monks' Bread - bread, spreads, soups, coffee, sauces, dressings, baked goods, mugs, and more Mystic Monk Coffee - coffee, tea, drinkware, and more New Skete - cheese cakes and other food items, greeting cards, music, iconography, pet items, and more NunBetter Chocolates and Custom Gift Baskets - chocolates and gift baskets Our Lady of the Angels - Monastery Country Cheese Prayerfully Popped - popcorn, fudge, and gifts The Printery House - greeting cards, icons, holy cards, religious gifts, and more Redemptoristine Sisters, Dublin - candles, altar bread Redwoods Monastery - Monastery Creamed Honey, greeting cards Ruah Media - videos, screen savers, DVDs, and CDs Saint M[...]

Is it OK to date while discerning a vocation to religious life?

Wed, 24 Aug 2016 00:37:07 +0000

Is it OK to date while discerning a vocation to religious life? In fact, is it even advisable, as other discerners, friends, and family may advocate? In my years of working with those discerning a possible call to religious life, this issue often comes up. I think a lot depends on timing. Where are you in the process of discernment? Have you considered other options for a life commitment? What has your life experience been? If you are going to make a thorough, honest discernment of a life vocation, you need to carefully consider the options before you. In exploring each lifestyle (form of life)—married, single, or religious—you need to do your homework. Talk to committed and fulfilled people in each vocation, and listen to what happens to your heart as you look through the lens of their commitment at that lifestyle. “Try on” each lifestyle—can you see yourself living that life? Can you see yourself happy and fulfilled, living with meaning and purpose in that vocation? You may have lived closely within a marriage (your family), and probably have observed many marriages in your life. And chances are you have been living the single life for at least some of your adult life. Religious life may be more of an unknown, but most communities offer “come and see” opportunities, as well as live-in experiences and service opportunities that may lift some of the mystery of what life in a community of vowed religious might be like. Experiences of dating, of really liking or loving someone, are important benefits to bring to discernment, and are part of healthy relational maturity. The choice for a celibate lifestyle cannot be made in a relational vacuum. You need to understand your heart’s desires in order to freely choose God, in a single hearted way, as your primary love. So dating really helps you sort out the movements of your heart. The tricky part is that loving God does not rule out a healthy attraction to a human partner. It takes honesty, with yourself and God, and some good guidance from a director, to come to freely sort out the Spirit’s call. Having said that, dating when you have reached a point of serious discernment, I feel, can cloud the issue and makes things even harder. Whether with marriage or religious life, when a person has been dating someone seriously and sees the possibility of commitment to them as a likely outcome, dating new people—just to test it out—could really cloud and confuse the heart’s steady growing movement. That’s why I say timing is important. There comes a time when it would serve you better to follow the growing movement of your discernment, and make the choice that is emerging. Let the movement of grace continue its course, even if it involves some aspect of a “leap of faith.” Trust God. Trust your heart. Tags dating discernment discovering gods call [...]

Nuns Got Game

Mon, 08 Aug 2016 01:13:59 +0000

I lost miserably to Sister Rachel. Every. Time. It made no difference that she was 30 years older than I. Sister Rachel not only schooled me in the game of racquetball, but she schooled me in what it means to be a class-act competitor. For Sister Rachel, it was a sign of great respect to give it one's all in a game, to bring your best self. The numbers on the board were just numbers. I personally never saw double digits against Sister Rachel, although granted I sometimes saw stars. Only once did I think she might lose her cool. I accidentally hit her instead of the ball with my powerful, unwieldy forehand. She barely flinched (I froze, horrified) and kept going. After every game, we'd head back to the convent and enjoy a beer served in a champagne glass. Sister Rachel was always a class act. Sister Rachel was one of the women who helped me more easily hear the call to religious life. I thought it was so cool that a Catholic sister was also an athlete. I had always been athletic and into sports (first girl on our grade school football team, thank you very much). Knowing Sister Rachel (and actually a number of nuns in my congregation), were athletes was like a little confirmation from God saying, "Look, it's okay, you can bring your whole self to life as a Catholic sister!" As we engage in the Olympics this week, I am grateful for all the Catholic sisters and nuns in my life and in the global sisterhood who totally got game!! Don't miss the following podcast episodes and blog posts on Catholic sisters and nuns in sports and on athleticism and faith. 1. Sister Anita Quigley, SHCJ Sport: Open Water Swimming Congregation: Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus Listen Now: How can sports like open-water swimming be a form of prayer? 2. Sister Maxine Kollasch, IHM and Sister Julie Vieira, IHM Sport: Cycling Congregation: Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monroe, Michigan Read and Listen: All of our Biking Nun blog posts and podcasts 3. Sister Catherine Holum, CFR Sport: Olympic Speed Skating Congregation: Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal Read more: Olympics Speedskater is now a Catholic Nun Photo credit: See article, "Spiritual athletics: Sister Catherine Holum, nun and former Olympic speed-skater, on the connections between sport and the religious life by Mark Greaves" (June 23, 2012) 4. Athletic Asceticism Listen Now: What are the intersections of the ascetic life and being an athlete? Is there a relationship between sport and God? 5. Saints of Extreme Sports Listen Now: Who might be a good patron saint for Extreme Sports? Hang out with the nuns @aNunsLife on social all this week for more on Catholic sisters, faith, Olympics, God, and sports! Tags sports olympics athletics biking nun [...]

What does it mean to go on retreat? Do I have to sit in silence all day?

Tue, 26 Jul 2016 17:48:05 +0000

Summertime is often a time rest, relaxation and … retreat?! Many of us are familiar with rest and relaxation, but what exactly is a retreat all about? This time of year retreat opportunities are popping up all over for everyone—from business executives to social workers, to churches, youth groups, and more. A retreat day in the corporate world might look different than a weekend at a monastery, but the concept still holds—it's a chance to pull away from the “rat race.” Most of us are speeding through complicated lives, faced with challenges and choices with no time to deal with experiences and feelings. Many of us could use a day to rest, regroup, reassess how things are going, and refocus. As someone said recently to me, there’s no space in my life, no “margins” to handle what comes up, much less process it. So, what happens on spiritual retreats? Although retreat themes and topics vary, you can almost always expect time for quiet reflection, as well as input from a speaker, spiritual reading, or Scripture. A guided retreat will offer exercises or questions for processing life experiences or relationships. While there is always time for individual prayer, there is also time for group sharing in which participants are encouraged, consoled, or inspired by the thoughts and experiences of others. For some people, a longer retreat—a weekend, or a week—may fit their needs. Others might be drawn to a directed retreat in which there is more solitude and a daily individual meeting with a spiritual director. With an expectation of greater silence and solitude, a directed retreat might be more challenging if you’re making your first retreat. Being alone and being quiet can be unappealing or even scary for many in our fast-paced driven culture, yet despite our fear or discomfort with silence, our spirits NEED quiet. Many years ago, Alvin Toffler, in his book Future Shock, concluded that humans could not keep up with the rapid accelerating pace of change. We need time to ponder, to realize, to learn, to listen to our deeper, truer self. That’s what retreats offer us—time and space. When something stirs you to think about making a retreat, you can pretty much count on the fact that God is inviting you to come aside and receive the grace, guidance, refreshment that God wishes for you, that you NEED at this point in your life. It will be a time of insight and renewal, and if nothing else, rest. Retreat is a time to learn the sound of your own soul, to tap into the wisdom you have within, and to listen to the precious voice of the One who knows you. Tags retreat summer discovering gods call listen [...]

Top 10 Fave Things I Love About Nuns

Thu, 30 Jun 2016 01:58:24 +0000

There are SOOOO many things to love about nuns! From their sense of adventure to their dedication to the common good -- the list is practically endless! Here are my ten top favorite things about Catholic sisters and nuns. What is your top pick? What else would you add? 1. Catholic Sisters are adventurous. There's a very unfortunate stereotype out there that nuns are docile little wisps of a thing who live a staid, sterile life. Nonsense! Being a Catholic sister or nun is one of the most adventurous (and interesting) experiences of my life! Uh, sorry, can't talk -- must go stand up for human rights, pray for the most vulnerable, help someone find a home, educate the next generation, help others grow in their relationship with God, travel and provide aid to a war-torn country, and appreciate and protect God's good creation. 2.  Catholic Sisters know sisterhood. There are many ways to have relationships, but I gotta say, I absolutely love sisterhood, being in community where "each sister lives for God and all live for each other" (a saying among my IHM Sisters). allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="375" src="" width="500"> 3. Catholic Sisters are grounded in prayer. Alone with God, in common with one's sisters, together with one's faith community, on the job, during retreat, standing in line at the supermarket -- nuns are women of prayer. Even when life is challenging -- indeed even when prayer is a challenge -- we strive to not simply to have a prayer life but to have a life of prayer. 4. Catholic Sisters are normal and down to earth. Sometimes we think nuns are on a pedestal because of their life choice, that somehow the rules of humanity are different for them or that they are exempt. Catholic sisters and nuns are normal -- we aren't any holier or closer to God than any other person. We like sports, watch TV, eat, sleep, laugh, get angry, and draw unicorns just like everyone else (srsly tho, you're not the only one who binge-watches Netflix!). 5. Catholic Sisters can see directly into your soul. Ever have that experience of talking to someone who totally gets you right away? It's amazing how often I can sit even for a few moments with a sister and experience a kind of spiritual connection that is not only remarkable but also that sustains me.  6. Catholic Sisters are compassionate. Nuns care deeply about people, and in a particular way reach out to those who are vulnerable -- people who are sick, oppressed, discriminated against, suffering, in pain, scared, lonely, lost, marginalized. We do this through our contemplative prayer, our apostolates (ministries), and the way we live our lives and engage in relationships. 7. Catholic Sisters are dedicated. When a nun is on a mission, there is no stopping her. She will not be stopped by a lack[...]

What does God's voice sound like?

Mon, 27 Jun 2016 18:08:29 +0000

"How will I know God’s voice? How will I know if I’m hearing God and not just making it up?" Isn’t this the question of every sincere heart? It just lights up my heart and makes me smile “out loud." A newborn child recognizes its mother’s (and father’s) voice right from birth, for it has heard that voice for months hidden in the womb. I think it’s like that with us and God. We have been hearing God’s voice all along, for years, quietly in the secret of our heart. The only problem in this relationship is that we don’t know that we know. Our soul was made for God, with an inner yearning to connect with God in a real way and yet it is difficult to learn to “hear” a divine voice with human ears. The only answer I know for this dilemma is prayer. When we spend time with God regularly we begin to become attuned to God’s voice, and slowly over time we learn the nuance of that voice. Remember that God too wants the connection and wants us to recognize the divine whispers of grace and love. Sometimes God will use something you just were talking about, a word, song or image that you just encountered, or an experience that gets your attention. I remember talking with a woman in spiritual direction who felt so far from God. After our session she went out to her car and turned on the radio. The song that came on was full of love—she burst into tears as she recognized God coming to her in that song! There are so many times I hear of how God tenderly finds a way to respond to someone—and they get it! Sometimes the hard part is believing or trusting that it is from God. But if you have been seeking God, or God’s guidance, if you have been asking for help or clarity, get ready to “hear” a response. God will find a way to let you know. It may be subtle at first, but here’s the best I can tell you: There is a quality to God’s voice, an authority in it, that sounds different from something you made up in your head. Spend time with God—don’t do all the talking. Take time to listen. And slowly, I promise you, you will come to trust a voice greater than your own. Tags prayer discernment listening discovering gods call [...]

Top 10 LOL Podcasts

Wed, 22 Jun 2016 14:00:45 +0000

Is it true that LOLs are good for the soul? Here at A Nun’s Life, we think so! This is our 10th year of online ministry, so we’re celebrating lots of different “10s” throughout the year. In this blog post, we have my Top Ten LOL Podcasts. They are some of my fave Random Nuns Clip with Sister Julie -- and they remind me of why “pray” and “play” are only one letter apart Do you have a fave LOL moment from an A Nun's Life podcast? Let us know using the Disqus comments below! 1. Dragging people to prayer...really?  Seriously one of the funniest SJ moments ever!  allowfullscreen="" height="160" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="440"> 2. Can a splintered convo lead to sanctity?  The chat room chimes in to help answer the question!  allowfullscreen="" height="160" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="440"> 3. LOL Nun Outtake: A "come to Jesus" moment -- for cats?  Chloe the Convent Cat loves podcasts and would like a PawCast of her own. This clip gives a hint of what it might be like. allowfullscreen="" height="160" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="440"> 4. What’s the deal with nuns playing cards? A hearty game of Euchre can be a great way to learn about religious life #TheNovice.  allowfullscreen="" height="160" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="440"> 5. What’s up with bathtub Mary? It's a phenomena we've seen (and I bet you have too!) almost everywhere across the U.S. in our travels, so it makes us wonder why. allowfullscreen="" height="160" mozallowfullscreen="" msallowfullscreen="" oallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="//[...]

Does discernment ever end?

Wed, 01 Jun 2016 15:37:19 +0000

A reader recently asked the question, "Is there an endpoint to discernment?" This excellent question raises several important issues around discernment because some discernments have a specific question with a necessary final decision, and some are more about day to day living. If a person is seeking God’s input on a specific choice or decision they have to make, they would benefit from entering a “formal” discernment process with a spiritual director. A formal discernment, according to the Ignatian method, involves research on one’s options, exploring pros and cons to each, consulting with a director, and listening to the movements of one’s heart when considering option A and then option B. We count on the Holy Spirit to move our hearts so that we can align ourselves with what seems to be God’s desire for us. This very helpful process offers guidance for a specific choice and generally comes to a conclusion after a few months or more. But we can also want to tune in to God’s intentions or desires for us in our daily living: how to handle a relationship, what courses to take, how to grow in virtue, etc. These kinds of stirrings are not about major decisions but about how to live more “in the mind and heart of Christ Jesus.” This kind of seeking of God’s hopes for us is about living a discerning life, a life tuned in to God. This kind of discerning is ongoing. It is the way of the disciple, of someone committed to living like Jesus lived, and it has no ending. The next right move unfolds each day for one who lives rooted in attentive listening to God, in prayer and in all the other ways God speaks. Tags discernment question ignatian spirituality [...]

Finding the Little Good Things on Really Bad Days

Tue, 17 May 2016 21:09:16 +0000

I came across this poem today and it's one of those "messages" that seems was written specifically for me for this very day. Some days are very difficult. In this poem, I am reminded that even on bad days, not everything is bad. Even the smallest thing can give me reason for hope, can lift my spirit, can bring me peace. For me, yesterday is a good example of finding the "smallest thing." I was headed out for a run. And it rained. It was the last thing I needed today. I was bitter ... for a while. When I stepped outside, though, it hit me -- literally the rain hit me. I realized, wow, the rain is so soft, almost warm. It was a remarkable experience, and I almost missed it! It made me smile throughout the day. And even though the day was still rough, I had that one little good thing to hold on to -- and it made all the difference! When you have "one of those days" -- maybe even today! -- what "little good thing" has lifted your spirit? What Was Told, That What was said to the rose that made it open was said to me here in my chest. What was told the Cypress that made it strong and straight, what was whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made sugarcane sweet, whatever was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in Turkestan that makes them so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush like a human face, that is being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in language, that’s happening here. The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude, chewing a piece of sugarcane, in love with the one to whom every that belongs! Poem by Rumi, a 13th c. Persian Muslim poet, theologian, and Sufi mystic Translation by Coleman Barks Tags gratitude bad day rumi rain goodness [...]

How can I muster up the courage to pursue religious life?

Thu, 05 May 2016 13:50:45 +0000

Following God's call is an adventure, and when we decide to pursue that call (no matter what it is), there's a chance not everyone in our lives is going to understand it! Sometimes I wonder what the families of the first Disciples of Jesus thought when their loved one dropped everything to go off and join Jesus in his mission. That couldn’t have been a popular move!! Recall the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what more he could do to respond to God, and went away sad when Jesus said, “Well, if you want more, sell what you have, give to the poor, and come follow me.” What if the young man’s heart wanted to say “YES,” but he feared what others would say? What if he had many friends and just KNEW that they would be shocked, even ridicule such a radical choice? What if his family had plans for his successful future, a family business to take over, a career that would make them proud? What if the voices OUTSIDE of him were just so loud that he didn’t feel strong enough to follow the quiet yearning of his heart? We can all be intimidated by or swept away by the strong current of society’s idea of what we should do, be, or look like. As we grow, we gradually come to hear a deeper voice that we cannot deny—the voice of God, which is deep in our soul. The call to religious life is one of the most counter-cultural, misunderstood, baffling messages a person can receive. It is 100% a Jesus way of living, his values and priorities, his mission. And it is 100% contrary to the ego-driven lifestyles of a culture that worships power, possessions, and using people for personal advantage. So dear Questioner, do not be surprised that others would not understand. Just listen with all your heart for the true Voice that knows you and knows what the path of life for you is! Tags family discernment trusting god [...]

Top 10 Reasons A Nun's Life Needs YOUR Support

Wed, 27 Apr 2016 13:17:07 +0000

Did you know that A Nun's Life Ministry is a nonprofit organization that relies on donors? You are very much a part of our life and mission! Here are some awesome (and practical) reasons to support the ministry -- including all those whom we serve. Please spread the word! You help thousands of people grow in their faith and experience the joy of living into their calling from God. You help people discover and grow in their vocation, whether it is religious life, a job, a relationship, or a life commitment.   You support young people in need by providing access to a safe, welcoming online environment.   You help shape a culture infused with Gospel values that fosters life-giving relationships in an online environment.   Your support keeps the spirit of innovation strong.  As people’s needs change, A Nun’s Life responds by using social technologies to find new ways to reach people who might otherwise have little contact with the culture of vocation. You can honor a loved one, a friend or a Catholic Sister with your gift.   Your gift is tax deductible since A Nun’s Life Ministry is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.    You join an international community of people from a variety of religious communities, ministries, spiritualties, cultures and geographies.    You can help launch the next ten years for A Nun’s Life Ministry as it grows every day to be of service to the online community and to religious communities, to the church, and to the world.   You can donate easily using our secure online link or via mail. #ConventCat illustrates how easy it is to donate. Tags donation gift gifts for nuns gifts for sisters nonprofit cat [...]

A {Real Life} Vocation Prayer

Wed, 03 Aug 2016 06:50:49 +0000

Life is real, so is prayer. Join us in praying A {Real Life} Vocation Prayer, and please share with others in honor of National Vocation Awareness Week!


Does God want me to be single forever?

Tue, 12 Apr 2016 14:55:25 +0000

There are many ways God calls us, but sometimes the journey of discovering God's call can be tough when we feel God may not be responding to our ponderings. This question, "Does want me to be single forever?" really tugs on my heartstrings because it carries a kind of sad bewilderment about God’s will and the course of one’s life. How many humans have despaired when their prayers for a partner, a mate, or a friend seem to fall on deaf ears! The person who submitted this question has been praying for a “God-fearing partner” and nothing has happened. The conclusion sadly drawn is that God is just not listening, or worse yet, that God intends for them a lonely or loveless life. We feel the poignancy in their question and want to quickly reassure them and erase their loneliness by sending the loving person they seek. Infinitely more compassionate than us, surely God’s great heart must break to see us suffer. Perhaps the real problem here is not the loneliness; that is a part of every human life at one time or another. Perhaps the real tragedy is the presumption that God is unmoved by our suffering, our struggles, our loneliness. In Isaiah we hear God say: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even if she could forget, I will never forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15) God is not outside our life, watching from a distance. God doesn’t sit by when our journey is an uphill climb—hoping we make it ok. God is simply not detached from us. Every human pain, fear, and heartbreak affects the heart of God as well. How do we know that? Because the ONE thing Jesus came to tell us is that God is LOVE. Love suffers when the Beloved suffers, weeps when the Beloved weeps, and rejoices when the Beloved rejoices. Dear seeker, God does NOT want you to be lonely forever. That is NOT the plan. You must trust; you must trust God, you must trust love. Remember these words: “I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare, not for woe, plans to give you a future full of hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Tags discovering gods call single life gods will trusting god [...]

Top 10 Favorite Technology Devices in the Nuns' Studio

Thu, 07 Apr 2016 13:07:51 +0000

Did you hear? It's the 10th anniversary of A Nun's Life Ministry!!! In honor of 10 years of ministering online, we are celebrating all kinds of "10s." In today's blog post, we have my personal favorite Top 10 Technology Devices in our studio here at A Nun's Life Ministry. As an online ministry, trust me when I say we've got a lot of equipment going on here and these devices are the ones that make my heart pitter patter. 1. iPhone 4 Arguably my most favorite phone of all time. It is the perfect weight, size, and shape. I love it. Sadly it serves no longer as my phone, but it does live on as my BFF device always by my side. 2. Mophie Charger When we are on the road, especially for a Motherhouse Road Trip, we don't always have access to electricity. That's where the Mophie comes in. It has saved many a device from total depletion. :) 3. Paper Shredder It never ceases to amaze me that as a digital ministry, we still have to use paper. This little CCS 5000 Achiever is an angry, fighting machine. It growls, it spits fire, it shreds 12 sheets like nobody's business. It is by far my most favorite piece of office equipment. The Achiever was an in-kind gift from one of the business owners in our little business complex community. 4. Roku I like to think I'm hip and relevant for a Gen Xer, but if I really want to stay with it, I look to Jane, our Social Media Specialist and resident Millennial. When she introduced the Roku to A Nun's Life staff, it rocked our world. And, we didn't work for 4 days while we binge-watched documentaries about cosplay conferences for My Little Pony fans and rewatched Pitch Perfect 200 times. Oh, and the ministry. It also helps us keep up with our favorite Catholic Channels like our friends at Salt + Light media. :) 5. Coffee Machine You've heard us say it on our podcasts, A Nun's Life Ministry runs on coffee. We love it. Coffee. And so one of my most favorite devices is the coffee machine. Not "high tech" by today's standards, but ESSENTIAL for the daily operations of the ministry and for overall spiritual wellbeing. Our newest coworker, Julie Brown, who heads our fundraising efforts (A Nun's Life also runs on the great stewardship of gifts from people JUST LIKE YOU and our partner organizations), is not so much of a coffee drinker but we are a people of hope and believe conversion is always possible. 6. Shure SM7B I say if it's good enough for MJ, it's good enough for me. That's right. Michael Jackson used the Shure SM7 microphon[...]

NUNDAY with Sister Beth Brosmer, OSF

Wed, 16 Mar 2016 13:43:47 +0000

Monday is Nunday! Meet Sister Beth Brosmer, a Sister of Saint Francis of Penance and Christian Charity of Stella Niagara, New York. I encountered Sister Beth's story when the video (shown below) was shared on the A Nun's Life Facebook page. Sister Beth currently serves as Director of Heart, Love and Soul, a food pantry in Niagara Falls, New York. Heart and Soul was founded over 30 years ago in response to a growing need for community services. Today, Sister Beth and her colleagues offer a variety of assistance options to those in the neighborhood; from the food pantry, to haircuts to summer programs for kids, Heart and Soul is "dedicated to serving those in need--mind, body and soul." Watch the video to hear more about Sister Beth and her ministry! She rocks! allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> Got a Nunday story? Send us a story and picture of a sister or nun who has influenced your life, and we'll feature her here! Message us on Facebook, Twitter, or use the contact form on the website. (Note: using the contact form will not allow you to send a photo. We will respond with next steps on how to include the photo.) Check out all the Catholic sisters and nuns featured on our Nunday blog! Tags nunday ministry calling sisters of saint francis service Nuns in the News [...]

I dreamt I missed a phone call from God—is God trying to tell me something?

Tue, 15 Mar 2016 02:20:54 +0000

A wonderful question came in recently about a dream in which God was calling the person’s phone while she was asleep! I couldn’t wait to get to this question because dreams have been one of God’s ways of speaking to us from our earliest history! The Old and New Testaments have many powerful dream stories—Jacob wrestling the angel, Joseph’s several critical dreams that reassured him to wed Mary and then flee to Egypt—and many more. So I take dreams as important messengers, always with something to tell us. Your psyche created this dream—story line, props, action—to give you come clues about what’s going on deep down. Only you can say what the dream means, but if it were my dream, I would wonder about receiving a call from God while I was sleeping (literally not awake to the call). I would also wonder about why the call is only visible (or known) to me. Calls from God are meant for your ears only, and often others can’t see or understand. And it is surely true that we are often sleepwalking through life and we just do not notice God’s call. Perhaps later something wakes us up a little and we see “O, God’s been trying to call or reach me.” I guess we could say it’s like a wake-up call! What I find refreshing and hopeful about your dream is that you tried calling God back! Yes, yes, yes. Call God back. Let God know that you are now interested in hearing that call when you were more asleep and not willing or able to answer God’s call. Dear questioner, your dream is full of grace. I encourage you to open that conversation with God through prayer. Your deeper self is telling you it’s time. Don’t be afraid. God calls at the RIGHT time with a message you need to hear. Tags calling vocation call from god dream [...]

A Valiant Woman

Thu, 10 Mar 2016 14:22:24 +0000

I have been reflecting on the life of a dear friend Peta from the A Nun's Life online community. Peta has been a great light to me and to our community for a long time, and we are so sad that she died, yet celebrate that she is home with God, "dwelling now in light, yet ever near." It's hard to know what to think or say or sometimes even feel when someone you love dies. With Peta, I know I miss her terribly. As I've been sitting with my thoughts of Peta, this scripture image found me.   She is a VALIANT woman: her roots are firmly planted. The kingdom is within; her heart, treasure-filled. She is a JOYFUL woman for whom laughter is not stranger; a song to sing, a smile to give, a hand clasp or embrace. She is a STRONG woman whose heart and arms withstand the pressures and the worries that each day unfolds. She is a PATIENT woman waiting through storm and night for new life, new growth, rich harvest. She is a LOVING woman ever giving and forgiving, ever caring and concerned. She is a SHARING woman who with arms outstretched gives her gifts and treasures to those both near and far. ~ Proverbs 31 (Image from Ministry of the Arts) Valiant is such a noble word, yet there is such true grit in its meaning. It means "possessing or acting with bravery or boldness: courageous" and "marked by, exhibiting, or carried out with courage or determination: heroic." (Merriam-Webster) The other words of this scripture passage -- joyful, strong, patient, loving, sharing -- give a fuller context of what it means to be valiant. I see a valiant woman in Peta, someone that I will continue to look up to and to talk to! Thank God for the gift of the Communion of Saints! I ask you to please keep in your prayers Peta, her family and loved ones, and the online communities that she was part of. And I ask you to think of the valiant women and men in your own life -- please share them with us here! -- Sister J Tags valiant woman proverbs death online community [...]

Nunday with Sister Anne de Sousbergh, HHS

Mon, 22 Feb 2016 16:37:54 +0000

Monday is NUNDAY! Meet Sister Anne de Sousberghe, a member of the Society of Helpers (HHS), United Kingdom. While browsing the Internet for nun stories, I stumbled upon this headline: Britain's oldest nun dies aged 111. My first thought was OMG! I can barely picture where I'll be in a year or two, let alone the next 100! I decided to learn more about Sister Anne--anyone who has lived for over a century is bound to have an interesting story. Upon googling her name I discovered her community's website where her sisters paid a beautiful tribute to her history, ministry, and passion for life.  Sister Anne entered the Society of Helpers at age 25, however religious life wasn't initially on her radar. “I didn’t want to be a nun," she said. "I wanted to be sculptor. I had lots of boyfriends, and I remember one whom I think I might have married, but I had to do what I felt God was calling me to." Early in her religious life, she studied catechetics at Lumen Vitae, Louvain University, in Belgium. During her studies she discovered a true love of teaching religious education and began to explore new ways of teaching young people about their faith. She engaged them in questions, talked with them about their experiences, and also included their parents. Including parents was something relatively new at the time, and soon Sister Anne had over 200 people attending Sunday school classes. When asked about what this experience was like, she told the Catholic Herald in 2013, “I wasn’t radical. I was revolutionary. I changed the way religion was taught.” In addition to teaching, Sister Anne also loved art and learning. She did indeed become a sculptor and was a student at Kingsway Art College, London until she was 94. As I reflected on Sister Anne's life I couldn't help but think of how her faith must have grown and deepened over time. I was inspired by her dedication to trying new things and her courageous spirit. What's her #nunwisdom for a long life? "Optimism and faith in the God who walks with us." I pray Sister Anne's story inspires you this day to follow your call, wherever God is leading! Photo from The Society of Helpers Tags nunday ministry religious education Nuns in the News [...]

Could God be calling me to religious life even though I'm not Catholic?

Tue, 16 Feb 2016 17:29:33 +0000

A sincere question came in from someone who feels she might be being called by God to religious life but she is not Catholic. She wonders if she is misinterpreting this call? To this seeker I would say that first, perhaps God is calling you to living some of the characteristics of religious life. What is it about the life that is calling to you? Is it the focus of prayer and deepening the relationship with God that religious life allows for? Is it the commitment to the ministry of Jesus, to helping the poor and suffering, to teaching and healing as Jesus did? Is it the idea belonging to a community of people committed to wholeheartedly following Jesus? To enter a Catholic religious congregation would require you to be a Catholic since vows are made within the Church and received as a gift for the life of the Church. But there are also religious orders within the Lutheran Church, Anglican Church, and possibly others. You could contact groups outside the Catholic Church. Perhaps you are drawn to a particular Catholic community and feel that you would want to become a Catholic and continue the journey God has started you on. The great Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, began as an atheist and underwent a powerful conversion that brought him to the Catholic Church.  He went on to discern a call to the austere contemplative life of the Trappist monks. Ask God to give you clarity on what this desire for religious life means, and talk with a good spiritual director or guide. Blessings on your journey! Tags discernment religious life thomas merton becoming catholic [...]

Are there any nuns who are shapeshifters?

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 22:53:58 +0000

Shapeshifting: not your average nun ministry -- or is it? Although the idea of shapshifting has found itself in today's popular imagination through Marvel Comics and the TV show Supernatual, it's actually a rather ancient concept. According to Wikipedia, shapeshifting is "the ability of an entity to physically transform into another being or form." Sometimes an entity has a natural ability to shapeshift such as the Marvel character Mystique. Other times, there is so-called divine intervention such in the case of the greek goddess Athena transforming Arachne into a spider. (Note to self: Never insult the gods.) While granted, there are times when I may transform into an ogre at dawn when I am unable to get to the coffee pot fast enough, Catholic sisters and nuns aren't exactly shapeshifters in the ordinary sense of the word. We cannot manipulate our own molecular structure or rearrange our physiological features. We cannot take on the appearance of other beings (although there was that one Halloween I was the spitting image of Karl Rahner). But, nuns are shapeshifters in a very real way. Catholic sisters and nuns have always adapted to the signs of the times, listening to the Holy Spirit and to the needs of people. What this means is that while we may have corporately been about one kind of ministry -- let's say teaching in high school -- as needs emerged, we have been able to shift to meet those needs. Sisters and nuns in this case, for example, have been able to take their experience and skills in education and apply them to other areas such as helping people who are homeless or connecting with people in need via social media or ministering as prison chaplains. While we may not have the shapeshifting abilities of Mr. Fantastic who has the physical ability to stretch and bend at extraordinary lengths and degrees, we do know what it means to shapeshift ... to bend our minds around complex social problems to find extraordinary soultions to stretch our gifts and skill sets beyond their "normal" use in order to meet new needs to have passion, strength, love and determination that remain our truest identity even whille our ministries, dress, geographies, locations, etc. may change. to witness to the power of love the size of a mustard seed that can change the world. We don't need a fancy superhero name or outfit. We don't need superpowers[...]

What is Spiritual Direction?

Tue, 26 Jan 2016 22:44:49 +0000

Here’s a question I come across from time to time: “What is spiritual direction?” This question makes me very happy because it means someone has heard about spiritual direction and that they have some interest in hearing more about it. Currently there is a renewed interest in this ancient spiritual tool found in all the great world religions in some form. Spiritual directors would be the first to say that the spiritual guide is not actually a “director," in the sense of giving answers or telling you the direction to take. In spiritual direction, both the “directee” and the spiritual guide listen together for the direction of the Spirit as you open your life in God’s presence. There may be two chairs in the room, but there are three persons present in this monthly, sacred time—you, the director, and God. Something happens when we come before God on a regular basis and ask for guidance, blessing, healing. Both you and the “director” count on the graced action of the Spirit, as you talk through what’s happening in your life and listen for God’s voice. Another question I often hear is, "What do you talk about in spiritual direction?" I would say first, talk about whatever Is going on in your life, because that’s where God meets you. You can talk about choices you face, relationships, feelings, prayer, questions stirring within. One of the gifts of direction is that the director is an objective listener who can hear themes, notice patterns, ask good questions. Another gift of spiritual direction is that you make your spiritual and personal growth a priority in your life. You take yourself more seriously, listen to yourself more intentionally, and reverence the journey you are on. Many times in direction, you hear yourself say something you didn’t consciously realize you knew or felt. And it's good to listen to yourself on a regular basis! So you'll want to think about how regularly you want to meet with a spiritual director. Spiritual direction usually happens every 4-6 weeks, for an hour per session. Most directees give a stipend to the director for their time. If you are interested, or getting a nudge to look into this, inquire about trained directors in your area. Spiritual direction is a tremendously helpful tool that supports a seeker on the path. Tags spiritual direction prayer listening [...]

NUNDAY with Sister Barbara O'Donnell, HM

Thu, 07 Jan 2016 20:13:57 +0000

Happy Nunday! Here at A Nun’s Life Ministry we celebrate some Mondays in a special way — Mondays become Nundays when we have photos of Catholic sisters and nuns to share with you. Today's photo comes from the Humility of Mary Sisters (HM) in Villa Maria, Pennsylvania.  Since 1991 Sister Barbara O'Donnell has been involved in Eco-Spirituality ministry, a significant aspect of the history of HM congregation.  "The farm serves as a symbol of the struggle and sacrifice of a small group of women who settled on the Lawrence County land in 1864 and succeeded in establishing a viable, productive farm when others before them had failed. Land management at the farm is based on spirituality, sustainability, simplicity and the preservation of all local life systems." (read more about The Villa Farm) Currently there is great concern for local township farmland as oil and gas wells are starting to appear, but the sisters have not signed to allow drilling on their land.  To learn more about the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, visit their website at You too can join the NUNDAY movement! Send us a story and picture of a sister or nun who has influenced your life, and we'll feature her here! Message us on Facebook, Twitter, or use the contact form on the website. (Note: using the contact form will not allow you to send a photo. We will respond with next steps on how to include the photo.) Tags ministry nunday care of creation [...]

NUNDAY with Sister Judith Therese Barial, SSF

Mon, 28 Dec 2015 15:19:29 +0000

Today on the Nunday blog, Sister Judith Therese Barial shares her vocation story, ministry, and life as a Sister of the Holy Family in New Orleans, Louisiana. As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a Sister. But as an Afro-American child in Mississippi I only saw white Irish nuns. So it seemed like an impossible dream. When I was in seventh grade, my mother attended a Knights of Peter Claver (KPC) meeting at Holy Rosary Institute in Lafayette, Louisiana. When she returned she had a brochure from the group of Black Sisters who taught there. When I saw those faces on the cover that looked like my mother, aunts and grandmother, I knew it was possible. My parents and siblings all sacrificed so that I could attend St. Mary’s Academy boarding school in New Orleans taught by these Sisters of the Holy Family. I entered immediately after graduation at 17.  The best years of my life were spent in Dangriga, Belize (1987-2001), where I ministered to youth who were not able to attend the local high school because there was just not enough room. After teaching at Ecumenical College all day, I would teach about 25 students at the convent from 3:00 – 5:00. Others volunteered to help me. After a couple of years my community released me to teach these students full time. It was a struggle to get the local people, and the educational department of the government to recognize the efforts of these young people. But in 1995, Delille Academy became an accredited Catholic high school. The government of Belize and the U.S. government donated buildings and land for the school in 2000 and the enrollment expanded rapidly. I left before the buildings were completed. Sister Jean Martinez was responsible for the school when I left and oversaw the building and moving. The enrollment peaked to 600. The present enrollment is 300+ since a few local vocational schools have opened in the District. There are no longer any Sisters at the school, but it maintains its Catholic identity.  I returned to Dangriga in 2004, but was diagnosed with breast cancer that summer and was due for surgery as Katrina hit (but that's another story). Currently, at 74 years old, I am teaching physics and chemistry at the Academy, my Alma Mater, and loving it! To learn more about the Sisters of the Holy Family, visit their website at sistersofth[...]

Does God's call ever change? How will I know if it does?

Wed, 16 Dec 2015 20:40:10 +0000

How do we know if God is calling us to something new? Do we live our present “calling” more deeply? Or go in a different direction? I think there IS a way to know what God wants—as much as a human person can know the mind of God, and that is through the process of discernment. People throw that word “discernment” around rather loosely. Not every decision or choice calls for discernment (e.g., which movie to see, or what to get my nephew for his birthday). But when life presents us with really important or hard decisions and we want to tune into God’s voice, when we want to align our will with God’s desire for us, discernment is an excellent reliable tool. The underlying premise of the discernment process is that God WANTS us to know which way to go, and the way we will determine that is by listening to the movement of our heart. So, how do you know if God is calling you to something else? Listen to your heart. When you think of remaining where you are, does your heart feel peaceful, uplifted, energized? When you think of staying where you are, do you feel darkness, weariness, or dread? Discernment also involves laying out the pros and cons of each option—doing some “head” work on the choices before us. Taking time for prayer and seeking advice from a spiritual director or a wise mentor are also important. Sometimes the Spirit uses dreams, conversations with others, even song lyrics to catch our attention and signal the wisps of a new direction. So if you are getting restless stirrings, hunches or ideas out of nowhere that something new is afoot, these could be nudgings from the Spirit leading you to a new path. Of course there are times in our lives when the call is to fidelity—to staying with a commitment even when it starts to get tedious or challenging. This could be the very time when great growth could happen. Wishful thinking or wanting an easier path is not the same as the fresh breeze of the Spirit calling us to something new. But very simply, God speaks to us in the depths of our hearts, and it’s that deep-down listening to your heart that will let you “hear” God’s loving call. Tags discovering gods call discernment contemplation follow your heart [...]

Salve Regina - A Prayer of Sisterhood

Wed, 09 Dec 2015 16:37:20 +0000

I did not grow up with the Salve Regina as a part of my faith life -- we prayed it on occasion and I got the Latin down, but that was about it. I'm a Gen Xer and so Latin was not typically part of my Catholic experience. The Latin prayers and songs were used on occasion, but not enough that it was part of the fabric of my own life of faith. Then the nuns happened. I rediscovered the Salve Regina not as a prayer from Latin days past, but a vibrant prayer which "locates" me in sisterhood. Here's what went down. In undergrad and grad school, I met not just individual Catholic sisters and nuns but communities of sisters. I experienced sisters interacting with one another, practicing customs unique to their own communities and to religious life as a whole. And I heard the Salve Regina -- a lot. Now of course, the Salve (as we call it in the 'hood) is a Catholic prayer -- not unique to religious life. Yet it has never failed that when I'm with a religious community or any gathering with sisters and nuns, the Salve pops up -- almost like a common prayer we all hold together. Early on in my nun days, my familiarity and attachment to the prayer came because we sing the Salve Regina at the Remembering prayer service, funeral mass, or burial of a sister who has died. Sometimes accompanied, most times a cappella, a sister intones the first syllable and suddenly a full 52-part choir of nuns bursts into song. Some of us don't even know how to sing or hold a tune, yet we join our voices together and pray our hearts out for our sister "dwelling now in light, yet ever near." I then found that many sisters and nuns from other congregations have a similar custom. Last month I was at a gathering at which there were many different sisters and nuns present from many different communities. Among us was one sister who had to leave suddenly due to a death in the family. As we gathered for our next meeting, one sister pulled together a few more sisters so that at prayer that morning, we could pray for the family. Our prayer of course included the Salve. As one sister began, from each table you could hear the religious sisters and brothers join their voices together and soon everyone at the meeting was enveloped in prayer on behalf of the grieving family. Just this week, on the great feast [...]

NUNDAY with Sister Sara Marie Belisle, OSF

Mon, 23 Nov 2015 17:41:44 +0000

Today's NUNDAY story was submitted by blogging nun, Sister Christina M. Neumann, OSF! As we celebrate Thanksgiving this time of year and watch the beauty of autumn turn into the gray tones of winter, I am reminded of my first experience of this “in the convent” when I was first visiting the Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen at the provincial house in Hankinson, North Dakota. Sister Sara Marie, who would become my postulant directress, tried to make me feel at home. I had told her one of our family traditions for Thanksgiving morning was checking the thickness of the ice on nearby ponds to see if it was safe for skating. In Hankinson (at our provincial house), there is a little fish pond on the grounds. Sister Sara Marie had me go out there, and for fun, took a picture of me “checking the ice.” Along with serving as postulant directress for some time, she has filled many other roles as well, including that of Office Manager and Treasurer for the Hankinson Province. She is very adept with the computer and is often called upon for needed aid in this department. She also compiles a quarterly newsletter for St. Gerard’s (Nursing Home, Independent Living and Day Care Center), where she lives, fostering community for a few retired sisters there. This apostolate draws from her previous experience in newsletter writing for our Franciscan community as well as from her youth, as her parents were involved in nursing home work. Sister Sara Marie also helps our sisters by driving to doctor’s appointments. Since Hankinson is a rural community, they often have to go a distance for medical attention. Even with all these different directions in which she is pulled, Sister Sara Marie knows there is more to our life than what we see on the surface. She has taught me much about the depth and the beauty of our life as religious. When I was a postulant (just starting out), we met for ‘class,’ in which my appreciation and desire for religious life grew in a wonderful way. More recently, she has been a trusted guide, support and listener for me. Some words of wisdom, which she shared with me at one point, help give direction and motivation to everything we do as religious sisters: “Do it for Jesus,” She said, “He’s the one we do[...]

What classes should I take to learn more about my faith and to discern a possible religious vocation?

Wed, 18 Nov 2015 14:35:59 +0000

“What classes should I take to learn more about my faith and to discern a possible religious vocation?” What a refreshing question to receive from a young person; you made my day! First, let me say that I hope any young person serious about deepening their relationship with God would at some time give some consideration to the thought of vowed life as a religious. It’s a viable option! It’s a great way of life! And if you are seeking a deep relationship with God, religious life can take you right there! That’s the whole focus for our life, our ministry! As far as courses you can take in college or graduate work, I strongly recommend a good Scripture course or two—especially on the Gospels. We have all HEARD the Gospels read over the years. And we may have prayed the, meditated on them. But something just breaks open when you seriously study the New Testament. Not only do you begin to really understand the culture, the land, the history of the times in which Jesus and his followers live, but you come to understand more of the language—and the meaning of words, expressions, and even numbers! More than anything, however, is the encounter with Jesus of Nazareth! How can we learn more about him without falling in love more deeply with his message, his compassionate behavior and actions, his very person! We begin to experience awe and wonder—who IS this man? And not just to study the Scriptures but truly meditate on them. The grace pours out of the stories and we are left standing, looking at the Healer, watching His face in each encounter with poor, blind, deaf, misunderstood people...and we know we are that person. Other theology courses can help you struggle with the moral and social justice issues of our day, and light fires of passion to help respond to the needs of our world. A good Christology course or Sacraments course can stretch your mind and give deeper meaning to your beliefs. But my favorite wish for any young seeker is a rich course on the Gospels. O Seeker, get to know Jesus Christ better, and your faith will grow deep and rich—you will have a friend for life! Tags discovering gods call jesus gospel theology [...]

NUNDAY with Sister Mary Kenneth Keller, BVM

Thu, 05 Nov 2015 14:53:08 +0000

This post was originally published as part of our Nunday blog. Check out more from the Nunday Archives. Happy Nunday! Here at A Nun’s Life Ministry we celebrate some Mondays in a special way — Mondays become Nundays when we have photos of Catholic sisters and nuns to share with you. Today's Nunday photo is Sister Mary Kenneth Keller, BVM. She entered the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of Dubuque, Iowa in 1932. Sister Mary Kenneth is recognized as one of the first women to receive a Ph.D. in computer science. Her pioneering efforts won her a national reputation in a male dominated field. She established the nation’s first small college computer science program at Clarke University (then Clarke College), authored four books with IBM, and served as consultant on new technology for leaders in education, government, and business. Tags nunday computer science technology Nuns in the News [...]

Can you be a smoker and a nun?

Tue, 03 Nov 2015 15:07:50 +0000

We received a question from a reader in the United Kingdom who asks, "I am interested in becoming a nun however, I am currently a heavy smoker. Would that affect my chances of joining a nunnery?" First, a quick note about the word “nunnery.” Back in the day, the word was used to refer to a convent or other place where sisters or nuns resided. The term was popularized by Shakespeare in Hamlet: “Get thee to a nunnery.” Today, it is more common to talk about joining religious life.   So, can you become a nun if you’re a heavy smoker? Let’s look at a number of considerations. First, there’s the health issue. We know that cigarette smoking causes serious health problems, not only for the person who smokes but also for those who are exposed to second-hand smoke. Heavy smoking exponentially increases the health risks. I don't think that any religious community would want its members or potential members to do anything that poses a well-known serious health risk to themselves or others. Of course, there are MANY issues around what health risks, such as eating too much sugar or too many preservatives, not getting enough sleep, drinking too much, etc. I will gingerly lay aside those matters for the purpose of this question. Suffice it to say, engaging in a habit that is deleterious to our health is definitely not advisable. In addition to the health risks (that should be enough to give us pause), smoking also has financial consequences. Smokes are not cheap! For women and men who profess a vow of poverty, it is extremely challenging to justify using the community's money (or anyone else's) to buy cigarettes. It's not that we sisters and nuns can't use money for personal needs. We can and do -- within moderation and according to the customs of each community. For example, I recently replaced my handlebar tape and picked up a reflector for my bike. When we do spend money, for whatever reason, we must be very conscious of how it contributes to the good of our life together as sisters and our own good within that. Each community, each sister must discern this, even when purchasing bike reflectors! Smoking also has social ramifications. It can be very tou[...]

What does Jesus teach us about finding peace in everyday life?

Tue, 27 Oct 2015 13:26:19 +0000

This blog is one of the many things that A Nun's Life offers for you! Please consider making a donation today! I have been convinced for a long time that one of the most forgotten, unclaimed messages from Jesus was his teaching about peace. I have often been nudged with the thought: what if I lived as though I really believed his words? The sayings about peace definitely rank up there with words we hear Jesus say but don’t live out of. When we finally meet face-to-face I just KNOW God will say, “Wow! I never meant it to be that hard! I was wrapped around you like Saran Wrap but you never took comfort from it! My peace was always there.” At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us many important instructions on how to help us live without his daily, earthly presence—one of the most significant was the teaching about Divine peace: “Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you.” He is not saying, “someday when you are really mature I will give you some of my peace.” He is saying that peace is his gift and it HAS been given. He continues: “I do not give it to you as the world gives peace.” So what is the difference? I think the peace our secular world promises is conditional. It occurs when all problems are solved, when you accumulate enough possessions for security, when you’ve achieved the perfect (and beautiful) body, the perfect soul mate, perfect family and well-behaved children, and so on. The secular notion of peace is based on achievements, success, accomplishments—and is only possible if you manage to dodge any suffering or loss. The peace Jesus offers IS radically different. It’s peace in the MIDST of suffering, in the midst of the storm. Like in the consoling story of the storm on the lake, Jesus gets in the boat with the disciples. Walking over the churning waters, through frightening winds, he comes to reassure them (and us): “Get ahold of yourselves. It is I. Do not be afraid!” At the Last Supper Jesus repeats those words: “Do not be distressed or fearful.” So there it is: God telling us how the journey through life should/could be—without distress or fear! I suspect there is[...]

Am I less myself because I am a Catholic Sister?

Wed, 21 Oct 2015 11:15:35 +0000

This blog is one of the many things that A Nun's Life offers for you! Please consider making a donation today! When I first told people that I was pretty sure I wanted to be a Catholic sister, I received a range of responses from incredulous, to worried, to overjoyed! The encouragement and affirmation were very helpful and very much needed! I struggled a lot with those who did raise concerns because I still wasn't sure 100% myself (nobody is!) and I didn't always know how to respond. One of the concerns was that I would somehow be less of myself as a Catholic sister, that I would somehow be limited, boxed in, not free. This is a legit concern! I realized that the people who asked the question cared about me and had a very different perception and experience of religious life. Just as I was getting to know what it was like -- very up close and personal! -- they were learning about it too! Unfortunately sometimes our only sources of information are what we imagine it was like or experienced it many years ago or what we see in pop culture. Not all of this is bad, indeed, there is much that points to the truths about religious life! But some of these sources are no longer accurate for today, and some are just plain wrong -- Nunzilla. Enough said. Wherever the concern about being limited, less oneself as a nun came from, I found it to be a good point for reflection in my discernment. When asked the question about being less myself as a nun, I felt like I would explode with unicorns, hamsters, and rainbows! (Seriously, my interior life is an interesting place.) I felt this intense joy rise up in me and I wanted to say, MY GOD! Can you not see how infinitely fabulous this is?? I have never felt more alive in my life!! As I reflected on these encounters, I asked myself, am I in fact limited? Am I less than myself? These questions were odd to ask because even as I heard them or posed them to myself I felt that explosion once again -- it was like an expansiveness, a feeling of utter freedom and possibility. I remember describing this to my family after they met my nuns for the first time. I don't know that an[...]

NUNDAY with Sister Margaret Irene, IHM

Fri, 09 Oct 2015 16:03:18 +0000

Today's NUNDAY blog was submitted by Siobhán O'Neill, Social Media Editor for VISION Vocation Network! Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Margaret Irene was my great aunt. When Aunt Mugsy, as we called her, entered religious life at the age of 22, she wrote this letter to her grandmother Carrie: September 21, 1931 Dearest Grandmother, I suppose by this time you have heard from Mother what I have decided to do with my life. Although you probably will never understand this step, Mother and Dad do. I expect to be very happy here. Give my love to Aunt Margaret and if you all have time, drop a line occasionally. Lovingly,  Margaret Irene Although I didn't know Sister Margaret Irene's daily routine as an IHM teacher, principal, or mother superior (in Merced, California), I knew that Aunt Mugsy's strength, determination, and conviction for her life’s work apparent in her 1931 note stayed with her through her long and amazing life as a religious and woman of faith. Her father also sent her a touchingly funny poem as she entered: I'm the Daddy of a Nun: Sure my daughter has been vested, and my joy I cannot hide, For I've watched her from the cradle with a father's honest pride. But the morning that she left me early, I was feeling mighty blue, Just a-thinking how I'd miss her, And the things she used to do. But now, somehow it's different, With each rising of the sun, And my heart is ever singing, I'm the daddy of a nun. Since to err is only human, There's a whole lot on the slate, That I'll have to make account for when I reach the golden gate. But then I'm not a-worrying about the deeds I've done I'll just whisper to St. Peter I'm the daddy of a nun. I'm sure Sister Margaret Irene laughed and smiled at her father's lighthearted support as she often did during the many obstacles thrown her way as a teacher, administrator, and mother superior. I for one appreciated her humble laugh and smile as my wise great aunt shared stories of going to Rome just after Vatican II, teaching in the Los Angeles school district, and volunteering a record 17,000 hours at St. Vincent's hospital after[...]

Where is God in the midst of anxiety?

Thu, 01 Oct 2015 15:42:13 +0000

Do you ever wake up to find your mind plagued with anxious thoughts? Worrying about how to handle life's dilemmas, or getting caught up on all the things you need to do? On a lovely Sunday morning when I could have slept in a little later, I awoke with a swarm of anxious thoughts and little worries. Rather than keep battling them, I got up and went to my prayer chair, with a warm cup of coffee. When anxiety seeps in, it’s hard to brush it away. But I knew God could give me some guidance about this common human problem: feeling anxious about life though we are in the arms of a loving God. I knew I had to take these worries to God, ASAP. I felt the Presence, and as guidance came, I knew I had to write to you, dear readers, since you may have your share of anxious moments. So here’s how God responded. God didn’t give me answers to all the thorny little worries. There were no detailed instructions on how to solve each problem or face each issue. No download of divine wisdom. No chiding about how I surely should trust by now! No...what happened was a gradual blanket of peace came over me, as though some loving mother had come in and seen her child shivering, and wrapped a blanket around her. I began to notice that all the details of my problems were slipping away, and I was engulfed by a subtle sense of peace. I noticed that this peace was thick, solid, substantial--not some fluffy, puffy cloud that quickly disappears. It seemed God was saying, “I never meant for you to live in anxiety. I hoped you would always know I ‘have your back.' You can live in worry, or in Me. I am real and substantial. I am utterly dependable. You LIVE in Me. That’s where you are planted and securely rooted.“ This question wasn't submitted by a reader--I asked the question this time, and wanted to pass the word from God on to you, hoping it might help you, too! Tags discovering gods call anxiety prayer [...]

NUNDAY with Sister Norma Pimentel, MJ

Sat, 19 Sep 2015 19:45:49 +0000

Monday is NUNDAY! Sister Norma, Pimentel, MJ, is a Missionary of Jesus and Executive Director of Catholic Charities in the Rio Grande Valley.  I was first "introduced" to Sister Norma when she appeared on the ABC News show 20/20. The broadcast featured a livestreamed audience with Pope Francis in three U.S. cities. During the audience in McAllen, Texas, where Sister Norma was present, Pope Francis asked to speak to the "religious sister." The camera panned to Sister Norma--clearly having an OMG moment--and she stood, walked in front of the screen, and Pope Francis addressed her: "I want to thank you. Through you, I want to thank all the sisters of religious orders in the U.S. for the work that you have done and that you do in the United States. It's great!" Whoa! Can you imagine the Pope speaking words like these directly to you?! Wondering what brought Sister Norma to that moment, I did what any good millennial would do: I Googled her. I discovered that she has done amazing work for the people of the Rio Grande Valley. In 2014, Sister Norma began a welcome center in McAllen, Texas, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, in response to the large influx of immigrants into the United States. Most people were coming from Central America, enduring a long a dangerous journey and arriving in the States scared, weary, and in need of basic supplies such as clothing and food. Sister Norma says, “We simply needed to respond and care for the folks and help them feel human again. They were moms, they were kids." As of August 2015, the welcome center has assisted over 23,000 people. Sister Norma is an awesome example of responding to the needs of those around her and embodying Pope Francis' call to care for those in need.  How will you respond to the needs of those around you this day? Source: The Dallas Morning News, December 24, 2014. Tags nunday catholic charities immigration pope francis Nuns in the News [...]

Small Moments to Choose Life

Fri, 18 Sep 2015 12:07:19 +0000

8:07 a.m. I made it to work. I always seem to pick the rainiest days to ride to work. A Nun's Life Ministry HQ is not far from the convent -- I can weave in and out of neighborhoods and navigate only a couple busy roads. As I did this morning, I grumble a lot as I get myself and my bike ready for the morning commute. I'm not quite awake yet -- will I be ready for the ride? Wouldn't it be easier to slip into the car and drive? After all I have a backpack full of stuff and I wouldn't have to worry about cars driving along side me, bugs veering into me, tired muscles, and ... as usual, rain. I don't know what it is that finally makes me get out the door and get on the bike. It's like the split second of "Am I going to do this or not?" It's a veritable Deuteronomic moment. Choose life or choose death. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today: I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live, 20 by loving God, your God, by obeying God’s voice and by clinging to God. For that will mean life for you, a long life in the land which God swore to give to your descendants Sarah and Abraham, Rebecca and Isaac, and Leah and Rachel and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 31:19-20) Okay well maybe not exactly life or death, BUT it is a small moment in time, a split second it seems where I am asked to consider what will be life-giving for me, for the mission I am about, for others? Can I in this one, seemingly insignificant moment, make a choice to choose life? For each of us, that "small moment" can come at any time -- taking time to appreciate the beauty of the trees or other drivers while running errands, a choice to not react poorly to a friend's bad mood, the gift of a few minutes of our time in the midst of a busy day to give to someone in need. Maybe it's even the choice to dig out your favorite T-shirt and put it on because it holds good memories for you! It need not be angels-blaring-trumpets-esque, but that's the beauty -- God and the choice [...]

My life is so mundane and routine—how can I see it as a calling?

Thu, 10 Sep 2015 14:07:52 +0000

This question has been rumbling around in my mind since I read it. I find myself wondering why we have trouble with the “mundane and routine,” and feel as though our days are not only not noteworthy, but maybe not even worthy. We join a mission program, we make a vow, we join a parish committee or take up volunteer work, and sooner or later it becomes less spectacular, passionate, or fulfilling. Does this mean we are in the wrong place? Or that it is not our calling? We live in a culture of instant gratification—have we forgotten the subtle beauty of the ordinary, the tenderness of the simple, the holiness of day-to-day life? What would Jesus say about the mundane and ordinary? Jesus lived most of his short time on earth in a most mundane way. Until the age of 30 he did nothing noteworthy—no miraculous healings, no walking on water. For a Jewish man of his time, he lived almost his entire life being quite ordinary—working as the town carpenter, living with his mother, spending time in prayer, discovering his true identity and pondering the gravity of his mission. Yet, the daily smoothing of wood, the nightly hours of silent communion with God were somehow shaping the Servant of God. Some years ago I lived with a friend in our community who was a physical education teacher. One rainy, sleeting Holy Thursday morning with no school, she went out for a long run. When I asked, “How can you run in this nasty, punishing weather?” She replied, “This is prayer for me!” Running can be just running, but for her it had become prayer. Doing dishes can be a chore—or a contemplative action. Weeding a garden, correcting papers, or vacuuming can be mundane tasks, inglorious chores, even burdens—or they can be a way to see the Face of Christ—or be the Hands of Christ. Yes, God often speaks to us, and speaks through us in the sweet simplicity of our egoless, ordinary, routine tasks, in our daily faithfulness ... in just breathing. Tags [...]

Monday is NUNDAY with Sister Navya Joseph, CJS

Mon, 31 Aug 2015 14:01:44 +0000

Monday is NUNDAY! Our friend Sister Julianna Vagnozzi, CSSF, (a Felician Sister) sent us a photo of Sister Navya Joseph, CJS, of the Christu Jothi (Christ the Light) Sisters in India. Sister Julianna writes:  "Sister Navya used to work in our care center in New Mexico. They wear a beeswax colored sari--which is appropriate since they are Christ the Light Sisters! I told her she looked like a candle bringing that Light to others. She does social work in her part of India and travels by scooter. I told her I knew some biking nuns who might be envious of her two wheeler!" We're definitely fans of bikes at A Nun's Life, and we're also big fans of hearing about the many ways Catholic sisters are on mission all over the world! Our prayers are with you, Sister Navya! You too can join the NUNDAY movement! Send us a story and picture of a sister or nun who has influenced your life, and we'll feature her here! Message us on Facebook, Twitter, or use the contact form on the website. (Note: using the contact form will not allow you to send a photo. We will respond with next steps on how to include the photo.) Check out all the Catholic sisters and nuns featured on our Nunday blog! Tags nunday christ the light biking nun Nuns in the News [...]

When Odious Idols Get the Best of Us

Fri, 28 Aug 2015 00:57:39 +0000

8:57 p.m. The Office of Readings are a little rough today. Making my way through the Psalms was at first consoling and then I came to a full stop with Jeremiah. I should know better than to expect warm and fuzzy from a prophet. "You scoured the side roads for lovers, like a nomad in the desert. You polluted the countryside with your lust and your vices." (Jeremiah 3:2) Ouch indeed. Praying with these verses, I am reminded that just because I have not been scouring the side roads for a lover does not mean that God is not speaking a good word to me. It can be easy to dismiss Scripture as applying only to "those people," yet God's word is a living word, addressing me and us here and now. When allow these words to marinate within me, I recognize myself. I recognize that I have gone down paths that stray from my deepest self, from the God in whom I live and move and have my being. I have engaged people, ideas, behaviors, and habits that reveal a "hardness of heart" (4:4) on my part and perhaps even a "refusal to blush in shame" (3:3). Dramatic words maybe for ordinary slip-ups in life, yet I suppose even these make me less of who I am, less of the person I want to be in God. For as direct and condemning as Jeremiah's words may be in today's Divine Office, the prophet does not fail to encourage us. Jeremiah reminds us of just who our God is -- a God who, while understandably bummed out by our hardness of heart and penchant for "odious idols" (4:1), is still reaching out to us and calling us home, calling us to our best selves. "Return to me ... Plow your fallow ground ... Do not sow among thorns ... Dedicate yourselves completely to me ... Remove the hardness of your hearts." (4:1,3,4) It's never too late to lean into the great tenderness of our God. Tags jeremiah prophet forgiveness [...]

How can I move beyond fear so I can respond to God's call?

Thu, 20 Aug 2015 13:57:03 +0000

The recent question about how to respond to God when you're afraid is still stirring in my thoughts—I felt called to write a second post about it! This question is a big stumbling block for anyone seriously trying to grow in the spiritual life. It’s a very key question actually, almost like a fork in the road. Wrestling with this question will take you down one path or another, like Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” I have had people in spiritual direction wonder many years later about a fork in the road that they took, perhaps without too much thought at the time, and now wonder if that really was their path, or if they missed their Great Call. I think we ache for complete, can’t-lose-it love. We YEARN for more meaning in life; we HOPE our life will help someone and will somehow serve a greater good. I don’t think we aspire to a small, selfish, safe life. Our soul is too great for that! Sometimes I think we shrink from God’s voice, or avoid conversation with God (prayer), out of FEAR. What will I hear? Fear in any relationship can choke the free flow of the life force at the heart of the relationship. This is especially true with God. God is not surprised that we are afraid of the Divine Voice. God knows we can’t comprehend the depth and unconditional tenderness of God’s love for us. We have no experience of it—we have had glimpses, but all too often we have sadly experienced the limitations of human love, the inadvertent or intentional slips and slights that leave us hurt, empty, disillusioned, or bewildered. Of course we’re kind of leery about God’s love—and what request God may make of us—or what path may await us in that Divine plan. Maybe remembering how God HAS talked to us or come to our aid over the years will lessen the fear. Maybe reading what Jesus revealed to us about his Father’s love will reassure us. Maybe watching the fierce, prot[...]

NUNDAY with Sister Rosemonde Deck, CDP

Fri, 31 Jul 2015 20:03:28 +0000

Monday is NUNDAY! Meet Sister Rosmonde Deck, CDP, who was recently featured in The Patriot Ledger, the newspaper of Quincy, Massachusetts (MA). The article " A GOOD AGE: An outpouring of music from the surviving 'Singing Sister'" by Sue Scheible (July 7, 2015), highlights Sister Rosemonde's life as one half of the duo the "Singing Sisters." Sister Rosemonde and her biological sister, Sister Rosalie Deck (also a Sister of Divine Providence), were raised in a musical family. Their mother was a singer, and their father a clarinet player. They entered the Sisters of Divine Providence in the 1940s and became music teachers. For 45 years they taught at Sacred Heart School in Kingston, MA. In the 1970s they began performing as 'The Singing Sisters' at local venues and even made several appearances abroad. Three years ago, when Sister Rosalie passed away, Sister Rosemonde turned to music to help her cope. Since Rosalie's passing, Rosemonde has composed over 150 original songs. She said: "I am sure my sister is up there really helping to inspire me. It has to be that, to have that increase of songs come to me since she passed away. Inspiration just keeps flowing and flowing." To hear an original piece by Sister Rosemonde, check out the video below! May Sister Rosemonde's work inspire you this Monday morning! Enjoy! Sister Rosemonde plays an original piece titled 'Promise of Light' allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> Tags nunday music inspiration Nuns in the News [...]

How do I keep the faith when times are tough?

Wed, 05 Aug 2015 20:18:16 +0000

I imagine God shaking that divine head when we have worries like this, thinking, “Ah, Child, of course you struggle with your faith when life is turned upside down, weighing heavily on you, or baffling you. But I see you, I never take my eyes off you. If only you knew how deep my faith in YOU is!” To me it's not about “keeping the faith.” I think it’s really about our faith in some One. When something bad happens to us—a disappointment, an accident, a broken relationship or a job fiasco—we usually turn to the people who love us. Most of us have at least one person we would quickly call or text—a friend, a parent, spouse, or mentor. We don’t blame them for the problem, or wonder if they will be disappointed in us because the painful incident happened. We don’t lose our trust in them because this bad event befell us. No! We RUN to them for comfort or support. We usually don’t even need them to fix it. We just need them to listen to us because we know that they care what happens to us, and that our “suffering” matters to them. They, too, will feel the burden or sorrow we feel. Somehow when it comes to faith and the struggles of life, we get into some strange ideas about God. When I give retreats I often say that we go around carrying “sad illusions” about who God is. Perhaps we need to look deeper at what we seem to believe. Do we secretly think that God has MADE these bad things happen to us? Do we sadly think God leaves us on our own in these dilemmas? Do we mistakenly suppose God is judging our performance in our times of greatest challenge or suffering? The faith Jesus came to show us and lead us to was not a big set of beliefs, it was a great invitation to come to know God as Jesus knew God, as “Abba." You might ask, Where is God? when you or your family is crushed by sorrow, or left with a wounded [...]

A Jubilee Miracle: When Prayer becomes Praying

Tue, 28 Jul 2015 17:20:37 +0000

1:20 p.m. One of my nuns, Sister Mary Jane Hinks, IHM, is celebrating 70 years as an IHM Sister! I can hardly imagine 70 years of life or even 20 years as a sister! We are celebrating her Jubilee as a community but also as a Mission Unit, a smaller grouping within our congregation that comes together for prayer, community business, and sisterhood. My task for the celebration is to organize the prayer. Prayer for us sisters includes many different ways of praying. For this gathering, I decide to open with a Psalm, have a blessing of Sister Mary Jane with holy water, prayer for the needs of the world, and conclude with an overall blessing. Each part of the prayer reflects a way in which Sister Mary Jane has served God in mission. As I prepare the prayer, my thoughts go in 2 different directions. First, I am so conscious of Sister Mary Jane's life of faithfulness, mission, and prayer. If I could be half the nun she is, I will have lived a good life. On her Jubilarian page, she says of her vocation that she is most grateful for the life she has had with the community, finding what she “had been looking for. My vocation is love and service to others.” (Read more of Sister Mary Jane's story.) Sister taught primary school for many years in Michigan and Florida. She has an overflowing album of photos and letters her students, former students, and parents of students have sent her over the years. What a blessing! Second, for as cool as it to think about the activity of God in Mary Jane's life, I am painfully aware that I have to construct a prayer service in the midst of what is already a very busy week. How am I going to find time? How can I ever do justice to this woman's life? How can I lead prayer when I am hardly capable of figuring out what to have for lunch right now? Then two remarkable things happen. On[...]

If I become a nun, do I have to be "besties" with everyone in the community?

Fri, 17 Jul 2015 13:55:37 +0000

People sometimes ask if nuns ever dislike each other, and recently I was asked if we nuns ever have to work side-by-side with those with a different ideology. With our myriad personalities, spiritualities, family styles, and cultural backgrounds, the answer to these questions, of course, is yes. One of the first things we learn when we begin to live in community is that it is not a collection of friends; it is not a family. Religious community holds all the challenges that any non-family, non-best friend group experiences. This is one of the purifying aspects of becoming part of a religious community. Diversity of background, thought, preference, and opinion is a gift, and thus makes a community rich and deepens its effectiveness in its mission to the world. Over the years, when I have lived with someone I found hard to understand or who really irritated me, I would return to the realization that God had called each of us to this community and to this particular house at this time. What I have discovered as I have grown is that this person is my teacher at this time. They are in my life to teach me a lesson and it is my spiritual work to figure out where I need to grow. In my younger days I guess I thought God had messed things up by putting so-and-so in my space. Or that it was "just my luck" that we’d end up together. Now I see the movement of grace. Living or working with someone who is very different or even distressing to us can do so much for our spiritual growth. The author James Finley once said on a retreat, “The person who drives you crazy is your spiritual guru.” My how I hated hearing that at that point of my growth! The irritations or frustrations of rubbing shoulders with different, trying people helps, like sandpaper, smooth our rough edges. Secondly, and lead[...]

NUNDAY in Memory of Sister Nirmala Joshi, MC

Wed, 24 Jun 2015 19:36:21 +0000

The other day Sister Julie and I were reflecting on the passing of Sister Nirmala Joshi, the former superior general of the Missionaries of Charity who succeeded Blessed Mother Teresa. Sister Julie mentioned that had made a retreat with the Missionaries, and then suddenly excused herself from our conversation. She returned holding a Missionaries of Charity prayer book that she had received during her retreat with the sisters. As I thumbed through the book, I desired to learn more about Sister Nirmala's life, so I did what any curious millennial would do: I Googled her! Sister Nirmala joined the Missionaries of Charity in 1958 shortly after becoming Catholic. Inspired by Mother Teresa's humanitarian work, Sister Nirmala dedicated her life to caring for the very sick and very poor. (source) In addition to caring for others, Sister Nirmala also cultivated a deep prayer life; she was known to spend every Thursday in prayer, and ran the order's contemplative wing since 1979. The following prayer is from the Missionaries of Charity prayer book, and I think it speaks beautifully to the mission of Sister Nirmala: "We love you with our whole heart and soul, because you, O God, are most worthy of all our love./We desire to love you as the Blessed do in heaven ... / We also love our neighbor for your sake as we love ourselves." (Act of Love, Morning Prayer pg. 5) I like to imagine the prayers in the book to be the fuel that kept Sister Nirmala going as she went about her daily life serving those around her. Sister Nirmala spent her life loving her neighbor and living as an example of what it means to love as Jesus loved.  As you think of Sister Nirmala, what prayers or inspirations come to mind that you turn to when you're in need of some ins[...]

Hashtags Break My Heart

Thu, 02 Jul 2015 10:23:47 +0000

6:23 a.m. #BlackLivesMatter ... #LoveWins. I'm reading my Twitter newsfeed and, in the midst of life's ordinary joys and sorrows, there is a litany of stories that are heartwarming and that break my heart. These hashtags, #BlackLivesMatter and #LoveWins, are powerful and positive assertions, yet their presence reminds us that we are not kind to one another, we have not figured out how to not kill, hate, or persecute people whom we perceive are different from ourselves. How is it that we perpetuate such un-love? How is it that we forget or are numb to our natural orientation to love -- and love generously? We are, afterall, capax Dei. Our identity is "capacity for God." How is it that we can do so much sacrilege to our most fundamental identity, our truest self in God? I don't know what the concrete solution is, but I do know it has to come out of a place of love. I have great admiration for the women and men who are able to put love first, even in the midst of outrageous hatred and violence. Starting with love has no prerequisites. You don't have to have anything in common across politics, religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, or anything else. Just love. We have to trust that love will lead the way. As I check in throughout the day, I am conscious of how 140 characters can break my heart again and again. There are some days when I wish these hashtags and stories would not break my heart. But, no. I pray that never be the case. Our hearts should break. Maybe love will have more space to fill us and the world. I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world. Mary Oliver, "Lead" in New and Selected Poems, V[...]

How can I respond to God's call when I'm afraid of where God might be leading me?

Thu, 18 Jun 2015 12:31:17 +0000

Ah, dear Seeker, I believe your question about responding to God's call despite being afraid is one that God hears quite often—and one that tugs at God’s heartstrings! This is the great question that comes sooner or later to anyone serious about the God-quest. The question is tender because it implies several things about you. Firstly, that you are already so connected to God that you know God speaks to humans, and even CALLS them to follow and join in God’s holy work of loving and serving the people. Secondly, that you are hearing something—maybe vague, unformed, almost like static until you get the right frequency and the clear connection. Lastly, the question implies that you are a Seeker. You may be thinking “I’m hearing something, and I want to respond ... but I’m afraid.” Who would NOT be afraid to entertain a request, an invitation, from the One Who Dwells in Mystery? Like Moses, we feel like taking off our shoes when we come before the Burning Bush of the awesome Holy One! Until we remember—wait! This is the One who knows me well. Dear Seeker, remember when you have felt a moment of God’s warm, personal love of you. Is there any Love who cares more about your life and your future than God? The only one who has no ulterior motive, no ego-interest in your choices, no conscious or unconscious strings attached to your response, is God—the Great Lover. Over the years when I have talked with people about this very fear, or experienced it myself before a big decision, I remember that God is the One alone who would never ask more than I can give, would never require a response that would lead me to less joy or less freedom. Jesus wants for us the fullness of life, the fullness o[...]

NUNDAY with Sister Rosemary Connelly, RSM

Mon, 08 Jun 2015 20:14:01 +0000

Monday is NUNDAY! Meet Rosemary Connelly, RSM, Executive Director of Misericordia. Misericordia, which means "heart of mercy" in Latin, is home to more than 600 children and adults who are living with developmental disabilities. In the last 45 years, Sister Rosemary has helped the agency expand into a 31-acre campus where residents have access to work and recreational opportunities, specialized education programs, and various forms of therapy. As I was reading about Sister Rosemary's ministry, I so remarked how she is embodying the mission of her religious community, the Sisters of Mercy. The Sisters of Mercy "see Jesus in the most marginalized people and take a vow of service to perform works of Mercy that alleviate suffering." On following the call to work with Misericordia, Sister Rosemary said: "When I came, I came as a social worker and a teacher with that kind of background. I had no experience in special education, but the day I walked into Misericordia  I thought, ‘This is right — thank you God, this is right." (source) I think of Sister Rosemary following God's call all those years ago, and how she said "yes" to the unknown, but trusted that she was in the right place. I take comfort in her example of what it means to follow God's call despite the unknown (because, to be honest, the unknown can be freaky!). As you think about your own calling, who do you look to as example of what it means to follow God's call? Join the NUNDAY movement! If you've got a photo and a story of a real Catholic sister or nun, message us on Facebook, Twitter, or use the contact form on the website. (Note: using the contact form will not allow you to send a photo. We will respond wit[...]

Helen Mirren's advice to live like a nun

Tue, 02 Jun 2015 19:44:55 +0000

4:44 a.m. The fabulous actor Helen Mirren made the headlines with her remark about having to live "like a f - - king nun" in order to make it on Broadway. Naturally my curiosity was piqued. Helen Mirren was interviewed by Michael Riedel of The New York Post this week about her nomination for a Tony Award for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in “The Audience.” When asked what she would be doing after "The Audience," Mirren replied: "I should like to take a break and spend some time here with my husband. I’d like to go to a bar or a restaurant. I can’t do that now. I am onstage for two hours every night. I can’t go out. And right now I’m on the Tony march. I said to [fellow nominees] Kelli [O’Hara] and Kristin [Chenoweth], "We all have to live like nuns." Ethel Merman once told Elaine Stritch that if you want to be a Broadway star, "You have to live like a f - - king nun!" You do. You have to live like “a f - - king nun.” That is exactly what you have to do." Well so there it is. Initially I'm like Really, Helen? Did you have to go there? The obvious correlation is that living like a nun means no spending time with a spouse, no going to a bar or restaurant, and no going out. Well. I can certainly confirm the spouse part, given that we are not spousally inclined as sisters. Vow of celibacy and all. The rest? Well each religious community has its own customs around how sisters live day to day. Some communities for example prohibit alcohol, while others allow for moderate use. Some communities are open in regard to restaurants [...]

Can a sister lose her vocation if she stops praying or becomes lazy? Would God call her back?

Tue, 26 May 2015 20:40:19 +0000

This question is poignant to me -- I almost detect a twinge of sadness. It seems to me to be part of a bigger question: If I am not good—or faithful—will God give up on me? I guess that’s what touches a sad chord in me. Over many years of walking with God, and discovering all the ways I am not as good or holy or eternally faithful as I would truly want to be, here is what I have learned: GOD IS UTTERLY MERCIFUL!! God is faithful enough for the two of us!!! No matter when I have slipped, or been too distracted or selfish to be my best self, God does not withhold one drop of love, or tenderness, or support or guidance from me. This is the great miracle of God’s love—it is NOT dependent on what we do. It is not a reward for good behavior. Sometimes I meet people who are painfully aware of how they have been “behaving badly.” In our human way of calculating and assessing, we expect that if not punishment, we should at least lose major points! But Scripture, theologians, and my own experience have made one thing clear—I do not control the love, guidance, or grace that come to me from God. What freedom!! What cause for joy!! I cannot make God love me more, and I cannot stop God from loving me. So, DOES it matter if a sister (or anyone for that matter) stops praying? Ah yes …. it does matter. It matters because when I do not pray I make myself less happy, less free, less peaceful. Where will be the grounding in the deep peace of God? Where will be the daily reminder that “In God, I can do all things”? Where will be the moments of silent union that will lift my heart with joy and fill me with a light the wo[...]

One Powerful Word

Thu, 21 May 2015 12:51:21 +0000

8:32 p.m. The night is beginning to settle in and I decide to dust off my tiredness and go for a ride around the neighborhood. The sights and sounds, the cool air and trees are like the opening collect of evening prayer, launching me into an awareness of how God is truly holding me and all of creation. As I wind through the neighborhood, I turn off at a little park and greet the dog, bunnies, human, and red-headed woodpecker along the way. A pause at the creek gives me a chance to be more focused in prayer, centering myself in the midst of so much beauty and God-holded-ness. That's right, God-holded-ness. I close my eyes and try to be as open as the sky to allow God to be however God wants to be with me. I try to set no expectations on God or on myself. Geeked about the bunnies hopping about and the ducks trolling the creek, I peek open an eye, and the the other. As my vision shifts in focus from the creek 10 feet away to the wood bench upon which I am perched, I notice the graffiti. It's not your high-school variety graffiti (M.T. & L.F. forever, heart symbol, arrow) -- it's more of a note of desperation, hastily written with a black marker on an awkward part of the bench. "Hide your Beauty & you will DIE!?" Whoa. That made for an interesting turn in my conversation with God! I remembered a photography that my friend Marguerite posted on Facebook recently. One powerful word: "Lonely." I have been praying for that person ever since. And it got me thinking as I rode back to the convent, what are the words that we would want to leave for the world to discover? What would our graffiti say[...]

NUNDAY Q & A with the Digital Nun

Mon, 11 May 2015 13:45:55 +0000

Happy NUNDAY! Today's nun is close to my technology-loving heart as her ministry is also online! Meet Dame Catherine Wybourne, OSB, a.k.a. the Digital Nun. ("Dame" is the customary title for a Benedictine nun in the United Kingdom.) Dame Catherine is a Benedictine nun of Holy Trinity Monastery in the UK. As a web/app developer, Twitter aficionado (she has over 15,000 followers!), and online retreat director, Dame Catherine knows the digital environment. I had the opportunity to get to know Dame Catherine better, and learn about her life as a cloistered nun and online minister! Tell me how you became a nun. My Ph.D. research was on the history of medieval Cistercians in Spain and, as part of the background, I had to read all of Saint Bernard. I gradually found myself thinking about monastic life in relation to myself rather than my studies. I did the sensible thing and took myself off to do banking for a few years, but the niggle about vocation wouldn't go away, and I ended up asking to become a nun at Stanbrook Abbey, Worcester, which is where I spent the first 23 years of my monastic life. How did you get involved in digital ministry? And what does that ministry look like on day-to-day basis? When the community to which I now belong was founded in 2004, we decided that the internet provided the best means of exercising Benedictine hospitality. (We had no money and were living in a rented house which didn't provide much room for visitors.) As we built our first web site and added interactive elements that, back then, were not common (e.g. podcasts, chat sessions,[...]

Is it too bold to ask God, “Hey where should I be going?”

Wed, 29 Apr 2015 20:50:34 +0000

Is it too bold to ask God, “Hey where should I be going?” or “Am I going in the right direction?” I just LOVE this question from an online visitor! I say be as bold as possible with God!! How can we have a REAL relationship with someone if we can’t be honest and say what’s on our mind? God is no exception. God is the One who knows us inside out, the One who loves us most passionately and is MOST invested in our future. God wants you to have your heart’s desire. Listen to God’s words in Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know well the plans I have in mind for you. Plans for your welfare, not for woe. Plans to give you a future full of hope.” We cannot withhold ourselves from God, hiding behind some artificial formality, as if we can somehow create distance between God and ourselves! I sometimes encourage people to LEAN on God a little … not just for support, but almost to put some “pressure” on God. I say this with a smile! Lean on God like you might with a beloved parent: “C’mon, Dad, let me borrow your car.” Or “Mom, can’t we look at this again?” Jesus himself told his followers that if your neighbor doesn’t give something when first asked, he will finally “give in” if the asker is persistent. I think too many people speak to God from a safe distance, rather than engaging God like a friend or a loving parent or a beloved in heart-to-heart communication. While I hear worry or frustration in your question (which is totally okay with God!), I also sense that you are developing a familiar, intimate tone with Go[...]

NUNDAY with Sister Anne Horrigan, CSJ

Mon, 13 Apr 2015 16:25:36 +0000

Okay, okay, I admit it: I have a Google Alert set to let me know whenever a new article about a Catholic sister or nun is posted on the Interwebs -- I can't help myself! I love reading stories about the sisters and nuns that are making headlines. One of my recent alerts introduced me to Sister Anne Horrigan, CSJ, a Sister of St. Joseph in Albany, New York. The article titled "60 years as a Sister of Saint Joseph" by Thomas Picciano (for PressConnects, April 9, 2015) highlights Sister Anne's 60th jubilee which she is celebrating this year. Sister Anne became a Sister of St. Joseph back in the 1950's, and throughout her religious life has had a variety of ministries including teaching, parish work, librarian, and volunteering as an EMT. She currently volunteers with her local parish by serving the elderly and assisting with the food truck for people who are in need. In reading about Sister Anne's life, I was struck by the way she was supported by her community. Sister Anne had experienced the loss of her family in a very short period of time, but in describing this difficult time, she says, "I think it was prayer, the absolute support of community that held me together at that time." What I love about this is the gift of community: having a strong network of people who come together in support, encouragement, and prayer in every season of life. Sister Anne's words resonated with me, and I wanted to know more about what the Sisters of St. Joseph had to say about community ... so I decided to do a little Googling (o[...]

What makes a woman of faith decide to become a nun?

Tue, 07 Apr 2015 16:22:20 +0000

Deciding to become a nun. This question sweeps me back in time to my own youth, and I am reminded of that tender, tenuous time of beginning to discover God as friend … and the first stirrings of wonder and attraction toward Jesus. I think a woman decides to give her entire life, her very self to God in a vowed commitment for various reasons, depending on the individual. Each story of attraction and desire is as unique as the person, as all love stories are. But most often I hear that magic word “love” when I hear the story of a woman making a life commitment of any sort. I have heard women religious talk about a passion for service that fired their call to religious life. Others have spoken of great admiration for women religious whose lives they wanted to emulate, or of desire to belong to a community doing awesome work in the world. For me, as for many, there was that deep, undeniable desire to respond to God’s personal, real love with nothing less than the gift of one’s whole self. How does this love get sparked? I don’t believe it starts with us. One of my favorite phrases from our Catholic theological tradition is capax Dei which means “capacity for God.” Our wise ancestors tell us we are CREATED as a CAPACITY for God. There is a God-shaped hole in each human heart. So at some point we begin to experience a curiosity or interest in the Holy Other, the Divine. And as it unfolds in our human journey, we may begin to find the curiosity becoming attraction, and the attra[...]

Making Life and Death Pacts with Strangers

Wed, 01 Apr 2015 15:15:57 +0000

1:03 p.m. As I look in my helmet mirror at the traffic coming behind me, feel the WHOOSH of the car driving by so close, and scan the horizon for cars turning off or onto the road, I am acutely aware that my life is in the hands of total strangers. Commuting to work by bicycle is a great gift. It's doing my part for God's good creation by removing one gas-using, carbon-emitting car from the road for a little while, and it's also good for me because biking delights me and helps keep me healthy. As I negotiate bike lanes, road debris, traffic lights and signs, pedestrians and drivers, I'm grateful for years of biking experience and technical know-how. I do regular cleanings and repair on my bike, develop my biking skills, and never miss an opportunity to ride! All these help keep me safe on the road and make for an awesome riding experience! But one thing I can't control is everybody else on the road. Each and every day I commute, I am making a pact with total strangers about my life and theirs. Each and every day I have to trust not only myself and my bike, but I have to trust drivers whose split-second unawareness could result in a serious accident in which I wouldn't stand a chance. Ghost bikes are real and an ever present reminder to me of how precarious life on the road is for cyclists and for others on the road. As I ride off the main drag and into the neighborhoods, I permit myself to think more about the startling realization that I am entrusting my life[...]

Holy Week Playlist

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 16:38:03 +0000

As we continue with anticipation towards Easter, we welcome this refection from Regina Heater, and invite you to pray through Holy Week using the songs below. Did you know that the current commemoration of Holy Week, as set forth for modern Catholics has only been in place since 1955? That is a curious thing to me - perhaps my soul recognizes that what we do during Holy Week is not just a recollection of the final week of Jesus’ life, but a call across the centuries from all who followed Christ, all who sought to find meaning through the stories of his life, all those who gathered to share a meal “in remembrance”, all who gathered to hear the story of his betrayal, suffering and death, and pondered whether they, too, might have a bit of Judas or Peter in their heart. A call to all who have kindled the Easter fire, who have waited in the Great Silence, who have listened patiently to the stories of our Creation and history, who have walked to the river, the font, turning away from an old life and to a new one, declaring “I do, I do believe.” This is what we do in Holy Week. We connect deeply with our Creator and ponder our deepest questions - who is God? Why did Jesus do what he did? How did the people who claimed to love him turn on him, turn away from him? How could they not keep watch with him? How could they not SEE? How did they carry on in those dark hours? We walk with them as best we can, through Jesus’ triumph [...]

NUNDAY with Sister Donna Markham, OP

Fri, 13 Mar 2015 15:09:21 +0000

Monday is NUNDAY! Meet Sister Donna Markham, OP! In January of this year, Sister Donna was elected the next president of Catholic Charities, USA. She is the first woman to head the organization in its 105 year existence. Sister Donna is deeply committed to caring for the common good, which is one of the many reasons why she's a perfect match for Catholic Charities. Catholic Charities is on the forefront of the church's mission for social change, serving over 9 million people annually, and employing over 70,000 people. Upon her election Sister Donna stated: “There can be no greater call than to serve and advocate on behalf of persons who struggle to get by in a world where they are all-too-frequently relegated to the margins of society and where they long for dignity, hope and compassion.” (source: Catholic News Agency) Over the years, Sister Donna has shown a commitment to faithful leadership. She'll be leaving her position in June where she serves as president of the Behavioral Health Institute for Mercy Health in Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as president of The Southdown Institute, Ontario, Canada; president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious; and prioress of her religious community, the Adrian Dominican Sisters in Adrian, Michigan. With decades of experience and a desire to live the gospel call, Sister Donna is indeed an inspiration! In an 2008 interview with Sister Anne Lythgo[...]

If I become a nun, will I still be able to travel?

Tue, 10 Mar 2015 13:12:37 +0000

I received a question from someone who wants to become a nun someday, but she loves to travel and is afraid that if she enters religious life she will not travel anymore. I want to say, “Tell that to my family!” My sister has said things like, “Wow you’re going away again?” or "How can you stand to be gone so many weekends?” If you were to enter an apostolic community (recognizing that some religious communities such as cloistered congregations have different customs), you will probably travel. In addition to the travel demands of your particular ministry, you might have to travel for community events such as regional or national meetings and workshops. And the expectation of a week’s retreat annually offers some opportunities to “go off to a place apart,” as Jesus did, for spiritual and personal renewal. When I was a novice, I remember one summer, on retreat at our motherhouse, thinking sadly, “I’ll never get another vacation in my life!” I have laughed many times since, remembering that. Most apostolic communities encourage their members to have little (modest) vacations for good physical and mental health! This is not to say that we are not in a lifestyle that calls us to simplicity and a spirit of poverty, but the life of an active woman religious today keeps her serving where she is needed or sent, and being educated for the work she is doing. Sometim[...]

What's in Your Horarium?

Thu, 05 Mar 2015 17:57:15 +0000

The horarium has long been a great love of mine. The horarium refers to a daily schedule and is the Latin word meaning "the hours". "From the rising of the sun to its setting, praised be the Name of God!" (Psalm 113:3) I love honoring the hours and having a daily and weekly rhythm that I can count on and that helps me stay rooted in God. My life as an apostolic Catholic sister means I can't quite follow the traditional ways of observing a horarium, but the good news is that a horarium is still possible -- and indeed welcomed! It's not easy developing a horarium of one's own or living it on some days! But there's help on the journey! I for one turn to my own sisters' customs around the horarium and reflect on ways to adapt the horarium to how we live religious life today as apostolic women religious. I also look to people like Sister Laurel O'Neal, Er. Dio., a diocesan hermit, who often shares her life with the online community via her blog Notes from Stillsong Hermitage. Here are a couple reflections from Sister Laurel that I have found so helpful. I think if someone is trying to work out a schedule for themselves they have to strive to embody balance and order. As you will see, my own schedule (horarium) is oriented around liturgical prayer, lectio divina, study/writing, and quiet prayer (which actually accompanies all the other activities either befo[...]