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Monday, August 4, 2008

"Questions about being a Passionist Nun"

Below is a wonderful post from the Passionist Nuns of St. Joseph Monastery blog - "In the Shadow of His Wings" The post itself is made up of responses to the questions of a nine year old girl name Teresa with regards to the nuns' life.

Dear Sponsa Christi,

My name is Teresa and I am 9 years old. I go to St. Paul school and, as you can tell, it is a Catholic school. I have some questions that I want to ask you about being a nun.

Firstly, do you think that being a nun is fun? At times we have a lot of fun at during our recreation periods. I would rather say that doing God’s will brings one an inner joy and peace, even if a person is going through a difficult trial. There are ups and downs, good days and hard days in the monastery just as there are “in the world”.

How old do you have to be to be a nun? To enter our monastery one has to be at least 18 years old

Can you tell me what an aspirant is? An aspirant is a woman who is living in the monastery for up to 3 months to live the life and discern if this is what God is calling her to do.

Do you have parties for holidays like Christmas parties? We have wonderful celebrations for different feast days throughout the year…which includes more time for prayer and then also more times for recreating together. On Fourth of July and Thanksgiving Day we have a Gaudeamus day. On these days we can recreate all day! These days kind of have the spirit of a family reunion - festive meals, all helping out in the kitchen, doing various activities together and so on. But we are always happy to get back to our regular monastic routine.

Are you really married to Jesus? Do you wear a wedding ring for Jesus? Yes, we are really married to Jesus (although by civil law we are single). I refer to myself as being a ”spouse of Christ”. In fact, that is the Latin translation of “Sponsa Christi”. and yes, we do wear a wedding ring. This reminds me that I must nurture my intimate relationship with Christ…as Psalm 63 says “as the deer longs for running streams so my soul is yearning for you my God.”

How long can someone stay with you before they decide to become a nun? Does that person get a room and a bed? The aspirancy is up to 3 months. Then if one feels this is God’s will they enter the monastery and become a postulant which last from 1 year and can go as long as 18 months. Then one receives the holy habit and her new name and becomes a novice. This lasts 2 years. Then she professes her vows. These are renewed 6 years. Then she makes perpetual profession of the vows. So all in all it is a 9 year process. But to become a postulant the young woman is very serious about seeking to become a Passionist Nun. Yes, she always gets a private room and bed – she doesn’t have to sleep on the floor ;).

Do you have a room? What is it like? Yes, each Sister has her own room. We call it a cell. We don’t go in each other’s cells. These are our private rooms for prayer, study and rest the place where the nun dwells in a special way with Jesus, her Divine Bridegroom. I like to think of the similarity between the word cell and the Latin word caelum which means “little heaven”.

Do you get to study about the Church? Are there classes of any kind? Oh yes! You better believe we study about the Church. When a woman enters the monastery there are classes on an almost daily basis for the first 3 years. We study church history, catechism, spirituality, liturgy, prayer, decorum (good manners!), Scripture, religious life and the vows, etc.

Is there a priest or priests there? We have a chaplain who lives in a modular home just outside our front gate. He has daily Mass for us in our monastery chapel. He is a diocesan priest and has many other ministries.

Do you have television and watch movies or shows? We do watch certain movies on dvd or video and record programs off of EWTN. We are very selective.

Do you have board games and other games? YES! We have recreation 2 times a day. The time in the evening is when we usually do activities together, i.e. play cards, go for a walk, work on a puzzle, play piano, guitar and sing, etc.

What are the biggest rooms in the monastery and what are the smallest? Biggest - Chapel obviously. Then our recreation room and refectory (where we eat). Smallest - I guess those would be the phone rooms. Our phones are in small rooms the size of a closet so that a Sister can have privacy and also so that her voice does not echo down the hallway and disturb the prayerful silence of the other Sisters who might be working, rest, studying or reading in that area.

How often do you get to see your family? Ordinarily three times per year visit with family in here at the monastery in the parlor. We can also have a private visit with our parents

What is contact like with your friends? Our contact with friends is limited. We can write them at Christmas and a few at Easter. Beyond that one has to have permission to write to their friends. This is to help us really focus on our mission of being prayer warriors in the Church. I recently came across a great quote from St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein). She wrote this to her Jewish friend when she entered the monastery. “Whoever enters the monastery is not lost to her own, but is theirs fully for the first time; it is our vocation to stand before God for all.” We are a close community. We have lots of time in prayer, solitude and silence but we are also together as true friends in the Lord.

Do you remember the time you first became a nun? Yes, I was on “cloud nine” with joy when I realized Jesus was calling me to be a Passionist Nuns yet it was very difficult to leave my family and friends. I was homesick but Jesus gave me the grace to persevere and it has been 13 grace-filled years. One has to leave home at some point. Perhaps there is a special poignancy to it because I am the oldest child in my family and was the first to leave home - and enterd a cloistered monastery!

What do you do during the day? Here is a quick summary! pray, eat, spiritual reading, class, work, pray, eat, recreate, rest, study, work, pray, eat, recreate, pray, sleep!

How often does a nun go to confession? About once every 2 weeks.

Do you have a pet? We have one cat – “Danny Boy”

I’m asking these questions because Mom asked me if I would like to be a nun in the world or in a cloister and I am thinking I would like the cloister because I want to be closer like a family with other nuns. If you tell me the answers to these questions I can share them with the kids at St. Paul school. I know my teacher will let me. Thank you very much for reading my questions and for praying for me and my family.



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