Saturday, July 19, 2008

Inquires about becoming a nun

My roommate just showed me a Christmas newsletter sent to her by the novice directrix (note my awesome use of the old feminine -trix suffix) of a monastery of 16 cloistered Dominican nuns. It was so funny I asked if I could blog it.

For context: most religious orders accept only postulants who are young, cheerful, committed Catholics, and in good physical and mental health. There are very practical reasons for this; just think about the close-knit communal life. So anyway, here's an excerpt from the letter.

We are still celebrating the 800th Anniversary of the Founding of the Nuns. Our first celebration with our Dominican brothers took place on our patronal Feast of Corpus Christi. The former vocation director came and I took the liberty to ask him what to do with all these binders I have of communications with so many women who have inquired about becoming a cloistered nun. He told me to purge all the inquires and to save a few sentences on each so I wanted to share some of the "best" with you:

Inquirer: "I am convinced that I have a true contemplative monastic calling, but I am also a psychiatrically challenged individual. I am wondering if your Order accepts people with such disabilities?"

Inquirer: "Is it ever possible for a woman divorced and with children and grandchildren to become a nun?"

Inquirer: "My first marriage was a mistake, made probably in desperation for a forty-three year old.... a few years later I met my deceased husband who was on his way to Alaska.... After we were married we moved to Alaska and lived here for the thirteen years of our marriage until he died of a brain tumor.... While I am in good general health, I do have knee problems and have to take care of my back... Your web site on the Internet is very interesting and informative but in reading about the formation process of the Dominicans, I realize how old I would be by the time I finished..."

Inquirer: "The truth is that I cannot find my path.... I feel a desire not to speak unless praying or chanting... Do you think this sounds too strange, or that maybe I am called to be a nun?"

Inquirer: "Hello! I am not sure you would remember me but I e-mailed you last year about possibly living the cloistered life.... I find myself in a situation today writing to you yet again for the same reason, only by my own foolishness have complicated my life by getting married just a few months ago... Anything you can say would be most appreciated... I am now 28 and the most miserable ever. Thank you and God bless you. I am sorry for all my troubles."

Inquirer: "I may have contacted you before. My memory is rather poor. I am interested in becoming a Dominican nun, but may be too old. I will attain 50 years of age in December."

Inquirer: "I would like to: #1. Become Catholic and #2. Become a nun. I have had basically no religious training of any sort.... so, a blank book. I am 55 years of age."

Inquirer: This inquirer was 28 and since she lived in Seattle, I called her at 7 p.m. and when she answered, she replied: "I am ill at the moment so could you call me back during regular business hours."

The novice directrix told my roommate that if they accepted everyone who wanted to come, their monastery would be full. :)

I feel bad for the poor impulsive girl who got married. The second-to-last inquirer really piques my curiosity. If she knows nothing about Catholicism, how does she know she wants to be a nun?


Mary Rose said...

Do you know about Rosalind Moss, from Catholic Answers? She has received permission to start a new order. Since she was formerly Jewish, the order will have a special emphasis on praying for Israel and the Jews.

I heard her on the radio. She said they will be considering anyone between the age of 18 to 90!

Those inquiries were funny but yet pulled on my heartstrings. Poor things...I wonder how many of them were thinking living in a monastery would save them from living an unhappy life?

Rachel Gray said...

I heard about Rosalind Moss! She was going to start her order in St. Louis; I wonder if Archbishop Burke's transfer will affect her plans. I await developments with interest.

I think you're on to something; entering a monastery could perhaps seem like trading in a complicated or frustrating life for an entirely new and "perfect" life. I doubt it really works that way.

ulrich said...

Yes, one does receive very strange 'autobiographical' details of those writing to monastic communities. Many people have a completed distorted view about monastic and spiritual life (such as the life of hermits, like myself, or domestic monastics in their own homes). We have an interdenominational list of 410 members at our Yahoo list for monastic subjects, spirituality, theosis, hesychasm, contemplation, mysticism, news and information at

A Dominican Nun said...

Are you set on Corpus Christi Monastery??
Check us out at

Sr. Mary Thomas
Vocation Directress