So You Want to be a Nun, do you?

From time to time I dip into a forum frequented by people discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. One of the things it has taught me is that many people reflect on religious vocation in ways more reminiscent of a career choice than vocation as I understand it. I don’t say this to criticize, merely to remark. There is much assessment of habits, devotions, penances, liturgy and a weighing up of ‘tradition’ (which does not always equate to Tradition). It seems so far from what really matters. While I think it is good to ask oneself whether one will fit in and grow in a particular community or Order, I am more hesitant about the ‘shopping list of requirements’ that some potential candidates produce. Indeed, I can look back on a huge volume of letters and emails the novice mistress and I have sent out explaining that the desire to be a nun does not necessarily imply a vocation; that more is required than just saying, ‘I’ll enter with you.’

Today we begin reading RB 58, Benedict’s extended treatment of admission of candidates to the community. More and more, I realise its wisdom. He starts off by saying that newcomers should not be granted too easy an entrance, that we should test the spirits to see whether they be from God. I wish everyone would read that before they think of applying! There can be such indignation and hurt when it is pointed out that the community has a say in the matter, that what we are seeking is God’s will rather than our own. Sometimes people think a small community will be a push-over, taking anyone on any terms. The reverse is true. No community will last if it has members who are uncommitted or unsuited to monastic life. While a certain degree of eccentricity can be tolerated in a large community, crankiness in a small one is not a good idea. I am pleased to say that we have a number of people who want to enter with us, if we can get big enough premises, but we don’t count the chickens before they are hatched. It is remarkable how many vocations disappear as the entrance date draws near and the reality begins to dawn. Those that survive are usually very good and strong.

Please pray for those discerning a religious vocation. Western society is not very supportive of those who want to make a counter-cultural choice. Families can be very hostile and the economic climate makes it difficult to fulfil some of the canonical requirements. If you are yourself thinking of becoming a nun, it is worth pondering what Benedict says the community must look for in a candidate: are you truly seeking God; are you eager for the Work of God, for obedience, and for the things that will humble you? Answer those questions and I think you’ll have less difficulty with the rest. A vocation is, after all, a response to an invitation from God, who can do all things.

Note: The vocation pages on our main web site provide some information about becoming a nun; the FAQ is regularly updated.


6 thoughts on “So You Want to be a Nun, do you?”

  1. It’s not just that society/family is hostile. Most people of more or less religion-entering age are from smallish families, and their parents also from smallish families. My one sibling lives more than a continent away, my parents’ marriage (nonsacramental) is a mess, my mother has to look after three people (variously ancient, difficult, malicious, incapable). And she’s a rural business to run, while being of retirement age herself. I am torn – if I marry, I can help her even more than I am able to at the moment. It’s not a fun decision.

  2. Absolutely spot on post. I wanted to be a priest when I was young, influenced by all the magazines with stories of good and holy men that my mother subscribed to. I still think I would have made a good priest but the vocation wasn’t really there in the end. God was calling but he wasn’t calling me.

    I’m surprised at how hostile families are today. Back when I was young, families who had children enter the religious life felt incredibly proud and privileged. How times have changed!

  3. Thank you for your comments. One thing that has always struck me is the high proportion of only children in religious communities, which can make even more difficult the reconciling of apparently irreconcilable duties mentioned in the first comment. As to the analogy with house purchase, I must remember that!

  4. I am 12 yrs old from philippines…. i always wanted to be a nun because i want to help other to be a religous like us and other know how to be a sonor daughter of god in the 10 commandments god dont need a name i watch it in atagalog version he say on the mountain ako si ako that word makes me religous . we need the truth the truth is god is our lord that can we respect I know im young to be a nun i wish someday i can be a nun we can also pray to talk to god and say our sin….
    by:franchesca d madriaga email me if u want religous talk
    I wish to be a nun someday
    I need a helper to be 😀

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