Monday, January 24, 2011


I read recently that, despite what the media (secular or Protestant) might lead you to believe, there is actually a boom in vocations. That is, more and more young people are becoming part of religious orders.
I have done some thinking about this, and I think I know why: our generation needs the stability. So many of us were raised without any real religion, but rather a cafeteria spirituality that told us to be good people according to our own definitions of "good." We were made to grow up quickly, but coddled so badly to where it rendered us almost unable to grow up at all. We were told that we were the most important things in the world, and that if we got bad grades, it's because the teacher wasn't teaching to our personal learning style-- nevermind that she had 24 other students to teach as well. We were products of divorce, of single moms and dads who worked so hard to make our lives comfortable. No wonder some of us grew up, got put on anti-depressants at the first sign of adversity, blamed society at large for all of our problems and then got religion. I think some of us are just comforted by the rules and rigidity that comes with it. Catholicism, at least.
In my family (my great-grandmother's side), I had 3 great-great aunts who were nuns, a great-great uncle who was a brother, and one that was a monsignor. That's a lot of vocations for one family (even though there were 17 kids). When I was a kid, I used to want to be a nun. A lot of this stemmed from movies-- Julie Andrews was a nun, after all. But as I got older, before I shunned all ideas of God and anything that resembled Him, it was something I really thought about. It wasn't a calling, per se, but as a kid it's hard to ignore. I'm married now, obviously, so this is not an option, but I often think of those aunts of mine and think how happy their lives must have been. Modern women, women of my generation (and I would count myself as one of them in some ways) say "women should want more than that for themselves." But my great aunts had college degrees in the mid 1920's-- something very few women had back then. And some orders of nuns now are called to serve their communities through social work and teaching. But what's more, they have time to pursue the things that make them happy: learning and reading and prayer and teaching and travel. Many of them are theologians who research and write. They're academics who don't need grants!
I think our modern sensibilities are scandalized by the idea of nuns. They are so unlike the "modern woman" and yet, I think they are, in some ways, the most feminist women out there. They don't wear makeup, or worry about their hair or clothes or their weight. They can't be materialistic, and they don't worry about men! They live according to their own wills, with educations (most require you to have a BA before you can profess) and assuredness in their life choice. They don't do what society tells them to do and they aren't the woman society tells them to be. And isn't that the true definition of feminist?


  1. While I'm sure there are some cool nuns out there (I love that they have to have at least an undergrad degree!), I disagree that they are more feminist than the rest of us. Their primary focus, by definition, is on god, not on female (and other kids of) equality. They are completely enfolded into the patriarchal religious system. That isn't necessarily a bad thing if they thrive within this system and it's what they truly want to be doing, and I don't think these smart, strong women need rescuing in any way whatsoever (which *does* make them feminists). But just because they are not entrapped by worries that "normal" women may have about the male gaze, their own attractiveness, etc. has nothing to do with feminism.

    P.S. I got the Sound of Music soundtrack for Christmas, and I've been singing along in my car nonstop for the last week. That movie is SO awesome. We should watch it together sometime.

  2. I agree mostly with what you are saying. I wasn't thinking of the idea of equality per se.

    I do want to point out, however, that Catholicism is more sympathetic to women than many Christian religions out there. This may seem surprising because of the fact that other religions allow women to be pastors, etc. But overall, from a dogmatic and theological point of view, the Church is very pro-woman. Historically, the Church did not teach that a woman should be subservient to her husband, it recognizes a viable single vocation (for both sexes, not just males) and out of the 10 Doctors of the Church 3 of them are women.
    Furthermore, the Catholic Church also recognizes and values homosexuals, and allows them to be full-fledged members of the Church (while the same cannot be said for many of the evangelical Christian religions.) While this might not seem like much, keep in mind that the Catholic Church has been around for over 1,000 years. Granted, by the standards of new gender equality, this is low, but many of the things that *seem* anti-woman (no woman priests), are what the Church calls "small t" traditions, based on practice, not dogma and could feasibly change.

    And yes, I LOVE Sound of Music! It's probably one of my all-time favorite movies.

  3. I definitely think that not allowing birth control (other than fairly untrustworthy methods like the rhythm method and the method where you take your basal body temperature, etc.) is anti-woman.

    But it's awesome that 3/10 doctors are women. Now if we can just get that up to 5/10. :-)


Go ahead and weigh in. As Chesterton once said "Thinking in isolation and with pride ends in being an idiot."