Monday, June 3, 2013

On Being a Nun

I have always wanted to be a nun. Not a priest. Not a monk. But a nun. A Catholic Nun. An old fashioned nun at that. With the flowing black habit, the cross around my neck, a wimple and most of my face covered in the highly starched white headpiece with its black veil. My hands are held together in what I interpret to be a holy, pure, loving way. But boys cannot be nuns!

I remember having had this desire since I was a young boy of eight or nine. I would go shopping with my mother at the grocery store in our neighborhood. I can see it to this day. The store must have been near a convent as most often there would be a nun or two pushing a shopping cart through the aisles. I watched them, thinking how special they were. How loving and kind and giving and helpful. How close to God. Maybe I was right, maybe I was wrong.

I wanted to say, “Good morning Sister,” but held back from embarrassment. I thought that by greeting her, I would be able to tap into that beauty, that purity, that love. But I held back. I watched from a distance and in my child’s mind fantasized about being a nun.  I didn’t really understand what being a nun was really about, the ideal as well as the mundane, but somehow I had a “feeling” of what it meant to be a nun and I wanted to live that feeling.

As I grew older, I was able to displace my desire to be a nun into the behavior of “being like a nun.” In my fantasy, a nun is trusting of God. Goes where she is told to go and does what she is told to do. Obedience. Doing good works. The order of her life was intriguing to me. The simplicity of her life was appealing. Being provided for was comforting. But most of all it was her being a good person, not having “bad thoughts” or doing “bad things,” whatever bad may mean. 

There is beauty in accepting life as it comes and being joyful for it. There is contentment in carrying love with you and passing it out where ever you go, whenever it is needed, and under what ever circumstances might present themselves. This was my understanding of “nun-ish-ness.”

I realize that part of my desire to be a nun was my unhealthy need to be “the best little boy.” Good at everything I did. Loved by everyone. Respected and admired. Able to make all bad into good, all sad into happy, all difficult into easy, all pain (emotional or physical) go away for everyone, especially for my family. 

I also realize that part of my desire to be a nun is my healthy ability to be nurturing towards others. As an adult, I can be all those things I wanted to be when I wanted to be that nun-boy, I don’t need the habit, just the habit.

Originally written in 2009

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