Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Hidden Lives of Nuns?

I'd seen this book on the shelf at St.Vinny's for weeks & finally decided to buy it for one cool dollar. I'm thankful that's all I paid for it! I have to admit, it kept me riveted till I got to the halfway point & then I just started feeling discouraged. No doubt, the author, Cheryl Reed, is a wonderful writer. However, I couldn't help but feel like she had a hidden agenda. Can a Protestant author's 5 year journey & 300+ interviews really paint an accurate picture of the "hidden lives of nuns"?  She uses headings like "community", "obedience", "chastity", "poverty" & "spirituality", but almost always seeks to blow the traditional meaning of such words common to religious life out of the water. All throughout the book, she strives to portray nuns as typical women who do extraordinary things. I couldn't help but notice that she focused most on those who were unhappy with (or didn't give a damn about) the Pope or the Magesterium of the Catholic Church.
She highlighted those who supported abortion, contraception or same-sex marriage & praised their humanitarian efforts. Some nuns incorporated principles from other religions, but I was surprised to discover that others weren't even really sure what they believed!  Reed wrote little about the sisters' devotional lives, but duly noted what kind of habit they did (or didn't wear) & why, how much time they sacrificed to their work, the kind of food they ate & booze they drank.

The book left me asking which is more important- obedience to authority or love? Did these women, many of whom all but thumbed their noses at authority & tradition, actually succeed in obeying the gospel simply by showing love to their neighbors? Did what they believe (or didn't), abstained from (or didn't), supported (or didn't) matter if they were somehow heeding the higher call? And if these things didn't really matter as the author seems to imply, then why take the vows? Why yoke oneself with a community when any average joe can show "love" & essentially fulfill the gospel without even having to call himself a Christian? I guess I want to know what sets these nuns (or any religious for that matter) apart from the world when they seem so much like the world? Why bother?

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