Women don’t become nuns out of devotion, but rather desperation. Women without meaning will suppress their very existence. And it is their very lack of existence that drives them to blind faith. A cathedral is a tomb, a prison, a form of solitude, willingly chosen. You bury yourself within the confines of a cloister – a living suicide. Yet self preservation wins out, and you take pride in one day donning the black robes, or even perhaps aspiring to Abbess. Relinquishing life is hard, but even in darkness you are not free from human nature that dominates your drives, ambitions (should you have any), and dictates your actions, behaving as you once did when fully living. You can never escape yourself.
When there is nothing left worth living for, you fall back on life long indoctrination; since childhood you were taught, when all else fails, God will have you. You’ve made terrible decisions that cannot be undone, and the easiest way out is to place yourself in His hands. If it is His will, then you shall follow, without burden of responsibility. Do as you are told, and all will be well. Immerse your very being, exercise devotion in it’s purest forms, and then you are free to find forgiveness of your sins. Then with each “amen” you uncover sins you were not even aware of, and must now do penance for in order to find the acceptance you were seeking when you first walked through the door.
This is not to say, in the most basic of ways, that nunneries are comprised of women at their lowest points in life, but rather that the decision to join , whether the woman even made it herself, was due to some life altering experience. To turn a dress or cloak into a habit entails quite the sartorial skills. Yet more than a seamstress changing a wardrobe, the woman turned nun is like a metallurgist attempting alchemy on the soul. Devotion doesn’t allow you to stop trying, so you forget that a base metal, is base.
Religious fervor and dedication are simultaneously difficult and uncomplicated, as in you are not required to climb mountains (in most cases) to prove devotion, but must hallow your insides instead. Liturgical takes on a whole new meaning. It no longer pertains solely to the public worship cycles; your private world is exposed and each day, through various acts you must reaffirm your decision to exist within the confines you created while your inner self is lain bare. You live in a glass house through which you cannot see outside.
Whatever event drove you to your decision, drives you still. As you abandon yourself to your new existence, your every act is a ritualistic performance of a previous life, and your movements are shadows of history, always repeating itself. Your previous lines, well delivered and believed are now lines read from the psalms, meticulously rehearsed morning, noon, and night, and you desperately want to believe. You can never escape yourself.
Desperation leads to devotion, which will lead to peace; if devotion translates to following well laid-out instructions, then there is little you can do wrong. So you believe and believe and believe, believing it will absolve you of your past. But you are who you are, and you have done what you have done, and no amount of forgiveness erases it all. What did you expect?
But you walked through the door desperate, and you became devout. The Mother Superior loves you, perhaps more than your own mother ever did. And you obsessively pray each day to fill up the restless hours (there is no time to reminisce as long as you keep busy). Matins, Hail Marys, prayer, penitence, repentance, repeat. You have to purge your soul in order to save it. You didn’t think you could, but you had to try. Maybe it is a last chance, or an only chance, or no choice at all, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. Should you visit a nunnery, none – or few if any – will claim desperation as a primary reason for joining because all of that has been washed away with the soul cleansing practices.
The alter, ornate or not, looks as it always has. The bread and wine taste (surprisingly) different than ordinary, but just like all the other bread and wine used for the Eucharist. The same words are spoken each time. The incense wafts through the air. All executed dozens of times, familiar and comforting. And through the monotony performed ad infinitum your past will be forgotten and concealed. But you can never escape yourself.