Tag Archives: demands


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Joining a nunnery is not easy, spiritually, or physically. Among the sacrifices one makes there are also demands the nunnery places on those who show interest. Aside from the obvious requirements of marital status and religious inclination, there are worldly and secular obligations. A woman with children must wait until her children are grown before she can become a nun, with the implication that she cannot divide her love and devotion. However, with the age restrictions, it seems most nuns would not have children. Few women have fully grown children before their 40’s birthdays. That must be the point – even after children are grown, a mother will always be a mother, and if the church wants those who will not divide devotion, then those with no filial commitments are best.

In fact there are no worldly concerns that a nun should have. No property, no debt, nothing that ties her to the world outside the monastery. She comes in with nothing, and gives everything within her to the church. It must be easier to never sin if there is nothing to tempt. Is it not a greater testament to faith if a person is allowed worldly temptation and refuses, rather than existing in a chasm of nothingness while celebrating their piety?

It takes up to five years (including the one to two year novice period), and sometimes longer for a woman to fully take her vows, consigning herself to God for all life. It is a slow introduction to the monastic life, and if the vows are a nun’s marriage to God, then this period would be more like the courting stages, fertile with possibility of what might come, and simultaneously barren. Unlike secular marriage statistics, few ever divorce God, even after they discover that everything they learned during the courting stages ┬ámay have been entirely too neat and favorable. This is not to say the nunnery mislead them in any way, but rather that they believed what they wanted to believe, and not until living the life they chose did they understand what it meant.

Many women are very satisfied with their decisions, unmistakably happy with having entered their respective communities. How can complete sequestration fulfill anyone? They say they felt a call from God. Perhaps finding solace in God is better than any alternative on Earth. He may or may not exist, depending on what one believes, but even as an imaginary being his promises seem superior to whatever else is readily available.

A life where there is but one single purpose, without any daily stressors, but simply knowing that through belief all will be well. God promises eternal paradise in return for devotion. It may or may not come, and just like in the real world, promises are broken, but does it matter? How much can anyone care for what will be after death? Some more than others, but for many, the nunnery offers peace of mind here and now. It is the escape, from the mundane. Life is absurd, and it may just as well be that way within the confines of safety.

Perhaps one can never escape themselves, but there are ways to escape everything else.

Desperate Devotion

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What makes a thirteen year old girl leave her husband on their wedding day and join a nunnery? If you read my post a few weeks ago, I stated that women join nunneries not out of devotion, but rather desperation. But what desperation, or immediate urge, could a thirteen year old girl feel? Yes, I was a thirteen year old girl at one point, but I don’t remember it well, and I certainly don’t remember any sort of desperation in the real sense of it. I am not referring to teenage drama that is abundant at that age, but rather the sense of desperation that leads a woman to self sequestration. What happened?

And what nunnery would have had and kept her? I cannot claim to know, because I was never there, nor do I have the full story. But surely someone must have argued that she should be given the benefit of the doubt until she understands what she is getting into.

Yet she stayed. And she spent her entire life at that nunnery, devoted as could be. I cannot argue against her prerogative, nor can I condemn her for her decision. How could I? What right would I have to stipulate her actions were wrong? Perhaps she was fulfilled by her beliefs, and maybe she was content with her life.

I could argue that she didn’t know any better, but do I? Nine hundred years have passed between her and I, and the lifestyle I take for granted was more than a luxury for her. Queens at that time did not enjoy the life I live today. No, I do not delight in having my every whim fulfilled, and hundreds of attendants at my beck and call. I do not live in a palace. Yet all of these things are things… titles and trinkets. I am not bound to any governing body (in the personal sense, outside of an actual political government), and I move about as I please, without the restriction of rules, duty, or any sense of obligation. My only obligation is to my children, and even that is within my control. She had none of that. Her every move, until her marriage, was controlled by another. I will not argue that they did not have her best interest in mind because that, too, is not for me to decide. But even with that interest held high, the choice of who she would marry was made between the scylla and charybdis. And when faced with their decision, she chose a nunnery.

Not much of a choice, but perhaps her best. It is hard to conceptualize because in modern times she is no more than a child, hardly a few years older than my daughter, while then, in the twelfth century, she was a woman, ready to be married and to breed.

She was not high born, but high enough to where her family would gain from her nuptials. I can’t help but wonder what her dowry was. According to her diary, and the one surviving manuscript of her time at the abby, she died a virgin, and a most pious woman. She begat an entire following of female devotees, and founded one of the largest convents in England. It is still there… not what it once was.

As I ask, “is that the answer?” I forget to take into account the time differences. While that would never be my answer, it may have been the only she had. Perhaps a woman does join a nunnery out of desperation, and not devotion, but considering the options, her desperation may just turn to devotion, and her devotion may just save her from nothingness. Maybe they are both the same thing. And maybe it is not so bad.