Nuns Are So Cool

Sister Maria Asterone Dodeka chats with a woman outside St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Brooklyn. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
Sister Maria Asterone Dodeka chats with a woman outside St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Brooklyn. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
Since the feast day of Blessed Mother Teresa earlier in the month (September 5), I have been reflecting on the vocation of women religious. (Interestingly enough, Sisters and nuns are different, but I will use nuns to refer to both.) I’ve always loved nuns and was very open to the vocation until I met Brandon. So in honor of Mother Teresa, here are 3 reasons nuns are amazing and how their example has changed my life:

1. Habits — The habits that nuns wear are awesome. Especially the really old school ones. If I ever had become one, I would have hoped for the big pointy head covering. There is something so bold about the public witness of a nun wearing her habit.

I believe that symbols are important and a habit is such a beautiful symbol. When we see a nun out and about, our mind is brought to God. It reminds me that I have no idea what work God is performing through the people around me and reminds me that we are all “walking around shining like the sun.” The beauty of their holiness, of their vocation, is not only inward but an outward reflection as well.

One time when Brandon and I were in Rome we had taken a wrong turn and ended up in a pretty dangerous part of town. I started feeling nervous, but then I spotted a group of nuns walking down the street. I was immediately calmed. They felt like safety to me. Like family. I knew that if anything happened to us and we needed help, they would come to our aid. There was no doubt in my mind that they would take care of us.

In Catholicism, physical symbols of our faith are important. While I may not wear a habit, I try to make sure there are reminders of our faith around our home. We have slowly been collecting beautiful icons of saints that are important to us to hang in our home, especially in our daughters’ rooms. We are also working on setting up a little Mary garden in our front yard. These things help us draw our minds back to God throughout the day.

2. True Freedom — What I love about the vocation to be a Religious is the freedom that comes with it. Not the kind of freedom that lets us do whatever we want. But true freedom that allows us to do the work of God at all times without inhibitions. To be a nun, these women must be so detached from everything that our society so prizes. They are not attached to material goods. They can travel to far off-places and help people in the most desperate of circumstances. As a nun, your whole being is dedicated to service and prayer at all times, and the community around you expects nothing less. When held to this high standard of holiness, one must rise up to meet it.

It was hard for me to reconcile a desire to work with the poorest of the poor and have a family. Having a family can be limiting in how much we can really give ourselves to the outside world. But I’ve realized that will not always be the case. At the moment I can figure out what I can do and what I can involve my kids in. We are working on teaching the girls about homelessness and we are going to have them make hope bags to pass out. As they get older, we will continue to find ways that are age appropriate for them to learn about serving others. What I have also come to realize is that my intense desire to serve the poor maybe isn’t my calling but rather my calling may be to nurture this desire in my children. Maybe my job is to lay the groundwork for my children’s vocation. Maybe my daughters will be the ones working in Honduras or Haiti someday.

3. Holiness — Nuns make me more holy. I am sure if I were to tell any nun that I am impressed by their holiness, they would laugh and tell me they are no more holy than I, or maybe even less so. They do not walk around feeling like they are paragons of virtue, but they probably are even if they don’t admit it. They make me accountable to God and make me want to love God as much as they do.

I don’t want to romanticize their lives too much. They face all the same frustrations and temptations that we do. Even Mother Teresa could not feel the presence of God in her life for many years. But their work to make God the center of their lives makes me want to put God more at the center of my life.

Even if I’m not a nun, at the core of the Religious vocation is dedication to God and service to others. If I make that the center of my life, then I will grow in the same holiness that is so readily seen in Mother Teresa.