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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Friday, October 12, 2007


HBO had a special on about some young women of today deciding whether or not to join the cloister. I saw the listing in the newspaper. I would like to see the program to see if any of them joined, but we don't have HBO.

Nor would I have HBO if it was free. Not only would it be indulgent, I don't have that much time to spend watching television. The news is pretty much it for us. I read the papers, but I prefer the television news because it's the pulse of the news. It's what most people rely on for information, for better or for worse, so watching Wolf Blitzer shout out today's headlines gives me a feel for what people are interested in, which stories they are following, even if the audience is being spoon fed what happened to Miss Britney Spears today. It gives me an idea of what people are thinking about.

Which, oddly, brings me to today's question:

Sister, could you explain the difference between Benedictine, Augustinian & Franciscan monks/nuns? Thanks.

No. I don't have time. It would take me all day. Different orders follow different sets of rules and have different missions and goals. You seem to have the internet. Look it up.

Because now you can go online and be a virtual nun. Many orders have websites that you can visit and the orders set the websites up so you can see what it's like...sort of...to be one of them. I'm not sure you can be a virtual monk. I've never visited those sites to find out. Monasteries are for boys. I'd feel like I was trying to get into to the boy's locker room. OUT OF PLACE.

The interesting question to me is, "Why are there different orders of religious?" And for that answer you have to look at the history of monks. It isn't as though a group of men got together one day and said to each other, "Let's all wear robes and be brothers!" (Although I guess that did happen at one point in time in the deep South.)

What happened was certain saintly individuals found it was impossible to be saintly around other people. Way too much temptation. So an individual would go away and live in a cave, but because he was saintly, other people would follow him and before you can say, "Wow! Let's make home made beer!" you have a make shift monastery. This was going on all over that place.

The thing about leading an austere life is that one austerity leads to another. You give up meat, next you give up that meal. Then that seems indulgent...or you're looking forward too much to the next meal, so you give that up and the next thing you know you're eating a teeny crust of dry bread and feeling guilty that you enjoy it so much.

I don't enjoy Wolf Blizter, so he'll never lead me to HBO. Where was I?

Anyhow, things were getting out of hand on the austerity front until St. Benedict came along. He made up rules for people to follow so that they could live an austere and holy life away from the temptations of the world and not end up wearing barbed wire and eating rocks.

Most orders were founded around a person who makes up the rules. And a lot of those people, the founders of orders, are people who took exception to the way people in an existing order were bending the rules. The Cisterians, the Discalced Carmelites, the Capuchins...all orders who wanted more order.

Or, like St. Dominic, they found the order too restrictive to do the mission they had in mind. For example, St. Dominic was fighting a big heresy that was going around at the time, especially in big cities and he wanted his brothers to still live an austere life as an example, but to be very mobile and active in preaching against the heresy.

Some orders are mendicant, like the Augustinians and the Franciscans. Some are discalced, like the Franciscans and the Carmelites. Althought the discalceds have always confused me, since they almost all wear shoes these days, as far as I can tell. They should call themselves Disdiscalced, perhaps.

It's how they live, how they pray, what they do, that separates them.

And their outfits. Black, brown, gray, scapular, no scapular, hood, no hood, belt, rope, knots, shoes, sandals. Like the Bloods and the Crips, except of course they are not gangstas.

So if you want to know more about any particular order, don't wait for Wolf to shout about them. That won't happen unless they commit a crime. Head for your monitor and keyboard, visit the order's website and give the religious life a whirl. Take your shoes off, wear something brown and visit the Franciscans, get out your black hoodie and pop over to the Benedictines.

It beats sitting in front of Taxicab Confessions.


ann nonymous said...


Please tell me that you've never sat through the whole of Taxicab Confessions!

Sister Mary Martha said...

I've never even seen it. I have only heard about it. One more thing to pray about.

Tom in Vegas said...

I find both the Jesuits and the Trappists fascinating. I admire the Jesuit's higher education involvement, and the Trappist's introspective exploration is something of personal interest to me.


Anonymous said...

I do not think the Jesuits higher education involvement is a plus. Years ago it was but not today.

Anonymous said...

Sister, i have a question. How old was the Blessed Virgin when Jesus was conceived within Her?

According to the Discourse of Saint Alphonsus Liguori on the Dolors (Sorrows) of Mary, the Virgin was just 15 years of age. Although most Jewish women 2000 years ago were married by then, it seems incredible today than Mary was little more than a young teen when She displayed such exemplary faith in God and borne such sorrow at such a tender age, especially when she fled to Egypt and endured such poverty.

WNV said...

Not to answer a question meant for sister, but hopefully she'll indulge me!

Our Lady's age is unknown, but it is thought she was about 14 or so. Two things it's important to remember about her exemplary faith. First, a 14 year old in AD 33 is vastly different from a 14 year old in 2007. Life expectancy was shorter, life was harder, and children came to maturity much earlier.

Second, it is sin that darkens the intellect, makes faith difficult, and leads to our general difficulties in following God. Mary was without sin, therefore her faith would have been pure and without error or confusion (this doesn't mean she knew everything, but that she trusted completely), her intellect would never have been darkened (no wonder she is called "Seat of Wisdom") and her difficulties in following God wouldn't have been struggles of belief, but perhaps only of discernment (what is God asking of me now?).

Mary is totally unique among all of creation, the perfect disciple, the one who followed Christ without failing or abandoning Him, and the perfect Mother to us all.

Hope it's okay that I got a little long winded, Sister! I love your blog!

God love you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Father :)

Still, it is incredible that She went through so much at such an age, even if She was God's perfect creation and even if most children back then were possibly more mature than some adults we see today.

The people whom i asked this question went along the lines of: "How could a kid at that age have borne such a trial?!"

Makes me look at my sufferings at a whole different light!

Anonymous said...

brilliant stuff, sister!!
eating rocks and wearing barbed wire, haha!

you sure made my day

Anonymous said...

I need to know if there really is a secular order that eats rocks and wears barbed wire. Perhaps their numbers are low enough that they will admit an utter fruit loop who thinks it wrong-ish to have a heavily-meated food buffet at the start of a SFO fraternity meeting every month.

(another anonymous)

Tienne said...

Sister, you are brilliantly funny! Have you ever mentioned your order?

Arkanabar Ilarsadin said...

Tienne, Sr. Mary Martha does not mention her order, her address, or suchlike, and I for one do not blame her.