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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What Do I Know?

Being a nun is a balancing act. On the one hand, a nun is non-secular. The whole point of religious vows is to step back from earthly pleasures to be more harmonious with God and His plan, God not being particularly earthly. Nuns gather together to live that life in a convent because it is a difficult way to live and one has a better chance of succeeding if there are other people with the exact same goal. A convent or a monastery is nothing if not a 'support group'.

On the other hand, depending on the order, many religious people have to go wading right into the secular world to work with the sick and educate children and feed the poor and pretty much just roll up their long black sleeves wherever they are needed. Like FEMA or the Red Cross for the body and soul, but with no money.

It doesn't sound like it would be too big of a problem, once a person is aligned closely with God in the convent, to get out there and work using those guidelines. Taking a person's temperature and getting them a tray of food has nothing to do with the state of their soul.

Of course, it often has everything to do with the state of their soul. A person's ability to heal and live a happy life and have a nice family and a decent place to live can have everything to do with the state of one's soul.

That's not a simple thing. If I find you on the street all filthy and mumbling to yourself, I can't just jump in front of you and say, "Love Jesus and all will be well." It simply isn't true. You might be crazy and not able to tell the difference between Jesus and the other voices in your head.

In order to actually be a religious, I have to also immerse myself in the secular in many ways if for no other reason than to have some inkling of understanding of what people are up against and how they are affected by it psychologically and all that sort of thing.

I do still have that one step back. More than one step back, really, which sometimes allows me to see the forest and the trees. Still, sometimes the things people ask me about! How would I know? I'm a nun.
if widowed young and unable to have more children....is a marriage for companionship, security and father for existing children looked upon with favor? question comes after reading this weeks' bulletin statement on Marriage and its sexual implications... i guess what i'm really asking is..can i get remarried to have sex even if it is not to create new life?

Actually, I do know the answer to this.

I have a feeling, though, that you didn't ask what you meant to ask.

The answer to the question you did ask is NO. Having sex is not a reason to marry anyone at anytime, not even if you are 21 and as fertile as a rabbit. Sorry to be so blunt. Maybe I need a little retreat or something.

The answer to the first part of your question, which is what I think you meant to ask about, is a resounding yes. Marriage is first and foremost a vocation in which the two people involved are each others helpmates to heaven.

It's like your own little convent! Your little support group, but with only two people! What a deal!

Children that need a father! What a calling! Excellent vocational choice!

Here's where the "I'm a nun, why are you asking me?" part kicks in. Sex is an important part of marriage because of the intimacy factor. As long as you are open to let God choose what's going to go on with children as a result of it, everything is hunky dorey.

I won't be expounding on that, except I would like to add that sex is an important part of marriage until it isn't, which might happen, too. A married couple still has all of those other things: a support group of two, a person who is trying to make sure you get to heaven, companionship, love, maybe some financial help, a shoulder to cry on and somebody who has been around long enough to know not to talk to you when you have that look on your face. Or to hug you because you have that look on your face.

Even a nun can figure that out.

Meanwhile, I have one other piece of advice for you. Find the shift key. Just because you text all the time is no excuse for being lazy. How much effort does it take to capitalize things that are supposed to be in capital letters? It's just a tiny movement of the pinkie, in heaven's name!


Anonymous said...

Sister Mary Martha,
I have a few questions about Divorce & Remarriage I was hoping you might be willing to set me straight on:

I have very dear friends who have either: divorced and have remarried, divorced and long to be remarried, or have married someone who has been divorced (all outside of the Catholic Church). Personally one of my draws to the Catholic Church was their teaching on Divorce & Remarriage. I’ve never been married, hope to be married one day and have always believed that divorce is not an option. I don’t like the messiness of this truth when it bumps up against the real life of these friends. I have a growing concern for them and their relationship with God… and I’m a big chicken who wants to avoid conflict.

What is our obligation to speak this truth to others? If we remain silent do we sin in a different way? (I once heard this referred to as scandal, since our silence seems to express approval.) I’m probably looking for an easy way out but, ultimately we don't know the validity of marriages that end in divorce. Don’t annulments prove there are invalid marriages? Can we assume all marriages are valid until proven otherwise? Or (outside of the Church that considers this before allowing two adults to marry) is validity only known to God? If communion isn't the same in Protestant Churches doesn't it stand to reason that marriage isn't either?

Feisty Irish Wench said...

Shift Key indeed!
My husband and I have done everything backwards really. And sideways and crossways. We haven't gotten everything right, but what human does? However, in the 16 years we've been together, we've managed not to COMPLETELY screw up our 15, 14, & 6 year old children. We've installed quirks, but they're publicly acceptable at least.

Helen said...

Dear Sister,
Thank you for answering this question. I found out years ago that I can't get pregnant, probably never could have, and have worried about the validity of my marriage in the eyes of the Church because of it. It has cost me many tears, and I think your answer ought to help me put that behind me.
In case you are wondering, my husband has not questioned our marriage's validity, and did not think the Church would either. He just could not give me a good reason as to why not.
Again, thank you.

Jane said...

People who are past childbearing age, or who are sterile (for instance, because of having had cancer or some other disease) get married all the time, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, if you still have young children who really need a father's care, you should be encouraged to marry again! Sex is primarily for procreation, but intimacy is also a legitimate end for the marital act, just so long as you are not actively avoiding conception by using contraceptives, or even if you are past normal childbearing years remaining open to the possibility of a miracle. A friend of mine recently--totally unexpectedly--became a mother at the age of 48!

Anonymous said...

I have a rather odd question.
Where do you get your pictures from? Do you just type in a word relating to questions on google and find something decent that comes up?

Anonymous said...

Finally, someone said it: "I'm a nun, what are you asking me for?"

I do love it so when people respect their own boundaries. Given those, I liked what you wrote about one's own little convent of two, about the importance of sex because of the intimacy factor, and about the shift key.

I've never heard of a priest saying, "How would I know, I'm a priest." They oughta teach them that answer first thing at seminary. One does not seek out a plumber for advice about baking bread, hello.

It makes us look foolish to most of civilization that the Catholic church is staffed with people who aren't even supposed to know about sex, and yet these are the people put in place to counsel church members on all topics including sex.

Who else is there to ask, then? If the church is going to stick with this celibate priesthood thing, I think they would do well to plump up their numbers of deacons, since deacons can be married. That would be a start.

I have lots of ideas, Sister, many of which you probably wouldn't like, so I'll stop at that for now.

Scarlett said...

I've never understood the idea that priests and nuns aren't qualified to give the faithful advice on sex. I mean, it's not like anyone's going to their parish priest for advice on the details ("Hey Father, what's your favorite position?" (ick just thinking about it!)) The religious, in this regard, are there to disseminate the Church's teaching, which, generally speaking, has lots of elements of having to suck it up and control yourself (i.e. premarital sex, NFP, etc.) and it seems there's no one better than the celibate to say "This is what you have to do, and it might not be easy, but I and others like me are living proof that it can be done."

Anonymous said...

who says they aren't even supposed to know about sex? Our pastor has a degree in marriage and family counseling. If he shouldn't know anything about sex then neither should any other unmarried college student in the country. One doesn't need to have first hand experience of a thing (take drug addiction or smoking for instance) to know how it affects people.

Unknown said...

Our own little support group...Great. Now we'll be fighting about who brings the stale day-old cookies:>)

Anonymous said...

Excellent post!

Claudia said...

Just because you do not do it doesn't mean you don't know how it is done, and that can apply to a lot of things in life.

maris said...


Here is an excerpt about this question:

Many, however, rush into matrimony without reflection; some marry for money, some to escape from their parents authority, many to satisfy the desire of the flesh. It is far from being sinful, it is in fact advisable for those to marry who feel that they will not be able to resist temptations if they remain single. For such, marriage is a means of rescue, and will, as St. John Chrysostom says, bring them safely to the haven of eternity, whereas they might, if single, yield to temptation and perish. God said to Adam: "It is not good for man to be alone," and St. Paul recommends such persons to marry, "for it is better to marry than to be burnt" (I. Cor. vii, 9). "But for fear of fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband" (ib.vii, 2).

No sin is committed if this is one of a man's reasons for marrying, but he should not marry solely to satisfy the desires of the flesh.

By Rev. P. HEHEL

Baron Korf said...

XXCatholic - you do know that no one is born a priest or religious. Just because they have requirements once they sign up does not mean they are ignorant of the world they grew up in. Case in point, St Augustine. Or, more recently, Fr. Corapi. A second hand quote attributed to him when talking to young people who hadn't heard his conversion story "I was snorting cocaine with rock stars in Vegas before you were conceived, so don't tell me I don't know about the 'world'"

Jade Dunlop said...

Priests and nuns know about sex just like everyone else. You don't have to do it to know about it! (and I should know, having never done it before!) Brain surgeons don't need to have undergone brain surgery personally in order to perform it on or teach it to another person. You don't need to be a motorboat to know how one works! You give excellent advice, Sister!!

P.S. When I was a little kid I wanted to be a motorboat when I grew up.

Kristina said...

Coming from the 2nd young widow who was curious to hear how you would answer this question... thank you for taking the time to answer; even if you do not like such questions :) It is appreciated!

Chunks of Reality said...

I just found your blog tonight and I wanted to let you know that I love it. You are a great writer and I will definitely be back for another visit.

Janelle said...

I took a week's sabbatical from blog reading... and my goodness! Thanks for the faithful posting! I agree with you about the Mary checks.

Deacon Pat said...

I enjoyed reading you blog.....


Deacon Pat

Anonymous said...

"Marriage is first and foremost a vocation in which the two people involved are each others helpmates to heaven."

This is not true sister.

Helpmates are PART of the equation. The other PART is to be open to having children and raising them in the faith.

You cannot artificially separate these two "ends of marriage". Be very careful. To emphasize the "helpmate" aspect alone, is a half-truth and dangerous, leading people who are not aware of living and breathing what the gospel is about, to not embrace the totality of the meaning and consequences of what God intends for marriage.