Title: And Then There Were Nuns
Author: Jane Christmas
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Checked out from the library
And Then There Were Nuns is a memoir sharing one woman’s journey to discerning her vocation. This is a particularly pressing matter as she’s facing the immediate choices of marriage vs. nunnery. She has a very understanding significant other and the blessing of time to explore the nunneries. Jane is a 2x divorcee who has felt the call to religious life and ignored it for a good portion of her life. She finally decides to fully explore the option just as her long-time boyfriend pops the question. She finds herself in the absurd circumstance of promising herself to both a spouse and potentially God. To resolve this nagging call and desire to serve, she decides to post-pone planning nuptials to visit a convent. The first convent visit doesn’t resolve the feelings but does force her to explore further. As readers, we end up on a year long journey through convents and abbeys of both Anglican and Catholic origins. We learn that she’s really peeling back layers to expose herself completely. Some of this exposes quite painful life experiences. We soon find that her journey may or may not be to discern her vocation but is absolutely to find healing. While she explored her inner thoughts and struggles, I laughed, cried and learned a lot to deepen my own spiritual practice.
One aspect of this book I just loved was her humor. Religion and self exploration can teeter on stuffy, self-righteous, dry. Not Jane! Jane lets it all hang out. I promise, this isn’t like one of those previews where only the funny parts are shown so your disappointed by the movie… the whole book is funny. But I need to share this story as it’s my favorite and the one I most identify with. Jane self describes as a driven over achiever. In one convent, she become convinced that she could master this nun stuff in 5 years tops. Yes, she confirms with herself, 5 years here and she’d be fit for Mother Superior. Her humility seems to lose it’s grip on her spirit and she becomes quite full of herself. But just as always seems to happen in those instances… she finds herself slipped right back into place. At the next observance of the Hours, she finds that she can’t keep her papers straight. She’s lost her place and her papers. One sticks in the shoe of the nun next to her. She is completely humiliated as she must collect her papers and herself. Sure, she can run this place – as soon as she can figure out how to get through a simple routine Hours without a ruckus.
I loved that I learned a lot about my own personal spiritual journey. I learned some new prayer techniques. I received some great recommendations for future reading. I didn’t love how she was treated in Catholic institutions. Some treatment of her as a child and as an adult is callus with religious superiority. Having been the recipient of this lately, my heart hurts for her as a child and even as a raw adult on an earnest spiritual journey. I understand the need to be true to ones own faith. I can not understand how this can’t happen with kindness as the package.
I will share my favorite pick up from the book: The Anglican Collect for Purity
Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secretes are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy holy spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name: through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Chocolate Digestive Biscuits