Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Sister the Sister

My sister is a Sister, that is, a nun. And not just any kind of nun. She’s a full-blown habit-bedecked cloister-enclosed sort of nun.

It’s kind of odd that Sister Mary Giovanna of the Sacred Stigmata P.C.C. (formerly Karen Lynn Day) came out of my family. We weren’t Catholic, you see. My parents, former Methodists, stopped attending church after a few disheartening episodes of church bullying (more on that later). Thus, Sundays were for sleeping late, reading the comics, and watching Dad mow the lawn in his Bermuda shorts and allergy mask.

But something mysterious took root in my sister’s heart when she was a high school student. Her social studies class took a field trip to different churches in Albuquerque as part of a unit on religion. My sister said that when the group visited the Catholic church, she sensed God there.

She decided to visit a Catholic church for real, so she called her friend Cindy, who was a Catholic, and asked if she could go with her to Mass the next Sunday. “Why?” Cindy asked, baffled. “Because I want to,” my sister replied.” “But, why?” Cindy repeated, incredulous that anyone should want to go to Mass voluntarily.

But my sister did go voluntarily, and soon she was attending--religiously.

None of us in the family really understood the extent to which Karen loved Catholicism. I suspect my parents thought it was a faze that she would eventually outgrow. Oh, but it wasn’t a faze.

I remember the night she revealed to me her ultimate dreams, swearing me to secrecy. “Susan,” she said, her voice quivering with excitement. “I’m going to become a nun.” “Why?” I asked. “Because I want to do something that will allow me to pray and to sing and to play music all day long for God.” “Oh,” I said simply. I didn’t understand it completely, but I could sense her happiness. Besides, being a nun suited her.

My parents, however, were crushed. In their view, she was throwing her life away, her potential locked up with a bunch of old maids who thought they were married to Jesus. As far as they were concerned, she might as well have joined a cult.

But, they let her go even though it broke their hearts. She joined the Poor Clare Nuns, a Franciscan order. Happily, there was a monastery only four hours from Albuquerque, in Roswell, home of UFOs and about forty nuns.

Over time, my folks learned to accept Karen’s choice, and, as she blossomed in the fertile soil of contemplative living, they even grew to celebrate it.

Many people are quite curious when they find out my sister’s a nun. “What on earth does she do all day?” they wonder. “Doesn’t she want to get married?” others ask, mystified. “You mean she stays in that monastery all the time and doesn’t come out?” still others demand. And, there’s always the Evangelical who wants to know, “But, is she saved?”

In response: (1) she prays for the world all day and in the middle of the night, too. (2) She considers herself married to Jesus, and I’ve heard he’s quite the bridegroom. (3) Yes, except for doctor’s appointments and medical emergencies. (4) She loves Jesus with her soul and has devoted her life entirely to God. What do you think?

My sister’s Catholic; I’m Protestant. And, while we don’t always approach spirituality the same way, we’re both on the same journey.

Personally, I think it’s pretty cool having a sister who’s a Sister.

1 comment:

Palimpsest said...

Great post.
I have taken evangelical friends on retreat at Benedictine abbey, they found it quite enjoyable. As well their understanding of God through liturgy was interesting. Equally, I feel Catholic have much to learn about proclamation from evangelicals. You and your sisters relationship is likely a good model for ecumenical dialogue. Thanks for the post.