Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What Ya Wanted to Know ... Part I

Picking up a few of the {easier} questions from my Open Forum ....

Imagine the world is ending in fire and chaos. Whether its an alien invasion or nuclear war or a super-virus or armegedon or whatever. Some people are dying, some are just running scared, some are taking advantage, some are trying to help the wounded, some are trying to fight back. Assuming your personal obligations do not force you into one position or another, where do you see yourself?
Hmmmmm .... Anonymous (who are you, anyway?) really threw me off on this one. I had actually just been talking to my kids about martyrs, and how they were willing to die for their faith; one of them asked me: "Would you be?" Tough call. I mean, it's one thing to respond to a situation; it's another to put yourself in a place of crisis. And, even still, I really couldn't answer her. Same thing here. I honestly don't know. I'd like to think that I'd be all about helping the other people, but .... I can be a real weenie sometimes. Quite possibly I'd be hiding under a table in a corner somewhere – that's often a common place for folks to find me. Or is that too much of a cop-out answer?

What would you do if you were banned from chocolate for the rest of your life and were only allowed to eat celery and pork?
Well, MertonFan, you've got two different thoughts there. If I were only allowed to eat celery and pork, well then I suppose I'd eat celery and pork. If I were merely banned from chocolate ... well, I suppose I'd have to deal with the non-chocolate ice cream varities. But I'm sure I'd manage.

Anything? Ok...Since I'm going to hell and all anyway I might as well ask, and I don't want to assume anything becuase I really don't know but...Do Benedictine nuns get to have sex and if not, don't cha wanna?
Ahhh, Elizabeth cuts right to the chase. The question everybody wants to ask, but they're too nervous about the whole "nun-pedestal" to actually say the words. In a nutshell, no. As monastics, we are called to live a celibate lifestyle. And, once I figure out what that means, I'll tell you! No, seriously, though .... if you consider that the Catholic teaching is that sex belongs within the context of the marriage commitment, then it's no big leap to the fact that I, as an unmarried individual, should not be having sex.

But there's also the community aspect. Celibacy is about more than just "having sex" – especially when viewed in the context of community living. Am I living in a manner conducive to my being a vital part of the community? Am I bringing life to the community as a whole, or am I too invested in one relationship (or thing, for that matter) that I'm turned more inward than outward? Part of the idea, at least as I see it, is that I'm not committed to any one person, which enables me to be available to all people I encounter. Which sounds nice in theory, but the living-out of my "availiability to all" in a manner that includes even those folks who annoy me ... shall I mention that I'm still a new kid at all this?

In terms of "do I wanna" .... one nun-friend (of a different community) from several years ago used the line: "Just because I'm on a diet doesn't mean I've lost my appetite." For me .... it hasn't been necessarily TOO huge, in terms of the "having sex" piece ... but there are times where the idea of a more deeply personal one-on-one relationship could seem kinda appealing. But, unlike what our society so often proclaims, there's more to intimacy than just sex. [See my recent quote from Kathleen Norris] In fact, what we sometimes refer to as "physical intimacy" often isn't really true intimacy at all. So I'm learning how to build the deep connections and the intimate friendships that can sustain me throughout this life.

So, in a nutshell ... no, no sex for Steph. But it's OK.

And of course I'm probably way not-thinking when I decide to try to answer this question when I'm half-asleep ... I'm not sure if this is translating well to those not-too-familiar with the nunly life. So, by all means ... feel free to jump in and add your own thoughts on this matter — particularly those other nunly-types out there! Maybe sometime when my brain is functioning better, I'll do this topic justice with a post of its own, complete with real thoughts and everything!


Blogger AveMaria1 said...

I couldn't be banned from chocolate and I'd die if I had to only eat celery and pork, but thanks for answering my silly thoughtless comment.
Happy Valentines Day!

2/14/2006 11:15 PM  
Anonymous A said...

I think you've handled the "sex question" very well. I especially like the fact that you emphasize that celibacy isn't just about "not having sex." I think that fact, and thus the purpose of celibacy in the first place, is often missed by those not called to a celibate vocation. Thanks for helping understanding about it.

I liked your answer to the first question too. Honest and funny. :)

I know you said you are fielding the "easier" questions first, so I'm still patiently waiting for the answer to the "Benedictine question." :)

Peace to you sis

2/15/2006 11:30 AM  
Blogger AveMaria1 said...

I think celibacy leaves your open to love everyone on a deeper level. You are also more open to God's will and are not consumed by another. You are better anchored in Christ and more apt to bring Him to others. He is the vine, we are the branches.

...just random thoughts....


2/15/2006 12:21 PM  
Blogger Lorem ipsum said...

Have you read any of the 'Growing Up Catholic' books? Of course they're for an earlier generation (mostly), but I remember a section on 'Things We Always Wanted to Ask Nuns.' They included, 'Are you married to a priest?' 'Do you have hair?' 'Do you wear black underwear?' (Remember, this was when sisters always, always, always were seen in habit, veil, wimple and all.)

My big question was 'How did you know?' but you pretty much explained that to me. The sex question never entered my mind - it's part of being a sister.

BUT! I just thought of more questions. (Answer 'em whenever.)

I know that priests get reassigned to different parishes. Do sisters ever get transferred to different communities (albeit in the same order)? Or are you more or less set for life in the same monastery you're in now? Can you request a transfer to, say, Hawaii, or is it only if there's a pressing need for missionary work?

Also, are all religious in a diocese covered under the same group health plan? Do you have a certain doctor and dentist that all the sisters go to? Do you have a nurse on the premises in case you have a sore throat? If so, is the nurse a religious too?

And speaking of benefits, do you get two weeks' vacation every year (aside from your teaching job)? If so, do you ever just go to get away from it all, somewhere just for fun?

2/15/2006 7:31 PM  

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