Friday, 7 November 2008

No desertion? Nun at all*

With apologies for the recent absence of blogging, here is this week's news story about nuns, or rather, just one very determined nun:

"I am alive and kicking, and so is the Community of the Epiphany"

Ninety-two year old Sister Elizabeth, the last survivor of her order, still takes part in services and has written a homily on the importance of obedience for a service to mark the 125th anniversary of the Community of the Epiphany. At its largest after the World Wars, the community numbered over seventy and worked particularly with children and the disadvantaged, even setting up a mission in Japan.

The Daily Express adds a romantic detail that the war widows who joined the order gave their engagement rings to be melted down into a chalice for Truro cathedral. Apparently, religious life was still seen as a "suitable place to go" for a woman who had lost her husband or fiance. This surprised and disappointed me a little, as I had thought, and this is possibly naive, that the growth in choices and opportunities for women by the end of the first, and certainly the end of the second, World War would have removed the need for a "suitable" place for single women. Surely these vocations were a positive call to the religious life, and not just a desire to leave the secular world? Does this explanation belittle these women's call or does it reflect a sensible and pragmatic decision at the time? What do we think?

But as Sister Elizabeth is the only remaining member, this question is perhaps now of only academic interest. Richard Norman's article, in November's edition of New Directions (for which a mantilla tip to massinformation), considers what we are losing in "failing to recognise and encourage" these vocations as distinct from those to ordained ministry, and asks us to:

"Pray that God would call men and women to the religious life and that we should be granted grace to look for and answer this call."

*I'm so sorry, I just couldn't resist it

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