Do women become nuns because they can’t “get a guy”?

Blog Published: March 27, 2008
By Sister Julie

Too often people assume that nuns are women who couldn’t “get a guy” or who broke up with someone they thought was “the one” and was left with no alternative. Nuns are also stereotyped as sexually repressed, dowdy women who lack passion and care only about piety, cleanliness and order.

On the contrary …

Women do not become nuns because they had a bad relationship or because they don’t like sexual activity/energy or because they “can’t get a guy”. Nuns are women who would have made wonderful lovers, wives, and mothers. Still we choose to respond to God’s call to a different way of life, a way of life that is just as full and natural as single or married life.

I think I’ve pretty much covered this one already, but it deserves being said again: As a rule, nuns are not sexually repressed. (for more, read “How do nuns deal with sexual urges?“)

Nuns are not required by their Rule of Life (aka Constitutions), the Church, or anyone else to be dowdy. Frugal and modest? Absolutely. But this doesn’t mean we have to be bland or cover up our personality. I’ve seen nuns in some of the most plain, inexpensive habits and outfits but they shine and sparkle nonetheless. Nuns are not dowdy, generic women but women who are confident in themselves, in their God, and in their chosen way of life.

Nuns are some of the most passionate people I’ve ever known. Whether they are in prayer, wrangling executives on a school board, opening clinics in rural Brazil, protesting the death penalty, or catechizing children and adults, nuns are filled with passion for God, for others, and for life.

Piety, cleanliness, and order are good things, but they aren’t the only or even the main things that characterize us as nuns. How about these? Compassion, prayerfulness, humor, strength, gentleness, confidence, insight, forgiveness, openness, faithfulness … the list goes on. Many of these things are virtues that we all strive for, sometimes not quite reaching, but striving nonetheless.

So next time you see or hear one of these stereotypes, speak up and set the record straight.

Archived Comments

Jen March 27, 2008 at 10:51 am

At least with the nuns I’ve met, they’re like any other group of women: you find all kinds. *gasp* I even know a few sisters, who were married before they became nuns.

Ann March 27, 2008 at 12:25 pm

It has taken years for me to see beyond the stereotypes – not hepled by close encounters with ‘ controllers’, but thanks to Divine Providence and serendipity I have met many nuns whose passion for their God and work would put many to shame.

Gayle OSF March 27, 2008 at 2:42 pm

Sigh, and usually we can spell passionate!

deerose March 27, 2008 at 7:47 pm

I don’t believe that females that become nuns or any other women cannot get a “guy”. I find that assumption to be so sexist. It’s like saying all the guys out there are highly desireable but many women are of little or no value in a heterosexual relationship. My feeling is that there is someone for just about everyone. The problem is some folks are not just discriminating, that is good, but ultra critical about superficial qualities like status, wealth, weight, etc. As we know, many folks are commitment phobic too. And then, of course, some woman simply do not want a “guy” for whatever reason. That’s fine too. Hooking up as a couple is not mandatory.

Cathy Keller March 28, 2008 at 6:07 am

To all you say, I say, “Amen!” The sisters I have had the privilege of knowing have all been as you say. They are “real people.” Thank you for your frankness forthrightness. Have a grand day!!

Antonette March 28, 2008 at 6:28 am

I’m not a sister yet, but i’m hoping ang praying to be one. speaking for myself, i am embracing the religious life not because I can’t “get a guy”. I am actually working on catching the “guy” who is cut above the rest. his name is Jesus, and mind you…getting this guy is really the reason why i want to be a nun 

kokopelli March 28, 2008 at 1:24 pm

I think that the whole issue of “getting a guy” is overrated. Living with people (whether they are your real family, your chosen family – and I believe husbands as well as “fellow nuns” fall under that heading – is incredibly difficult but incredibly rewarding, if you do it the right way. In one relationship you have sex (whenever the kids are asleep and the couple is not too exhausted by their stressful daily lives, a rare occurrence ), in the other one you haven’t. But both are more likely to succeed if the members of the family work hard to love and to serve, to trust and to deserve trust, and to bring God into the equation. I guess you nuns might sometimes miss the coziness of being cuddled by a guy – just as I might miss living in a close community of women. But at the end of the day I believe we have similar priorities and similar struggles in our relationships with our chosen family.

noviceship March 30, 2008 at 1:32 pm

Alleluia to this, nuns are women who have been loved, are loved and are loving. Having been deeply in love with a human man i am now passionately in love with Christ – the ultimate man. Years ago i split up with someone to discern my vocation and when i entered my boyfriend actually told me that he knew he couldn’t compete with Christ so he became a loving friend and supported me instead. We are open to recieve and give Christ to others because we do know love – not because there is nothing else for us. Adele.

Samantha March 30, 2008 at 5:48 pm

Hi Sister! I read your blog often and find it lovely. When I was a little girl I wanted to become a nun, and I sure wish this blog had been around then – I had to resort to reading Kathryn Hulme’s The Nun’s Story, and it scared the heck out of me!

Have you seen the Australian miniseries Brides of Christ? It follows the lives of three nuns (and two Catholic schoolgirls) during the period of Vatican II – it’s lovely and very thoughtful, as opposed to most fiction movies/shows featuring nun characters! Anyway, you’ve probably already seen it, but I thought I’d mention it and say hi.

Sean March 31, 2008 at 12:43 pm

This is a great post Sister Julie thanks! I think this conception of nuns or sisters is out there, but I think it exists more with people who have not had the blessing to get to know any of them. The sisters and nuns that I have met in general are very attractive women because when you are holy and passionate it is hard not to have that quality that makes people want to be next to you. Many of the sisters I know shine! I am sure they would make great mothers and wives, but thank God for the gift they have given of their whole self for God and for the body of Christ, the Church.

Melissa March 31, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Thanks for visiting my blog. And I loved this post. My mom and I were actually just discussing why women choose to be nuns. (Maybe it’s God who chooses you.) Either way it is a vocation, as you said, for women who are confident in themselves, in their God, and in their chosen way of life. I admire that.

Sister Julie April 1, 2008 at 4:59 am

Samantha … Thanks for writing. I’ve not seen that miniseries … I just hopped on Netflix and found it there. I’m eager to see it. Thanks!

Sister Julie April 1, 2008 at 5:03 am

Hi Melissa, I think you are right about “it’s God who chooses you.” It is true about marriage and parenthood too. My sister is married with two beautiful children (and a dog and cat) and I see so much of God’s grace in her and how she and her husband truly have a home that is loving and open to others (like Aunt Julie when she comes for a visit!). I’m glad I found your blog and look forward to connecting with you again. Sister Julie

Sister Julie April 1, 2008 at 5:04 am

Thanks for writing, Sean!

Jen April 1, 2008 at 11:38 am

I’ll second “Brides of Christ.” Great series.

averil April 1, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Hi, I’m so glad i found your blog, very interesting i must say. And Jen, you have answered a question for me, about how you know some nuns that have been married. thank you. And i love this blog. take care, peace be with you.

averil April 22, 2008 at 2:16 pm

I just Love some of the things that have been written in this page,Like (God chooses you) i really do feel that i have been chosen , i’m not sure if it’s a little to late,but the feelings i have ,have been with me most of my life ,Really speaking although i am not in the habit ,I feel as if i have lived like it for the last 21 years of my life,I just dedicate my life to God ,I have thrown a marrage away because of this 21 years ago.But i do have Four Children.youngest is 21.One thing has bothered me all these years, Must you be a catholic to be a nun ,Forgive my ignorance,but i would like to know. Many thanks ,Take care & God be with you.

Sister Julie April 22, 2008 at 6:51 pm

Hi Averil .. Yes, you must be Catholic in order to be a Catholic nun. However there are nuns in other Christian traditions as well as ecumenical nuns. Other religious traditions such as Buddhism have nuns as well.

Melissa May 18, 2008 at 4:06 pm

We are all called; that is something that Vatican II discussed. Some are called to be husbands, wives, teachers, doctors, lawyers, police, brothers, sister, priests, deacons, and the list continues. If we follow our hearts and are dedicated to being a good and faithful servant, we are doing what God would want us to do.

JoyceElaine May 29, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Thank you for posting this! I admit that when I was younger, whenever I heard about Nuns I immediately thought of angry, mean, and dowdy women. My image of Nuns has changed drastically.

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