When you hear or read the word "nun", what visual immediately springs to your mind? Do you see a person, outfit, location, activity? Do you see something more abstract like a scene of simplicity, complexity, gentleness, or motion?

I've been pondering these questions after reading Thomas Farragher's article in The Boston Globe, "Right on, sisters" (April 14, 2013). Not only is there food for thought in Farragher's story of visits with his aunt, a Catholic sister belonging to the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary not just reading but meditating on the accompanying illustration by Gracia Lam, an illustrator who describes herself as liking to "reinvent everyday objects and mundane environments."

Have a look ...

Nun surfing book illustration by Gracia Lam in the Boston Globe

Illustration by Gracia Lam

The word "reinvent" is repeating in my head like a mantra as I regard this illustration, especially knowing that Lam as an artist is particularly tuned into recasting the ordinary. When working on this project and someone said "nun" to her, is this what popped up in her imagination? I'm fascinated by this because I think our imagination -- how we render images, ideas, and concepts within ourselves -- influences not only how we apprehend reality (e.g., how we interpret an article about nuns or how we behave when encountering sisters in person) but also how we envision possibility! In Farragher's story as in Lam's illustration, there is an openness to possibility that Catholic sisters and nuns, that religious life, can be more than or different than the original image we may have had for it.

In Lam's illustration -- and remember, I'm no Sister Wendy Beckett so these are just my humble observations -- I see so much going on!

  • a nun
  • a habit unlike any we've ever seen
  • a surfboard
  • a book that may be a bible or prayer book
  • pages that act as waves
  • motion
  • vividness
  • light and delight!

I don't have words yet for what this all means in terms of "nunness" and its reinvention so I'm going to let it marinate a little while longer. I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings on this. What the illustration evoke in you? When I started the blog post with the question about what visual image pops up for you when you hear or read "nun", what popped up?

Please comment on the blog -- and I'll see you tonight for prayer!