What is a day in the life of a sister like?

Blog Published: February 12, 2007
By Sister Julie

I received a question from blog reader Elizabeth:

I was wondering if you would be interested in describing what your day is like. If you consider this an intrusion, please feel free to ignore it.

It’s no intrusion at all, Elizabeth. I’m pleased to respond. I must first preface my response by saying that not all my days are like this nor do all sisters/nuns’ lives necessarily follow this particular pattern.

Most days like today, I wake up to the quiet hum of my clock radio at 5:00 a.m. I head directly to the coffee machine. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Straight to the coffee machine. Once the coffee is ready I visit with the convent cat whose name is Chloe. Chloe is an 8.5 year old girl. She is very sweet and contemplative. I think of her as a live stuffed animal because when I was a kid (okay a few years ago) I always hoped and prayed that my stuffed animals would come alive. Now I have Chloe!

Then I pray Morning Prayer according to the Liturgy of the Hours. This is one of my most favorite prayers. This prayer also unites me with my sisters because though we do not live under the same roof, it’s like we can come together in prayer wherever we are. I pray for all of my IHM sisters, the other 2 communities of IHMs, and the Oblate Sisters of Providence (all of whom were part of our early days as a congregation). I pray for my family especially my parents and siblings and their families. I pray for all those people who have asked me to keep them in my prayers. I conclude by praying for all those who do not have someone to pray for them.

After prayer I head to the computer with my trusty mug of coffee. I check my email, write on my blog, and do other computer tasks. Then I rev up for the day ahead of me. I pack a lunch, get my work bag and clothes together, and leave the house as soon as I can so that I can make it to the gym for a swim before work.

Then it’s off to Loyola Press. I must say that I truly love going to work. I have fabulous colleagues, a great work environment, and a job that is truly prayer and ministry. I work in the catechetical department of Loyola Press. Among other things, we are responsible for the theological content of our religious education program and materials and for ensuring good catechesis. We work closely with editors, designers, production, customer service, marketing, etc. When I first came to the Press, we were working on Finding God — a new religious education program based on Ignatian Spirituality and written by the folks at Loyola Press. It is a beautiful series that begins with prayer and the understanding that children are already in relationship with God. Not only is the writing and artwork stunning, but catechists keep telling us how much it helps them help the children experience God and learn our Catholic faith. I’m proud to be part of this good work.

After work I head for home. Unpack, get my mail, visit with Chloe, check in on my IHMs, and do ordinary domestic things. In the evening I read — theological texts, spirituality books, novels, whatever peaks my interest at the moment. I occasionally turn on the TV (as I will this evening to watch “Heroes”, one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time) or listen to National Public Radio (NPR). I conclude my day with the Examen. Click here for more info on the Examen. I learned it from my Jesuit friends when I studied in Toronto. It is a prayerful way to review your day and get a sense of God’s presence in your life. I will occasionally pray Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. Then it’s off to bed!

I have learned from my sisters what it really means to “pray without ceasing” as Saint Paul calls all of us to do in his first letter to the Thessalonians 5:17. We are to make the whole day a prayer — coffee rituals, caring for God’s creatures, working out at the gym, doing our job and chores around the house, sitting around daydreaming — all of these things can be opportunities to open ourselves to God, to experience his love and to radiate this love to others. This is what I strive to do every day of my life.

Archived Comments

Elizabeth February 12, 2007 at 8:38 pm

Thank you! I study the Medieval time period and I often am saddened that we do not know more about ‘regular’ daily life. I really like the idea of the Examen… Thank you again!

susan rose February 12, 2007 at 9:10 pm

Did you know you’ve been nominated for multiple Catholic Blog Awards?

Donna February 12, 2007 at 9:22 pm

Sounds like you have a pleasant, busy and balanced life. I too strive for that but sometimes find it exceedingly challenging. 

I understand your relationship with Chloe. There is nothing like a pet. They provide such an unconditional, mainly nondemanding type of love. We have a Shetland sheepdog. He is SUCH a sweet, gentle boy. I love to spend time with him everyday. They say animals can help bring down one’s blood pressure. I truly believe that.

I live in a single family house with my husband, daughter and dog. Do you live in an apartment alone, a convent with a few other sisters or your motherhouse?

Sister Julie February 12, 2007 at 9:13 pm

Cool! Thanks for letting me know … I checked it out and see that a few of our sister bloggers are nominated. The list of nominations is a great place to check out a cornucopia of different kinds of Catholic blogs. Sister J

Jen February 14, 2007 at 11:07 am

Living apart from a community has to be tricky…I’ve been without any oblate community for the past so many years while I’ve worked on my doctorate, and I know it isn’t easy. (There’s nobody to goad you into praying the Divine Office, for one, when it’s cold and rainy out and the warm bed is so inviting.) Then again maybe community is right where we are.

And I’m with you about the coffee. The Hoopy Frood a.k.a. Steve has learned in the mornings to not make eye contact, back away slowly, and leave the coffee where I can reach it.

Jenn February 14, 2007 at 11:25 pm

I noticed that you pray the Divine Office… and you do the Examen. I’m just curious if you do any contemplation type prayer? I’m just curious as I’m looking for the right orders. Do apostolic orders pray contemplative prayers? I like to sit with a certain Scripture passage for an hour as my prayer. I wasn’t sure what type of order that fits into. So if you lived in community would you only pray communally the Divine Office, or would you pray personally as well? Thanks.

Megan February 15, 2007 at 1:07 pm

I am wondering why you don’t live in a community, but sorry if this question has already been answered in the past. Do convents/communities tend to have pets (ie, a cat), seems like a lot of discerners these days are cat/animal people and wonder if they’ll be able to have “animal contact” once in community. (When I was phoning other discerners for a recent weekend gettogether with the Archdiocese the question came up a few times). And a somewhat random question: why isn’t there a women’s community that is based off the Jesuits? If you don’t have a response to that, it’s okay. I know it comes off as a little feminist.

markbnj February 15, 2007 at 3:52 pm

Hi. I heard about you last night on the Valentines day edition of the new PRI program Fair Game. It’s interesting that I started to read your blog on the post “a typical day”. As a semi-orthodox Jew (somewhere between practicing conservative and lax(er) orthodox, I also do prayers in the morning, and also find them spiritually uplifting.

Sister Julie February 16, 2007 at 7:57 am

Jenn, prayer is such a wonderfully dynamic thing. There are so many ways to have a conversation with God, to be still in his presence. One of the central ways that we Catholics pray together is through the celebration of the Eucharist. This celebration itself holds within it a great variety of ways to pray which involve spirit, mind, and body. It is at the center of our lives as Catholics. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours is something I love because I am in communion not only with God but with my sisters and with all who pray that way. There is a universal, deeply Catholic aspect to it that I love. I also pray in other ways like the Examen of Consciousness. There are times when I am drawn to contemplative prayer, to being with God without words or images mediating. Those times are pure gift because they are not something I can conjure up. I can dispose myself to them through a regular habit of prayer and opening myself up to God. I also pray through nature. I have always loved the outdoors, animals, the sky, the land — all of it. I find it speaks constantly of the glory of God and the goodness of all of creation. When I’m in wilderness (even the bits of wilderness in a big city), I’m at home with my God and myself. I pray throughout the day as well. I’ve got my formal times of prayer, but that doesn’t preclude praying through the day. Praying doesn’t always mean I’m addressing God, sometimes it’s like just being together as you would with a good friends. You just enjoy each other’s company. By cultivating a general openness to God, one finds that one slips in and out of prayer throughout the day. This reminds me of Saint Paul who wrote “pray without ceasing”.

Since prayer is so dynamic, it is not limited to one type of religious community or another, nor is it even limited to religious communities. Apostolic religious communities pray in a variety of ways. We do the Liturgy of the Hours when we can (communally or individually) but in addition to that we pray in many ways. Our lifestyle doesn’t really lend itself to getting up for all the hours for the divine office. But we do make prayer a part of our daily lives as well. We prayer individually, in community, with others, and with the parish community.

Sister Julie February 16, 2007 at 8:04 am

And one more response for Megan … There are technically no female Jesuits, although the Jesuits have been very instrumental in the foundation of many religious congregations of women. These congregations may have had a Jesuit founder or have had a Jesuit as a spiritual director / confessor. When a religious community first starts, it often “borrows” from the spiritual tradition of its founders and earliest supportors/benefactors.

Sister Julie February 16, 2007 at 7:31 am

Thanks for all the comments … a recurring question here has to do with my living situation. I live in an apartment by myself (well, my cat lives here too). I think of it as my little convent because I have sisters pass in and out on occasion — always space for hospitality. The IHM sisters used to have a big convent in this area but it closed about the same time I moved to Chicago. By that time, the dozen or so IHMs in the area had moved to places near their ministry. Chicago is a big town and if you’ve ever driven here, you know that going 1 mile can take 20 minutes sometimes. So we are spread out around the city. When I came, I was pretty much the only one on the north side of Chicago and the other houses didn’t have room for an additional person. So I set up camp in a apartment near where I work. My cat came along not too long later as she belonged to a family who just couldn’t keep her. She was 7 at the time and coming off of an eye injury from another cat.

As sisters we are committed to both mission and community. Sometimes we have to make really hard choices to balance the two. I miss my community terribly. I would love to be living with my nuns. But I also have responsibilities to be a woman of mission and ministry. Living closer to my place of work means I don’t spend hours on the train or in traffic. But it also means I don’t see members of my community often. These are difficult choices.

Sister Julie February 16, 2007 at 7:39 am

And a bit more about the pet thing — Not all communities allow pets. When living with other nuns, a decision has to be made by everyone involved. Having an animal is a big responsibility. As nuns we need to be free to respond to needs when they come up, to go to meetings with our nuns and to the Motherhouse, to do retreats, etc. Well, it’s not so easy to be as free when you’ve got a little critter at home who needs to be fed and cared for. So, a lot of thought has to go into taking an animal into the convent. Formation time is especially of concern because you’ve got a woman coming in with animals whom she’s already developed a relationship with (you know what I mean). Bringing that into a community situation is not always so good. Formation needs to be a time to concentrate on you and God and it often involves traveling, retreats, etc. So, not the best thing for an animal or the community to go through.

I am blessed to have friends here in Chicago who love animals and will take care of my cat at a moment’s notice. If not for them, it would be a challenge.

I do love having a cat. Often we hear the rhetoric of finding God in nature and all of creation. Living with an animal gives new meaning to all this for me.

Sister Julie February 16, 2007 at 8:07 am

Thanks, markbnj! Glad you came across this blog. I absolutely agree that morning prayer is such a good way to start the day.

A Nun in Ireland November 16, 2007 at 7:58 am

Being a Solitary Nun has its challenges indeed… And is great blessings…

Julia January 11, 2008 at 3:18 pm

I just stumbled across this entry in your Blog and I just would like to say how amazing it is just to learn about your day. How much it is even like mine. I would have to say Thessalonians 5:17 really is inspirational to me. I try my hardest to pray without ceasing. It is nice to be reminded that it is something God wants. To be part of our everyday lives. Your words are truly a blessing.

Sister Julie January 11, 2008 at 4:09 pm

Glad you visited, Julia. Blessings to you.

Stephanie February 9, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Thank your for sharing your daily life with us! I am studying the Middle Ages and just completed a thesis on medieval nuns. It is really neat to see how things have and have not changed! God bless!

Clare Leigh November 28, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Best day ever!

Cassandra July 16, 2010 at 2:02 am

Hello! I would like to start by saying that your blog was extremely helpful! You have given so much information to many different people by putting your story on the internet for everyone to read.

I am a 15 year old girl living with my parents and 4 siblings. I live in a very rich community where people are open about pre-marital sex, teenagers having sex, drugs, and many other bad things. Tonight, I felt this amazing feeling that I never have before and I know that when I am older, I will devote my life to serving God. I am not confirmed, but I am baptized. I was beginning to go down a bad path, so I talked to God and he answered. I finally know what I am going to do with my life.

I was very inspired by reading your blog and I thought I would let you know that and also share my personal story. Have an amazing day and if you wouldn’t mind, pray for me and all other young girls who want to be a sister or nun. I hope we all make it. Thank you again!

Sister Julie July 16, 2010 at 6:27 am

Dear Cassie, Thank you for writing. We will be sure to keep you in our prayers. Be sure to visit us around the time of our podcasts at 6 p.m. CT at http://anunslife.org/live.

Recent Comments