Helen Mirren's advice to live like a nun

Blog Published: June 3, 2015
By Sister Julie

4:44 a.m. The fabulous actor Helen Mirren made the headlines with her remark about having to live "like a f - - king nun" in order to make it on Broadway. Naturally my curiosity was piqued.

Helen Mirren was interviewed by Michael Riedel of The New York Post this week about her nomination for a Tony Award for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in “The Audience.” When asked what she would be doing after "The Audience," Mirren replied:

"I should like to take a break and spend some time here with my husband. I’d like to go to a bar or a restaurant. I can’t do that now. I am onstage for two hours every night. I can’t go out. And right now I’m on the Tony march. I said to [fellow nominees] Kelli [O’Hara] and Kristin [Chenoweth], "We all have to live like nuns." Ethel Merman once told Elaine Stritch that if you want to be a Broadway star, "You have to live like a f - - king nun!" You do. You have to live like “a f - - king nun.” That is exactly what you have to do."

Well so there it is. Initially I'm like Really, Helen? Did you have to go there? The obvious correlation is that living like a nun means no spending time with a spouse, no going to a bar or restaurant, and no going out. Well. I can certainly confirm the spouse part, given that we are not spousally inclined as sisters. Vow of celibacy and all. The rest? Well each religious community has its own customs around how sisters live day to day. Some communities for example prohibit alcohol, while others allow for moderate use. Some communities are open in regard to restaurants and "going out" while others have customs such as living in a cloister which makes patronizing a restaurant uncommon. 

But then I got to thinking. Maybe Helen Mirren means something else here. Her comments suggest maybe she does! In Ethel Merman's advice to Elaine Stritch, and in turn, Mirren's advice to her fellow nominees, Mirren is adamant about what it takes to be focused on her work, dare I say, her vocation.

She recognizes that if she wants to succeed, in this case epitomized by "the Tony march," she has to have laser-focus on her goal. She has to give it her all and be willing to do things a bit differently, a bit out of mainstream.

So when Helen Mirren says you have to live like a f - - king nun, I rather take that as a compliment. Truly, Catholic sisters and nuns do know what it means to be focused on vocation and mission. We know what it means to give our whole selves to that in which we believe.

Thank you, Helen Mirren. Given your total awesomeness as an actor (we just watched Red 2 at the convent again), I am delighted to affirm that indeed, you are living like a f - - tastic nun. :)

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