I recently read a popular piece over at Epic Pew by Shaun McAfee called 13 Things You Should NEVER Say to a Priest. After reading it, I thought there needs to be a post like this for religious sisters, or “nuns” as we are known in popular culture.
To preface this list, I have to say that most people I meet are very kind and excited to speak to a religious sister.
People from all kinds of backgrounds and views love nuns: atheists. Muslims. Bikers. Former Catholics. Punks.
It makes sense.
Kids know they can come home and tell their mother the most disappointing, shocking and scandalous thing and their mom will still love them.
I think this is why most people feel comfortable around nuns. They can sense that we are like that. We are mothers. We love first, questions come later.
That being said, lots of people do say some annoying things to us. So here are some of the things many of us have heard over and over again and wish we’d never hear again!
1. “You’re so lucky, all you do is pray all day!”
Actually no. Most of us have jobs, just like you. We just pray an extra several hours a day in addition to our jobs.
2. “Can you do ____________ for me? You have lots of time, right?”
See answer to #1.
3. “Wow, you’re so pretty.”
Why are people so bowled over that attractive young women want to marry the Creator of the Universe? Please people: The. Creator. Of. The. Universe. That’s not a proposal that any sane women should turn down.
Besides, haven’t you ever heard of these ladies?
4. “But you’re so young.”
By young, do you mean naïve and completely unaware that we are giving up sex for the rest of our lives? If so, see answer to #3. We are dedicating our lives to the creator of sex, and the ingredients of Reese’s Pieces, fall leaves, octopuses, and shooting stars.
Believe me. We aren’t missing out.
5. “Are you twelve?”
One thing you need to know about nuns is that most of us look way younger than our age. People have been searching for the fountain of youth since the beginning of time, and it’s been right under our noses.
We pray. A lot. Forget anti-aging creams and facelifts. Pray.
6. “You’re one of those awesome woman-priest nuns right?”
Women-priest nuns? What is that even? Being a nun isn’t just “good enough” for us; we’re actually happy to be who we are! Because we may be young nuns doesn’t mean we’re hip and rebellious. Okay, yes it does mean we’re hip and rebellious, just not that kind of rebellious.
7. “You were raised in a cave, homeschooled your entire life, and never saw the opposite sex before you made this decision, right?”
Okay, people don’t exactly say this, but I often encounter the “Oh, you must be a sheltered Catholic goody two-shoes” attitude. Not that there is anything wrong with being homeschooled (I was for three years) or coming from a wholesome Catholic family.
It’s just wrong to assume everyone in religious life comes from this background. And it’s patronizing to assume that young, talented women make this decision because they just don’t get it.
We get it.
Perhaps you are the one who doesn’t get it?
8. “You’re so cute!”
One of our sisters once walked into a dollar store to find her picture emblazoned on a row of mugs that were for sale.
I kid you not.
We nuns don’t appreciate hearing how cute we are, like we’re some kind of doll or odd animal at the zoo. And we definitely don’t appreciate it when people use our pictures for calendars, mugs, etc. (without asking permission!) as if we are simply objects to be used for the sale of kitschy merchandise.
9. “You’ve never heard of (insert random, esoteric Catholic thing or person)? Are you a Catholic nun?”
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this from people. And the person is always scandalized by a lack of knowledge, as if we should be walking encyclopedias of everything ever related to Catholicism.
Mary of the (insert unusual apparition or devotion here). Father so-and-so. Latin phrase for such-and-such. Religious order with other nuns (you all know each other, right?!).
10. “What a waste …”
I can understand this comment coming from atheists, but I don’t get it when a person who says they believe in God makes this comment. Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Christian. Whatever. If you believe in God, then what else in life matters except to live for him? And if the invitation is to live for him totally, how could anyone refuse?
Am I right?!
Any additions to my list?
I’d love to hear them.
Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, fsp, is the author of The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church. She recently pronounced her first vows with the Daughters of Saint Paul. She blogs at Pursued by Truth.