And yet while most of the world seems to “live” on social media these days, tending to increase the noise in people’s lives and distract them from the transcendent, the nuns felt they needed to have a presence on platforms such Facebook and Twitter. But as cloistered nuns, they also need to “keep the world out” of their enclosure in order to maintain the contemplative life to which they are called. Would letting the world in through social media be safe?
“A microchip in an iPhone is tiny and is very hypersensitive,” Mother Marietta said. “It is made in a clean room where no foreign contaminants are able to enter — or the chips are hurt or ruined in their efficacy.” Likewise, the “contaminants” to an enclosed monastery are “those things which interrupt the focus of those who have given 100 percent to the call of Jesus to share in that phase of his redemptive mission described as ‘Christ praying,’ and in his total sacrificial love which led him to his death on the cross. We want to be keep the atmosphere ‘pure’ (like a clean room), so we can live our lives perpetually centered on Jesus.”
Enter Scott Maentz, a candidate for permanent deacon in the Diocese of Knoxville. Maentz, who worked in the personal-computer industry for more than 20 years, serves as communications director for the nuns, acting as a “one-way gate through whom we pass materials out,” Mother Marietta said. “We don’t interact with these vehicles, or read them ourselves after they are posted; he checks the sites for inappropriate or obscene comments and passes on to us any contacts that he thinks we might want to respond to.”
The nuns also have a little “inhouse” help to assist in getting their message out. Sister Regina, who was a meteorologist and an Air Force veteran who served in Korea and Saudi Arabia, has been “doodling” for years and “turning out cartoons just for fun,” Mother Marietta revealed. She doesn’t have any formal art training, but after she entered the convent, Mother Marietta discovered her talent.
“We realized that we could communicate some of the simple joy we find in daily life [and] let people know that enclosed life is not intimidating or particularly mysterious,” the prioress said. “And it is a good means to inform people about our way of life.”
The Internet has its benefits and drawbacks, to be sure. As it has broadened the possibility for communication for millions of people, it allows the Handmaids of the Precious Blood to reach people all over the world with greater speed and less expense. “We can also receive prayer requests from people not involved in our prayer associations, and we continue to hand write them in a book kept at the adoration prie-dieu,” Mother Marietta said.
“It is important for us to do everything we can to make our response personal and not packaged.”
All images used by permission of the Handmaids of the Precious Blood.