Recap of Lifetime’s The Sisterhood episode 5: Too Pretty To Be Nuns (original air date Dec. 16, 2014) Once upon a time, when Katy was 25 … wearing jeans and a T-shirt, I would go have a drink with close friends, we would talk about grad school, weddings, gossip a little, hash out some problems and then go dancing. Once upon a time, 10(ish) years later, Katy was 35 (almost): wearing jeans and a T-shirt, I go and have a drink with close friends, we talk about husbands, kids, I’m still talking about school, hashing out some problems and then laughing about how we should go dancing but we’re too tired. Eliminate the “age”-related differences and does any of that seem unusual or inappropriate? What if I told you that in one scenario I was a nun wearing my “habit cross” (my order does not wear a habit any more, however, we do have a cross that is unique to our order that symbolizes our “brand”), and in the other scenario I was not … anything unusual or inappropriate? I’m hoping you’re all saying “no” (yes — I went dancing as a nun, sometimes … even with other nuns!).
Cut to the opening bar scene of The Sisterhood episode 5 —you see essentially the same thing: Young women talking about things in their lives, hashing out issues in their peer group, things that come up in the discernment process. I feel like this was meant to be the shocking, rebellious, naughty, “How can they be nuns?” scene. Sorry to rain on the parade … it’s normal. As far as the “wardrobe malfunction”… I actually have more of an issue that they are wearing uniforms — the symbolism, purpose and mixed-messages they send than I am that they hiked up their skirts. That’s the only energy the first 6 “shocking” (not shocking) minutes get from me.
A brief nun-run-down of where the women are at with 2 weeks left:
I couldn’t have planned anything better than a lesson about celibacy be followed by an episode of conflict — it’s still all about love … all the way to Kentucky at our last stop with the women: Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker.
Of course we are greeted, welcome, hugs, names … and give us your cell phones. I am so sick of the cell phones. Who cares at this point? Let me make it simple: if you can’t monitor when/why to unplug yourself, regardless of what life you’re in, there will be issues. Done.
Which brings up being an adult. Gone are the days where 15-year-olds are dropped off at the convent steps. Sisters … These women are adults — not ‘girls.’ They are not ‘kids’ (Mother Christina). They do not need to be lectured, herded or treated punitively. That said, ladies … You are adult women, not high school seniors trying to sneak out on your Kairos retreat. You are not at camp. You are not deciding on a club — you’re discerning a life choice, not stealing cookies out of the jar. Lest I mention the word “cell phone” again, you want to keep your phone? Try this approach, “Mother, I respect the rule about the cell phones. I tried to reach my mom/Darnell on the ride here and was not able to make contact. I will give you my phone as soon as that can happen.” If that is too direct, “Sister, I need to make a call, may I give you my phone after this happens?” Lying and hiding them — are you 6? Nobody’s got time for this anymore… -2.0
Team Christie/Stacey (pictured left) decide to confront the issue and have a chat with Team Eseni/Francesca. This takes courage and integrity to invite, in a healthy, respectful way, a difficult conversation and confront an issue head-on. Stacey, paraphrasing your insight: “true friendship is not only accepting compliments and also accepting challenges from people…” it is deep wisdom. We have choices in conflicted situations: we can choose to let it go or we can choose to confront it — both are appropriate depending upon the situation. When it comes to a relational struggle, confronting a problem, respectfully, with the motivation to heal and grow is going to grow that relationship. Choose wisely and commit to your decision, letting something go and having resentment is a great relationship destroyer. Healthy confrontation: +.5 Christie’s courage: +.5 Stacey’s wisdom: +.5
Team E/F: Deflection, nonsensical rebuttal, threats, defensiveness … just as confronting someone in a healthy respectful way will grow a relationship, responding to a conflict in this manner will pause the relationship. Receiving conflict well is hard and takes practice and experience … and you pretty much never reach proficiency. The take away message is what you do with the situation (conflict and your reaction) afterward. Did something hit home? Do you need to apologize or revisit an issue with the person? I used the word “pause” intentionally, what you do after you walk away is what will determine how the relationship proceeds. Relational mudslinging -1.0
Standing at the corner of motivation and integrity is where we draw the fine line of handling conflict. Team C/S … remember the adult thing? You took a wonderfully adult moment and then … you … tattled. ARGH! Really? That’s just as bad as hiding the damn cell phones in the first place! Team E/F not taking any ownership during the group conversation on your part? Disappointing. Tattling: -1.0 No ownership: -.5
Relationships are not a team sport. Team sports are about working together to defeat another team. I can’t emphasize anything more when thinking about religious life. My convent is not better than your convent. Srs. Mary This and That should not be ganging up on Srs. Mary When and How. If the conflict cannot be resolved, calling in a mediator is a wonderful solution — depending upon how firmly you’re standing at the aforementioned corner. Mother Christina hit the nail on the head when she said, “What you are experiencing is community life!” YES! Veritas! I loved her guidance even more when she said she would be there to mediate and not facilitate. Wise Sister words: +1.0
“People you love giving you challenges you hate.” This probably makes my top 10 phrases-to-sum-up-formation list. Francesca, has valid concerns and questions for Claire regarding Claire’s firm belief that she is not called to marriage. What does Francesca do? She pulls Claire aside and talks to her privately … Oh. My. Gosh … This. Just. Happened! Francesca, I couldn’t have illustrated the concept of gently challenging someone you care about better. You raised your questions and you listened to Claire, moreover, you received Claire’s answers without pushing your values and/or challenging her further. This takes maturity, insight and a true care for another person — caring enough to address concerns and then accepting the answers. We see moments of hysteria and immaturity and then these incredible insights and wisdom … if there is one thing Francesca is, it’s authentic. How can one not root for her? Francesca — please, I need to meet you for coffee (or a beer) in 5 years, OK? Francesca: Real. +1.0
Team Claire: Yes! You made a good choice for you and that is what the journey is about. You needed Claire/God time — that’s the relationship that you needed to grow in that moment. “Girl drama” is not where you were being called and ultimately, this journey is about you and your life. Sometimes choosing not to be involved with a conflict is not running away from something, it’s running toward something more valuable. Claire, I like you more and more each week; love seeing you grow with the process. Team Claire: +1.0
Sr. Cecelia talks about the small congregation (12 members) where she is called—important! My congregation had 800 sisters in the US/1,200 worldwide when I entered. There was a lot of room for diversity in relationships. I liked that. I felt called to have a global presence. Poor Claire (ha ha … that’s funny) gets the “home” feeling, conjures up courage to talk to mother that she’s interested, and then seemingly gets shut down? My heart sank. Then my “Ghost of Vocation Ministry Past” kicked in and could appreciate Mother Christina’s words. It’s true — sometimes a congregation is not a fit for the woman or the congregation and the best time to realize that is in the beginning. I pray that Mother Christina has the wisdom to elaborate on, share with Claire what she does see, and if the answer is “no,” give her some resources/direction to keep searching. Courage and Honesty (for both): +2.0
The journey is clearly becoming more and more individualized for each woman for the good, the bad and the ugly. We see that in their interviews, their behavior and the conflicts; and you’re going to get it all in community life. I’ve been hard on the women this week and I also want to acknowledge that this discernment stuff causes us to be a little regressed at times and 42 minutes for 5 weeks does not define you, for me (or should for anyone). One of my favorite convent sayings (re formation), “Regression … it’s a good sign as long as you own it.” 42 minutes are separating us from knowing the outcome and decision of this 6-week journey … (notice…I didn’t say “life”).
Final Score: +2.0
Making it: Adults!
Faking it: Kids.
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About the Author
Katy LaFond was a member of Franciscan community for 6 years. Valuing the discernment process, she continues to discern and explore where “home” in religious life may be for her. Katy is currently completing pre-requisite course work and will apply for medical school in 2015.