So how come nuns get a special place to retire to? It is a lot nicer than a retirement home. Cleaner, smells better, better lit. Better food. There are no special codes to get in and out either. There isn’t a feeling of being trapped.
They have donated their lives to serving those who suffer from “poverty, sickness, and ignorance.” Their whole lives have been given up in the service of the church. No husband, no income, no possessions; they have sacrificed themselves to serve others.
How is this different from a teacher, or a police officer, or a nurse? How are their lives of service different? Their lives, the lives of the secular who serve, are harder in fact. They have to secure for themselves a home. They have to buy their clothes. They have to pay for the electricity, the water, the gas. They have to do upkeep on their homes. They have to pay for their training. If they are smart they save for their retirement. Then they have to find a place that has an opening that is nice to retire to.
This is a beautiful convent that just happens to be a nursing home. The grass is lush. The rooms are pleasant. It was built as a retirement home for aging Sisters of Mercy. Not all nuns, just these particular kind of nuns. The sister who welcomed us said that they had served the poor and the homeless all their lives, and now with their convent they are still serving them. But then she got a little quiet. How? By letting people come here on retreat.
Now, they aren’t leading the retreats. They are allowing people to come and have their retreats here. They didn’t initiate it. They had 41 sisters to start with and are now left with 18. Other people started calling, wondering if they could use the space. There are a lot of empty rooms.
This makes me wonder about the ranks of nuns. Surely there should be others who are ready to retire. A steady influx of novitiates would result in a steady stream of retirees 50 years later. But the stream is drying up.
Do people not want to serve God by being a nun? Is it too much of a commitment? Is it a stigma attached to the Catholic Church, and church in general? Or are people choosing to serve God in less open ways?
You don’t have to be a sister to serve. You can be married or not, female or not, Catholic or not. You can work in a church or a school or a department store. You can work anywhere where you can use your talents and your gifts to help others.
God wants each of us right where we are, right as we are.
Be honest in your dealings. Treat every person fairly. Speak truthfully and kindly. In these ways you are serving God.
You don’t have to join a nonprofit. You don’t have to give all your money away. You don’t have to go on a missions trip to Belize or the Congo or Africa.
God is here. The poor are here. You are here. Get going. You don’t even have to “get thee to a nunnery.” Just go.
(Started 9-14-13 at 11:30 am, middle of a 26 hour silent retreat. Expanded 9-16-13)