What’s a Cloistered Nun?
A cloistered nun takes the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in her marriage to Jesus. She gives up her family, friends, and worldly pursuits to focus on the things above instead of what’s below. Unlike active communities, though, entering a cloister means she she is enclosed. She has committed herself according to the laws of enclosure to live behind the walls of a monastery for the rest of her life. She may leave for a doctor’s visit or for a parent’s funeral, but she is a soul hidden from the world in order to pray for all of its many needs. Her prayer is her work: begging God to help the suffering, lonely, helpless, sinners, the whole world.
Finding My “Home”
“I found him whom my soul loves” ~Song of Songs 3:4
One of the best days of my life was the day I found my monastery, my home. Like I said in the last post, I was in an inner turmoil as I asked our Lord to help me find the community of sisters where I belonged. My soul searching was complete, or really had just begun?
But Why Here?
When I met my sisters at Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament (www.opnuns-fh.org), I just fit right in with my extroverted personality that likes to have a good time. They told me about a sister who played pranks on the novices—the newbies. If a cloistered nun sneaks into the dormitory of the novitiate in order to put Vaseline on the door knobs, I thought, “Yes, I will fit in just fine.” They’re real, down-to-earth women who keep up with what’s going on in the world in order to pray for its vast needs.
When praying to God, I asked Him, “Why HERE? Why THIS monastery?” I know my mom and many others would have been a lot happier with the Dominican cloister two hours from my house. But in the end, I followed where I know God is calling me.
For now, some of the reasons it seems God called me to this particular monastery are because we have the unique gift of perpetual adoration and we have a community of externs. I know being an extern is the vocation for me. Overall, God wants me with THESE women. They are holy and are leading me to Him. I’m sure God will continue to reveal more reasons to why I’m called here. I still ask myself, “why the snow; why Michigan; why Detroit?” I’m down for the fun adventure!
Life of a Cloistered Nun
As one of the four extern sisters in my community, I do not make a promise to stay within the enclosure. However, my mission remains the same as the twenty three cloistered sisters. My duty and life’s work is prayer.
Recently I was able to speak at a women’s discernment retreat (as only the externs are able, since we can leave the enclosure as the liaison and public face for the cloistered sisters). When the young girls were asking questions about our community, one asked what our community does. She wanted to know what sets us apart from the other communities present. Most communities would answer that question with their apostolate and say they are teachers, nurses, missionaries, or maybe Catholic publishers. As a cloistered community, our answer to “So what do you do?” is “We pray for the whole world.”
A Cloistered nun’s primary mission is prayer for the whole world but that is not all we do. Praying for the whole world does not mean we spend 15 hours every day in the chapel. We all are assigned our duties during our work time throughout the day. We are laundresses, gardeners, cooks, seamstresses, musicians, infirmary nurses for our older sisters, and more.
Some of us ship out about one million hosts every month in our Altar Bread department. Others send out beautifully made enrollments that assure people of our prayers. In addition to these functions, the externs get to be spiritual advisers and run our Catholic book and gift shop.
Life in the monastery is actually very busy. Every hour is accounted for, whatever duty you have. Prayer starts at 5:30 AM and night prayer completes at 8:20 PM (most monasteries have a similar schedule if you look one up). The beauty is that you are in the chapel seven times throughout the day (from 10 to 45 minutes each) to join the sisters and the whole world in praying the Liturgy of the Hours, the same exact Psalms all priests and religious are praying at around the same time in every country in the world. How’s that for the universal Catholic church?
© Jamie Leatherby 2018
Photo: A view inside Sr. Jamie’s cloistered chapel, unseen from public eyes