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IgnatiusofLoyola

What Happens When Nuns/sisters Leave The Order?

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brandelynmarie
:console: I also want to thank everyone who has contributed on this thread as well...I cannot even imagine the pain :sadder: that you have experienced...It sounds difficult at times to distinguish between what is healthy & not healthy in a community while you are experiencing it & even afterwards! (i.e. Is this to teach me humility or is this absolute humiliation & abusive?) It is also edifying to hear how you guys have continued on your journeys to find His will for your life :) .I have suggested to some on here privately about starting a book on such a topic & so I am tickled that nunsense has such a project in the works :blush:

Wasn't Thomas Merton who said a monastery is a refugium peccatorum? :saint:

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Antigonos
[quote name='brandelynmarie' date='28 March 2010 - 02:01 PM' timestamp='1269774078' post='2081899']
[img]http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/public/style_emoticons/default/console.gif[/img] I also want to thank everyone who has contributed on this thread as well...I cannot even imagine the pain [img]http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/public/style_emoticons/default/sadder.gif[/img] that you have experienced...It sounds difficult at times to distinguish between what is healthy & not healthy in a community while you are experiencing it & even afterwards! (i.e. Is this to teach me humility or is this absolute humiliation & abusive?) It is also edifying to hear how you guys have continued on your journeys to find His will for your life [img]http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/public/style_emoticons/default/smile.gif[/img] .I have suggested to some on here privately about starting a book on such a topic & so I am tickled that nunsense has such a project in the works [img]http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/public/style_emoticons/default/blush.gif[/img]

Wasn't Thomas Merton who said a monastery is a refugium peccatorum? [img]http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/public/style_emoticons/default/saint.gif[/img]
[/quote]


Your point about the difficulty of distinguishing between testing and abuse reminds me of a biography of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque I once read. Her visions were derided by the community she lived with, and she was really treated like dirt by some of them, including, IIRC, her own confessor, who thought she was deliberately concocting them to singularize herself. It was only near the end of her life that the veracity of what she said she'd seen was accepted. But her view was that God had intended her to suffer in her conventual life in order to be worthy of grace.

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Divine Mercy 9999
[quote name='Antigonos' date='28 March 2010 - 06:08 AM' timestamp='1269774482' post='2081900']
Your point about the difficulty of distinguishing between testing and abuse reminds me of a biography of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque I once read. Her visions were derided by the community she lived with, and she was really treated like dirt by some of them, including, IIRC, her own confessor, who thought she was deliberately concocting them to singularize herself. It was only near the end of her life that the veracity of what she said she'd seen was accepted. But her view was that God had intended her to suffer in her conventual life in order to be worthy of grace.
[/quote]


St Faustina suffered similarily, as I recall... .

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nunsense
Yes, God can certainly write straight with crooked lines. He can take abuse and turn it into testing. If only all of us were saints, then it wouldn't matter how badly we were treated, of course. And we can certainly take every advantage of these things that happen to us to bring us closer to God. There is no doubt about that. I have found that in my own life, although some things have felt as if they might destroy me, in fact they have actually made my faith in Jesus much stronger. I am sure that many others have felt this.

On the other hand, I do know of others who have left their faith because of the abuse. It has to be a very fine line I am sure, and I don't think anyone would agree that any abuse of any kind is welcome or acceptable. After all, all the founders of their communities told them to be full of love and charity for each other. So it is not unreasonable to hope for or even expect that religious life will be a place of charity towards each other. If hoever, this is not the case because of whatever reason, then what really matters of course, is how we handle the difficult situation ourselves. When faced with hostility or abuse, we need to try to return this with love and forgiveness as much as we can, considering that we are all human.

God will use anything and everything to help us come closer to Him. No one wants to criticise any religious community, and we all know that suffering is a means of purification and drawing us deeper into God's embrace, but we can still pray that our religious communities be beacons of love and charity and not places where women are abused or mistreated as many of the saints were.

My prayers are for all who suffer, that it may bring them into the embrace of Our Lord and Our Savior, sweet Jesus. And for all those who cause suffering, that they may be released from their own pain and see that they are injuring others with what they do, and want to change. We are all broken in one way or another, that is why we need Jesus so very much.

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vee
I remember hearing that St Mary Magdalene de Pazzi climbed up to the chapel crucifix and hung her keys on Christ`s hand to help stop herself from leaving although I dont know how often she did that. More frequently she would go ring the main bell, even in the night, during her ecstasies as she wanted to call all to the love of Christ. Carmelites :ohno: :hehe:

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laetitia crucis
[quote name='Totus Tuus' date='27 March 2010 - 12:47 AM' timestamp='1269661653' post='2081106']
Nunsense - I think you are spot on in believing that a book of that nature would help many women. If anything, it should be read by women before they enter! I experienced what a religious of another community called the "stardust phenomenon" (haha!) where I fell head over heels in love with a community only to realize after "being dumped" what the issues were in the first place! I think it's so beautiful when a girl is completely in love with a community that she can see no wrong, but I think, considering the numbers who in reality do leave religious life (just because that's how reality is), something like this book could also serve as preventative medicine.

...

In addition to what you said about the book, a lot of the observations you made really struck home with me as well. For example, talking about how being expelled from religious life can psychologically be more painful than a divorce I think is [i]SO[/i] true!!

Anyway, I think it was a very thoughtful post. God bless.
[/quote]

This. :yes: Absolutely yes, on all accounts.

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Maggyie
What I have noticed is that a lot of the more "progressive" liberal orders seem to have a healthier understanding and practice when it comes to Sisters leaving. That's one area where the more faithful communities could learn something from other groups!

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IgnatiusofLoyola
[quote name='nunsense' date='28 March 2010 - 05:23 PM' timestamp='1269814995' post='2082216']
Yes, God can certainly write straight with crooked lines. He can take abuse and turn it into testing. If only all of us were saints, then it wouldn't matter how badly we were treated, of course. And we can certainly take every advantage of these things that happen to us to bring us closer to God. There is no doubt about that. I have found that in my own life, although some things have felt as if they might destroy me, in fact they have actually made my faith in Jesus much stronger. I am sure that many others have felt this.

On the other hand, I do know of others who have left their faith because of the abuse. It has to be a very fine line I am sure, and I don't think anyone would agree that any abuse of any kind is welcome or acceptable. After all, all the founders of their communities told them to be full of love and charity for each other. So it is not unreasonable to hope for or even expect that religious life will be a place of charity towards each other. If hoever, this is not the case because of whatever reason, then what really matters of course, is how we handle the difficult situation ourselves. When faced with hostility or abuse, we need to try to return this with love and forgiveness as much as we can, considering that we are all human.

God will use anything and everything to help us come closer to Him. No one wants to criticise any religious community, and we all know that suffering is a means of purification and drawing us deeper into God's embrace, but we can still pray that our religious communities be beacons of love and charity and not places where women are abused or mistreated as many of the saints were.

My prayers are for all who suffer, that it may bring them into the embrace of Our Lord and Our Savior, sweet Jesus. And for all those who cause suffering, that they may be released from their own pain and see that they are injuring others with what they do, and want to change. We are all broken in one way or another, that is why we need Jesus so very much.
[/quote]

Everyone has limits on how much suffering they can endure before breaking down.

For myself, I have a hard time believing that God would want anyone to suffer--a broken person can't serve others as well as someone who is healthy and happy.

I see all these young girls entering religious life and being so happy, but I wonder how they will feel when they are 40.

I realize that a lot of the reasons for the exodus of nuns in the 60's/70's were a result of Vatican II changes, but I also wonder how much of it was due to the fact that large numbers of women entered religious life post WWII, and they would be turning 40ish right around the time of Vatican II.

Psychology has shown that we DO go through emotional changes at certain critical times in our lives. Jung particularly wrote a great deal about what we today call the "mid-life crisis. But, he, and others didn't see these changes as a sign of abnormality, but as a natural process, just like the changes of physical aging are a normal process. So, I wonder if we will see a similar exodus of Sisters/Nuns when they reach their late 30's, for example, and it is their last chance to have children.

Yes, these women have made a vow before God that they never intend to break. But, young women in their 20's don't really know themselves yet (although they think they do--I certainly did). Many Sisters/Nuns won't have problems when they reach these critical periods in their lives, but I can't help worrying that many will.

Divorce is a parallel situation. Marriage is a sacrament and a vow before God. But, every person has limits, so for example, I don't believe that a woman should have to put up with physical abuse from her husband. In my case, my husband told me point blank that he was going to lead a gay lifestyle--and as much as I hated getting divorced, I couldn't live in a marriage that didn't at least TRY to be monogamous, and one that would expose me to AIDS, etc. I felt like a failure, even though it was not my fault. To give due credit, I think my ex-husband tried VERY hard to make the marriage work. We certainly gave it a good shot--we were married for 14 years.

But, as a result of my divorce, I am viewed by many as "damaged goods" and everyone always says that the fault is on both sides. My fault is that I was "clueless"--I had no idea of my ex-husband's homosexual feelings. NONE.

My ex-husband was the Catholic, not me. Yet I stood up in church and said that my vocation is marriage, which I still believe is the case, although I have lived as a celibate, single woman for a long time now.

I'm rambling, but the point is that, I understand, at least in a small way, your feelings of shame and personal failure, and the rejection and disappointment you have received from family and the community. Catholic marriages aren't supposed to end in divorce, and nuns/religious sisters aren't supposed to leave the convent. But, I also don't think that God wants us to place ourselves in emotional danger, or to facilitate those who are doing the emotional abusing by allowing them to abuse us. Just as there is no excuse for priests and others to physically abuse children, to me, there is also no reason that adults should be expected to endure emotional and physical abuse. The saints that went through physical abuse in religious life lived in a different time, with different values. Such behavior by Religious Superiors would never be tolerated today (I hope).

Yes, we learn from all we've been through, because we naturally try to find some positives as part of our recovery. But, I suspect we also might be healthier, happier people if we had never had to go through that experience. Ideally, we could find a way to prevent the emotional abuse that sometimes occurs in religious life BEFORE it happens. Edited by IgnatiusofLoyola

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Sister Marie
God bless you for saying that Maggie. I agree with you on the most part. The more progressive communities definitely have a more thorough understanding of human psychology and have applied it to their formation programs, not because the more conservative communities are at fault, but probably because of opportunities to study which contemplative communities do not have but active communities do. We are definitely in a difficult time in the history of religious life because there is a real boundary between the "liberal" and "conservative" communities. I think that this boundary has become a stumbling block to some dialogue that could potentially help each community to grow in charity toward their youngest members.

My community is pretty moderate and it is interesting to see how that works out in "inter-community" relationships. Our sisters study at the archdiocesan seminary, as do many other communities of religious women during the summer. When I studied last summer, I felt quite lonely. The sisters who wore "full" habits wouldn't even say hello to me, and the sisters who wore no habit wouldn't say hello to me either because I wore a modified habit. There were a lot of comments judging how each particular community lived. We aren't supposed to be exactly the same, although we are supposed to be faithful! I couldn't believe that it would be so difficult for religious women to be charitable to one another but it is sometimes a real problem. We are living in a time of fear of the other; in our country, in our communities, and in religious life. It is true that we need to speak the truth, and that there are definitely guidelines that are necessary to abide by in order for community to be faithful to religious life. However, this truth needs to be spoken with charity and generosity. In addition, the differences between active and contemplative communities need to be realized and embraced as different but important gifts to the Church and to religious life.

I have been very lucky to find some communities that have been willing to be very friendly with my community in spite of our differences and it has been such a wonderful experience. These communities have been charitable and generous in their willingness to dialogue, educate, and work with us. These relationships have made me so happy and so grateful to God for these sisters. It has been a true witness to me of Christian charity and the Body of Christ. I hope these communities do not mind but I would love to mention in particular the beautiful presence of the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Daughters of Saint Paul. We have had wonderful relationships with them in which we have been able to learn from one another. I hope that that might continue throughout this difficult time in religious life.

I hope that this makes sense. Please know that all I say is in union with the mind and heart of the Church. I would never go against her teaching. If something is unclear or sounds unorthodox, it is by ignorance and accident, not by malice. If I need to clarify something, please let me know!

For all of you discerning it is important to keep in mind that we are all striving towards the same goal, Jesus! God love you for trying to enter into this life in such a difficult but exciting time! We desire to become saints, and this is how it happens! Thank you, Lord!

Many prayers for all you brave souls out there!
Sister Marie

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IgnatiusofLoyola
[quote name='vee8' date='28 March 2010 - 07:10 PM' timestamp='1269821451' post='2082281']
I remember hearing that St Mary Magdalene de Pazzi climbed up to the chapel crucifix and hung her keys on Christ`s hand to help stop herself from leaving although I dont know how often she did that. More frequently she would go ring the main bell, even in the night, during her ecstasies as she wanted to call all to the love of Christ. Carmelites [img]http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/public/style_emoticons/default/ohno.gif[/img] [img]http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/public/style_emoticons/default/hehe.gif[/img]
[/quote]

Geez, no wonder the other nuns were mad at her! Even nuns have to sleep SOMETIME!

It doesn't excuse the abuse against her, but if someone woke me up several times a night to share her ecstasies, I would be less than ecstatic. LOL Edited by IgnatiusofLoyola

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Indwelling Trinity
[quote name='IgnatiusofLoyola' date='28 March 2010 - 11:33 PM' timestamp='1269830025' post='2082346']
Geez, no wonder the other nuns were mad at her! Even nuns have to sleep SOMETIME!

It doesn't excuse the abuse against her, but if someone woke me up several times a night to share her ecstasies, I would be less than ecstatic. LOL
[/quote]

Laughing... she is one of my favorite siants but I never really thought about being woken up so much especially with the little sleep you get in Carmel! I think i thank God for my deafness...:topsy: I would have slept like a baby! :rolling: Edited by Indwelling Trinity

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HisChild
[quote name='IgnatiusofLoyola' date='28 March 2010 - 07:00 PM' timestamp='1269828020' post='2082331']
Everyone has limits on how much suffering they can endure before breaking down...

For myself, I have a hard time believing that God would want anyone to suffer--a broken person can't serve others as well as someone who is healthy and happy.

Divorce is a parallel situation. Marriage is a sacrament and a vow before God. But, every person has limits, so for example, I don't believe that a woman should have to put up with physical abuse from her husband. In my case, my husband told me point blank that he was going to lead a gay lifestyle--and as much as I hated getting divorced, I couldn't live in a marriage that didn't at least TRY to be monogamous, and one that would expose me to AIDS, etc. I felt like a failure, even though it was not my fault. To give due credit, I think my ex-husband tried VERY hard to make the marriage work. We certainly gave it a good shot--we were married for 14 years.

But, as a result of my divorce, I am viewed by many as "damaged goods" and everyone always says that the fault is on both sides. My fault is that I was "clueless"--I had no idea of my ex-husband's homosexual feelings. NONE.

[/quote]

First, thank you for your words. They were very heartening. Yes, everyone does have limits as to what they can handle and I don't believe one person who might be able to 'handle' more than the next person is any weaker for having those lower limits.

Like you, I don't believe that God wants anyone to suffer. Religious life is a life of sacrifice as it is with all its daily penances and mortifications just by living the daily horarium. I have a difficult time believing in the value of another sister(s), someone who is essentially on the same 'team' as you, using humiliation and unkindness as a form of making you a better nun/sister.

As for your divorce and feeling that many view you as 'damaged goods', I can fully understand those feelings. I love the way the Eastern (Orthodox) Church views divorce and even remarriage. Regarding divorce, one bishop said it this way: “Since Christ, according to the Matthaean account (Matthew 19:9), allowed an exception to His general ruling about the indissolubility of marriage, the Orthodox Church also is willing to allow an exception”. They see divorce as a tragedy resulting from human weakness and sin. ( It's similar to the way the Catholic Church allows for some annulments.) And for remarriage: "It is permitted as a pastoral concession in the context of “economia,” to the human weakness and the corrupt world in which we live." Both divorce and remarriage are serious issues, but in some instances are allowed as a measure of compassion. It's such a beautiful way of looking at a horrible situation.

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