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GraceUk

Best books about nuns

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gloriana35

'Bernie Becomes a Nun', which I do recall, is very outdated - and aimed at children, not those ready to enter religious life. Bernie had been a stenographer, and entered the Maryknoll Sisters (the description of her life with them bears no resemblance to what it would be today.) There are mentions of when she had a slight stomachache - when postulants had a break for plain tea... Incidentally, I originally thought that it was a generic book about a call to religious life, posed by an actress (since many photos were unlikely - no-one is photographed with a thermometer in her mouth at the infirmary), but later found that there is a 'real Bernadette' who entered Maryknoll. 

Though the practises Karen Amstrong mentions are outdated, her books are very insightful. 

'A Right to be Merry' is a bit of a valentine. Mother Francis, witty and insightful, gives an accurate but extremely sweet version of the life - one would think all nuns are supportive, loving, understanding, honoured if someone confides in them. 

IMO, In This House of Brede (which does present much wisdom, compassion, insight) always was intended strictly as literature. I read it for the first time only about 20 years ago. There were conversations Philippa had where my first reaction was "Lord, did you fall into a trap... that confidence will be thrown in your face later" (it wasn't - her convent was unlike my own) - and there are some elaborate dramatics for entertainment value. It would not capture how religious life is today (the more since there are 96 in the monastery), but I doubt it ever was intended for those seeking to discern vocations.

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gloriana35

Perhaps I'm saying 'the grass is green' :), but younger people on this forum may not realise how, fifty years ago, not only books (some published by communities - I don't mean bestsellers) but pamphlets, booklets, and so forth about religious life were very popular. Many were aimed at families - for example, some reminded parents not to stand in the way (i.e., insist a child finish school) of God's call. Some, such as Bernie Becomes a Nun, and an anthology whose name I do not recall,were aimed at children - who just might follow a religious vocation some day, and, in any case, would enjoy seeing Bernie's going-away shower, or her deciding 'singing and dancing are all right, but not for me." (Thirty years later, the items Bernie received would be jokes amongst some Sisters... and other Sisters thought nothing of going to night clubs. Many believed that, once they no longer had to wear habits, going out places didn't matter - it was the 'bad example' of going to a film that depicted something against church teachings that could be frowned upon.)

Though dated books are often valuable only for historical research, or for nostalgia, I don't know that most were aimed at those actually ready for religious life (or those who wished to enter at all.) Some, aimed at pious adults, were clearly intended to give a overview of what convent life was like. Others were overviews to introduce children to concepts. It has occurred to me (I entered at 25) that, though theological books filled my library shelves,I don't recall any book about nuns really played a part in my discernment. Yet I have actually met women (whether they entered or not) who told me their first ideas about entering convents came either from "The Nun's Story" (...which contains so much tragedy that I'd have thought it would have quite another effect) or "The Song of Bernadette."

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Antigonos

I found "The Nun's Story" -- both the book and the film -- very inspiring.  Of course, I could identify with Sr. Luke's professional aspirations; I already knew I wanted to be a nurse.  What impressed me was that, for the first time, I could see those in religious life not as automatons, or plaster saints, but as struggling human beings.  The film script was very sensitively rendered; many quotes come to mind, such as, near the end, when the Reverend Mother gently reproves Sr. Luke: "You entered the convent to be a nun, not a nurse", or "The religious life has to be lived, not day by day, but minute by minute".  Of course, the period in which the story takes place is very important, too.  To have been in a European convent during WWII must have been a kind of pressure cooker.  I expect the average religious today to have less external conflict, unless serving in a part of the world in turmoil.  A sister teaching school in the Midwest probably doesn't have to face certain choices that someone in a warzone does.

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andibc

Amaya Means Beloved amongst others that have already been mentioned.

There are many obscure ones such as An American Nun in Taiwan that are interesting, too.  I wouldn’t put them in then”best” category.

Bernie Becomes a Nun is an old children’s book...middle school...pictures of a young lady who is entering the Maryknolls and follows her until she has the habit and is getting on a plane.  I found a copy at a thrift store years ago. It’s cute...not worth what it sells for online and it did not inspire my daughters when they were discerning.

Edited by andibc

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GraceUk

It's not a book but a DVD about the Carmel at Notting Hill in London called No Greater Love. That is well worth watching I think both for discerners and folk just interested in the Carmelite way of life.

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gloriana35

Though it is a mini-series, not a book, and I doubt it would be helpful in discernment, the Australian production "Brides of Christ" (available on DVD) is an excellent perspective on history. The crises and ideas the Sisters face or express is a very accurate picture of what was going on in many communities at the time. Some elements are elaborate dramatics (typical of books and films for the mass market), but I was impressed by how the series captured much of what I saw in many Sisters I knew well. (The saddest part is knowing that some of these trends would lead to the demise of many religious communities. It takes place during the 1960s.)

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JHFamily

Though I have not yet read it, for those who are interested in enclosed, cloistered life, "Walled about with God" by Dom Jean Prou OSB.  A reviewer said, " This book is a must for people considering the enclosed or cloistered life as well as for the curious."

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Dymphna

Well, if we're not talking about nuns only, maybe I'm not the only one here able to read German or Dutch. I can recommend Thomas Quartier OSB, "Heilige Wut. Mönch sein heisst radikal sein" (Holy Anger. To be a Monk means to be radical). The author is a German Benedictine in a Dutch community he joined a few years ago (he's now in his mid-fourties). He writes about his motivation for becoming a monk and his development as a monastic on a reflected, spiritual and at the same time practical level. Makes me wish I had a monastic vocation :-)

Edited by Dymphna

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BarbaraTherese

Thomas Merton's "Seven Storey Mountain" is another good read:

"A modern-day Confessions of Saint Augustine, The Seven Storey Mountain is one of the most influential religious works of the twentieth century. This edition contains an introduction by Merton's editor, Robert Giroux, and a note to the reader by biographer William H. Shannon. It tells of the growing restlessness of a brilliant and passionate young man whose search for peace and faith leads him, at the age of twenty-six, to take vows in one of the most demanding Catholic orders--the Trappist monks. At the Abbey of Gethsemani, "the four walls of my new freedom," Thomas Merton struggles to withdraw from the world, but only after he has fully immersed himself in it. The Seven Storey Mountain has been a favorite of readers ranging from Graham Greene to Claire Booth Luce, Eldridge Cleaver, and Frank McCourt. Since its original publication this timeless spiritual tome has been published in over twenty languages and has touched millions of lives." https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/175078.The_Seven_Storey_Mountain

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GraceUk

I read the Seven Storey Mountain a good number of years ago. I must read it again.  There was a programme on Ewtn a few years ago Watchmen of the Night again about Cistercians. It was in French but I think with subtitles. I missed it because they changed the schedules. It's not been on again since but it sounded really good.

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clareagnes

Reading A Right to Be Merry was one of the best guides for me to discerning a call to cloistered contemplative life, and to the Poor Clare Colletines. Another much more recent book that I highly recommend for those attracted to PCC communities is Dedicated to God, an oral history of the Rockford Poor Clares by Abbie Reese. (She later did a documentary about one of the Sisters who was a Novice at the time called Chosen, which I haven't seen.) This book was not only helpful in helping me understand contemplative and cloistered life, but also in discerning vocation in general. The Sisters are very down to earth and open about their own discernment of calling, challenges in the life, vows, etc. Highly recommended!

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AveMariaPurissima

Chosen is a lovely documentary! :heart: If you have access to FORMED you can watch it there as well. 

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