Nuns have three vows that they take when they join their religious order: chastity, poverty, and obedience. If any or all of these vows are broken nuns are required to leave their religious duties and their chosen community.
The process to become a nun can take over a decade. This is to ensure that a woman is truly committed to God and his teachings and to avoid doubt.
Nuns dedicated their whole lives to the Catholic Church and are often educated and highly skilled.
There are different types of orders but here we will outline the general sisterhood and nuns of the Catholic Church.
What You'll Learn Today
What happens if a nun breaks her vows?
If a nun breaks her vows then she can be dismissed from her community. Not only will she lose her right to be a Catholic nun, but she will be encouraged to leave the community where she is living.
This can seem quite harsh but from a nun’s point of view, it can be a blessing in disguise. Remaining in the community will only remind them of their shame whereas a new location can mean a new start.
It’s not often you meet ex-nuns. Women who decide to become nuns have only three vows to make and usually spend the rest of their lives serving God and their chosen community through chastity, obedience, and poverty.
Why become a nun?
Priests are traditionally male but it doesn’t mean women don’t receive a calling from God to dedicate their lives to the Catholic faith. Nuns cannot perform the same sacred acts as priests, but their dedication to Christ and the Church is both admirable and honorable.
Women who are chaste and who are charitable are able to help others within the protection and security of the Catholic Church. They are able to choose a life of servitude by helping those in need.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. – Hebrews 13:16
Nuns are able to see the bigger picture and sacrifice their personal wants and desires to help the needy. They don’t need or want to live a materialistic life.
Three vows they must take and henceforth live by is a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Many nuns decide to relocate to help the needy while respecting their vows.
How to become a nun?
First and foremost you need to be a practicing Catholic. It doesn’t matter if you converted recently, it is integral to have been baptized with Holy Water.
You need to be over the age of 18, have no dependent children, and be financially sound – no debt. You of course need to be single.
Divorce is not recognized by the Catholic Church so it will impede your decision. Catholicity recognized annulments are OK, and widows are considered single so they too are allowed to join.
Becoming a nun is a serious process. The church doesn’t expect you to show up on day one, take your vows, and live the rest of your life in a cloister. It takes time and serious consideration.
It might surprise you that it can take up to 10 years to become a nun, including researching. There are different steps:
- Reaching out to a community
- Pre-candidacy process (up to three years)
- Candidacy process
- Novitiate phase
- First vows
- Final vows
To truly make a difference in today’s world nuns are often encouraged to have a college degree. This can help strengthen the community efforts acted out by the nuns.
To run a community efficiently, highly sought qualifications would be medicine, law, accounting, business management, event planning and organization, and so on. It is of course not a requirement, and it will in no way speed up your process.
What exactly are the vows that nuns take?
There are three vows a nun is required to make: a vow of poverty, a vow of chastity, and a vow of obedience.
A nun is to reject all material items. If a woman has money she usually donates it to the community she chooses to live in as a nun. Nuns aren’t paid a salary, and they live simple lives. They don’t pay rent but have a room with a bed and maybe a sink and desk. They are fed simple meals each day and want for nothing.
A nun must promise a life of celibacy. Nuns are allowed to have had children before joining and are allowed to have been married. However, divorcees are not as accepted as widows. The clothes nuns wear, a habit, covers them fully.
A nun is to be faithful to the vows she has made, to Jesus, God, her order, and her community. Nuns have a simple daily schedule where they wake up, pray, eat, go about their tasks, pray, eat, and sleep. A simple life in prayer and dedication to the Catholic Church.
Acts 20:35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
What do nuns do?
Nuns essentially spread the good work of Jesus by helping the poor, sick, and hungry. They dedicate their lives to charity.
Depending on where the nun lives, and her educational background will map out her daily tasks and duties. Some nuns are teachers, others are nurses, accountants, lawyers, and so on.
Nuns live in peace, prayer, and proactiveness in their chosen community.
Bear one another burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2
What happens if a nun falls in love?
Nuns are of course allowed to have human relationships but their love is for Jesus Christ. It would be like cheating on God if they fell in love with someone else.
This is why the process takes many years before a woman can become fully a nun. She needs to know in her mind and in her heart what choice she is making.
When a nun dedicates herself to God it is like she is marrying him. She remains loyal and faithful to God, her vows, and her work. She is obedient.
If a nun does fall in love with someone else then she will have to leave her religious duties, her community, and give up her right to be a nun.
Nuns are not allowed to have sexual relations and they are not allowed to have children while being a nun. A nun can have children but they need to no longer be dependent on her.
Prolific Nuns: Sister Teresa
The work of nuns is known all over the world. Catholicism has its seat in Vatican City, Italy, but its presence is global.
Nuns often choose communities in desperate areas that are rife with famine and disease. Sr Teresa chose to go to India to help the poor population.
Born in former Yugoslavia she left at 18 and went to Ireland to learn English. She then went on and spent the rest of her life in Calcutta, Inda where her work had her receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
A nun is in it for the long run and likely will not break her vows. She is amongst a like-minded community where they support each other.
When a nun takes her vows she is committed to them and is unlikely to break them. But if she does, then she leaves the order and will find great difficulties in rejoining.
The work of nuns is respectful and admirable.