I have three CDs in my car of Gregorian chants, I’ve attended silent retreats at various monasteries, and lately one of my favorite activities is walking the labyrinth at a convent just down the road from where I live.
I’m not the only one who is drawn to monasticism.
Into Great Silence,
a documentary about the Carthusian monks in France, won a special jury prize at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.
A group of ecumenical Christians gathered together in 2004 to form what they called the “New Monasticism” movement, which has spawned books, conferences, and intentional communities. And the CD “Angels and Saints of Ephesus” by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, recently hit the top of the classical music charts.
In our hurried, distracted and disjointed lives, it’s easy to understand why we’re drawn to a life of simplicity, peace, prayer, and community. But what is it really like? Is it what we imagine?
Sister Mary Veronica entered a cloistered monastery at the age of 23. She took her first vows at the Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey, in 2013. Sometime in the next couple of years, she will take her solemn vows, committing her life to unceasing prayer, community, celibacy, and making soap that the nuns sell in their gift shop. Her commitment means she will not be drinking Starbucks coffee, she’ll be shunning contact lenses, and she won’t have a spouse and children.
It’s one thing to go on a silent retreat for a weekend, but giving up intimacy and Starbucks?
Sister Mary Veronica acknowledges that giving up a spouse and children wasn’t an easy decision, but she doesn’t really regret the lack of lattes: “I probably missed Starbucks a lot more as a postulant than I do now,” she told me. “I think if I went to Starbucks now and ordered a drink it would just be way too much sugar. They are so filling!”
On the phone, Sister Mary Veronica is friendly, soft-spoken, witty, and thoughtful. She laughs easily, and seems like someone you’d like have one of those lattes with. But that’s not an option: The nuns rarely leave the monastery (except for doctor’s appointments), and they maintain relationships mostly through letter writing (although her parents, who live an hour away, visit about once a month). Despite these restrictions, Sister Mary Veronica doesn’t have many doubts about her decision.
Read the rest of Sister’s testimony here