I once thought I wanted to be a nun, but that was not my path. In a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article last spring Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times columnist said, “You are crazy to mess with nuns.” Brave, tough, admirable, saintly and crafty were adjectives Kristof used in praise of the women he call “the first female feminists earning doctorates or working as surgeons long before it was fashionable for women to hold jobs.” Instead, my path led me to leave the church of my birth at age 60 with no desire to formally join another religion. For me it has been a good choice, broadening my spirituality, infusing me with a blessed freedom, and leading me to explore a variety of spiritual practices that speak to me. Does that make me a none?
What if there was an Ecumenical box to check when asked to state a religious affiliation? How many millions of people, who currently know they are none of the commonly listed faiths, would check that box when asked to state a religious preference? There are pages and pages of beautiful related words in my thesaurus for ecumenical such as universal, heaven-wide, galactic, all-inclusive, cooperating. When Kristof titled his article, “We Are All Nuns,” I suspect he understood their ecumenical nature and that we are all one family.
Many years ago I had an aha moment when listening to the wise Sr. Joan Chittister talk about how the church might have done its job too well in taking over the care of the poor, sick and disenfranchised, thereby relieving the rest of us of the responsibility. I suspect Kristof knows we all are called to be nuns when he cited the “median age is well over 70 of the 57,000 dedicated women who work tirelessly for a more just world.” What would it take to walk in the sensible shoes of a nun? What if each and every one of us lived more simply and sustainably, and shared a fraction our time, talent and treasure when and where we could to relieve others’ suffering. Could all of us together do the job each in our own unique way? Are you a nun, none, or none of the above?