A peek into Catholic sisters’ lives

November 10, 2012

Bobz Book Reviews

I smiled, reminisced, nodded in recognition and chuckled aloud reading “Habits,” a witty work that takes us — in wee snapshots — into the world of Catholic sisters.

With source material from the stories and the oral histories of the Sisters of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn., Susan Sink has crafted 43 100-word stories that pull back the curtain on what is was like to enter and live in and serve in a community of Catholic women religious during the past century.

Each story is a little gem that gives you answers to some of those things you’ve always wondered about sisters — what it was like to have to go around dressed in those habits, what they thought of the strange-sounding names the were given and the big one, of course: What kind of girl becomes a nun?

One answer comes in the story “Vocation”:

I thought I’d like to be a Dominican because they always looked so scholarly. Then I thought, “That’s no way to join.” So I prayed,”Lord, you’ll have to show me.” After a year out, in 1925, I figured it was time. I didn’t join for the glamour, actually.

These days, I’m so tired of hearing young women say: “I’m going to try the life. It’s so beautiful and peaceful.” Stuff like that. You don’t try it out; you go because it’s what God wants.

You’ll love the anecdotes about life in the monastery — sneaking out windows to go to the movies, the fact that some had beer (free from a generous local brewer), kitchen duty that included having to butcher a bear and, touchingly, that last cigarette.

Spirituality oozes out of all of it. One story in particular cleverly paints the picture of convent life:

Going to bed was liturgical. We lived our faith, practiced its words and gestures. It made climbing the stairs to bed a procession. Even the barn was a sacred place. We kept it clean as though Mary and Joseph could show up at the door any evening in need of a place to stay.

A plus for those of us whose lives were touched so deeply by sisters is that “Habits” triggers memories of the women religious who formed our lives.

So, Theophilia, Dolorine, Grace — how’d she ever get lucky enough to get Grace? — wherever you are, consider this a literary toast. You Felicians were terrific.

NOTE: “Habits” is self-published by Susan Sink and available for $12 at http://www.lulu.com, on the author’s website, http://www.susansink.wordpress.com and at http://www.Amazon.com.

 

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About Bob Zyskowski

Bob is the Client Products Manager for the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A 42-year veteran of the Catholic Press, he is the former Associate Publisher of The Catholic Spirit. You can follow him on twitter or email him at zyskowskir@archspm.org.

View all posts by Bob Zyskowski