I watched a movie last night about a Polish nun, that during her novitiate she was sent to research her family, especially her Aunt. Her Aunt was her lone surviving family member after the Nazi occupation of Poland. By the way, I hope the fact that I am commented on the movie is not construed as an endorsement, because I would not endorse it, for the reasons I will now point out. It turns out that she was Jewish, by birth, but obviously had accepted the life of a Catholic nun and was prepared to take her final vows. Not that there is anything wrong with her acceptance of her family’s faith. However, during the course of the movie, her Aunt tells her that she should not waste her life by taking her final vows, she models a lack of sobriety and unchastity for “Ida”, who the movie is named after. The Aunt does not embrace the Jewish faith, but is quick to point out that Ida has turned her back on it. Ida is her name that she was given at birth, but has obviously chosen to change her name to Anna. Once the Aunt dies, by committing suicide by jumping out a window, Anna, the nun, who has chosen to hold off on taking her final vows, decides to see what this drinking and smoking is all about and also finds a man that had been around during most of the movie to give herself to sexually. The next morning, she wakes up and decides to put her habit back on and walks to the convent as the movie fades to black and the credits roll.
My impression of the movie is that it was stupid. I don’t pretend for a minute to think that I could understand the complexity of dealing with a family that was wiped out by racial hatred and extreme prejudice, but I don’t think giving in to vice and then deciding to follow your vows is a good message for our young people today. Of course, the fact that it happens only after she decides that she doesn’t want to share her life with a man who gave himself to her completely the night before is the exact opposite of a “good” message.
On the contrary, I woke up this morning being reminded of the example of the holy life of Saint Katherine Drexel. Her gift of the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience were not given out of spite for a fallen world. Rather, she was raised by parents who loved God and when they were no longer with her in this world, she decided to give herself completely to the service of the poor and marginalized in our society. She eventually became a sister and gave all of her family wealth to the church, in order that it could better serve the people that she was trying to reach out to. For me, this and the example of many other “Virgins” in the church are what we should be pointing our children to. This, and many others like her, are examples of how to live a life of holiness that is not concerned with the “sins” of the flesh, which the devil and his minions are constantly trying to get us to focus on. (Don’t worry, read Revelation chapter 12)
As parents that still live in this fallen world, we have got to do a better job of living out our vocation as married people who understand chastity, not as a burden that is dropped on the religious few, but as a gift from God that graces us with the freedom to life holy lives in obedience to God’s will, and not our flesh. As a Catholic married man, I must be willing to look to the ever-Virgin Mary as the pinnacle of holiness in completely and only human form, as God did, and be willing to submit myself to her authority, that comes from Jesus, but is born out of her free will acceptance of her chastity that was a gift from the grace of God. Her relationship with Joseph is the model of purity that I will probably never reach in my lifetime, but stands as a strong tower against the pressures of the world that are calling us to give in to the flesh. By God’s grace, they could abstain from sex to be obedient to the vow that Mary made to God, we can abstain for whatever period of time that we need to in order to be obedient to the will of God in our own lives. This is not something that I think we should do, in order to be holy, it is a beacon of hope that tells our children saving themselves for marriage or a religious vocation is possible. It also tells them that we can be different than the society or culture is telling us we have to be in order to be happy. Joy comes in my life by fulfilling the will of God in every part of my chosen vocation, and never compromising for any reason. I will probably fail, but I will try to look to the Virgin Mary to intercede for me for mercy and forgiveness, but also the strength to pick up my cross again and hopefully carry it to the end of the mission that I have been given. Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of death…Amen!
Come, Lord Jesus!