Becoming a nun can be a lifelong dream for many Christian and Catholic women.
A nun is one of the pillars of the Catholic community, and they are held to the highest standards of the Catholic Church during their tenure.
However, many women might be hesitant to become a nun and follow their vocational calling if they’ve had sex before.
In fact, many women might think they have to be “perfect” before becoming a nun. That is quite the contrary.
The Catholic Church has stated that nuns do not have to be virgins before they join the vocation.
Nuns should hold other values and conform to Catholic rules, such as chastity, once they join.
However, not being a virgin does not prevent a woman from becoming a nun.
How Do You Become a Nun?
If you’re wondering whether or not having had sex before will impede your chances of being a nun, you might already be considering heeding the call and choosing this as your vocation.
It’s important to understand the process of becoming your nun to put your worries at ease.
By understanding how the process works, you can be better equipped to prepare yourself for your journey into nunhood. To become a nun, you must follow certain steps, including:
- Be honest with yourself and your loved ones. In order to become a nun, you will need to take a vow of chastity, poverty, and obedience. If you have strong Catholic faith, you’ll be required to call upon your faith at all times and follow the word of the Lord. However, there are many other ways to follow the Catholic teachings besides becoming a nun. Speak to your loved ones and be honest with yourself about what your goals are. Do you want to give back to the community? Do you want to dedicate your life to public service? Do you want to do all of those things as a nun? If your answer is yes, start following the process to become a nun.
- Get a good education. There are many educational degrees you can obtain to become a nun. From studying theology to having a medical degree, these are all excellent educational degrees that can help you solidify your place in your new order. Many orders (communities of nuns) and churches will require future nuns to have a degree in order to participate in their church.
- Talk to your specific order. Your order will require different vows, have different requirements for their nuns, and will ultimately have different nuns that you will see every single day and interact with. You can also speak to your order about the missionary work they do and see if it aligns with your own goals.
- Partake in training to become a nun. This training can take anywhere from a year or more, and you can take this time to reflect on whether or not being part of an order of nuns for the rest of your life is truly what you want to do.
- Finish your training and take your temporary vows. Temporary vows can last between three to nine years. Once you finish your time with your order and these temporary vows, you can then take your final vows and become a full nun.
Why Nuns Take a Vow of Chastity
Many people think that nuns must be virgins in order to be part of an order.
This might be due to the fact that nuns do have to take a vow of chastity, poverty, and obedience, so the confusion is understandable.
However, in a document released by the Catholic Church in 2018 called Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago, the Church stated that it is not necessary for a woman to be a virgin before taking on the chastity vow.
For those that don’t know, chastity means to refrain from sexual intercourse.
In order to refrain from sexual intercourse, nuns must not take on a husband, must not have sex with men or women, and, of course, must not get pregnant.
The vow of chastity is thought to help nuns and priests grow closer to Jesus Christ and helps solidify their bond to the Church and Jesus’ teachings.
This is also why nuns and priests take a vow of chastity, poverty, and obedience.
Why the Sudden Change?
Although you might hear many people angry at the Church’s decision to accept non-virginal nuns into their congregation, it makes perfect sense considering the lack of women that now want to join the Church to become a nun.
Modern women might not see the appeal of being a nun, and this has led to a crisis within the church seeking nuns.
There were only 50,000 nuns in 2014, compared to 180,000 in 1965.
This drop in the number of nuns is detrimental to the church, so finding ways to accept other candidates into an order of nuns is of the utmost importance.
What’s the Difference Between a Consecrated Virgin and Nun?
You might also hear the term “bride of Jesus,” when people refer to nuns. This is not meant to be a negative term but is one that is rooted in the Catholic tradition.
There are various types of brides of Jesus, all of whom are consecrated virgins. To consecrate something means to use it for a special, sacred purpose.
Although consecrated virgins can become nuns, this is not necessary for all of them.
In fact, you can find many consecrated virgins out and about in the “real world,” meaning the world outside of the church.
These consecrated virgins are also brides of Jesus, and must also dedicate their time in the real world to:
- Service to the church
- Serving the community
- Living a life free of sex (chastity)
Saints Who Were Sinners
If you’ve never had sex before, you might still be worried that your past mistakes might impede you from becoming a nun.
On the contrary, there have been many saints that were formerly “sinners” in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Consider some of the following:
Saint Dismas: He was the man who was nailed onto the cross next to Jesus Christ. Although not much is known about his life before being nailed to the cross, there were reports that he was a thief before becoming a saint.
Saint Augustine: Saint Augustine was a sinner who was actually a pagan and impregnated a concubine before becoming a saint. Although sex work isn’t considered a sin today (at least in our eyes), this was greatly frowned upon during Augustine’s time. Yet, he was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church following his conversion and becoming an influential priest.
Saint Pelagia: Saint Pelagia was considered to be a “loose woman” and is even described as being able to seduce powerful men and married men. Little is known of her personal life, other than her love affairs and the many men that she was able to seduce. However, Saint Pelagia also converted, later becoming a nun in the Catholic Church and spending the rest of her days serving the church! She was also canonized as a saint.
What If I Was Divorced? Can I Be a Nun?
In addition to not needing to be virgins to join the covenant, did you know that nuns can also have a history of being divorced?
In the past, divorce was greatly frowned upon by the Catholic Church, since taking marriage vows meant taking vows in front of God to love each other in sickness and in health, through thick and thin.
However, modern nuns are now allowed to be divorced, widowed, and even have children so long as their children are old enough to care for themselves.
The divorce can also be an annulled marriage. There is no limit to who the church will accept as a nun.
Can I Be Kicked Out for Having Sex?
While it is very possible to have led a completely different, non-religious life, before entering an order, the following is strictly frowned upon:
- Sexual intercourse
- Extramarital affairs
- Breaking vows of poverty and obedience
In fact, there were reports recently of two nuns who became pregnant after a missionary trip and who will, most likely, need to leave their religious community once returning to their order.
For nuns that have broken their vow of celibacy and become pregnant, they will not only need to leave their community but also be asked to return to their old community.
This is not all bad. Chances are if a nun broke her vows while in the community, she may not have wanted to follow the path of the Church forever and will be happier leaving the covenant.
What About Pregnancy Resulting from an Assault?
On the other hand, there have also been reports of nuns becoming pregnant after being sexually assaulted by other priests.
If this is the case, the nun might be offered to choose the baby and leave their community or give the baby up for adoption.
Although abortion is frowned upon in the Church, there is a mystery surrounding whether the Catholic Church would accept nuns getting an abortion done in order to benefit them after an assault.
How Nuns Can Handle Sexual Urges
For nuns, it’s important to remember that being a virgin isn’t a requirement to enter an order, but remaining celibate is.
As such, nuns should be able to take care of their sexual urges without the use of masturbating as well.
Masturbating can be seen as breaking the vow of celibacy, even though there is not another man (or woman) in the picture.
In the end, nuns must use other forms of intimacy, such as prayer, singing, or accepting Christ into their life, to take care of their sexual urges without engaging in intimacy or masturbation.
Meditation, journaling, and prayer can all be excellent ways for nuns (and future nuns) to take care of their urges and maintain their vow of celibacy.
The Catholic Church now has a stance on nuns that states they do not have to be virgins to join the convent.
However, they do need to continue to be celibate and avoid sexual encounters and masturbating.
It’s best to talk to an order about how you can become a nun and speak with other nuns about their experiences within the church before making a decision to devote your life to the church.