Join the Convent … see The View

The older sisters often say, “Join the convent, see the world!”

And they should know. Already extraordinary women before they entered religious life, the sisters of the Community of the Holy Spirit continue to experience and shape the world. Religious life tends toward the prophetic, and the women of this religious order have shaped generations of students through their teaching, and influenced men and women around the world with their artwork, programs, writing, counseling and spiritual direction, correspondence and travel. Several have PhD’s, others have owned and run businesses, worked in finance, served in the military, bar-tended, composed and performed music. One sister studied composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, another’s artwork hangs in the Tate. One sister has traveled in 41 countries for the women’s office of The Episcopal Church. Some have children and grandchildren. All have seen life in every aspect, in joy and sorrow, in tragedy and transcendence.

For Thursday’s episode of The View, Whoopi Goldberg wanted singing nuns to celebrate her birthday114824_1986 and for the announcement and promotion of a musical based on the movie “Sister Act”. Somehow, the producers of The View on ABC knew of the sisters of the Community of the Holy Spirit. “And, as we are one of the last sisters to wear formal habits – at least on ‘state’ occasions – we were particularly desirable,” quipped one nun. I was honored to go and sing too.

Here was the line-up: a promotion of a Barbara Walter’s special on the so-called “pregnant man,” a discussion about Prop 8 in California, a demonstration of the latest electronic “gadgets,” performing dogs from the Big Apple Circus, and us, singing Alleluia* from the studio audience, and singing again at the end of the program while wheeling out a huge birthday cake decorated with little paper dolls of Whoopi Goldberg in her various acting roles.  (*For those readers who know us, the much-loved Kenyan Alleluia sung at festive liturgies.)

The producers, technicians, staff, and Ms. Goldberg could not have been more generous, helpful, and altogether lovely in every way. However, I had not yet experienced first hand what the sisters have evidently encountered before: mean jokes about nuns.

A guest actor and the stand-up comic who had to keep the studio audience at the highest levels of energy during the commercial breaks could not help themselves. At any possible allusion to anything to the right or left of milk sop, say, sex, swearing, violence, or drinking, they’d play for cheap laughs saying, “Nuns! Cover your ears!”

“You become a nun  to be in the thick of things” one sister puts it. Do people really think nuns can’t face discussions on transgender issues, politics, hear naughty words, let alone weigh in (against stereotype apparently) on gay marriage? Do people really think nuns have not faced the tragedies of life – rape, abortion, domestic violence, poverty, addictions, injustice, racism? And not only experienced life, but, facing reality, meditated upon it, redeeming, repairing, bringing all of it into contemplation, to artful prayer?

I watched the sisters sit graciously, smiling through the insults. I felt less generous.                                                               

Sisters on The View Would folks make cheap jokes about Gloria Steinem, Toni Morrison, Midori, or their own mothers and sisters to their faces in front of a studio audience?

The sisters say to me, “Get over it. This always happens, just smile.  Some people have had bad childhood experiences with nuns in school.”  Well, I say it’s about time for the American culture to get over being afraid of nuns.

Well, besides that hiccup, we had great fun performing amongst the circus dogs, the pregnant man sequence, the gadget demonstrations, and a giant birthday cake.  

And Whoopi Goldberg is absolutely devine.

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2 Responses to “Join the Convent … see The View”

  1. Nia Says:

    I’m sorry it was a bad experience for you. I encountered that attitude to nuns in Scotland too – a Catholic man of Irish ascendancy explained to me the mixed feelings people would have – some had, as your sisters tell you, bad experiences at school. The rest just found them weird (a community of women living alone, without men….).

    The only thing I found strange about it is that Spanish jokes on nuns always picture them as hypocritical. More revenge after an oppressive education, maybe.

  2. Vernell Cooper Says:

    I usually don’t commonly post on many another Blogs, yet I just has to say thank you… keep up the amazing work. Ok regrettably its time to get to school.

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