There is something vital and totally relevant about the religious life as practiced by nuns today. There is a reason why we are fascinated by these women who maintain a mysterious aura even when they are no longer cloaked in the garb of old. What draws women to this sacrificial life? What is the gratification that comes from taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience? How can a woman pursue full status in an environment that many deem misogynistic? What are the secret struggles and fears that wage battle behind the serene exterior? people are endlessly fascinated by the mystery of nuns as they walk among us in the world. In The Calling, Catherine Whitney follows the daily routine of a Dominican community for a year. She reveals a rare inside view of these lives of devotion, while answering the questions that most fascinate the lay public. The Calling is Whitney's search for answers from a community that has existed for centuries but is still evolving. The story contains elements of romance, personal heroism, suffering, existential anxiety, and boundless joy. It is a human tale cloaked in a superhuman mantle.
Like many Catholic baby boomers, Catherine Whitney left the Church in her late teens, turned off by its dogma and apparent oppression of women. And like many wayward Catholics, she returned to the Church at midlife, yearning for a deeper spiritual understanding and meaning.
It was her father's funeral that brought Whitney back to her Seattle roots as an adult journalist, and back to the doors of the Sisters of Saint Dominic of the Holy Cross--the same order of nuns that ran her childhood school. As a Catholic rebel, Whitney had dismissed her childhood teachers as archaic and out of touch with reality. But now as a seeker and wiser soul, Whitney was "completely disarmed by the women I found there.... They were smart, engaged, spiritually grounded, visionary women, remarkably at ease with uncertainty and change." Through interviews with the nuns and yearlong observations, Whitney explains how women hear this unique calling, and why they answer it. She also examines why some women break their vows and leave, becoming "Rebel Brides." Nonetheless, Whitney's writing is at its best when she tenderly explores her own heartfelt reckoning with God and Catholicism. --Gail Hudson
On a hilltop north of Seattle, overlooking the glorious vista of Puget Sound and the white-capped Olympics, stands Rosary Heights, the motherhouse of the Sisters of Saint Dominic of the Holy Cross. The story begins here, with a catastrophic storm that shifts the ground beneath the motherhouse and threatens to send it crashing into the waters below. In a single act of nature, a moment of truth, the order is forced to rethink its place in the world and its purpose.
With Rosary Heights as the backdrop, Catherine Whitney takes a personal journey inside the order that ran the school she attended as a child, the order that, for a short time, she contemplated entering herself. Her quest is to come to terms with what it means to be called to the religious life. What is the secret these women hold that makes them--no matter how diverse--perform common rituals, celebrate the same Mass, and serve the same God?
In The Calling, we meet several valiant women who struggle with the practicalities of the world around them as well as the complicating issues of the life of a nun. Each woman's story is compelling. Together, they form a dramatic human chronicle that is fascinating and revealing--a chronicle of a community that has existed for centuries but is still evolving and whose anxieties and joys are utterly relevant to all of us, regardless of our beliefs.
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