I recently read a short story called A Practical Guide to Becoming a Nun and was entranced. 

The story — told in the second person — is about a girl who wants to become a nun and her mother, who struggles with accepting that choice. 

As a teenager, there was a time when I thought that I wanted to be a nun (although I’m not Catholic). But unlike Molly in the story, it wasn’t because I had a devout sense of religiosity. 

I didn’t know anything about what went on behind the scenes at a Catholic church but books I’d read indicated that there was a lot of time for study, silence and reflection. 

In an episode of Michael Pollan’s Cooked, a nun, who is also a microbiologist makes cheese using traditional French cheese-making techniques. That was the kind of nun I imagined myself being. 

But A Practical Guide to Becoming a Nun reminded me that it wasn’t as simple as that. There’s a line in the story, where I think Molly also begins to realise that it’s not all study and prayer. 

When she is asked if she wants to speak to the priest, the story goes:

“You can hear him now, a man old or young, explaining the rules you’ll be expected to follow, the rigorous training and prayer that lies ahead.”

It’s here that she starts to consider whether a life as a nun is what she wants for herself. 

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