By now everyone has seen the Italian Ursuline Sister, Cristina Sciuccia, on the Italian show equivalent of “The Voice.” Go here if you need a refresher. Everyone seems to have voiced his or her opinion in a combox or bloggers in their own blog. I’m fine with most of them but I haven’t heard anyone yet project an opinion close to mine which is: Why all the fuss? This sort of thing is already happening. Let me explain.
There are those of the opinion that this is not the job of a nun. Some think she should work on her vocation instead of singing on a stage. Some were deeply moved by her performance, citing the clear movement in the heart of one Ajax (isn’t that a soap?) on the show itself.
I wonder what the objectors to this nun’s performance think priests and those of consecrated/cloistered orders do with their time? Can a priest or a nun not have a hobby or be good at something other than prayer, and use that to inspire others?
For example, Trappist monks have been crafting and selling beer said to be some of the world’s finest, and nobody seems to want to take up an argument about that. These beers go for some $80/bottle. Is that their vocation? No, but it does have a place in their Christian life. Let me put it like this:
By working through the process and the recipe, finding the best possible taste, consistency, foam content, color, fragrance, they are participating in the process of perfection that God gave us as creations in His image. The very fact that we recognize levels of perfection is a meaningful lesson in the Five Ways (Latin, quinqae viae) of St. Thomas Aquinas as proof of God’s existence, and our participation in seeking those perfections in creative processes is a direct reflection of our God. Their perfection brings God glory and since mans nature is attracted to perfection, their creativity can be a witness.
In the 17th century, a group of Carmelite nuns were doing the same thing: making beer to sell. Many convents do the same thing today. Selling wreaths, honeys, jams, sandwiches, all to support themselves and bring joy to others.
There are several other traveling Catholic singers, some of whom are in Holy Orders. The popular traveling threesome of singing priests aptly titled, The Priests, have been touring the world since the 1970s. They have also been allowed a most unusual honor of recording at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. They aren’t singing pop music but they have a huge following and inspire others in their artistic talent.
Are these three examples hobbies or vocations? My priest owns a gun. On his days off, he goes to the range. That’s his thing. He’s not joining the Army though.
Let me come at this from another angle.
The objection is also, that she is too much like the world; that Christians are called to be different from the world; that her singing on a stage, a secular one, is a sign that she is trying to be so much like the world.
First, since when is singing on stage secular? I highly doubt she is trying to become a pop star. More on that below.
Then, what about the age old Pagan influence accusations on the Church? Don’t people tell us that we are sun worshipers because our Christmas season is during the same time as the Pagan celebration of Sol Invictus? Or that we hang wreaths on our door to keep the god Saturnalia on our sides throughout the rough winter season – too much “like the world”? Yet, Tertullian wrote around A.D. 190-220 that Christians hang more wreaths and laurels than the pagans, and says, “You are a light of the world, and a tree ever green” in his defense against idolatry and worldly practices. He wasn’t condemning the décor – he was pointing out the intention behind the uses of such things compared to the pagans.
St. Patrick took a secular symbol (the three leafed shamrock) and used it to assist and illustrate his teaching on the Holy Trinity. They weren’t mixing the Kool-Aid – they were meeting pagans are their doorstep and showing them the real meanings of the things they were using.
The world and its ways can be tools for evangelists to inspire and teach, but that doesn’t mean we become like the world. I think it highly unlikely that Sister Cristina Sciuccia is using this as a platform to run away and become a pop star. Does anyone really think her convent would support her and cheer with joy behind the stage curtain as they watch her perform if they knew she was trying to have a different career?
I think people are really over-reacting to this in general. There are numerous examples of priests and nuns working in creative ways to preach the gospel. Several of our saints weren’t even granted their missionary endeavors, or permission to start their orders, upon multiple requests and we can’t let this nun have a hobby and if good enough, enter into a competition? This whole thing speaks more about the spiritual climate in Italy versus America if you ask me. Would this sort of act been possible in America? What would the reaction have been?
Either way, it’s too early to judge her actions, and really, it’s none of our business. I’m certainly not qualified to be her spiritual director – her Ursuline convent mother is. Let’s leave that sort of thing up to her convent and her local episcopate.