By day, I am a Catholic high school Theology teacher in my small hometown in Indiana. By night, I am a sassy single gal, navigating the oh-so crazy world of dating in my 30’s.
Yes, I have stories from both times of the day that would make you pee your pants laughing.
But by weekend..
By weekend, I am a fake nun.
(No, I don’t wear my costume on dates.)
See, my best friend Michaela (Mikey) and I started this little act about 10 years ago. As volunteer leaders for a local youth group, we were encouraged to come up with a skit for the kids. Our first one bombed. We wore bedsheets. We lip synced to the “Sister Act” soundtrack. The kids fake-laughed politely.. It was bad, my friends.
But little by little we came up with something that was kinda… hilarious! Kids told their parents about us. Parents booked us for mom groups and private parties. The elementary schools booked us for teacher retreats. Mikey and I invested in some legit-looking habits from a costume retailer and we were auctioned off at a fundraiser (uh, we went for almost $8,000, by the way… NBD). We even gave surprise wedding toasts to some of the youth group kids we had started the whole thing with!
Before we knew it, we’d given ourselves a name and “Nun & Nunner” took off. Our Instragram account blew up. We were featured in Glamour magazine, on Catholic Teen Posts’ Live Stream, in an issue of FaithConnect. We are the latest episode (#6) on the current season of Leah Darrow’s “Do Something Beautiful” podcast. We will be on CatholicTV’s “The Gist” with Rachel Balducci this fall and are booked at colleges, high schools, parishes and conferences all over the country through May 2018!! ProjectYM just named us one of the “Top 12 Catholics to Follow on Instagram!” We were thrilled!
Nowadays, as Sister Mary Rose and Sister Maria Stella, we might tell our “vocation stories” with a Disney medley or talk about before-convent-boyfriends with a 90’s R&B mashup. We bring Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran together to talk about needing to go to Confession before receiving Communion. We love the Q&A time afterward when we tell the kids about how we’re “not real”, talk about our friendship, reflect on our beautiful faith and praise our Holy Mother Church. And we tailor each show to the group that has booked us — never doing the same show twice! It has become something pretty fun AND faith-filled!
But I’d be lying if I said we’d planned it. Mikey and I never publicized ourselves or even imagined it would take off. It was all God. God has been pushing us forward in the most amazing ways.
We’re totally enjoying the ride and pray so much about our act- from what shows to take on to what to say in interviews to taking the intentions of our growing followers into our hearts to reflecting on constructive criticism from friends. While writing each show, the cutting room floor becomes littered with jokes that will never see the light of day. We love to find that fine line of reverent comedy and it’s usually through prayer that we figure out if we’re getting close to crossing it. We call upon St. Philip Neri (he had an incredible sense of humor!), St. Ephraim (who used to change the words to popular songs and make them about God!), and St. John Paul II (talk about an evangelizer!) to guide us.
But lately, as we’ve gotten more Insta-followers (who we’ve come to call “Nunsters”), we’ve also collected a tiny handful of people who aren’t so kind. We don’t mind if some people don’t understand or like our comedy… even Jim Gaffigan or Judy MacDonald have those who would pass on their latest shtick! We think there are plenty of cups of tea to go around and we don’t have to be everyone’s.
What gets us… I mean REALLY gets us, are nasty and rude comments that a few crabby people must have ordered gall-in-bulk to be able to leave. Really, it’s only been a couple of messages, but they’re surprisingly aggressive! We decided to call these people the “No-Funsters!” I won’t even take the time to repeat their words, but I’d like to show you the one that put it all in perspective!
A couple weeks ago we posted this picture, a beautiful work of art by Michael Belk from one of my favorite series, “Journeys with the Messiah” (LINK IN: http://journeyswiththemessiah.org/). We talked about how, even in the depths of despair, we are always in God’s hands. People responded beautifully and we got into some great discussions! And then we got this message…
This seems so silly now, but I’ll be real with you… it took us a while to laugh! At first, we were sick about it. Mikey and I talked on the phone and really reflected on the photo, spending way too much of our precious time dissecting this re-donkulous diatribe to ensure we hadn’t really offended God!
Finally I said, “Hold up!” I shook my head, “Girl, we are in Crazy Town and we need to head home. We posted this picture with the best of intentions. If some lady finds this ‘too sexy’, that is all on her! We cannot possibly be responsible for the reaction of a woman who goes into a venomous rage at the sight of Jesus’ six-pack, for Pete’s sake! Lots of people commented with beautiful sentiments and we got so many messages with beautiful reflections. Why are we fixated on one lady’s opinion that, prayerfully, we don’t share!?”
We vowed to put this behind us and focus on the good.
But after this week’s controversial Break-Dancing-Priests scandal (did you miss it? Read my favorite recap and reflection here) I realized that it’s not just Nun & Nunner that the devil is dancin’ on.. We can all relate to this!
We could get all the praise in the world and be steeped in prayerful discernment, but one loud-mouth tells us that we are on the wrong path, going in the wrong direction, wearing the wrong shade of taupe for this time of year and we lose our you-know-what. ✢ We post something that moves us as witnesses of Christ on Facebook, but decide to delete it when someone responds with a snarky, “Are you really this ignorant?” comment. ✢ We’re leaving the park in a great mood when Perfect-Mom #3 comments on the number of old popsicle sticks in Messy Child #7’s hair and the whole fam-damily knows; it’s gonna be a hostile ride home, baby. ✢ We love a certain song at Mass and hum it all day long, but are afraid to admit that we like to pray that way when we hear someone toil on about it’s lowliness. ✢ We rejoice in our parish’s strengths until a newcomer asks why we don’t do things another way.. “You know, in my old parish..” ✢ We have a great day at work until we get one email asking us to do something differently and suddenly we’re contemplating dramatic resignation.
For Pete’s sake!
When are we doing to let the chatter die out — including our own ranting voices — and zero in on the one that matters?
St. Catherine of Siena gets it. But sadly we can no longer be surprised when people — even fellow Christians — try to douse our fires with big, crabby, stone-cold buckets of not-so-holy water. “Ew… You’re on fire. Stop it. You’re distracting people. You’re doing it wrong. You’re not being a true, oh-so serious Catholic. Ew.”
Girl, you gotta be able to take it to prayer, wring out your Talbots and fire-on.
You are a daughter of Christ with a true and needed purpose in this world! You cannot be somebody who backs down from God’s call every time you get criticized. How committed are you to your calling, friend?
The key here is “being who God created you to be,” not just living off of our own whims and fancies. And truly, we figure that out most fully through prayer. In order to feel secure in our actions — even our mistakes — we’ve got to be able to know in our souls that we’re on the right path. It takes contemplation. It takes knowing the Word. It takes a regular visit to the Sacraments. It takes the honest feedback of good friends. It takes time. But it will come. The certain knowledge that we are in the right place is incredibly empowering; not because we’re so strong and we’re so right, but because we’ll know we’re in the hands of the One Who is.
For Mikey and I, those rude messages might have had a place in our story had we gone on some crusade with Nun & Nunner and pushed so hard for it’s success, feeling and ignoring the current of God’s will pushing us backwards.
But it is precisely God and His divine plan that has pushed us up the Mountain of Faith! He has opened doors and busted through windows and torn down walls for Nun & Nunner all the while allowing us to use our gifts to bring Him glory in a way only the two of us can! Anyone that has a problem with it needs to talk to Him and we’re not the first to be misunderstood.
We have got to be able to let go of the idea that to be Christian is to be perfect or be the same. To be Christian, my friends, is to be His and we are His in so many ways. We simply need to look at the saints to see this is so! We have got to stop jumping on people and digging our claws into them when the way their faith overflows from their hearts looks different from our own! And we’ve got to be able to withstand the attack and stand in Christ when someone does it to us.
We are all trying our darndest to make this journey. And we all have a unique role to play in building the Kingdom of God! Mikey likes to say that Nun & Nunner is “the pinky toe” of the Body of Christ and I love that. Hey, somebody’s got to be! Whatever part you are, I pray that you grow to love it and feel proud of the purpose God has for you, no matter what others say!
If you have a “No-Funster” in your life, pray for them but consider breaking away from their claws so that you can cling to God and become more of who HE wants you to be. And whenever you find yourself being a “No-Funster” (because we all do at times), stop and pray to see the world, not with your own eyes, but with the loving, patient, generous eyes of Christ.