Story of a Persecuted Nun
As I reached my seat on the small plane--it's just a short flight from Rochester to Chicago--I saw what was ostensibly a nun in the seat beside mine. Inwardly I cringed. Not for a second due to the fact that I have anything less than maximal respect for women religious. The problem is that my experiences with nuns has been almost entirely negative: "liberated" professionals for whom the only thing "magisterial" is the New York Times op-ed page. How did I recognize her as a nun? Well, it certainly wasn't because she was wearing a veil or any other noticeable habit--in fact, that's the essence of the story. Rather it was by a particular combination of close-cropped hair and very sensible shoes, like the kind older nurses wear. I'm leaving out some detail, but don't even act like you don't know what I'm talking about. This is a look mostly affected by nuns and farmer's wives, both eminantly practical sorts of women. I'm happy to defend the faith, indeed I find few things more enjoyable or rewarding. But it grates me to have to defend it to someone who's already taken a vow to uphold it. Still, I sat down with purpose and was ready to do my duty. As it turns out she was part of the counterinsurgency. We had a great conversation. I'll detail more of it later perhaps, but I first wanted to tell a bit of her story. I asked as politely as I could why she wasn't wearing a veil if she was a non-rebellious sister. She shared that even though it's part of the sworn habit of her order there is a prudence clause that allows sisters to forego visual signs of religious orders in cases where persecution would make it basically impossible to do their work. In some areas it would clearly make them a target for persecution.
Short of becoming a target for violence or persecution allowance is also made for situations in which the harrassment would keep them from their ordinary duties. She said she had made a judgement of prudence as a result of harassment that she could better fulfill her orders if she went without the veil. She hastened to add that she did wear it when she was in a "safer" area, such as where she had just been to a conference. Oh, you'll be wanting to know in what land she served that she was worried about harasment and persecution...the Diocese of Rochester, New York.