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New Habits

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New Habits

What is this book about? 

Like all my books this first book - which I didn't 'write' as it's a series of interviews which I did and then transcribed - is about happiness.  I had a friend who was becoming a young nun in the Church of England and I noticed that all my friends were a) horrified and b) fascinated.  People think that nuns and monks 'give up' a lot but there is a paradox.  In taking vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience they gain an incredible freedom.   The reverse 'Money, sex and power' is what our society is obsessed with.  Give up chasing these three things and what do you gain?  Well, according to those who do - you gain your life - your freedome and the opportunity to give 100% of your time to your spiritual path.

So what is this book exactly? 

A series of ten interviews with young novices who were, at the time, thinking of becoming nuns.  Some went on to make life vows - others didn't.  It was a joy and a priviledge to spend time listening to them.

Could you become a nun yourself? 

No.  I am too attached to the pleasure of male company to want be only with sisters.  But there are worse ways to live than to be in a spiritual community with ancient traditions, with a group of women who share your values.  The sisters laughed at me and told me that I would have more trouble with obedience than with celibacy. Obedience is known to the hardest of the obligations.

But the book is out of print now? 

Yes - it's over ten years since it came out but it is still being read and I still get letters about it.  Also due to the wonders of Amazon you can often still find copies here

I have read the book and I'm really curious to know where the sisters are now.

"My friends all thought it was perfectly natural that I should become a nun. There was only one group of people who seemed totally amazed and that was those who went to my church. You would have thought that they would be happy to hear that I was going to dedicate my life to the God that they worship every Sunday, but they were all shocked and I remember one woman saying, 'What do you want to do that for?'

Sister Teresa is no longer a member of the Community of the Sisters of Bethany in Hampshire. She has moved from there to the Community of the Sisters of the Church at Ham Common in Richmond. She is currently their 'Guest sister' looking after the guests who visit the convent for retreat, meditation workshops or just to escape to silence for a couple of days.
"One of my friend's said, 'You can still be married and have kids and serve God you know. You don't have to become a nun for goodness sake!"

Sister Rachael has left the community and is no longer living the religious life.

"One chap at work said to me: 'What? You mean they don't pay you and you can't have sex?' and I said, 'Well, basically yes.' He wasutterly horror struck."

Sister Helen is still happily a member of the Order or the Holy Paraclete, in Yorkshire, England. She took life vows in 2001. Her work she considers to be prayer. She also works as a hospital chaplain and, partly as a result of her interview in New Habits, is frequently asked to do media interviews. She was most recently asked to speak on the subject of 'sacrifice' for Songs of Praise. She says that she finds the idea of trying to be a good nun exhausting as it is more than she can manage to be a good human being. 
"One day my family were all sitting discussing what we had wanted to do when we grew up and someone said 'When Judy was four she wanted to be a nun!' and everyone roared with laughter, thinking this hysterically funny. I thought 'Oh help, what am I going to do?' I was twenty and I still wanted to be a nun."

 'Sister Judith remains at the strict enclosed community of the Sisters of the Love of God in Oxford. They rise in the middle of the night each night to say prayers between 2am and 3am as well as the other prayers that make up part of the day. Sister Judith will leave the community only for medical reasons or to attend religious conferences.'
"One of my friends at work said, 'She's just running away from the world,' and another really laid into him and said, 'Listen, this isn't running away! It's the hardest thing that she's ever done.' And it's interesting because second friend isn't religious in any way but she knew that this isn't an option that counts as 'running away.'

Sister Lynn has left the Community of the Sisters of the Church at Ham common in Richmond and is now working in the library service.

" I met this bloke on the train yesterday and he said, 'Are you Roman Catholic?' and I said, 'No, I'm Anglican' and he said maybe he could tell me his joke anyway. He'd tried it on two bishops and a Catholic sister. So I waited. He asked, 'What do you call a Sister who goes to be a hermit in a washing machine?' And the answer is 'Sistematic, er, Sister-matic. Terrible isn't it?' These are the dubious advantages of taking public transport in a habit."

Sister Julie remains at the Community of the Holy Name in Derby.
"I remember just after I was clothed as a novice I was proudly wearing my new habit and veil. The first time, quite literally, that I went out of the gate a child came along and shouted to his friend, 'Eeergh look, she's got a funny thing on her head. What is it?' I could hardly stop and explain, 'Well, you see, it all started with St Paul..."

Sister Margaret-Anne remains at All Saints Sisters of the Poor. She has also been ordained and works as a curate in the local church. 


"I had never been to church in my life and when I did go, I was astounded to find that people discussed the social events and the local news. I wanted to talk about the reality of God in our lives at a deep level. It never crossed my mind to approach the vicar." 

Sister Joan is no longer at the community of the Sacred Cross in Wales.



"I went to church for the first time in my life and there was all this fussing around going on up at the front and I said, 'What's all this?' And the priest said that it was the last supper and where to find it in the Bible and stuff and I read it. 'Do this in remembrance of me.' Jesus was sitting at a meal table, and there they are swinging incense over a holy book and all. And I thought, and I still think it now, 'How did they get from that to this performance?"

Sister Rose is still living in Brixton - with the Community of St Francis.
"As my dear niece said 'Wasn't it enough when you were in the ecumenical community in Germany and wearing that dowdy old pinafore dress? Now you are getting up at four-thirty in the morning and living in an English community with a load of monks!"

Sister Esther has left the community in Hove, Sussex, returned to Germany and is now married.

I love the idea of taking a silent retreat with contemplative Christian or Buddhist nuns or monks.  Where can I do this?  

A couple of my favourite centres in both traditons are listed on the 'Courses' page of 'The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment  ' here  

So how can I buy the book Isabel?

There are usually some copies available here Amazon



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