Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns

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In the second decade of the twenty-first century, Catholicism appears under siege. Reporters fixate on drama-accusations, investigations, the selection of a new pope. They ignore the inner story, the very reason why the church has survived from the Roman Empire's persecution through Renaissance splendor to the present day. This is the story of a search for truth, peace, and salvation, a story of selfless dedication that continues behind monastic walls even in our time. In Dedicated to God, Abbie Reese opens a window onto the Corpus Christi Monastery of the Poor Clare Colettine Order, a community of cloistered monastic nuns living within a 25,000-square foot enclosure near Rockford, Illinois. It is a world apart from our noisy, digital, hyper-connected world, a world of poverty, simplicity, and prayer. These women have surrendered everything-their names, shoes, even their families. They disappear from the larger world; when one dies, the order marks her grave with a simple stone indicating religious name and death date, nothing more. While they live, they pray five times a day at the Liturgy of the Hours for the victims of catastrophes and personal tragedies around the globe. The author spent six years learning their individual stories and the ancient rules they have chosen to live by. Reese makes that choice understandable, showing how each nun's values led her there, even if families were sometimes befuddled (one great-niece calls the monastery the Jesus cage ). With an eye for complexity, Reese ranges from the challenges individuals face (she calls one the claustrophobic nun ) to the uncomprehending society that threatens this place with extinction.