Can nuns have kids? Did Vikings hurt nuns? | 2024 Guide

Can nuns have kids? Did Vikings hurt nuns? | 2024 Guide

Since nuns/sisters are female, they can become pregnant and have children. They take a vow of chastity, so assuming they would have children would not be the normal expectation. 

If a woman was previously married and now has independent grown children, and her husband has died, that woman could have a late vocation and become a nun/sister. There may be more specific rules which I am not aware of that contradict my understanding.

Can nuns have kids?

Are they able to? Yes, of course, so long as they are not post-menopausal.

Should they? No! They take a vow before their God of innocence when they first become nuns, so no intimacy means no babies. But they are human, and the inevitable may happen if those vows get broken.

History shows us that nuns and priests are not always the best caregivers for children, but they may be better with their kids. Who knows for sure?

Did Vikings hurt nuns?

No never. Whenever a Viking party boarded their longship, they’d sing drunken songs about the upcoming raid, loot, kill, rape, murder, and so on; their captain would interrupt the whole warrior bravado lift-our-spirits thing to remind them:

“But remember, boys, we don’t hurt nuns!”

They had their limits; they wouldn’t go that far. Of course, some new guy would always ask:

“WTF is a nun?”

And his captain would kindly proceed to explain: “Ah, Björn, thank you for your question. Let us discuss some advanced concepts in monotheism, Catholicism, Monasticism, The Virgin Mary, and the importance of virtue and symbolism in formulating gender roles in Christian medieval societies”.

A long trip was ahead, so they had plenty of time to debate these issues. In any case, by the time they would reach a place like Lindisfarne, every crew member was clear on what a nun is and why we don’t hurt it.

Of course, Christians figured it out soon enough and devised a cunning defensive strategy. When the Viking ships were spotted on the horizon, the church bells would sound the alarm, and the villagers would run inside. The nuns would run outside and form a human shield around the barrier. If they didn’t have enough nuns, they’d dress up some townsfolk as nuns to fill the ranks.

“Argh! They’re pulling the old nun trick again!”

“But captain, I see some very ugly nuns in the line. Are we sure they’re all actually…?”

“Nah, can’t risk it, boys, let’s sail on.”

Can nuns have kids? Did Vikings hurt nuns?

Do nuns fall in love?

Sure. Mother Dolores Hart had a great career in movies and a boyfriend. Here she is in her movie days:

She felt the call to become a nun and is one now. Here she is:

Interestingly, the man she loved never married. He would visit her in the monastery and died two years ago. Dolores Hart was in a documentary film 2011 about her life called God is the Bigger Elvis. She was the first actress to kiss Elvis in the film Loving You. She was also in King Creole.

Do cloistered nuns still exist?

Yes. I was one for about a decade before leaving to become a hermit. (I am no longer a hermit because illness brought me to hospice and long-term nursing care.)

I’m the one in the blue apron.

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Why don’t nuns marry?

While there is a mystical sense of being a “bride of Christ,” there is also a practical sense.

Catholic priests, religious brothers and sisters, and monks and nuns do not marry for two practical reasons.

  1. We give all the good that we are and can be, do and will do, have and can have as a gift to God. That includes giving up romantic and sexual love as a gift to God. (Not everyone is called to this; today, we know that being celibate is not a higher calling than being married, just a different one.)
  2. We want to be completely free to dedicate ourselves to worshiping God and serving God and our fellows. If we got married, we would be less free for that.

Is it true that some Catholic priests impregnated nuns? If so, what happened to the newborn babies?

Of course, it’s true; it’s still happening. Human beings will procreate if given a sliver of a chance. It’s one of the favorite pastimes of humans. I’m not saying that it is, or ever was, common; after all, the job specifications for both nuns and Catholic priests are such that a disproportionate number of them won’t be interested in the first place.

Since it’s not something they’ve ever advertised, it has to be a bit of speculation about what happened to the children. In more recent times, the children have presumably often been adopted away. This would probably also sometimes have been the case in history: many nuns were from wealthy families who would have had the resources to take the children in.

Sometimes, of course, the children were murdered. The people who ran convents were presumably a bit more callous about this in an age when infant mortality was high and only half of all children saw their 5th birthday.

Do many nuns regret becoming nuns?

Yes. Some nuns and sisters do regret the steps they took.

These days, it is far less frequent than it was in the years right after Vatican II. 

Back then, it was far easier to become a religious(*) and far harder to leave. The result was far too many sad, frustrated, and bitter religious. Today, admission and initial formation before permanent vows take at least six years, often more. It is also relatively easy to leave. 

There is also a much larger space to meet the needs of individual religions.

Can nuns have kids? Did Vikings hurt nuns? | 2024 Guide

A religious who has regrets suffers terribly. I knew someone like that. She was full of regrets but afraid to leave. She stayed, fulfilled all expectations of her, and was a valuable community member. It was all painful for her. 

I was so sorry for her, yet I admired her steadfastness in carrying through what she had vowed to God, even though she regretted the vow.

I want to emphasize that it was this sister’s choice to remain. If she had expressed a desire to leave, all possible assistance would have come her way.

What do nuns eat?

I was once the monastery cook in a contemplative order of nuns, so that I can answer this.

‘Nuns’ are members of the contemplative orders (the Catholic nuns) who take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Contemplative orders exist to keep nuns away from the world’s distractions so that they may pray. 

They attend Mass each day and chant or say the Divine Office (the Psalms) and a wide variety of other prayers. Other ‘sisters’ are active orders of women who teach, nurse, or do other work among the laity.

To have time for prayer without jobs in ‘the world,’—many orders make products to sell: bread, tapes of sermons, Icons, fudge, etc. These things usually don’t generate enough income, so most orders need donations. 

We relied on donations but had enough to buy simple groceries (not pre-made crusts or luxury items). We relied on staples: potatoes, rice, eggs, garden vegetables, and some affordable meat—when possible.

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We used an original antique gas stove, washed the tinfoil until it fell to pieces, and used huge sacks of flour (to bake from scratch). We relied on potato stew and hamburger helper with inexpensive ground beef. Liver is cheap, too… so that was a regular.

I had never cooked before, so suddenly, cooking for nearly 40 nuns was a shock! There were…mistakes. The first time I made a pie crust, it tasted strangely salty and chewy instead of familiar and flaky; I finally realized that I had accidentally mixed the recipe for pizza dough instead of the dough for pie crust. Everyone was charitable, but an apple pie with pizza dough is bad.

Can nuns have kids? Did Vikings hurt nuns?

There were also triumphs. I decided to try marinating the (admittedly disgusting) liver in red vinegar to kill the liver after-taste. I then lightly breaded it with spices before pan-frying it with onions. It was such a success that all the sisters rose from their chairs in the refectory after the first bite—to give me a standing ovation!

I did not stay with the sisters through the novitiate since my true calling turned out to be marriage, but I still read about nuns whenever possible. Over the centuries, monks and nuns have faced huge challenges. In times of unrest (like the Spanish Civil War), they have suffered persecution, great indignities, and starvation.

In former centuries, some monasteries had a “starving bell” to notify nearby villagers that donations were gone and there was no more food. Then, the village would gather supplies and leave them on the monks’ bare table. Once the lay folk departed, the religious would come in and eat.

Galileo’s (illegitimate) daughter was a nun who more than once faced serious want. Their letters to one another are still available for reading.

Are nuns declining worldwide?

Assuming by nuns you mean, as most people do, not only monastics (“nuns”) but all women religious or consecrated women (“sisters”)?

When considering this, most people only look at the last 50 or 60 years.

In 1970, about 1 million sisters (including nuns) and about 80,000 brothers (including monks). Out of about 650 million Catholics, roughly one out of every 650 was in religious/consecrated life.

As of 2018, there were about 642,000 sisters and 51,000 brothers out of 1.3 billion Catholics. Roughly one out of every 1900 Catholics was in consecrated life.

So, in raw numbers and as a percentage, the number of people taking solemn vows of religious life or other consecrated life has decreased.

However, what is often overlooked is that the period of 1940–1970 was a bit of a boom, an oddity, and the numbers in the last 20 years more closely resemble those of a century earlier, in terms of percentage, than those mid-century.

Also, being religious to enter into ministry is no longer necessary. With the return of deacons and the explosion of lay vocations such as lay ecclesial ministers and catechists, far more lay people are engaged in the Church in a ministerial capacity than ever before. And that’s not even counting the growth in the lay apostolate.

Who was the first Catholic nun?

Tradition holds that St. Scholastica was the twin Sister of the founder of the Benedictine order, St. Benedict of Nursia.

It’s a rather sweet story. 

When Benedict decided to become a monk and found the order, Scholastica missed him so much that she would regularly spend a day with him, praying and discussing spiritual things. 

Eventually, she founded a hermitage close to Benedict’s abbey to be closer to him and lived there with several other women who were also professed as hermits. They adopted the Rule of St. Benedict and took solemn vows, effectively living as monks.

I love the story because I’m a twin and an oblate of the Benedictine order.

Can nuns have kids? Did Vikings hurt nuns?

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Why have you stopped being a nun? Can nuns marry or have children if they want?

Full disclosure: I’m the Sister of a nun who has not left her order, although the fact that most of her fellow sisters are in their 70s and 80s has meant changes they didn’t anticipate when they joined. For instance, they now live in an assisted-living facility instead of a convent, and my Sister, who joined her order to become a teacher, ended her career as a nursing home chaplain.

Marriage and children are things that a woman gives up to devote herself entirely to what she perceives as God’s work. Nuns leave their orders for the same reason anyone else leaves a job: they’ve decided it’s not what they want to do with their lives. And if they do leave, they are released from their vows and, if they choose, can marry and have children.

Can nuns have kids? Did Vikings hurt nuns? | 2024 Guide

What happens if a nun has a child?

If a nun vows to practice virtue and becomes pregnant, something unacceptable has happened. I have never known this to happen, but it probably has in 2,000 years. 

Assuming this child resulted from a consensual relationship, this is my guess – she would be dispensed from her vows and, hopefully, find someone to live with who helps her during her pregnancy and after as she raises the child. Hopefully, this would be the father of the child. But – maybe not. 

The one reason a Sister or nun can be removed from religious life is “public scandal.” The community would not heartlessly toss her out, but her decision has consequences that make it difficult for all. 

Can nuns have kids? Did Vikings hurt nuns?

The religious community could not financially afford to support a child through many years – nor is religious life made for a child to grow up in. If the Sister wanted to put the child up for adoption, this could happen, but her breaking one of the vows so egregiously is unacceptable. She would be asked to leave.

If the pregnancy did not result from a consensual event and the Sister was raped, then the community would get her medical care and whatever mental therapy she needed. It would be up to her if she wished to raise her child, which she would have to leave Religious Life to do. 

She could also consider adoption. But, as I stated above, she could not raise a child in a Convent. This whole situation would certainly be tragic for all.

Is there an equivalent of nuns in Judaism?

There is no equivalent in Judaism of women having a role like nuns have in Catholicism, where they live communally and serve as nurses, teachers, and servants of the Church organization.

Traditionally, Jewish women would not be teachers to anyone but their children. When a Jewish woman was active in her synagogue, it would be recognized that she was still a lay congregation member and not semi-clergy.

Although the defining characteristic of nuns is their service to the Church and not their celibacy, celibacy is an important facet of their lives, and celibacy does not exist in Judaism, except in the obscure examples of Ethiopian Jewish monks and the Essenes (each of which was male only).

Traditionally, a Jewish woman’s highest achievement is having a large family. There is no equivalent to her being ‘married to the Church’ or ‘married to Christ.’

In fact, in very traditional Orthodox communities, the most prominent women are prominent because they are the wives of major rabbis.

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At what age did you decide to become a nun?

My spiritual itinerary has not been the usual one. As some of you know, I was born into a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish family, something like this one, but no television personality ever visited us.

After long research and praying from my heart, and spending time in various Christian and Messianic Jewish circles, I became a Catholic. My religious vocation was clear to me almost from the beginning., but it is not a step to be taken lightly.

I entered the monastery in my forties. This photo is of my fiftieth birthday celebration in the refectory, with some of my novitiate companions and the abbess.


Can nuns have kids?

I’ll answer about Orthodox Christian Nuns (Monastics).

Yes, nuns can have children, but not in the sense you might have meant by the question.

Becoming a Nun isn’t unusual for a widow with grown children. I’ve met widowed/single grandmother nuns in their 50’s.

My children were alone as young adults when I was still in my early 40s. I had a Church Divorce so that I could have become a Nun.

(If a Deacon or Priest’s wife dies, they can’t remarry. They can resend their ordination and marry again but may not serve. Retired clergy often go to monasteries, a wife to one and husband to another.)

We don’t have nuns that birth babies. There’s nothing wrong with marriage or having babies, but a monastic is dedicated to prayer. They are free to leave if they want a different life. There’s no shame in leaving.

Did Vikings hurt nuns?

Why on Earth would they have spared nuns specifically? They landed, went for whatever loot was available, stuck swords in anyone inconvenient, and probably raped any women who didn’t get away in time. However, they likely didn’t hang about in case serious opposition rallied from elsewhere—like any robber, they would have wanted to get away as fast as they could.

They were pagans. The idea that they should have been lenient on people who had made it their job to worship some foreign deity would have been alien to them. 

It’s like imagining the Spanish Conquistadors being especially nice to the Aztec priests because of their holiness (although the Vikings, as polytheists, would not have seen it as their special duty to torture nuns to death).

Can nuns have kids? Did Vikings hurt nuns? | 2024 Guide

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