This is a very eye opening movie about the lives nuns lead. It begins with Gabrielle (Audrey Hepburn) leaving her family (and possible fiancé) to become a nun. Within the convent she is a nurse, and one day hopes to go to a mission in the Congo. We bear witness to all her religious rituals and all the new rules that come with joining a convent. As she progresses, her family attends her ceremonies. They display a dutiful support and obviously miss her. She becomes Sister Luke and travels to learn more about medicine that will one day help her in the Congo. But there is always one thing in her way; herself.
There are so many rules and internal struggles a nun must face. At all times they must be aware of themselves and keep pure of heart. They must not want anything, show vanity or show any hint of pride and always be humble. This includes looking into a mirror. Twice a day they must write down their sins in a little black book. To teach them humility, they must make penance in front of the entire convent, and if they failed to mention a certain sin, anyone who knows of it can call them out right there while they kneel in front of the Head Mother. To get through all that, you’ve got to be very strong to be a nun.
Unfortunately for Sister Luke, strength is her greatest virtue as a nun. When she excels in her studies, it is sometimes considered pride. When she chooses to finish giving her patient medicine before going to chapel, it’s considered disobedience. She has ambition and ferocious will to go the Congo and sometimes puts her duties as a nurse before her religion. Every day for her is an inner struggle between two types of conscience and in the end, she must choose where her heart truly lies.
I can imagine so many responses to this film. Some may feel swept by how strong these women devote every bit of their lives to something greater and have a religious moment. Others may be appalled by the lives they lead and say it’s unnatural to forsake so much that makes us human. From either side of the fence, the story is still excellent. It has to be, for such charged emotional responses to come out of it. It’s told without a single hitch in the road and from the start we are fully interested in the fate of Sister Luke.
There are so many reasons to watch The Nun’s Story. Whether you’re Catholic or not, you’ll learn new things and identify with Sister Luke’s struggles.
“You can cheat your sisters, but you cannot cheat yourself or God.”
Just a personal note: This post goes out to my favorite nun and first grade teacher, Sister Judy.