City Lights by Doris Dembosky

Mary had dressed carefully. No curls, no lipstick, no eye shadow. Her skirt fell below her knees. She remembered not cross her legs.

The Mother Superior scanned her application. “I see you were raised Lutheran, and you are a recent convert to Catholicism. What attracted you to our faith?”

“No Catholics lived in our town. Everyone was Lutheran. We had this little clapboard church. In the winter, the church was cold. We had only six or seven in the choir. None of them could sing, and very hymn had six verses. There was no joy… no mystery. And then several years ago, I saw The Nun’s Story on TV and realized that I should have been born Catholic.

Mother Superior’s face registered no response. “You would like to be a novitiate, but what draws you to the vocation?

Mary had known this question was coming. There was the expected answer (living a life of faith, devotion, and service) and there was the real answer.

The real answer had to do with the isolation of living on a farm in North Dakota. Mary wanted to move to the city. She wanted a Gothic church and a professional choir. She wanted incense, confession, kneelers, dusky light, and priestly celibacy. She dreamed of a costume romance: the seductiveness of a nun’s habit.

When Mary answered, “I want to live in the city and serve the poor,” Mother Superior rose. Crossing herself, she said, “Good luck and good day.”


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Filed under Doris Dembosky

23 responses to “City Lights by Doris Dembosky

  1. Lovely story, Doris. She was attracted by the city lights, but what kind of City Lights! I loved the list of city/monastic attractions, and the creative twist. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Stella. This is one of those stories where the skeleton in true and the flesh is invention. I was raised in the Lutheran faith, and I was so jealous of my Catholic friends. It seemed as though I was forced to eat vegetables and my friends were allowed to eat anything they wanted – especially desserts! Happy holidays, Doris

  2. You’ve touched on the romance, the lure of vocation perfectly. Really nice!

    • I must say, Susan, you deserve some award for giving so many contributers feedback. I can’t imagine how much time you devote to reading and commentary. Thank you. I appreciate your efforts as do, I imagine, other writers at the receiving end.

  3. Great details and an interesting story given this week’s theme. Nicely drawn!

  4. Oh the desire of the city, this made me smile.

  5. Kim Hutchinson

    Love the real answer, and the way you’ve captured it. Great story.

  6. Love this take on the theme.

    • Thank you, EK. Writing to a theme is a tricky thing. There’s the story inside the box (in this case, the lure of the big city) and there’s the story outside the box (to convert in regard to religion). I am usually an outside the box writer, but you never know how far outside the box you can go. A slippery slope. Doris

  7. This brought back such memories. I grew up Catholic and remember wanting to be a nun, not for those reasons but for other similarly non-devotional ones. Nice take on the theme.

    • You may have guessed that the skeleton of this story was personal; the flesh of the story was invented. I’m curious. What made you think you wanted to be a nun? Doris

  8. guy

    I used to live near an urban convent. I can well imagine that Montreal was a draw for girls from small Quebec towns. I think they got gentrified out. Even some of the churches have even been turned into condos.

    Priestly celibacy — ha!

    • Yes, priestly celebacy… but not to exclusively target the priests… I’ve had two friends, both married to ministers, both divorced, because their spouses became sexually involved with a parishioner. Is betrayal of vows more common in the Catholic church or is betrayal equally common in the counselling professions? Perhaps priests just have higher visibility. Thank you for your feedback. Doris

      • Stella Cattini

        Hi Doris,
        I have only just got round to reading the non nun’s story and, as you know, I am a heathen product of over indulgence in Catholic shenannigans, am also obsessed with nuns and their habits! Yes, even now! I think the constraints and fear inducing elements of the religion have definitely driven more than the odd ordained one into committing sins of the flesh! I know of some, indeed xx

  9. ‘A Gothic church and a professional choir’. Loved this line (I am married to a minister who’s church is an old retreat lodge and who’s choir strums guitars to old folk songs). Wonderful story, and great take on the theme. Peace…

    • Al McDermid

      I wouldn’t mind going to your husband’s church. :)

    • Dear Linda, Your husband’s church sounds lovely. On the other hand, my husband works in London, and I try to catch Evensong at Westminster Cathedral at least once a week. The architecture and the music transport me. This week must be crazy at your house – take a tea break and look out the window. Doris

  10. Al McDermid

    Really like how you took on the ‘convert’ side of this so directly. Becoming a nun to get to the city. What a great idea; would love to see how it would play out had she been accepted.

    • Thank you, Al. Yes… if she had been accepted. I had a friend years back who had left the convent – asking the Mother Superior for each and every sanitary pad broke her conviction/faith. Doris

      • Al McDermid

        Each and every? Wow, that’s surreal (as in The Prisoner) and just plain Orwellian. Hard to imaging God caring about such things.

  11. Pingback: Week # 30 – Urban convert | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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