The world in the cloister and the nun in the world
in Catholic nuns and sisters in a secular age
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The nun in the modern world and the modern world inside the convent is the subject of Chapter 5. Some considered adaptations to a secular age a dangerous move towards religious secularisation. Others saw this as a necessary antidote to the evils of modernity. This engagement with the world, faintly visible in archival sources from the 1940s, quickened with the publication of council documents Perfectae Caritatis (1965) and Lumen Gentium (1964), which emphasised (or so it seemed) a radical activism embedded in a secular world. The acceptability of engaging with the modern world on its own terms in its own language exemplifies this new relationship with modernity. By the 1960s and 1970s, the questioning of institutional barriers to ministry and bolstering of individual autonomy was reflective of the larger 1960s mentality that emphasised individual expression, links between people and the removal of boundaries. Becoming part of the world was a response to both religious and secular social movements. For many sisters and nuns, it was not a sudden thrust into the world; but a gradual shift. It was not always a welcome shift when it disrupted patterns of living and beliefs about the sacred/secular divide.

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