Nuns and the religious orders they belong to hold a great fascination for many Catholics.
We’re fascinated by the variety of habits, their way of life in the convents they once populated in abundance, and we are saddened by their declining numbers in our modern age. Religious sisters have played a great role in so many aspects of history throughout the world — and throughout the ages of the Catholic Church.
After considerable research, Catholic Home and Garden has partnered with one of the world’s largest book distributors to bring you a wide range of publications on nuns — their habits, their lives and the rich history of the contributions they have made to the Catholic Church, to art, music and social welfare.
Please browse through our categories to explore the wealth of literature available. We hope you find these to be a useful resource and ask that if you decide to order, please do so through our links.
Convent Life and Habits
The Habit: A History of the Clothing of Catholic Nuns
Curiosity about nuns and their distinctive clothing is almost as old as Catholicism itself. The habit intrigues the religious and the nonreligious alike, from medieval maidens to contemporary schoolboys, to feminists and other social critics. The first book to explore the symbolism of this attire, The Habit presents a visual gallery of the diverse forms of religious clothing and explains the principles and traditions that inspired them. More than just an eye-opening study of the symbolic significance of starched wimples, dark dresses, and flowing veils, The Habit is an incisive, engaging portrait of the roles nuns have and do play in the Catholic Church and in ministering to the needs of society.
From the clothing seen in an eleventh-century monastery to the garb worn by nuns on picket lines during the 1960s, habits have always been designed to convey a specific image or ideal. The habits of the Benedictines and the Dominicans, for example, were specifically created to distinguish women who consecrated their lives to God; other habits reflected the sisters’ desire to blend in among the people they served. The brown Carmelite habit was rarely seen outside the monastery wall, while the Flying Nun turned the white winged cornette of the Daughters of Charity into a universally recognized icon. And when many religious abandoned habits in the 1960s and ’70s, it stirred a debate that continues today.
Extraordinary photographs, including images of the nineteenth century nuns’ silk bonnets to the simple gray dresses of the Sisters of Social Service, this evocative narrative explores the timeless symbolism of the habit and traces its evolution as a visual reflection of the changes in society.
Spirited Lives: How Nuns Shaped Catholic Culture and American Life, 1836-1920
Made doubly marginal by their gender and by their religion, American nuns have rarely been granted serious scholarly attention. Instead, their lives and achievements have been obscured by myths or distorted by stereotypes. Placing nuns into the mainstream of American religious and women’s history for the first time, Spirited Lives reveals their critical impact on the development of Catholic culture and, ultimately, the building of American society. Only 2 copies available!
Nuns: A History of Convent Life
Nuns tells the fascinating stories of the women who have lived in religious communities during some of the most the tumultuous years in Eurpean history. Drawing particularly on the nuns’ own words, Silvia Evangelisti reveals their ideals and achievements, frustrations and failures, and their attempts to reach out to the society around them. She explores how they came to the cloister, how they responded to monastic discipline, and how they pursued their spiritual, intellectual, and missionary activities Life in the Middle Ages and the centuries that followed offered few options for high-born women. Your choice was, as one Italian noblewoman put it, between a marriage and a wall. If your family could not afford a dowry, or you did not wish to marry, you could join a convent to escape the shame of being unwed. Some extremely pious women, so abhorring the idea of marriage, went as far as to throw themselves into boiling water so that their scarred bodies and faces would be unappealing to their prospective husbands. For many that joined, the convent was a chance to achieve some measure of a career, working as valued manuscript copiers or cultivating talents in the visual and musical arts.
Religious Women and Their History
Monks & Nuns, Saints & Outcasts: Religion in Medieval Society Essays in Honor of Lester K. Little
Little, to whom this volume is dedicated, was instrumental in opening the field of medieval religion to disciplines that develop the social and political context. Farmer (history, U. of California, Santa Barbara) and Rosenwein (history, Loyola U., Chicago) have selected ten essays, by professors of medieval history in the US and Italy, that reflect this approach, with topics including memory and mutation in the year 1000, frequency of women scribes in the 12th c., cursing in Irish hagiography, lepers, beggars, the ordeal by fire, and cross-Atlantic influence in colonial Mexico. Only one copy available.
The Nun’s Rule: The Ancren Riwle
No anchorite, by my advice, shall make profession, that is, vow to keep any thing as commanded, except three things, that is, obedience, chastity, and constancy as to her abode; that she shall never more change her convent, except only by necessity, as compulsion and fear of death, obedience to her bishop or superior; for, whoso undertaketh any thing, and promises to God to do it as his command, binds herself thereto, and sinneth mortally in breaking it, if she brake it wilfully and intentionally.
Monks, Nuns and Monasteries
Only One Copy in Stock
Nuns’ Chronicles and Convent Culture in Renaissance and Counter-Reformation Italy
This well-illustrated and innovative book analyses convent culture in sixteenth-century Italy through the medium of three unpublished nuns’ chronicles. The book uses a comparative methodology of ‘connected differences’ to examine the intellectual and imaginative achievement of the nuns, and to investigate how they fashioned and preserved individual and convent identities by writing chronicles. The chronicles themselves reveal many examples of nuns’ agency, especially with regard to cultural creativity, and show that convent traditions determined cultural priorities and specialisms, and dictated the contours of convent ceremonial life. Only One in Stock.
Nuns as Artists: The visual culture of a medieval convent
Groundbreaking study of the art of female monasticism explores the place of images and image-making in the spirituality of medieval nuns during the later Middle Ages. Working from a previously unknown group of late-fifteenth-century devotional drawings made by a Benedictine nun for her cloistered companions, Hamburger discusses the distinctive visual culture of female communities. The drawings discovered by Hamburger and the genre to which they belong have never been given serious consideration by art historians, yet they serve as icons of the nuns’ religious vocation in all its complexity. Demonstrates the overwhelming importance of seeing in devotional practice, challenging traditional assumptions about the primacy of text over image in monastic piety. His presentation of the visual culture of the convent makes a fundamental contribution to the history of medieval art and, more generally, of late medieval monasticism and spirituality. Only one in stock.
The Wisdom of the Benedictine Elders: Thirty of America’s Oldest Monks and Nuns Share Their Lives’ Greatest Lessons
This intimate, vibrant, and deeply moving portrait of monastic life in America today examines the long-debated question of whether the spiritual life can be led in the everyday world or whether it must, in its highest and truest forms, involve an ascetic life of renunciation, stern discipline, and celibacy. Thirty elders of the Benedictine Order share their touching and thought-provoking life stories, from the everyday rhythm and ritual of prayer and work, solitude and community, sanctity and humor, to the most challenging moments of questioning, uncertainty, and tribulation, but also to moments of infinite inner peace and mystical joy. Part graceful memoir, part sacred legacy, this book offers an inspirational journey into the hearts, minds, and souls of 30 exceptional men and women.
The Quiet Revolutionaries: How the Grey Nuns Changed the Social Welfare Paradigm of Lewiston, Maine
Send Me God: The Lives of Ida the Compassionate of Nivelles, Nun of Ia Ramee, Arnulf, Lay Brother of Villers, and Abundus, Monk of (Brepols Medieval Women Series)
Additional Titles Available Both New and Used
These works by Sister Bartolomea Riccoboni offer an intimate portrait of the women who inhabited the Venetian convent of Corpus Domini, where they shared a religious life bounded physically by the convent wall and organized temporally by the rhythms of work and worship. At the same time, they show how this cloistered community vibrated with news of the great ecclesiastical events of the day, such as the Great Western Schism and the Council of Constance. While the chronicle recounts the history of the nuns’ collective life, the necrology provides highly individualized biographies of nearly fifty nuns.
Based on interviews with young Australian girls who lived in Sacred Heart convent boarding schools between 1940 and 1965, this illuminating study provides insight into the Catholic model of education before Vatican II, when obedience, conformity, and repression were used to teach young girls how to be ladies and become good. The school’s social order and the ways that students responded to the regimen of study and religion are explored. The narratives of one particular school provide a critique of gender fashioning, traditional Catholic symbols and myths, and effective methods of education.
Nuns by Nationality & Order
Habits of Compassion: Irish Catholic Nuns and the Origins of the Welfare System, 1830-1920
Your Life is Worth Mine: Story Never Told Before of How Polish Nuns in World War II Saved Hundreds
The history of WWII rescues through extensive interviews with nuns and with many of the Jewish children who were saved.
Nails in the Wall: Catholic Nuns in Reformation Germany
During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther took the biblical maxim “be fruitful and multiply” and used it within the realm of marriage as the cornerstone of his new Christian community. By denying the spiritual superiority of celibacy and introducing new tenets regarding gender, marriage, chastity, and religious life, Luther challenged one of the key expressions of Catholicism—monastic life.
Only two copies in stock.
Nuns as Historians in Early Modern Germany
This is the first study to highlight the significance of nuns’ writings in early modern Germany. Combining scholarly analysis with illuminating case studies–such as an abbess’s account of the Reformation, a prioress’s diary from the Thirty Years’ War, and a biography of a fifteenth-centuryvisionary–Charlotte Woodford introduces the much neglected female historians of the era, and sets their writings in an historical and literary context.
Convents Confront the Reformation : Catholic and Protestant Nuns in Germany
No Cross, No Crown: Black Nuns in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans
Among New Orleans’ most compelling stories is that of the Sisters of the Holy Family, which was founded in the 19th century and still thrives today. The community’s difficult early years are portrayed in a remarkable account by one of the sisters, Mary Bernard Deggs. While Deggs did not officially join the community until 1873, as a student at the sisters’ early school she would have known Henriette Delille and the other founders. It was not until 1852 that the sisters were able to take their first official vows and exchange their blue percale gowns for black ones, and it was 1873 before they were permitted to wear a formal religious habit. This community of mixed race faced almost insurmountable obstacles, but the women remained unflagging in their dedication to the poor, to education, and to the care of the elderly and the orphaned — to the needs of “their people.” Only two copies available.
Escogidas Plantas: Nuns and Beatas in Mexico City 1531-1601
How early members of religious orders in Mexico were conceived of as an extension of the process of conversion and spiritual conquest. Over time, however, the creation of convents became a means of reaffirming the European nature of the colony, at least for its upper classes. Holler’s work is based on archival research in both Mexico and Spain. It integrates much of the existing historiography while effectively telling individual stories and allowing the personalities, strengths, and foibles of some of the women involved to carry the history forward. Only one copy available.
Holy Concord Within Sacred Walls: Nuns and Music in Siena, 1575-1700
This volume examines musical culture both inside and outside seventeenth-century Sienese convents. In contrast to earlier studies of Italian convent music, this book draws upon archival sources to reconstruct an ecclesiastical culture that celebrated music internally and shared music freely with the community outside convent walls. Colleen Reardon argues that cloistered women in Siena enjoyed a significant degree of freedom to engage in musical pursuits. The nuns produced a remarkable body of work including motets, lamentations, theatrical plays and even an opera. As a result convent became an important cultural center in Siena that enjoyed the support and encouragement of its clergy and lay community.
First Sioux Nun Sister Marie Josephine
Only One Copy in Stock.
Nun Better: Tastes and Tale from Around a Cajun Table
Nun Better is a festival of Cajun culinary delights ranging from “Great Beginnings” to “Gumbos” to “Sweets” flavored with colorful stories captured from the 90 year history of St. Cecilia School. Cleverly illustrated by a third generation graduate, Nun Better is a charming cookbook chronicling the heritage of the historic rural town of Broussard, Louisiana. Only one copy in stock.
Roman Catholic Nuns in England and Wales, 1800-1937
explores the lives and work of female religious communities in England and Wales during the 19th and first part of the 20th centuries. She explores the growth and distribution of the religious orders and congregations; the scope and scale of their work; the ensuing financial and recruitment demands; and the effect their work had on the surrounding communities.
They Must Not Be Forgotten: Heroic Priests and Nuns Who Saved People from the Holocaust
The Transforming Power of the Nuns: Women, Religion, and Cultural Change in Ireland, 1750-1900
A Wild Country Out in the Garden: The Spiritual Journals of a Colonial Mexican Nun
Pioneer Spirit: Catherine Spalding, Sister of Charity of Nazareth
Mother Catherine Spalding (1793?1858) was the cofounder and first leader of one of the most significant American religious communities for women, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.
We hope you’ve found this selection to be helpful in learning more about nuns, their lives, and their orders. In creating this list we have intentionally left out most titles that address the issue of nuns who have left the convent, with the exception of two titles that we think are relevant in their indication of what went terribly wrong in the post Vatican II era.
If you would like to find titles regarding specific communities, convent life or other aspects of women religious’ history, please try the search box below.
Nuns in the Post Vatican II Era
For the Love of God: The Faith and Future of the American Nun
The author myths and debunks stereotypes to present a rich and varied portrait of modern nuns.
Only One Copy in Stock.
Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles
Born Rita Rizzo in Canton, Ohio in 1923, Mother Angelica was abandoned by her father and raised in poverty by a mother who suffered suicidal depressions.
Music from the Soul: The Singing Nun Story
After a childhood void of affection, Jeannine Deckers won the hearts of millions with her hit song “Dominique” in 1963 as Soeur Sourire, The Singing Nun.
The New Nuns: Racial Justice and Religious Reform in the 1960s
In the 1960s, a number of Catholic women religious in the United States abandoned traditional apostolic works to experiment with new and often unprecedented forms of service among non-Catholics. Amy Koehlinger explores the phenomenon of the new nun through close examination of one of its most visible forms–the experience of white sisters working in African-American communities. Their increasing autonomy and frequent critiques of institutional misogyny shaped reforms within their institute and sharpened a post-Vatican II crisis of authority.
Aging with Grace What the Nun Study Teaches Us About Leading Longer, Healthier and More Meaningful Lives
In 1986 Dr. David Snowdon, one of the world’s leading experts on Alzheimer’s disease, embarked on a revolutionary scientific study that would forever change the way we view aging—and ultimately living. Dubbed the “Nun Study” because it involves a unique population of 678 Catholic sisters, this remarkable long-term research project has made headlines worldwide with its provocative discoveries.
The Nun and the Bureaucrat–How They Found an Unlikely Cure for America’s Sick Hospitals
Companion to the PBS documentary, Good News…How Hospitals Heal Themselves, The Nun and the Bureacrat…reports the transformational changes of management and clinical care delivery achieved by two large hospital systems. The results were significant reductions in death and suffering, medication errors and hospital-acquired infections, waste, and expense and improvements in quality of care and working conditions for healthcare professionals.
Nun On Leave
Poverty, Chastity, and Change: Lives of Contemporary American Nuns
Rogers, a freelance writer and editor, interviewed 94 Catholic religious women in 14 states from 1991 to 1995, asking why they remain committed in times of profound change within the church. Of these, 54 professionally transcribed interviews are included here, with a focus on the impact of Vatican II from the 1960s to the 1990s. Forty religious communities are represented.
Scary Nuns: Sisters at Work and at Play
Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns Through Two Millennia
Spanning two thousand years of Christian religious women’s quest for spiritual and vocational fulfillment, Sisters in Arms is the first definitive history of Catholic nuns in the Western world. Unfolding century by century, this epic drama encompasses every period from the dawn of Christianity to the present.
The Tulip and the Pope: A Nun’s Story
In the heat of midsummer, in 1960, nineteen-year-old Deborah and several other young women share a cab to a convent on the Iowa bluffs of the Mississippi River. The girls, passionate to become nuns, heedless of all they are leaving behind, smoke their last cigarettes along the way and enter their life as postulants.
Unveiled: the Hidden Lives of Nuns
What do nuns really think about life, death, love, sex, faith, friendship, guilt, regret, loss, motherhood, feminism, and the modern world and all its conveniences and luxuries? To answer these questions, award-winning journalist Cheryl L. Reed interviewed more than 300 nuns from a wide variety of orders–and with divergent beliefs.
Veil and Cowl: Writings from the World of Monks and Nuns
This thoughtful, inspiring, often humorous, and intensely spiritual collection brings together for the first time the most searching writings from the world of monks and nuns. They reveal and explore the mystique of lives given totally to God.
What Does a Priest Do? What Does a Nun Do?
WMD, Nuns and Nukes
Where are the WMD? It doesn’t take a team of international inspectors to find the truth. Three nuns performed this service for free.
Sisters Are Doing What?!!: Great Stories about Religious Women Today
Prepare to be astonished! In “Sisters Are Doing What?!! Great Stories about Religious Women Today, you will meet some amazing women and their communities who have, over the past two hundred years, gradually and courageously broken away from the contemplative model of religious life to meet contemporary needs.
Visual Habits: Nuns, Feminism, and American Postwar Popular Culture
Long the target of curiosity and speculation, Catholic nuns and sisters have always lived within the contexts of more than one culture, including that of the professed religious and that of their place in the secular world. Sullivan examines these and the new culture created by the rise of feminism within the professed religious and the impact of Vatican II by analyzing the media’s version of nun culture. Only 2 copies available!