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Do nuns have to be single?

Nuns are women who dedicate their lives to religious service, often living in seclusion under strict rules known as vows. The main vows taken by Catholic nuns are those of poverty, chastity and obedience. The vow of chastity requires nuns to remain celibate and single, forgoing marriage and children. However, there are some nuances around whether nuns universally have to remain single.

What are the main requirements to become a nun?

The basic requirements to become a nun in the Catholic faith are:

  • Being an unmarried woman
  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Having no dependent children
  • Being a baptized Catholic
  • Having no outstanding financial debts
  • Being in good health
  • Having the calling and spiritual devotion to religious life

As we can see, being single and unmarried is one of the fundamental prerequisites to becoming a Catholic nun. This enables nuns to focus entirely on serving God, without being distracted by an outside marriage or family.

Do nuns take vows of celibacy and chastity?

Yes, Catholic nuns take the three traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

The vow of chastity requires nuns to remain celibate and single, abstaining entirely from sexual activity. This is done to devote themselves fully to spiritual life. Breaking the vow of chastity would be grounds for dismissal from religious life.

Some key points about the nun’s vow of chastity:

  • It means foregoing marriage, children and romantic relationships
  • It doesn’t mean nuns can’t have deep friendships
  • It is aimed at devoting one’s whole heart to God and religious service
  • It frees nuns from distractions of family life and sexuality

So in short, yes all Catholic nuns must take a lifelong vow of chastity and remain single. It is one of their core commitments.

Are there any exceptions where nuns can be married?

The vast majority of Catholic nuns remain single and celibate their entire lives. However, there are a few exceptional cases where nuns may be allowed to marry, including:

  • If a nun’s convent closes down, she may be released from her vows and allowed to marry
  • If a nun renounces her vows of her own accord, she is free to marry
  • Nuns who belong to some specific convents of the Benedictine or Cistercian orders are permitted to live in religious communities with their families
  • Former Anglican priests who are married and convert to Catholicism can become priests in the Catholic church and have their wives consecrated as nuns

However, these are rare exceptions granted only under special circumstances. The vast majority of Catholic nuns remain single and celibate their whole lives.

What about nuns in other Christian faiths?

Outside of the Catholic church, requirements for nuns’ marital status can vary:

  • In Orthodox Christianity, nuns also take vows of celibacy and remain single
  • In Anglican and Protestant faiths, deaconesses are allowed to marry if they wish before taking vows
  • Some Anglican orders allow nuns to live in religious communities with their families

So nuns in other Christian denominations may be more likely to marry in some cases, or live in religious communities with spouses and children. But permanent vows of celibacy are still the norm.

Do nuns ever struggle with their vow of celibacy?

Leading a celibate life and foregoing marriage is extremely difficult. Even nuns committed to their faith can sometimes struggle with loneliness, human desires and temptation.

Common struggles cited by nuns include:

  • Missing physical intimacy
  • Feeling isolated from family life
  • Questioning their choices and identity
  • Experiencing mood changes or anxiety due to celibacy
  • Rarely, developing romantic feelings for someone that must be suppressed

However, most nuns have very strong vocations and faith enabling them to manage these struggles. They rely on the following to maintain their vows:

  • Prayer and spiritual contemplation
  • The support of their religious sisters and community
  • Their devotion to serving God and the church
  • Avoiding temptations or situations that could lead them astray

With holiness and grace, nuns can overcome difficulties and happily serve while remaining true to their vows.

How do nuns occupy themselves in daily life?

Nuns follow structured daily schedules centered around prayer, service and contemplation. A typical day may include:

  • Praying the Divine Office 5-7 times per day
  • Mass and spiritual reading in the mornings
  • Studying scripture and theology
  • Performing community service, teaching or spiritual guidance
  • Doing missionary or charity work
  • Cooking, cleaning, gardening, making crafts
  • Recreation time with their religious community

This full schedule helps nuns live meaningfully, avoiding idleness. The cornerstones are communal worship services and private contemplation. By serving others and developing their spirituality, nuns remain focused on their purpose.

What are the benefits of being a nun?

Despite the challenges, nuns describe profound joy and fulfillment in their vocations. Benefits include:

  • Deep spiritual growth and closeness with God
  • The community and support of religious sisters
  • Lives of purpose and moral virtue focused on service
  • Transformation through prayer, simplicity and discipline
  • The freedom of not being bound to expectations of family roles

Additionally, convent life provides for nuns’ basic needs like food, healthcare and shelter so they can fully focus on spirituality. Most feel an inner calling and sincerely believe they are doing God’s work.

Do nuns ever regret their vocations?

Most nuns feel they have been divinely called to religious life. However, some do end up reconsidering their vocations for various reasons:

  • Struggling profoundly with celibacy and loneliness
  • Disagreeing with church teachings or discipline policies
  • Desiring greater personal freedoms and autonomy
  • Changing philosophies or losing religious faith
  • Feeling unfulfilled by the lifestyle and work

Some statistics on nuns leaving religious life:

  • 2.5% of nuns took permanent vows in the 1960s but later left convents
  • Departure rates increased to around 20% of those taking vows in the 1970s-80s
  • Only 50% of women entering convents in recent years have stayed

So while most nuns are happy, a significant minority do discern they are not fit for religious life. Those who do leave typically integrate back into secular society and may go on to marry and have families.


In summary, Catholic nuns are required to remain single and celibate by taking vows of chastity. This is seen as essential to devote themselves fully to serving God without distractions. While being celibate is extremely hard, most nuns rely on faith and community to live holy lives of purpose. Some unique nuns are permitted to marry or leave religious life, but they remain a small minority. Overall the rule of lifelong celibacy remains an integral expectation for Catholic nuns.