The blogging nun: Religion, technology and beer

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The blogging nun: Religion, technology and beer

By Robert K. Elder
Tribune staff reporter
Published March 2, 2007

Sister Julie Vieira took a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience but not a vow against celebrity, which is fortunate, given the popularity of her blog, A Nun's Life (

Vieira, a member of the religious order Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, works at Loyola Press in Chicago and blogs daily about religious life, politics and, yes, even ninja nuns.
Tempo recently talked to Vieira, 35, about technology and religion, her daily routine and her favorite beer.

Q How has your blog changed since you started it in July?

A I never thought of my blog as a form of ministry, and now I do. People are going to the Internet to find answers about life, God, the church. The people who come to me, the questions that they get me thinking about, it blows my mind away.

A lot of people are fascinated by what a nun does on a daily basis, that a nun would talk about going for a bike ride or having a drink at a bar. I do have a couple bars I like. Chicago Joe's, right up on Irving Park, I love that place. Harp Beer is one of my favorites, and they serve that on tap. Part of it was saying, "Hey, I'm a normal person, and I'm familiar with the world." I didn't become a sister until I was 25, 26, so I had some years behind me of living in the world, so to speak.

I wanted to write about what it's like to be a sister in today's world. It's not just the stereotype we see.

Q What are the stereotypes and how is your life different?

A I think most people identify a sister by the habit she wears. And so, when they see that, I think the thoughts are that she is somehow repressed, docile.

A lot of us don't separate ourselves from the world. We don't go home to a little cloistered place and cut ourselves off from the world. We read the newspaper, we're hip to the latest movie, to the newest music.

Q. What's on your iPod?

A. I just downloaded the new Snow Patrol. But it ranges. I have my religious music, Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, it's really a mix. A friend of mine just gave me Duran Duran's greatest hits. I loved Duran Duran growing up, and I was very jealous because my sister -- my blood sister -- got to see them in concert and she was never a Duran Duran fan.

Q. Explain the satirical "Ninja Nuns" videos linked on your site.

A. I called it "strangely compelling." I used to practice martial arts, Shotokan karate, and the choreography of it definitely fascinates me. It's just odd to see the two juxtaposed: nuns, who are supposed to be docile and innocent in stereotype, doing these fantastic martial arts moves. There were two videos done by the same people, and again, they just crack me up.

Q. Do you think Christians are behind in using technology to interact with the world? The Islamic faith has done very well attracting members and interest with its Web sites.

A. I know that we as a Catholic Church haven't done as much as we can. The fact that I can only find 12 nuns who have blogs, I think is crazy. Part of the problem is the center of Christianity is a personal relationship with God. Everything we do is centered on that relationship, so setting up a virtual community is sometimes antithetical. And I know we're not always good marketers of ourselves. I know that's true of nuns.

Q. A lot of your blog posts are political in nature. What has the response been to that?

A. I don't think of any of my posts as political, but maybe that's because I'm writing from my nun perspective. If I do think a post is political in nature, I usually choose my words carefully.

I want my blog to be an open forum, so that you can find a place there and if you disagree with me, I'd like to hear that.

Courtesy Chicago Tribune