Novitiate (2017) - full transcript

Set in the early 1960s and during the era of Vatican II, a young woman in training to become a nun struggles with issues of faith, the changing church and sexuality.

So many people
settle for love that

doesn't really ask
anything of them,

that they don't have to
make any sacrifices for.

I don't want that.

I want an ideal love that I
have to give everything to.

Where are you?

Where are you?

Why are you doing this?

In the name of the Father...

Benedicamus Domino

Benedicamus Domino

Dear Christ.

I was 17 years old when
I came to the convent,

18 when I entered the novitiate.

I know a lot of people could
probably never understand...

Never understand how
someone so young

with their entire
life ahead of them

would want to give
it all away to God.

They think of nuns today, and
they see a bunch of old women.

Women who couldn't find husbands,

or for some reason,

just couldn't make it
in the outside world.

So they ran off to a monastery
to escape everything.

What they don't understand is
that beneath everything else...

We were women in love.

You're all I could ever want.

You ready for this?

Okay, you can come
right out this way.

Is my hair all right?

Good morning, Father.

Nora Harris? I can't
believe it. Is it you?

Hey, Rob, it sure
is. How you been?

I've been good. I've
been real good.

Now, wait a minute. Now don't
tell me. Is this Cathleen?

It sure is. Can you believe
it? Look how big she got.

My goodness. Hey, pretty
lady. How are you?

You know, you're not allowed
to grow up that fast.

Soon, you'll be taller than me.

I gotta say, Nora, I'm a little
surprised to see you here.

I've known you all my life,

and I don't think
I've ever seen you

within 500 yards of
a Sunday service.

Yeah, well, don't
get your hopes up.

I'm not here to be saved
or nothing like that.

I just thought it about time

that Cathleen learned
what religion was about.

Or supposed to be about, you know.


Plus, we were a little
bored, weren't we?

Well, hey, that's all right with
me. I'm just glad you're here.

- Let's get you all a good seat.
- All right.

Come on in. Right there's
two, right up front there.

Blessed be God the Father.

Because although you have not
seen Him, you still love Him.

Although you do not know Him,
you still believe in Him.

You feel His presence all around
without knowing His name,

and you rejoice with an
indescribable ecstasy.

Because if there's
one thing we know,

it's that God's love
is unconditional.

Put your napkin in your lap.

Thank you.

Did you like going to
that church today?

Yeah, I did.


What'd you like about it the most?

I don't know.

I guess I just thought
it was peaceful.

"Peaceful," huh?

Yeah, I guess it was
kind of peaceful.

What kind of church was it, again?

That was a Catholic church.

Are we Catholic?

No, we're not anything.

I don't really believe
in religion, actually.

I think it's kind
of a waste of time.

But when you're older, you
can decide for yourself.

Looks like Daddy's home.

Hey, hey, hey, baby.

How's Daddy's little girl?

What'd you do today? Did
you have a good day today?

Daddy, where were you?

We've been waiting
for you for so long.

Yeah, it's a valid question,
Chuck. Where you been?

I was out. That's all.

Okay. Because we've been sitting
here all day, waiting on you.

You never heard of a phone or...

Come on, Nora, please. Of
course I've heard of a phone.

Well, that's good. You've heard
of a phone. That's nice.

What do you want me to say, Nora?

Is there anything in particular
that you'd like to hear me say?

I don't know, Chuck.

Maybe I'd just like
you to be a man

every once in a while, you know?

Be a fucking father for a change,

maybe learn to sacrifice
a little bit.

Give me a break, okay? Are
you serious with that?

What, you want me to drop it,
Chuck? Is that what you want?

- Yeah.
- Well, fuck you.

Fuck me? Fuck you, Nora.

As a matter of fact,
fuck all this shit.

I'm sick of this.

I'm sorry that I can't be the
person you want me to be.

No, you can't be the man
I wanted you to be.

- You are the opposite of that.
- Okay. All right.

I was out. That's all. You
can't handle that, I'm gone.

Where do you think
you're going, Chuck?

You're not leaving.

You got a little
girl now. Hear me?

- If you leave, you get out.
- Well, fuck you.

Honey, will you take this for me?

You got it?

Excuse me?

Can I help you?

Yes. Are you Mrs Harris?

- Yes.
- My name is Sister Gloria.

This is Sister Eleanor.

We're from Our Lady
of Blessed Sorrows,

the parochial school
just up the road.

We are very proud to say that it
is the nuns, Sisters like us,

who have built the Catholic
school system in this country,

brick by brick.

Your little one is so
lovely, by the way.

May I ask how old?

Cathleen is 12.

Look, we appreciate
your coming by,

but the truth is, we're
not all that religious.

I mean, we go to church when
we can, like everybody else.

But my husband, Cathleen's father,

he left us a while back, so
it's just me taking care of us.

Sorry to hear that, Mrs Harris.

God cherishes your strength.

But one thing you should know,

our doors are open to everyone,

practising, non-practising alike.

Our first priority is just to
provide an exceptional education.

Well, how much does
it cost? I don't

know if we can afford this school.

Well, that's just it.

Right now, we're offering
full scholarships

on a first-come basis.

Silence, girls.


How many in this room
were baptised Catholic?

Don't worry, this
is not a judgement

on anybody's background or belief.

No, the reason I ask the question

is because I wonder
if any of you know

what the difference is between
the Catholic religion

and all the other religions.

Say like, the Protestants,
the Baptists, the Jews?


and sacrifice.

Love and sacrifice.

Because if there's one
thing I know for certain,

there can be no love

without sacrifice.

Hi, there.

How come you're sitting all alone?

You don't wanna join the others?

They're all talking
about their boyfriends.

I don't have a boyfriend.

Oh, no?

Me, neither.

I'm told they're overrated.

Mind if I join you?

I'm Sister Margaret, by the
way. You're Cathleen, right?

I haven't had you in my class
yet, but I've noticed you

because you're shy, like me.

You seem to like to be by
yourself a lot, to think a lot?

I guess so.

I like to be by myself
and think a lot, too.

You do?

What do you like to think about?

Mostly about God.

Can I show you something?

You see that light in there?

That's His light.

And the statue to the side, the
Saviour, of course, Jesus Christ.

Here, you wanna sit
down for a sec?

Go ahead.

Just because someone
likes to be alone

doesn't mean they don't
still crave intimacy.

You really think God
and Jesus are real?

Of course I do. I more than do.

Because I'm married
to them, silly.

Didn't you know? All nuns
are brides of Christ.

But why?

I bet you could have married
anyone you wanted to.

Well, I'm not so sure about that.

And either way,

I doubt any other
relationship would

have been quite as fulfilling.

I gotta go. I've got class.

Are you coming?

I think I'll stay
for a little while,

if that's okay with you, Sister.

Of course.

Good night, Cathleen.

Good night, Miss Williams.


Who is he?

He's just a friend
of mine, that's all.

Another one?

What are you doing
up so early, anyway?

I set my alarm so I can
go to Mass before school.


You need a ride?

That's okay.

Hey, Cathleen?

You're not getting too into God
and all that stuff, are you?

What do you mean?

I just mean there's more to life
than God and church and praying.

You're serious, Cathleen?

I honestly didn't even realise
you'd been considering this.

I want to give my life to God.

You're such a passionate girl.

You remind me of
myself at your age.

I think you're making
the right decision.

A nun? What are you talking about?

That's just fucking
crazy, Cathleen.

I knew you wouldn't understand,

but you don't have to
understand. I didn't...

It's not that I don't understand,

it's just that it's the
stupidest idea I've ever heard.

You throw your life
away in some convent...

But I'm not throwing my life away.

I don't know how you
can even say that...

You're absolutely
throwing your life away.

Well, I don't get it.

Do you think I wanted this?

Do you think I wanted
to be a single mother?

But it's not about that. It
has nothing to do with you.

Then what is it?

- I'm in love, Mum.
- You're in love with who?



Oh, my God, that's crazy.
That is fucking crazy.

That doesn't even make
sense, "in love with God."

I don't know how to explain this,

but I was called, and
I'm gonna become a nun.

And there's really
nothing that you can say

that's gonna make
me change my mind.


You're a 17-year-old girl.

You don't know anything
about religion.

And you sure as hell don't
know anything about love.

Where are you?

It's not right.

It's not fair.

Someone gives you
their whole life...

Where are you?

Good afternoon, all of you.

My name is Reverend
Mother Marie St Clair.

You can call me
"Reverend Mother," or

simply "Mother," if you prefer it.

I am the Mother
Superior, or Abbess

of this particular order of
Sisters of Beloved Rose.

I myself have been a Rose
for nearly 40 years.

Meaning, some 40 years ago,

I first came through those
gates as a postulant,

same as all of you.

And now, 40 years later,

I have not once set foot
outside those gates.

So, as far as all of
you are concerned,

you might consider me like the
voice of God around here.

Meaning, since unfortunately

God can't be here to run
this convent Himself,

my voice will serve as
a stand-in for His.

And you can expect that
whenever you hear me speak,

it is on behalf of His wishes.

And over the next two years,

I personally will be separating
the wheat from the chaff,

determining which of
you actually belong,

as opposed to which of you

are simply victims of a
childish imagination.

Because in this monastery,
God is not a fantasy to us.

Not a fantasy, not a daydream,

and certainly not your
invisible best friend.

To the contrary, God
is work. Hard work.

The work of a very
special kind of love,

which you'll all be trained in.

You'll be spending the next
six months as postulants.

After that, and for those
of you who make it,

you'll take your very first
vows and enter the novitiate.

And as a rule, we make it a point
to never discuss the novitiate

until we've been
through it ourselves.

So for now, you'll
just have to wait.

Finally, I'd like to
talk about silence.

We observe two kinds
of silence here,

regular silence and grand silence.

During regular silence,

if you feel you have the need
to speak, it's permissible.

But when you hear that
bell at 9:00 at night,

signifying the beginning
of grand silence,

that means you don't talk.

Any questions?

Put your hand down, Sister.
Postulants don't have questions.

And you are free to go home.

Good afternoon, Mother.
Praise the Lord.

Now and forever. God bless.

- Praise the Lord.
- Now and forever. God bless.

Good afternoon, Mother.
Praise the Lord.

Now and forever.
God bless, Sister.

Totally love Him, who gave
Himself totally for your love.

He, Christ, is the splendour
of eternal glory,

the brightness of eternal light
and the mirror without cloud.

I haven't had the chance to
formally introduce myself yet.

I'm Sister Mary Grace.

I will be your postulant mistress
for the next six months,

perhaps your novice
mistress after that.

This is Sister Anne.

Sister Catherine, Kate.

Both professed nuns. Both
just took their final vows.

We're very proud of them.

Now, it is our job
to help guide you as

you try to adapt to
our way of life.

I'm sure at the beginning,
it will feel very different.

That's normal.

I remember when I first came here,
everything seemed so strange.

I didn't know if I'd ever
truly make it as a nun.

Please don't worry about that.

I'm sure you all will be great.

Now, we should probably
go over the schedule.

Postulants usually have the
same schedule every single day.

The most important thing to
pay attention to is the bell.

Pretty much everything we
do here, all day long,

all comes down to the bell.

The first bell you'll hear each
morning is the 5:00 am bell.

That bell lets everyone know

it's time to wake up, get
ready for morning Mass.

Mass begins once
Father Luca arrives.

Father Luca always keeps his
back to us the whole time,

and he always reads
the liturgy in Latin.

Sometimes it's hard to keep up.

After daily chores,

you'll hear the third
bell of the morning.

That lets us know that
grand silence is over.

Good afternoon, Mother.
Praise the Lord.

Now and forever. God bless.

Good afternoon, Mother.
Praise the Lord.

As you probably noticed, all our
meals begin with a reading.

Even though it's
after grand silence,

we should all try and remain
as quiet as possible.

Sometimes you might see
some of the novices

doing their own penances
in the refectory.

Probably best to just ignore it
until you're novices yourselves.

Every day after the 3:00 pm bell,
we'll have our lessons together.

As you probably remember, Reverend
Mother made it absolutely clear

that we are not to speak
during grand silence,

so let's practise a little
bit of sign language.

Slowly, that is, "What...


"Right now?"

Sorry to interrupt, Mother,

but you just got another
package from the Archdiocese.


They can't be serious.

Thank you, Sister.

What are they asking of us?

My mother always said at least
one child should be sacrificed.

And even though I come
from a big family,

I'm the only girl
with five brothers,

so I guess it was pretty obvious
who was going to become a nun.

Honestly, though, I'm
really happy to be here.

And I know that it's
supposed to be so hard,

but I really can't wait
until we get to novitiate

and we get to wear
those white veils.

Who wants to go next?

Well, as for me, I
have two cousins,

an aunt and one older sister
who joined the Sisterhood.

So, I guess, in a way,
it's kind of in my blood.

And who knows, maybe one day I'll
die young and become a saint.

Thank you, Sister Emily.

Sister Cathleen, did you always
know that you wanted to be a nun?

No, actually, I wasn't
raised in the Church, so...

What do you mean, you weren't
raised in the Church?

Aren't you Catholic?

I guess I'm not Catholic in the
same way that you guys are.

Well, what are you
even doing here, then?

I mean, is this even allowed?

Sister Candace, please. Ladies.

I went to Catholic school.

That's where I learned
about the Sisters.

I just thought it seemed like
the most beautiful idea,

to be able to spend my
entire life devoted to love.

Tell me about the new postulants.

I'm so impressed with
them as a group.

They're full of energy
and enthusiasm,

really passionate
about finding their

own relationships with Christ.

What is this you're reading?

This is something to do
with this Vatican II.

Vatican what?

From what I can make out,

our Pope has suddenly
got it into his head

to turn himself into
some sort of reformer.

Meaning what, exactly?

Meaning he's organised some
ridiculous new council in Rome

to speak about changes
to the Church.

Well, that's a good
thing, isn't it?

The Church hasn't reviewed its
practises in over 100 years.

Perhaps change is...

You think the Church
is in need of change?

Are you questioning me?

I happen to think the Church
is perfect the way it is.

Well, what reforms are
they talking about?

- Can I see?
- It's not important.

This will all blow over very soon.

It's nothing to concern
yourself with.

Pay attention. I'm going
to show you how we walk.

It's called "custody of the eyes."

You put your hands in
your sleeve like this.

Always go slowly, gracefully,
never in a hurry.

And most important is you
keep your eyes down.

Always make sure you're looking

straight ahead at the
floor in front of you.


Excuse me?

Why do we have to walk like that?

I mean, what if we can't
see where we're going?

Not that it's your place
to question anything,

but it's a part of our discipline.

We keep our eyes down

so we don't allow in
any extra stimulation

that might distract
us from our Lord.

Something funny, Sisters?

You two, come here.

Come on.

Stand face-to-face.

Now, both of you look at
each other in the eyes.

- What just happened?
- I started thinking about her.

Yeah, I started thinking
about her, too.

Exactly. We're not supposed
to think about each other.

Because we're not here for each
other, we are here only for God.

Move on, Sisters.

I love you, God.

Thank you for letting me be here.

Thank you for letting
me love you like this.

Thank you for letting me
feel you so close to me.

Thank you.

I love you, God.

I love you so much.

This is the first time I've
seen you in your outfit.


Do you like it?

- You look like a real nun.
- Thanks.

I'm not a real nun
yet. Not yet, but...

What is with this thing?

This is terrible.
It's like prison.

Yeah, it's just the
way they do it.

It's like a symbol
of our enclosure.

What the...

What does that mean?

It's nothing.

So, how are you?

Are you... You like it
here? Are you happy?


Yeah, I am.

I don't know how to describe it,
but it feels like I belong here.

I guess that means
you plan on staying,

and you plan on taking those vows.

What do they call
it, the "novanate"?

- Novitiate.
- "Novitiate." Nova-something?

Yeah, it's just a temporary vow

that we take for a
year and a half.

And we find out

if we're ready to
marry God forever.

I'm pretty sure I'm going
to be here my whole life.

Jesus Christ, Cathleen, what
the hell did I do wrong?


How have you been?

Well, I'm just fine.

I picked up a few more shifts
at work, keeping myself busy.

I don't really know
what to do with myself.

Because I most... I... I
mostly just miss you so much.

How about Dad? How's Dad?

Have you heard anything from Dad?

Your father? No.

Your grandma did call and said
he'd been sick or something.

That's probably why you
haven't heard from him.

But do you want me
to track him down?

I'm sure he'd love
to come see you.

That's okay, don't bother.
I'll pray for him.

It's fine.

But it's like a... It's
a really busy day here.

I should get going.

What? No. We have
ten more minutes.

I know, but I just
have a lot of work.

What are you doing?

Maybe we can spend more time
together next time, though.

Okay. Well, can you just wait?
Wait, wait, wait. Wait one second?

Maybe I could just touch
your hand for a second.

- Just for a second.
- Yeah...

We're really not supposed to
touch like that, Mum, so...

- Okay.
- I gotta go.

Okay. Cathleen, I love you.

Thank you for coming.

Oh, God.

I guess I just didn't really know
it was going to be like this.

Like what?

That we'll be spending our whole

entire lives here
and never leaving.

We won't even be able to go
to our own parents' funerals.

Who cares? They'll
be dead, anyway.

It's not like they'll notice.

Besides, don't you think knowing
God knows we're here for Him,

knowing we are so
much more special

to Him than anybody else...

Don't you think that
makes it all worth it?

Yeah, I guess.

Well, why did you come here, then?

Audrey Hepburn.

What are you talking about?

Audrey Hepburn.

I wanted to be a nun

because I saw A Nun's Story,
and she's Sister Gabrielle.

And I just thought

she was so holy and
beautiful and perfect.

I wanted to be like
her. Don't laugh at me.

That's not very holy.

I won't tell anybody.

This was a mistake.

I was too young for it.

I didn't ever mean
to disappoint you.

I just don't know if
I feel it, you know?

Feel what?

My relationship with Him.

Whatever we're supposed to feel.

I can't tell if I'm
communicating with Him,

and it's really Him or if
it's just all in my head.

Reverend Mother says we can't fake

our relationship with Him.

Because if...

Even if nobody else knows, He'll
know and He'll shun us for it.

But I'm just worried,
what if I'm faking it,

and I don't even realise?

No, I have them right
here in front of me. I...

It's not that I wasn't
going to respond. I...

Of course I understand
the historic...

And also with you.

Good morning, Reverend Mother.

- Praise the Lord.
- Now and forever.

Did you just speak?

Did I just hear you speak?

What's your name?

I'm Sister Sissy.

Sister Sissy?

Well, Sister Sissy...

Why don't you tell me what
you've been doing lately,

besides getting fat,
being late for Mass,

and talking during grand silence.

I didn't realise it was
still grand silence.

Well, because they told us to
count the bells before noon.

And I counted...

Do you not understand
what "silence" means?

Was it not explained
to you properly?

During grand silence,
you are silent.

And silence means you don't talk.

You shut your mouth.

But, Reverend Mother,
you're talking.

That is because I am reprimanding
you right now, Jenny.

- I am reprimanding you.
- It's "Sissy."

I don't care in the least.

I want you to get down
on your hands and knees

and crawl all the way here.

Say as many Hail Marys as you
can, from here to there.

Right now.

On your hands and knees, Sister.

Hail... Hail Mary...

Are you talking?

Do I still hear you talking?


I didn't have any clue.

Sorry. I didn't realise
anybody was here.

No, no, it's okay.

Come here.

Come here. I'd like
to talk to you.

- How are you, Sister Cathleen?
- Good.

Thank you.

And the other girls?

Are they still upset about
Sister Sissy being sent home?

Everybody mostly understands.

We all miss her. I
miss her, but...

Of course.

Do you often come here
to pray by yourself?


Especially now that our
first vows are coming up.

I just wanted to spend some extra
time communicating with Him,

and make sure He's okay
with me becoming a novice.

I'm pretty sure He's okay with it.

I think you're gonna
be a great nun.

Thank you, Sister.

Just do me a favour, okay?

Please make sure this
is what you want.

Do you understand what I'm saying?


Lord, please forgive me, I
haven't done well today.

I didn't focus enough on
my prayers this morning,

and I rushed to Mass

because I just wanted
to be with my friends.

And I'm sorry,
sometimes I feel like

I pay more attention to
my friends than I do you.

And I just pray that
you censure my heart,

and you centre my thoughts
and my mind only on you.

You shall speak to him

And put the words in his mouth

And I will be with your mouth

And with his mouth

And will teach you both what to do

You shall speak to him

And put the words in his mouth

And I will be with your mouth

And with his mouth

And will teach you both what to do

You shall speak to him

And put the words in his mouth

And I will be with your mouth

And with his mouth

And will teach you both what to do

You shall speak to him

And put the words in his mouth

And I will be with your mouth

And with his mouth

And will teach you both what to do

You shall speak to him

And put the words in his mouth

And I will be with your mouth

And with his mouth

Keep going.

And will teach you both what to do

Keep singing.

You shall speak to him

And put the words in his mouth

I owe you no explanation

I just want you to
collect your belongings

and get yourselves back home.

All right, out you go.

Enough's enough.

Come along.

- What just happened?
- Nothing.

I'm sending those two girls home.

You're sending Mariana
and Teresa home?

I was told that their relationship

was veering toward
something inappropriate.

But they're just
young girls, right?

Perhaps they're just friends.

Perhaps they're just seeking
comfort in each other.

Seeking comfort in each other?

Is that what we do
around here now?

Are you questioning me again?

Are you questioning my judgement?

So, why don't you
tell me, Mary Grace.

How are those two girls expected
to go their entire lives

without any form of
physical affection,

when they can't even
make it a few months?

I don't know.

You know, there have
been moments, recently,

when it's begun to feel to me

as if you don't want to
be here with us any more.

As if everything requires some
sort of inquisition by you.

What is your trouble exactly?

Part of my trouble is you.


I don't understand
your motivations.

God is my motivation.

God is my reason and motivation
for everything I do.

How can you be absolutely
certain of what He wants?

I am quite certain.

I think it's wrong of you to keep
us in the dark about Vatican II.

Whatever's in those documents,

whatever it is that
you're hiding from us,

that's going to
affect all of us...

It is not going to
affect any of us.

- This will affect none of us.
- Why can't you just tell me?

Because I don't want to. I don't
have to, and I don't want to.

- Fine, Mother.
- Yes, fine.

Fine indeed, Mary.

I just wanted to...

I just wanted to tell you I've
decided to leave the convent.


I'm very sorry that
I won't be there

to see you take your first vows.

What do you mean?
Where are you going?

It's because of Reverend
Mother, isn't it?

She wants to take
you away from us.

No, no, no, that's not it.

This is my decision.

I've been a Rose since
I was 16 years old.

My time here has been wonderful,

but I am not meant
to be here any more.

Will you still be a member of
the Church after you leave?


This is my family.

You, each and every one of you

that I've spent day
in and day out with.

I love each and every one of you
with everything in my heart.

"We become what we love and who
we love shapes what we become.

"Imitation is not a literal
mimicking of Christ,

"rather it means becoming
the image of the beloved.

"An image disclosed
through transformation."

Be still...

Please clear the way

for my untouched
virginal body to pass.

There's a new era coming,

a new wind blowing in here.

There will come a time, very soon,

when all your cathedrals
will finally crumble.

All these trappings and clothing
falling away to the ground.

And it'll be us, all of us,

standing here naked before God.

Girls, we only have
a few more minutes.

- We have a long way to go.
- Can you do it yourself?

Our parents are out there.

Does anyone have a
knitting needle?

Sister Anne, do you have
any knitting needles?

I don't even have them.

Can someone help
her with her veil?

I'll get it.

I need a band.

With the help of God,

I have come to know
in this community...

both the difficulty and the joy of
a life completely devoted to Him.

My desire is to be allowed to
make perpetual profession.

I seek to become a temporary bride
of Christ for a year and a half

and to persevere in all
of my undying love.

May we be worthy of Christ's love.

We're married. We're
married. We're married.

- I love you, God.
- I love you, Jesus.

I'm married to Jesus.

Christ. Christ.

The novitiate, as I'm
sure you've all heard,

is the most gruelling

and demanding period...

Why are they breaking
our mirrors like that?

In any nun's life.

It is then when the strength
of your so-called vocations

will be tested to their limits.

It's also about
learning to be perfect.

Because, and I think
you'd all agree,

our Saviour deserves no less

from each one of you
than a perfect wife.

So, once a week, we will
be meeting in this room

for an exercise called
"Chapter of Faults."

And one thing I can assure you,

we do not leave until the
chapter is finished.

So... You, Sister.

Me? Evelyn.

I'm Sister Evelyn.

Come to the centre
of the room, please.


I want you to think for a moment,

and then I want you
to carefully list

every single fault

you're aware of in yourself.

I'm sorry, what?

What don't you understand?

Are you perfect?


I don't know...

What do you mean?

Are you a perfect person,
a perfect human being?

A perfect nun?

No. Of course not.

Wouldn't you like to be perfect?

Don't you think you should
at least try to be perfect?

Yes, if I could.

So what do you think
stands in the way most

between you and perfection?

My faults.


Because there's really no way for
any of us to achieve perfection

without first getting
rid of our faults.

I guess so.

You guess what, Sister?

Yes, Mother, I agree.

All right. Let's hear it.

Let's hear your faults.

Well, I'm untidy.

I mean, I am... I'm messy.

I feel like a slob, and...

I space out sometimes.

I mean, in school, they...

- All right.
- I can't. I really can't...

Hold it. Hold. Hold. Hold.

Just a moment.

Leaving clothes on the floor
and lack of concentration,

or "spacing out," as you call it,

while I agree these
are all weaknesses

that you need to
know about yourself,

they're also quite superficial

and won't get us very
far in this process.


I want you to start again.

And this time,

I want you to fully
examine your conscience

and come up with a list of
things you do on a daily basis

to fail our Lord Christ.

Ways that I fail...

Ways that I fail Christ.

Well, there's a part of me

that thinks that I'm not
good enough to be here,

that I don't deserve to be here.

I want to be pure, and
I want to be good.


I don't know if that's who
I really am on the inside.


Sometimes my thoughts inside

don't match the way I
act on the outside.

And I just feel bad
and ugly inside.

And I've let people down before.

I've let my parents down,
my ma and my father,

but I don't want to
let Him down, Mother.

I don't want to let Jesus down.

And I just hope that He knows
that I can do better...

If He'll let me.

All right, Sister.
Very brave of you.

And now for your penance,

I'd like to assign you
ten rosaries next week.

And I'd also like you to starve
yourself all day on Friday.

Thank you, Mother.

Where are you going?

I thought that I was done.

Done? No one said you were done.

Come back here.

Now that Sister has
been brave enough

to share some of her
faults with us,

I'd like to open it up to the room

to help point out any
additional character flaws

that they are aware
of in their Sister.

Well, somebody say something.

We've already established
she's not perfect.

- I saw her smile.
- What?

Just now, when you said
she did a good job,

I saw her smile.

Like she was pleased with herself.

Like it was all a joke to her.

Is that true?


And how would she know

if she hadn't broken
the custody of eyes?

I didn't. You're vain.

You did. You're a liar.
How else would she know?

All right. That's enough.

Sister, your turn is finished.

However, if that is true,

and you had the nerve to mock
this process, it's pathetic.

What sort of nun are
you going to be

if you can't even stand a single
moment of self-reflection

without gloating?

So in addition to
your other penance,

I would like you to use the
discipline on yourself.


Was it that bad?

What do you think?

You don't have to
stay here, you know.

None of us do.

You can leave
whenever you want to.

And do what?

You mean go home and tell
everyone and my parents

that I failed at being a nun?

- No, I can't do that.
- Sister Mary Grace did it.

It's not the same.

Sister, I'm...

I don't think you're vain at all.

I didn't know.

- I'm sorry.
- It's okay.

- I'm sorry, too.
- We're all vain.

She's just teaching us
how to lose our vanity.

Sisters, I need your
attention, please.

As of today, we have a new member.

Sister Gabrielle Emanuel will
be joining our community.

Sister Emanuel was
previously a member

of the Order of the Sisters
of Christ in New Hampshire.

But as she felt the
culture of the Roses

was more suited to
her religious needs,

she has decided to transfer here.

She'll be joining us as
a first-year novice.

So let's make her feel welcome.

I guess all my friends
are just back home,

and they're doing a
bunch of teenage stuff.

They're going to the
drive-in movies.

And they're going roller-skating

and watching the fireworks
on the Fourth of July,

or they're going...

They're going on dates with boys.

- With boys.
- Yeah. I don't know, I...


Even what?

You know.



Come on. You can't say that you've
never thought about it before.

Everybody does.

Even nuns do, they just
don't ever talk about it.

How do you know that?

Because it's normal.

It's more normal than you think.

I don't really think about it.

So, you never even kissed a
boy before you came here,

nothing like that?

Have you?

Yeah. Only once, though.

Wait, don't tell all the other
Sisters, though, please.

- I won't.
- Okay.

"Let him kiss me with the
kisses of his mouth,

"for your love is
better than wine.

"Your anointing oils are fragrant.

"Your name is oil
poured out on me.

"Therefore, virgins love you."

Sister Cathleen.

I wish I could be more loved back.

I wish I knew for sure...

I wish we all knew for sure

that He really loves us
as much as we love Him.

I just wish I could feel it more.

Don't wish for things
you shouldn't, Sister.

For it is in giving
that we receive,

and in pardoning, that we are
pardoned, and in dying...

Excuse me, Mother. The
Archbishop is here to see you.

The Archbishop.

Good afternoon, Mother.

Go ahead, sit.

Let me get you some tea.

- No, thank you.
- A little drop won't hurt you.

So, how are you, Marie?

You seem a little bit on edge.

Perhaps it's because
I haven't been

in the company of a
man for a while.

It's unusual for me.

- Do you know why I'm here?
- No, I don't.

- You have no idea why I'm here?
- No, I honestly do not.

Well, I've been hearing
a lot recently

about how this Order,
in particular,

is having some trouble embracing

some of the changes that have
been put forth by Vatican II.

Now, you tell me,
is that accurate?

Accurate to a point.

Some of the changes we've
adopted, others we haven't.


You care to elaborate?

The memos sent over from your
office used the word "suggestion"

in regards to all these
changes we're supposed...

Well, that's amusing.

I think you're the only one
who missed the subtext there.

You see, for most of us,

the word "suggestion"
is understood

as synonymous with "obligation."

Perhaps I'm not all that
attuned to subtext.

- My apologies.
- Of course.

Are we done here?

No, no, no. Sorry, we're not done.

Why don't you tell me

what exactly you have the
most difficulty with?

Just lay it all out for me.

I have no difficulty.

I just happen to disagree
with it. All of it.

Not to mention it's
a slap in the face

that the Sisters weren't given
any voice in the matter.

You honestly expected them to have
their own voice, the Sisters?

We are a part of this church, too.

Marie, Marie, that's
not how it works.

I don't think you
really understand

what this will do to us.

If we were to truly embrace
all these changes,

it will ruin the very institution
of Catholic nuns as...

Are you still encouraging all of
your novitiates and postulants

to perform extreme acts
of penance on themselves?

All that old mediaeval stuff?
Because that's gotta stop.

I never asked my girls
to do anything for God

that I haven't done myself.

Like I said, gotta stop.

As for the rest of
Rome's recommendations,

I would just hope that you
can keep an open mind

and try to see things as
part of the larger context.

A theme of change, adaptation,
of spiritual evolution.

Do me a favour, just open
your mind a little bit.

Otherwise, I may have to "suggest"

that we find a
replacement for you.

I never ever, ever thought
that I would say this,

but there are times
where I question

whether or not God is even real.

And I know, I know
that's so horrible,

but what scares me to think is,

what if He actually doesn't exist?

What if He's just something
that we all made up one day

and everybody started
believing it?

Everything that we do for Him and
what we put ourselves through,

to only live in His image, but...

But are we spreading any sort of
love in here or in the world,

or any kindness, or...

Or are we even getting
to know God more?

And if it ever turned out

that God didn't really exist...

Then who would we all
be doing this for?

Sister, you come in
here week after week

with the same
ridiculous confession

about your wavering spirituality.

Frankly, it's grown tiresome.

Your utter spiritual wretchedness.

So, for your penance, I'm
assigning you no penance.

Don't bother.


I just don't understand who she
is or what she's doing here.

Apparently, the SOCs weren't
strict enough for her.

I guess she came here for all
the extra self-punishment.


She really thinks she's that holy?

You can come in now.

What did you want to see me for?

I was wondering if I could
borrow the discipline?

Just for tonight, please?


What did you do?

If it's okay with you, I
would rather not say.

- It's not okay.
- No.

I can't just give it
to you without knowing

what you need it for
first. You know that.

Yeah, of course. I...

I broke grand silence
twice this week.


I was uncharitable
to one of my Sisters

when I didn't mean to be.

That's all.

That's what you want to
punish yourself for?



Thank you, Mother.

Excuse me, Sister. Your
mother's here to see you.

What do you mean, why?
It's not visiting day.

It's okay. Reverend Mother said
you can use the other door today.

Hi, my love.

Is there some place
we could talk? I

have something I have to tell you.

She already told me.

Yeah. So, I guess no one...

No one knew how sick he was,

and I know he wasn't the
best father, but I just...

I didn't want you to be alone.

Okay, I don't...

I came here to tell
you your dad died,

and now you hear it
from somebody else?

I don't understand
what's going on.

I'm sorry you're upset, Mum.

What the hell is going on here?

And why does it look like
you've lost a bunch of weight?

I really haven't lost very
much weight. I'm fine.

You have lost some
weight, Cathleen.

So, how much weight have you lost?

What's going on, they
don't feed you in here?

- You're not allowed to eat?
- No, I'm fine, okay?

- Let me look at you.
- I'm fine, okay?

- Let me look at you, Cathleen.
- I'm sorry. I have to go.

Sorry to hear about Dad.

I'll pray that God meets
him at his grace, okay?

- I really need to go.
- What do you mean, you have to go?

- Don't go yet.
- I need to leave, I'm sorry, Mum.

I've been driving for three
hours. Stop. Stop, stop.

Cathleen? Cathleen.

I'd like to thank you for
stopping in, Mrs Harris.

I don't think we've
had the pleasure.

Just wanna know what's going on
with my daughter, that's all.

Going on with your daughter?

- In what way?
- Look, Miss...


Excuse me?

It's "Mother." Or
"Reverend Mother."

I'm not a "Miss," or a "Missus"
either, for that matter.

Lady, I am not calling you Mother.

Mrs Harris, I understand you've
had a loss in the family.

- And I would like to express...
- Save it.

You know, I haven't seen my
daughter in over six months.

And I came here today to
tell her about her dad,

and I barely recognise her.

She looks completely different,
like she's lost 20 pounds.

I wanna know what you're
doing to her in here.

What I'm doing?

You're talking about her body,
which is a superficial topic.

Are you blind?

Have you seen her lately?

She looks like she's dying.

Just, please, calm down.

I said, I wanna know
what's going on in here.

Honestly, Mrs Harris,
with all due respect,

in a sense, you did bring
your daughter here to die.

You brought her here to
die to the outside world

and be born again
in Christ's love.

It's a process. She's
simply going through it.

That's all.

For what it's worth,

I do understand how
difficult it can be

for a parent to give
their child to God.

And that's because you
have children of your own?

No, I don't,

but neither do you any more.

Okay. Well...

Just so you know,

and with all due respect to you,

Miss whatever the fuck
you want to be called,

I didn't bring my daughter here.

I didn't bring her here at all.

But if I ever come here and
see her like this again,

I will take her out of here.

Are you all right,
Sister Cathleen?

Reverend Mother...

She asked me to check on you.

And we don't have to sign.
It's not grand silence yet.

They asked me to
bring soup for you.

Thank you.

So you were at the SOCs, right?

What happened, you
didn't like it there?

It's not that I didn't
like it, it's just...

I don't know, I just thought

being a Rose would
be better for me.

I thought it would be easier.

Isn't it so much stricter here?

Sometimes when things are
stricter, it makes them easier.

I wouldn't know.

All I ever wanted
was to be a Rose.

Seems to come so naturally to you.

Sometimes, I guess.

I just know that

I want God's love

and if being a good nun is what
it takes to deserve it, then...

I admire your devotion.

The passion you feel,
it seems real with you.

Isn't it with you, too?

Sister Emanuel?

Maybe it's a strange
question, but...

Why'd you do it?

I mean, why did you starve
yourself, make yourself sick?

Did you do it for Christ?

I'm sorry, it's... It's
really not my place to ask.

You can turn around.

I thought I was doing
it for Christ.


just to be a better nun,

but maybe I also thought that

if I made myself
starve on the outside,

I wouldn't feel myself

starving as much on the inside.

What are you starving for?

I don't know.

"Let not your heart be troubled.

"You believe in God.
Believe also in me.

"In my Father's house,
there are many rooms.

"Were it not so,

- "I should have told you..."
- Will you please stop?

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry, did I do
something wrong?

I don't understand.

You can just keep reading. Please
go back to reading, please.

Just read. I'm sorry.

No, that was a mistake. I'm sorry.

- It's my fault.
- That was my fault.

I'm sorry. That was a mistake.

- I'm sorry, it was my fault.
- No, it's me. I have to go.

So stupid of...

Lord, make me an
instrument of thy peace.

Where there is hatred,
let me sow love,

where there is injury, pardon,

where there is doubt, faith,

where there is despair, hope,

where there is sadness, joy,

where there is darkness, light.

Oh, Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.

Love, love, love.



I have an announcement.

I apologise that this
has taken so long,

but there's something
very important

that I've been meaning
to inform you of.

I'm sure, by now,

at least a few of you have heard
of something called Vatican II.

In a nutshell,

there's been a series
of meetings in Rome

over the past three years.

These meetings have
been principally

concerned with revisions

that the Pope and others

felt necessary to
ensure the survival

of our Church.

I, myself, couldn't
be more pleased

with the results of Vatican II.

Pope John XXIII was nothing
short of a visionary

in terms of...

In terms...

Well, let's not belabour it.

I will read this letter
from the Archdiocese.

A letter,

regarding certain reforms

which we will be
adopting immediately.

"From now on, please be advised

"that priests are
no longer required

to read the liturgy in Latin

"and should face the
congregation during Mass.

"All Catholics are further
encouraged to embrace

"the idea of full
religious tolerance.

"While we may not share the
same beliefs as others,

"we will honour and respect

"each and every individual's
belief as their own.

"Please be advised
also that all nuns

"and women religious,
cloistered and non-cloistered,

"are no longer required to
wear the traditional habit

"as a symbol of their
lifelong matrimony to Christ.

"In fact,

"they are now free to
wear what they want.

"Regarding the culture of
more extreme abnegation

"and self-punishment
still prevalent

in many communities today,

"please be advised that
according to the Council,

"this is no longer understood

"to be the appropriate
path to follow

"for all those seeking
greater union with Christ.

"It is no longer acceptable

"to view any acts of
extreme sacrifice

"as an act of love.


"from here forward,

"in the eyes of both the
Holy Church and God,

"the status of all nuns
shall be reduced as equal

"to that of any regular
practising Catholic.

"While the choice to enter the
convent remains one's own,

"this does not necessarily
make nuns any more

"beloved or special

"in the eyes of God."

I am deeply sorry, Sisters.

Have a pleasant day.

Where are you?

I can feel you, right
next to me, for so long.

With me

all that time, my darling husband.

And now you've abandoned me.

And you hoped

that I would lose faith in you?

You imagined that I would
just walk out those gates?

I cannot.

I made a commitment

forty years ago.

And even if you choose to turn
your light from me forever...

I am yours.

Oh, my darling husband.

You can't be here.



It's okay.

Do you remember...

Do you remember when you asked
what I was starving for?

I just want to be comforted.

Please, will you just
comfort me? Please?

Please, will you just...
Please, will you just...

Will you, please? Just...

Please, will you just comfort
me? Please, please, please.

Please, will you just comfort me?
Please, will you just comfort me?

I can't.

Please, I just want to be
comforted. Please, please, please.


- Okay.
- Please comfort me.

- I will. I will comfort you.
- Please, please, please.

Okay. Okay. Okay.

Please, please, please.

Okay. Okay. Stop talking.


Please, just comfort
me. Please, please.


- Please, please.
- Okay, okay.

- Please, please.
- Okay, okay.

Comfort me.

I take it you're feeling better?

Yes. I am.

Thank you.

I appreciate the
devotion you showed,

starving yourself for Christ.

Thank you, Mother.

So, a few bumps here and there,

but mostly you have been
exceptional during your training.

I believe you belong
here with us, Sister.

Doesn't that make you happy?


Of course.

Of course I'm happy.

I don't know how much you've
heard about this Vatican II?

Not much,

just little things I've
heard here and there

from some of the others.

When I first came here...

When I first came to this
convent, I had nothing.

No home, no family, nothing.

The Church is the only
thing that ever held me.

It gave me my work,

my community,

even my identity.

And now Vatican II is trying to

invalidate all that,
for all of us.

Saying none of it matters.

So, my question is,

what is it that really
does still matter?


So much has changed since
we were postulants.

I know that when I
first had my vocation,

that it was real.

It was a real vocation.

Really, truly, His
voice calling to me.

I just don't know sometimes

if that was what He was
really calling me for.

Maybe He wants
something else for me.

Maybe He never meant for
me to be a nun at all...

Just wants me to be happy
and be good to others.

Or maybe not.

For your penance,
I'd like you to say

three extra Hail Marys at bedtime.

You can do it quickly
if you'd like.

Sister Cathleen.

Come to the centre
of the room, please.

You have any accusations
you'd like to share with us?


- Do you hear me, Sister?
- Yes.

I want to accuse myself.

I accuse myself of
having feelings.


Feelings I'm not sure
I'm supposed to have.

Like wanting to be
with another person

in a way that made me


Feel what?




I wanted someone to touch me.

I wanted someone to make me feel

something more than
God can give me.

More than God can give you?

What do you mean?

Explain yourself.

I don't know how
to explain myself.

I'm accusing myself of being
intimate with someone.

- Intimate?
- With another Sister.

Feeling love for her.

And I don't think it was a sin.
I don't think it was a sin.

Because it didn't feel like a sin.
It felt like I'm supposed to feel.

A particular friendship?

With someone in this room?

- Who?
- I'm not going to say, Mother.

I did what you asked.

I made my confession. Will
you just give me my penance?

I want you to tell me exactly
what you did and with whom.

No, I did what you asked,
I made my accusation.

Will you just give me my penance?

Do you want your penance?

Yes, I want my penance. Please
just give me my penance.

You want your penance, Cathleen?

Yes, I just want my penance.
Please just give me my penance.

You do? You want your penance?

Yes, I just want my penance.
I want my penance, please.

- Do you want your penance?
- Please, yes.

Please give it to me.

I want you to crawl
around this room

and ask this group
for your penance.

I just want my penance. Please,
I beg you. Please. Please.

I'm begging you, please.

I'm begging you.

Please, I'm begging
you. Please, please.

I'm begging you, please.

I don't understand.
Where is everyone?


Gone? What do you mean, "gone"?

Didn't you hear?

It's because of Vatican II.

Now and forever.
God bless, Sister.

You three are late.
Is everyone here now?

Why are there only five dresses?
Where's Sister Emanuel?

Sister Emanuel's dress will
not be needed any more

because Sister Emanuel left.

She's not going to be taking
vows with the rest of you.

What do you mean, she
left? Where'd she go?

I have no idea, she
just left. That's all.

I guess she didn't want
to be a nun any more.

I don't know if this is something

that I need to figure
out on my own.

I'll do whatever it takes.

If you want me to
stay, then I'll stay.

But I can't tell if that's
what you want any more.

I can't hear you,
and I don't know.

I pray and beseech thee

that each of these dear pledges...

Is he speaking English?

Of Jesus and Mary,

their being preserved
from all uncleanness.

Thy may with spotless mind,
pure heart and a chaste body

serve Jesus and Mary most
chastely all the days of my life.


What is it you seek?

I seek to take the vows

of chastity, poverty
and obedience.

To give my life

to God for eternity.

To be married forever to
our Lord Jesus Christ.

Bride of Christ, you
are now professed.

What is it you desire?

With the help of God,

I have come to know
in this community

both the difficulty and joy

of a life completely
devoted to Him.

My desire is to make
permanent profession

within this community

and to wear the holy
habit of the Rose.

And what is it you seek?

I seek...

What do I seek?

What do I seek?

I seek...

I seek something more.