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With regard to the admission of postulants the law provides for every precaution being taken, on the one hand, to prevent coercion and, on the other, to safeguard the community from being obliged to receive those about whose vocation there may be any doubt.
Physical fitness on the part of a candidate is in most orders an indispensable condition, thought there are some which admit women of delicate health; but, once admitted and professed, the tract becomes reciprocal, and while the nun undertakes to keep her vows, the convent, on its side, is bound to provide her with lodging, food, and clothing, and to maintain her in sickness or in health (see NOVITIATE; VOW).
In most of the older contemplative orders the choir nuns are bound to rthe whole Divine Office in choir. Cistercians, Dominicans, and Poor Clares, do the nuns rise in the night for Matins and Lauds ; in the others these Offices are generally said in the evening "by anticipation".
In some there are other additional offices recited daily; thus the Cistercians and the Poor Clares say the Office of Our Lady and that of the Dead every day, and the Brigittines say the latter thrice in the week, as well as an Office of the Holy Ghost.
The nun Us day is divided between the choir, the workroom, the schoolroom, the refectory, the recreation room, the cell, and, with the active orders, the outside work, in periodical rotation. The earliest rules for nuns, as well as the most modern, all prescribe labour of some useful kind.
The medieval nuns could always read and write Latin, and they also employed themselves in transcribing and illuminating sacred books, and in many of the fine arts , the cultivation of which they consecrated to the service of God.
As a general deduction it may be stated that the contemplative life, in which women are actuated by a desire to save their own souls and the souls of other by their lives of prayer, seclusion, and mortification, was the idea of the older orders, while the distinctive note of the more modern congregations is that of active work amongst others and the relief of their bodily wants.
engaged in educational or rescue work), while other again combine the two.
Similarly, of the unenclosed orders, some are purely active (i.e.
The latter are usually employed in the household duties and other manual work.
They take the usual vows and are as truly religious as the choir nuns, but they are not bound to the choir Office, though they often attend the choir at the time of Office and recite certain prayers in the vernacular.