Ask Alice about Catholicism
What do people in religious life do for fun?

Pope John Paul II was famous for making silly faces at photographers. These pictures were a radical departure from the papal portraits in history books. That was the point: to humanize the papacy—and the church—wearing a grin and Bono’s shades.

If you’d asked our late ski- and movie-enthusiast pope what he did for fun, he’d have likely countered: What do you do? Most of us are limited only by our abilities, resources, and imagination concerning what we do at playtime. I know some priests who keep bees. They sell “Holy Family Honey: Where the Glory Bees Are Sweeter.” Another priest works on a pit crew at the local racetrack on Saturdays. A Paulist pastor has a shoebox under his bed full of short stories he’s been writing, and not a few screenplays. A Sister of Mercy loves to garden and gets up early for bird-watching.

Priests and religious sisters of my acquaintance cook (some are gourmets), travel, draw, sculpt, build furniture, read thriller novels, and gather friends for dinner parties. They play soccer, basketball, racquetball, and beach volleyball. (Warning: They play for keeps, so be careful.) They go fishing. They take night classes in subjects that intrigue them. They crochet (not all of these are women) and hang glide (not all of these are men).

What it comes down to is that folks in religious life are basically folks. When you meet a group of sweaty women packing out of the Grand Canyon, you may not know they’re Dominican sisters because they don’t wear habits when they go camping. That guy who just slid out from under a truck in the driveway doesn’t look like a priest, but he’ll get most of the grease out from under his nails before Mass.

Sure, a lot of people in religious life take their vacations in the Holy Land, or on pilgrimages to Rome, Lourdes, and Fatima. Some collect holy cards as a hobby (I collect holy cards too, and I’m a laywoman). Some only read books by Thomas Merton and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. But others are just wild about Sherlock Holmes.

Need for Sabbath: Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 23:12; 34:21; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Mark 2:27

Priests and Nuns Having Fun Flickr pool site

Ten Fun Things to Do Before You Die by Nun Other Than Sister Karol Jackowski (Hyperion Press)
Diamond Presence: Twelve Stories of Finding God at the Old Ball Park, edited by Gregory F. Augustine Pierce (ACTA Publications)
Movies That Matter: Reading Film Through the Lens of Faith by Richard Leonard, S.J. (Loyola Press)
Good Cooking Habits: Food for Your Body, Your Soul, and Your Funnybone by Nun Other Than Sister Karol Jackowski (Forest of Peace Press)

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Alice L. Camille
Alice Camille is a gem among contemporary writers on scripture and Catholic teaching. She has received numerous awards for her books, columns, and exegetical reflections. She received her Master of Divinity degree from the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, where she also served as adjunct faculty in ministry formation, preaching and proclamation. Alice is an author, religious educator, and parish retreat leader. Learn more at

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