Suor Cristina: Born to Pray

Suor Cristina is not just a performer in a costume

A nun struts up and down a stage, rocking her own version of Born this Way while a row of girls in low-cut black leotards sing back up and spin like the Temptations. Suor Cristina Scuccia is killing it.

Suor’s got talent, no question, but behavior like this from an Ursuline sister has provoked a few questions:

“Shouldn’t we be concerned about this?”

“No. Why would we be?”

Whether you raise an eyebrow or dance to the beat, you should at least know what Suor Cristina is trying to do. Here she is in a Q & A with Kate O’Hare on the Patheos Blog:

It is my belief that all I do is prayer and has a missionary nature so that there are no contradictions between my being consecrated and the living of an experience in the world of entertainment. Wherever I go, I’m always accompanied by another sister of mine; we try to bring Jesus even through our presence.

The encounter with Christ does not close us in ourselves but opens us to others and to new life experiences, so we accepted Pope Francis’ invitation to open the doors of our convent and go out, go into the world to reach all those places where the love of Christ has not been known yet.

She is dining with sinners (Luke 15:2).

The children of the world are not going to go to her house, be it the church or the convent, so she is going to their house. Their house is the world stage and the cameras that bring it into millions of homes. Her latest trip is to a talent show called, The World’s Best which features acts from all over the world from every performance genre you can think of, competing in front of a panel that includes 50 top performers. You could say it is the idol of all idol shows.

Idols are why Suor Cristina is here; she is taking them on.

Born the Way is originally Lady Gaga’s celebration of “diversity.”

Don't be a drag just be a queen.

Suor Cristina’s version cuts that line and this one:

It doesn’t matter if you love him or capital H-I-M... (Some sources say this is God; others say it is His Infernal Majesty.)

Either way, it does matter. Most popular songs make a savior or a god of everything but the real Savior and God. With a few careful edits, Suor Cristina is trying to change that.

Not: I was born this way.

But: I was born to pray.

She’s diverting the praise that usually goes to human pride or the flesh toward praise of the true God instead. Or trying to — the backup singers have me asking WWJD? Not that. So it’s not Palestrina. But it is getting people’s attention.

A few years ago she won her native land’s The Voice of Italy competition and then led the audience in a Padre Nostro of thanksgiving. Some on the stage prayed along; others chatted awkwardly in the background.

Last Wednesday night she revisited the song that won her that competition. She appeared for a second audition on The World’s Best with her version of Like a Virgin. The reference was impossible to miss. There stood a reverse Madonna – who herself is a reverse Madonna with her rosaries, her crosses, and her comments that “nuns are sexy.” Suor deleted the word “boy,” slowed the tempo, and sung it as a ballad to Our Lord.

Didn't know how lost I was
Until I found you

She is not exactly smashing idols. It is more like she is sticking a crucifix on top. Picture her medieval Italian ancestors getting their hands on an Egyptian obelisk or Trajan’s column or a Roman temple.

Si, we know dese tings were used to worship false gods but how about-a we-a stick-a de cross on top and show dese pagans who’s really de boss?

It seems to be working. Her talent and her irrepressible charm, which any Christian can recognize is humility, is proving a magnet for a world which is thirsty for love and parched for grace. She’s not just a performer in a costume; she’s the real thing and they know it.

Another proof of her authenticity is that Suor apparently didn’t seek the limelight. It found her. She was asked to participate in La Voz de Italia and her superior blessed the idea. Then again, this is exactly what happened to another Singing Nun just a few decades ago in Belgium, whose final curtain went down on a tragedy.

Which brings to mind the words of another famous nun, Mother Angelica, who often warned her audience, “The world has nothing for you.” That’s true, but what do you do if you have something for the world?

Suor Cristina is not the first missionary to risk her own soul to meet the world on its turf and direct its gaze to heaven. She’ll need to “be praying” and so will we. She has already got the talent, not to mention the guts. She was born this way.