Sister Mary Karen of the Eucharist, 34

W 49th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves

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Sister Mary Karen of the Eucharist
Sister Mary Karen of the Eucharist

Photograph: Jay Muhlin

Did you get to meet the Pope last month? Yes, it was wonderful. We were going crazy, jumping up and down...

Like girls at a Beatles concert! It was very peaceful, though. As he drove by, he looked at me like he knew me. He seemed to say, "I need you to pray for me."

Are you ever offended by this lascivious city? Where sin abounds, grace abounds the more, you know? I went to UVA; I've not been sheltered.

Do you tell nun jokes around the convent? [Laughs] In fact, I made one up. What do you call a nun with bad reasoning skills? A nun sequitur!

Punny! Think you're a fitting subject for our Extreme issue? Being a nun is countercultural, for sure. Culture says, "Give in to every temptation." Sisters, meanwhile, point to Heaven and say, "No! Persevere! You can make it!" It's kinda like being a marathon runner.

Man, that tiring? No, no. [Laughs] There's a lot of joy in it.

Is that a wedding ring? The bishop put it on my finger at my final vows. His words were pretty awesome: "Sister, receive this ring, for you are betrothed to the eternal King. Keep faith with your bridegroom so that you may come to the wedding feast of eternal joy."

So you're married to the Big Man. Yep! A friend who came to my vows was like, "Whoa! You never told me you were marrying God today!"

More thoughts from Sister Mary Karen

"My birthday is on the 16th. We celebrate by telling birth stories. Mine was traumatic: I was a premie, wrapped in my cord, getting ready to die; they had to do a cesarean. My parents always said, 'God wanted you to be born.'"

"The white tunic and veil represent the bridal gown; the navy blue is for Our Lady. Keeping the rosary on the left side comes from the 12th century, when people would carry their weapons on their left. Our weapon is prayer."

"My Jewish doctor asked me, 'What's Heaven like for Catholics?' I said, 'Heaven is eternal rest. I think you have some solitude up there, where you're just totally with the Lord. And there might be a great, beautiful garden, too.'"

--Kate Lowenstein

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