Even those with the strongest moral compass can sometimes find their faith tested. Here are a few surprising instances where a nun was forced to confront her own personal demons head on.
Nuns exist in a unique corner of our society. Traditionally, these devout women are viewed as holy figures that have dedicated themselves to their unwavering faith in a higher power. But underneath the tradition and religious doctrine they are still only human, which makes them tragically flawed by design like the rest of us.
Throughout pop culture and history, we’ve seen numerous examples of nuns fluctuating between two extremes—the saintly and the secular; the religious and the rebellious; the good and the downright evil. This duality isn’t just the central theme of The Nun—the latest film in Warner Bro.’s popular horror series, The Conjuring—but also the experiences of real women of the cloth who have had their faith tested. Some stayed the course and vanquished evil in a head-on battle of wills while others lost their religion, and in some cases, their lives.
Set in 1950s Romania, The Nun revolves around an investigation into the mysterious suicide of a young nun, which is later connected to a malevolent force known as Valak. With the ability to take on any form, including that of a demonic nun, this spirit is the embodiment of pure evil. It’s up to Sister Irene to face Valak, as well as her own doubts about her faith, to ensure that good conquers evil.
While this might just seem like a solid plot for a good film, there’s more that grounds this story to the real world. Throughout history, there have been several examples of religious figures—nuns in particular—battling against evil forces who evoke the same demonic spirit as Valak. Below you’ll find some of the most inspiring spiritual victories over wickedness, as well as the most soul-sucking losses to it.
ARMED WITH FAITH
Uganda has been in political turmoil for years, leaving the African country in a state of constant internal conflict as opposing groups wage war against each other. One of the more horrific outcomes of this is militarized groups abducting young people and forcing them to be child soldiers. In October of 1996, armed rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) descended upon St. Mary’s College, an all-girls boarding school in Aboke, Kole District, and abducted roughly 139 students in the middle of the night.
The chances of recovering the girls alive were slim to none, but that didn’t stop the school’s deputy headmistress from trying. Sister Rachele Fassera made the bold trek through harsh terrain to look evil right in the eye—which in this case, came in the form of the LRA leader and his armed militia. Refusing to back down, she demanded that the girls be set free. Surprisingly, the rebel leader agreed to release 100 of the hostages back into the care of Sister Rachele, who brought them back home safely. This miracle was just another example of the power of faith and good vanquishing evil.
THE HOLY HEALER
One of the biggest scourges in modern history arose during the first half of the 20th Century and spawned WWII (1939-1945). Despite this global reign of terror, there were still brave souls who had the courage to stand up to this wave of evil.
Sister Agnes-Marie Valois, a French Catholic nun who was trained as a nurse, was stationed in Dieppe, France when a failed Allied raid on German soldiers along the French coast occurred. Thousands of troops died and even more were gravely injured and captured. Sister Agnes was tasked with caring for nearly 2,000 wounded soldiers in total and, despite constantly being confronted by German forces, she always remained defiantly steadfast in her core values.
Hardy Wheeler, a retired Canadian army officer who witnessed Sister Agnes’ bravery firsthand, told Canada’s National Post, “She is known for standing up to the German soldiers; they held a gun up to her to treat the German injured first, but she just looked at everyone as equal—regardless of rank, regardless of nation, regardless of who or what you are. She treats those who needed help the most.” For her bravery and commitment to doing good, even in the face of extreme evil, Sister Agnes became known as the Angel of Dieppe.
CURSED WITH REGRET
At the root of every urban legend lies a drop of truth that’s often lost to time. In the case of the story La Monja del Vaso (The Nun of the Glass), the facts can be just as scary as the fiction.
For over a century, the people of Costa Rica have recounted the tale of an unmarried woman who was forced to join a nunnery by her family. Assigned to attend to the sick at what is now the country’s oldest hospital, the unwilling nun cared little about her charity work and is said to have often ignored her patients. She received her cryptic nickname after refusing a dying man’s request for water before he died. Over time, the nun regretted her decision, but died herself before she was able to properly atone for her actions. She was cursed to roam the hospital’s halls, doling out drops of water to visitors until her debt is paid. Over the years, various people have recounted stories of seeing a shadowy figure on the hospital grounds that is thought to be the Nun of the Glass still trying to make amends for her evil actions in the afterlife.
SINS OF THE FLESH
Located about five miles off the northwest coast of Trinidad lies the isolated island of Chacachacare. Back in 1922, it was home to a leper colony overseen by more than a dozen nuns. Over the course of the leprosarium’s 60-year run, there were thousands of deaths, including patients who succumbed to their disease and several nuns who contracted it. However, there was one nun said to have tragically taken her own life. Falling in love with a man and committing sins of the flesh, she broke her sacred vows. Riddled with guilt, she apparently hung herself over the altar of the island’s church. While the colony was shut down in 1984—soon after the final patient died—Chacachacare was briefly turned into a Coast Guard base in the ’90s, before being abandoned for good due to repeated reports of paranormal activity.
Today, with its long history of disease and death, Chacachacare remains a desolate destination that only a few brave souls dare visit, as there have been sightings of what many believe is the ghost of the nun that committed suicide there. Social media influencer King Keraun, who recently took a night tour of Chacachacare with his girlfriend Simone Shepherd, says, “I do believe that Valak has ties to this island because he’s the master [of evil], and there’s some bad nuns. So I believe that the nuns are here and he’s there, too.”