Yes. I am about to compare 19th-century African warrior women to nuns.
Bear with me. With the approach of the Oscar Awards (less than a month!), I’ve been thinking about a movie that I will go to my grave proclaiming should have been one of the nominees: Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Woman King.
The Woman King follows the Agojie, a band of warrior women for the African kingdom of Dahomey (modern-day Benin) as they protect their country—and each other—from oppressive tribes and slave traders. Besides being a fantastic story with a star-striking script, beautiful cinematography, fierce characters, and fight choreography that took my breath away (I’ll spare you that tangent), it went above and beyond in one particular respect: I saw in it a solid analogy to the religious life.
The Agojie (one moment while I relive their battle cry in my mind *chills*) are women who have taken a vow to live in sisterhood and chastity to dedicate their lives to training in combat against the enemy, protect their country, and serve their king.
All my religious sisters out there, does that sound familiar?
The Agojie swung machetes. Religious sisters wield prayer. The Agojie fought enemies of their people. Religious sisters fight The Enemy. The Agojie went to war for Dahomey. Religious sisters go to war for the Church.
The Agojie knelt before King Ghezo. Religious sisters kneel before Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
The only fundamental difference I could find was that the Agojie find meaning in their duty, while religious sisters find meaning in relationship to God and each other—which is a pretty nice perk, if you ask me.
The movie didn’t stop there, though. I didn’t just see similarities—I saw the spirit of the religious life captured on that screen. I can’t do it justice here, so I truly recommend you go watch it (see the post script for content warnings), but these women were there for each other. They all fiercely celebrated the victory of one, even when that one was a competitor who cost you first place. They mourned the loss of a sister. They pushed each other to become stronger. They maintained a healthy community and stemmed poisonous division the moment it was found. They reconciled and forgave. They guarded and encouraged each other against temptation. They thrived.
When I watched their interactions, something stirred inside me: that part of each human soul that craves a community that lives life to the fullest!
Like a lot of young women, I’ve always found the thought of the religious life intimidating. After all, it’s no day at the spa. But when did a day at the spa leave you united with others over a purpose, over a people, over a Person that you love more than life itself? Yes, there will be moments that hurt, but that pain will leave you more alive than you’ve ever been.
To any ladies discerning a call to the religious life, keep this in mind. And if you feel the call but still have misgivings, never forget: you’re not committing to a sad life of loneliness. You are committing to a life greater than you’ve ever known.
You are—and will forever be—a warrior woman.
Agojie! Jesus is King!
*Content warnings for The Woman King: Please be advised that the theme of rape is involved in the movie, as well as violence, some sensuality and brief strong language.