Nuns are women who dedicate their lives to God by entering a convent and devoting their lives to worship and work. As nuns, women serve the needs of the community and spend time in worship and prayer. While they serve different specific roles, all nuns spend time in prayer and worship. But some nuns are responsible for certain aspects of the convent, such as alms-givings, records-keeping and general maintenance.
Nuns wake up during the night to do ritual prayers, and continue them throughout the day. The first prayer of the day is called Matins, and nuns get up at midnight to do this prayer, according to the University of Aberdeen. The next prayer is called Lauds, which is followed by Prime (6 a.m.), Terce, Sext (noon), Nones, Vespers and Compline (6 p.m.).
Nuns worship God by praying and reciting psalms throughout the day. Their main prayer book is called the "Book of Hours," which is divided into eight sections that give instructions for the various worship sessions throughout the day. These sessions, which included the singing of hymns and psalms, are said in conjunction with the eight ritual prayers. Nuns should be able to sing up to 50 psalms from memory.
The head woman of the convent is called the abbess. She is the head of the abbey and is elected by the other nuns in the convent for a life term. The cellarer is the nun in charge of provisions within the convent; the almoner is responsible for the provisions given to the poor and sick. Convents set one particular nun, the sacrist, in charge of the general maintenance of the buildings and safekeeping of books.
Although nuns devote their lives to God, they take individual vows upon entering a convent. Nuns could take three different kinds of vows: the Vow of Chastity, the Vow of Poverty and the Vow of Obedience.
Women can join different orders of nuns, each with its own rules and activities. The oldest order of nuns was established by St. Benedict in 529 A.D. Other names included the Carmelite Sisters, Sisters of Mercy, Daughters of St. Paul, Dominican nuns, Augustine nuns and Franciscan nuns.