ROME — Pope Francis’ call for the church to “get out onto the streets” and evangelize helped inspire 25-year-old Ursuline Sister Cristina Scuccia to hit the stage and sing before millions of viewers last week.
“I have a gift and I’m giving it to you,” she told judges and her audience after she floored them with her March 19 appearance on the singing competition TV show: The Voice of Italy belting out Alicia Keys’ “No one.”
Sister Cristina actually found her religious vocation thanks to her love for music and the stage.
As a teenager, Cristina had no place for God in her life.
“After Confirmation, I distanced myself from the church and I was angry with God,” she told the Italian religious weekly magazine, Credere.it in July 2013. Even making the sign of the cross before family meals was something she rebelled against, she said.
Singing, voice lessons and doing local festivals and wedding gigs with her band were all she cared about, she said. She had a boyfriend, worked at a call center, went to college and auditioned — unsuccessfully — for spots on two Italian TV talent shows.
Cristina was always on the move, constantly looking for “something that I wasn’t finding in my life, running nonstop without getting the answers I was hoping for,” she told Credere.it.
She said her mother told her about an upcoming musical production of the life of Sister Rosa Roccuzzo, the foundress of the Ursuline Sisters of the Holy Family, and Cristina landed the lead part of Sister Rosa.
“I had shown up in order to be able to sing and dance; but the challenges Sister Rosa had launched a century ago, about the gift of one’s existence, always kept ringing inside me.”
Torn between pursuing music or become a nun, she said she quickly found her way to God, “saying, ‘Here I am,’ like Samuel.”
She spent a year and a half in Rome as a postulant and then did her novitiate in Brazil working with children and young adults on the street in the outskirts of Sao Paulo.
“Music helped me make contact with them and I rediscovered singing as a way to praise the Lord, as something my soul needed, and as an instrument for touching people’s hearts,” she said.
She certainly touched people’s hearts as her performance went viral around the world on YouTube:
The back-and-forth banter between Sister Cristina and the four “coaches” is interesting and revealing. Here’s an English translation of some of what was said during the episode, starting after Sister Cristina explains that she’s from Sicily:
Raffaella Carrà: Listen Sister Cristina, are you a real nun or…?
Sister Cristina: I’m truly a real nun!
R.C.: It’s not possible. But how did it ever cross your mind to come be on The Voice?
Sr.C.: Well, I have a gift and I’m giving it to you, right? That’s the way it is!
R.C.: Honestly, I would be curious to know, but I won’t conduct an in-depth interview to learn about your decision to become a nun, certainly you had your reasons, however, to be able to sing like this…I’m at a total loss, you know, dear sister?!
Sr.C.: Rather, I can imagine.
R.C.: Well, ok. Also, J-Ax was the first to turn around [to show a vote of approval for her “Blind Audition” tryout].
Sr. C.: J-Ax! He’s the best! It’s so wonderful!
… [back and forth about how she has to choose which coach to join forces with]
J-Ax: Hello sister! I am–
Sr. C.: Awesome! [gives thumbs up]
J-Ax: You’re the sister, I’m the “uncle” [dude]. Listen, I’m not sure, but do you sing in church on Sundays?
Sr. C.: Yes, absolutely!
J-Ax: I don’t know, but if you sing in church on Sundays, with the donations, we all can get out of paying ‘IMU’ [taxes] for sure.
Sr. C.: [continues in jest] Perhaps I can suggest it to the parish priest.
J-Ax: If I had found you when I was a child when I used to go to Mass, I’d be pope right now! I would have kept going [to church]!
Sr. C.: Very good! You’ve found it now!
J-Ax: You know how music operates a lot off of a play [a mix of opposites]: sweet-salty, right? The caress-the slap…You and I are unbeatable, you know why? We are the devil and holy water! You have to come on my team!
Noemi: [About how she couldn’t believe her eyes when she turned around and saw a nun singing like that and choosing such a modern song…] No! I beg you. I am holy water like you, we’ll be an impeccable [sinless] duo. Don’t choose the devils!
J-Ax: But we’re just little devils.
R.C.: Well, I’m not a devil, hmpf!
Noemi: Choose holy water!
R.C.: What do you think the Vatican is saying about you appearing on The Voice?
Sr. C.: Hmm, look, I don’t know, I’ll wait for the phone call from Pope Francis, for sure. Because he invites us to go out, to evangelize, to tell people God doesn’t take anything away [from you], rather he gives us even more! I’m came here for this!
R.C.: Brava! Brava
Noemi: He’s starting to cry. [referring to J-Ax who is tearing up even more]
What did you think of Sister Cristina’s performance and its effect on the judges, the audience?
Can this be a positive form of evangelization, as she says?