If you haven’t seen it by now, there’s a great Nike commercial going around featuring Madonna Buder, nicknamed the “Iron Nun”. Check it out:
In typical Nike fashion, the video is well executed and inspirational, but I love that it features an athlete that isn’t one of the typical, beautiful, young, we-already-know-how-good-they-are, Nike athletes. No, this is about an aged woman of religion; something that doesn’t usually make headlines – or marketing campaigns.
So why is Nike using her to promote their brand?
Turns out the habit is just a prop.
Madonna Buder belongs to the Sisters For Christian Community (SFCC), which is a non-canonical group of religious women; it is not a religious order. According to their own story, SFCC began by “responding to Vatican II’s call to the Church to return on every level to a participatory and mutual model of organization, the Sisters For Christian Community (SFCC) emerged as a distinct community of women religious in 1970 that was destined to give witness to collegial community in the form of the traditional vows of obedience, chastity and poverty freshly expressed as listening, loving and serving.”
They take their call from the Vatican II directive, based on the Scripture verse, that “all may be one” (cf. John 17: 21). How ironic and unfortunate that they are trying to do so outside of the fullness of the Church!
There’s more, though. The founder of SFCC, Lillanna Kopp (she is sometimes cited as Sr. Audrey Kopp) is a member of, and at one time was president of, the National Coalition of American Nuns, a group notorious for their indignance towards the Vatican and Church teaching and that has called for women priests and homosexual “marriage” and supported abortion and contraceptives.
Kopp also resides in the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon where she and other SFCC members have resided and ministered, with seeming approval from then Archbishop (now Archbishop Emeritus) John George Vlazny (SFCC is no longer listed on the Archdiocesan website nor in any Oregon Catholic directory I could find, though there have been reports of women priests, at least previously, working in the diocese). Browsing their website, it isn’t hard to find that the women of this community are highly suspicious of any formal hierarchy and have a disdain for traditional religious life- and for any white male in a position of power. LifeSiteNews has more on the community.
Madonna Buder at one time belonged to a religious order approved by the Church, but left it in 1970 and joined SFCC in 1971 – she is clearly a woman who loves Christ and is trying to serve Him. Her racing career is impressive as she has competed in 45 Ironman Triathlons, has opened up new age brackets within the competition, and is the current world record holder for oldest person, male or female, to have completed an Ironman Triathlon (she is currently 86 years young). She has even written a book, The Grace to Race on her life in races and faith. Madonna Buder was inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame in 2014. She’s therefore nicknamed the “Iron Nun.”
What’s the take away from Madonna Buder? I think it is this: we can do hard, seemingly impossible things with some dogged determination and perseverance, but we can move mountains with the grace of God found in its fullness in the Church! Madonna Buder is not a nun and is wrong in portraying herself as one, but she is still an amazing athlete. Let us pray for Madonna, and the women of her community, that they may once again participate in the fullness of life and grace within the Church.
“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.
I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am, they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them” (John 17: 6-26).