Answer by Claire-Edith de la Croix, Catholic sister, on Quora:
I am a nun in the Franciscan religious family. After years living in an enclosed (“cloistered”) monastery, I was allowed to step out of the community and live an eremitic (hermit) life. During that time I became extremely and very painfully ill and was transferred to the oncology ward of a skilled nursing facility, where I currently live.
No pleasures? Hardly! I’ve never had such great fun as I have as a religious. There are so many pleasures in religious life: the pleasure of a great anecdote shared, of watching the birth of a baby donkey and her first silly steps in exploring the world. There’s the pleasure of lying down to sleep after hours of hard physical work and feeling the ache and fatigue flow out of your back and limbs or the pleasure of completing a challenging assignment of what we called “”intellectual work” (translation, in my case) that at first you thought was beyond your skills.
There are other pleasures that may not seem like pleasure if you’re not called to this way of life. Things like being a small part of the vast, visible Church praying the Divine Office (the Liturgy of the Hours), singing to the Lord God, praising him and interceding with him on behalf of suffering humanity; praying at the bedside of an old nun as she dies and seeing her radiant smile as finally, after a lifetime of longing, she knows that very, very soon she will see her Beloved.
We also eat chocolate, see a good film on occasion, read books, take walks. Those who are able sometimes see their family of origin. Sometimes we cook a specialty dish, work in the garden, polish altar vessels until they gleam. We are human beings.
There are many sacrifices in religious life and from the outside it may look like the sacrifices outweigh the pleasures. In one sense, that is true. But we are living this way because 1) God, our beloved Lord, called us for this; 2) we freely answered His call because we can imagine nothing better for ourselves; and 3) we can say with St. Paul
…it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, NRSVCE)
I’ll end with this anecdote. On the day I entered the enclosure (the part of the monastery reserved for the nuns), the abbess had a chat with me in the parlor just before the little ceremony. She asked if I had anything left to tell her or anything left to ask her. Blushing and barely able to meet her gaze, I asked, “Will I ever be able to eat chocolate again?” I was quite prepared to give up sweets for the Lord, but I wanted to prepare myself.
The abbess let out a peal of laughter, reached under her habit into her pocket, and pulled out a few pieces of foil-wrapped chocolates that she shared with me.