The Habit of Witness
Our Habit Is a Language
As I followed my guide, the young teenage girl asked me quite angrily: "Why can't Catholics eat meat on Fridays?" I was surprised by the question, but explained in 20 steps or less that the Church asks us to give up meat only on the six weeks of lent, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We do this because Christ came to die for our sins so that we can go to Heaven. During these days of "abstinence from meat, we make a small sacrifice as a way to say "thank you" to Jesus for all He had done for us. With this short explanation, the girls face changed so dramatically from that of a defiant teenage to a face that lit up we great joy and peace as she understood the meaning behind the rule. She could not thank me enough for explaining this to her.
An Ecumenical Moment: On still another day, I was looking for detergent. One lady was looking for the same thing. As I picked up one item, she asked in a very harsh and rather cold tone of voice: "Have you accepted Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?" Again, I was surprised by the question and calmly replied: "I have given my whole life to Christ." She stepped back with the most surprised look on her face: "You have, really?" I gave another one-minute catechesis on religious life. She then spent about ten minutes pouring out her soul to me. She then asked me to pray with her, which I did. This day the detergent section helped clean a very troubled soul and made it whiter than any bleach could do.
The Divine Physician at work in Doctors' Offices and Hospitals: I accompanied one of our elderly sisters to a specialist doctor's office. This was the first time the office staff had seen a sister of our community. A male attendant called us from the waiting room. We had not said a word but as he showed us to the examination room he said: "You just reminded me that I should go back to Church more often."
On another visit, a nurse came into the examination room where we were awaiting, shut the door and said: "Sisters, would you please pray with me?"
When visiting one of our Sisters in the hospital, one of the nurses told us her name was Fatima. We got very excited about how beautiful her name was. She seemed puzzled, so we explained the Fatima apparitions to her. She replied: "Maybe I should go back to the practice of my faith."
While waiting for another one of our sisters to come out of surgery, a woman sat next to me and asked why we wear the "beads." I explained the rosary to her. She then told me of her troubled spiritual journey. I was able to refer to different places where she could get good spiritual guidance.
From the Mouths of Babes
"Mom, what's that?"
"Look Mom - two churches." (Infused knowledge of the Divine Indwelling?)
"Look Mom - God is here!"
Yes, our habit is a language. It speaks to us of what we are, of our consecration to God and how we should act as a chosen people on a journey through this land of exile to the kingdom of God.
It speaks to others, reminding them of the importance spiritual values, calling them to join us on this journey to God, who is very close to each one of us, if we only take the time and make the effort to hear His quiet voice—if only we can quiet the external noise of our lives so we can tune our spiritual ears to hear His call.
Sister Imelda Marie a Carmelite Sister of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, a contemplative-active community with apostolates in Health Care, Education, and Retreats. She has worked in many fields of nursing, including critical care, Mobile Intensive Care Nurse, and gerontology nursing. This year she is celebrating her fiftieth year as a Carmelite Sister.