Well, since they’re talking about habits…

Deacon Greg has a video and a link to a post from Msgr. Charles Pope that I’d actually seen a while back — it’s all about a sister looking back at the habit her order used to wear, design, purpose, etc.

Some of the comments are interesting, particularly from women who used to wear the old, heavy habits.

I personally like the modern habits that are being designed and taken up. The Sisters illustrating the piece by Pope are the Servants of the Lord and of the Virgin Matara, a fairly new order that is growing very quickly. Their habit is a simple tunic and scapular, without a collar, and the veil, made of something like denim, so it wears very well, and it is practical for driving or using a backpack. When in Rome last May, I had the pleasure of attending mass with one of them (not the puddle-jumping one you see here) every day at Chiesa Nuova, and her gloriously rich soprano resonating throughout St. Philip Neri’s place is one of my favorite memories of that trip.

And you can read a truly wonderful piece by Robert Miola, whose two very gifted daughters now wear that distinctive grey and blue habit, for life.

But if we’re going to talk habits, why not read some first-hand accounts of what wearing the habit means to the women who wear it today while engaging the world?

I do believe the outward sign of consecration is important for the life of the world, and that the habit is witness that matters, but I don’t hold it against sisters who don’t wear the habit; to everything there is a season.

More from the Habit of Witness series, here at Patheos.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://breadhere.wordpress.com Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    I will eave the same comment here – cut and pasted – that I did at The Deacon’s Bench.

    From there… I see the value of the habit, but I really deplore the notion that sisters who do not wear one are somehow deficient. I know far too many good sisters – both in the habit and not – who are exemplary.

    Urging is one thing but these conversations always seem to hint of shaming or demeaning in some way. I just dislike the tone overall, not your post specifically. Although you do write about this a lot.

    There are three orders of women who have so profoundly and continue to profoundly influence my life. One – the cloistered Dominicans, do wear a habit. The other two, for the most part, do not. One would be the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet, without whom, my own life would be greatly diminished in the present. The other would be the Sisters of Divine Compassion, without whom, with habit and without habit, laid the groundwork for my own life of faith.

    I guess in the end – is this conversation about habits so necessary? At least Monsignor Pope speaks from his own religious identity. When lay people go on about this, I have to wonder whether we are back in the “who is a better Catholic?” conversation and what the worth is of that.

    Please understand, I am not trying to be antagonistic but my heart is sincerely troubled by all of this.

    [Martha, Martha, you are anxious about many things! :-)

    I can't for the life of me understand why you're troubled by this, Fran. I mean, I don't care if you're not interested, why do you care that I am? Why are you "troubled" by it? Why is it okay for a priest to write about this but not the lay people who have been profoundly influenced by sisters both in habits and out of them? Are you honestly accusing me of doing a "whose a better Catholic," thing, here? In what way have I done that? In what way am I suggesting that only certain types of Catholics living their lives a certain type of way are the "good" ones, or the "real" ones? Honestly, if anything, I think I have been at war with that sort of mentality, demonstrably, all over this blog.

    Yes, I do write about habits a lot -- I was thisclose to becoming a Poor Clare b/f I met my husband, and the fascination has held, for me -- but I don't think I judge anyone who does not wear a habit. I have made a point of saying that in this piece (and I have repeatedly said it elsewhere) that like you, I have admired and been influenced by women who do and do not wear the habit. But I live in a place where there is not a habit to be seen, and there are zero vocations, too. Where the habit is seen, there is a distinct reminder that "oh yeah...that's another choice, another way to live, another calling," that people can be open to -- and there is a response. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to acknowledge the continued interest and fascination with the habit (after all, the sister in the video was DISCUSSING the old habit with people still interested). Let not your heart be troubled, Fran. There are so many much more important issues in the world than whether I like habits. ;-) -admin]

  • Geoffrey

    Isn’t there some Church document requiring all nuns to wear habits? I thought the ones who didn’t wear them were just called sisters or something. Am I terribly confused?

    [Heh. Properly speaking, "nuns" are cloistered while "sisters" have "active" apostolates, but the words are generally used interchangeably. I don't believe there is any hard and fast rule that a religious is "required" to wear a habit, but Perfectae Caritatis, the Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life, counseled in favor of adapting religious habits in practical ways, not that habits should be discarded.

    The religious habit, an outward mark of consecration to God, should be simple and modest, poor and at the same becoming. In addition it must meet the requirements of health and be suited to the circumstances of time and place and to the needs of the ministry involved. The habits of both men and women religious which do not conform to these norms must be changed.

    That help? -admin]

  • Greta

    Anchoress, I am with you on this all the way. I love the stories you have about the nuns who give up all to Christ. In many ways, it is like taking your husbands name and wearing a wedding band when you are married and in doing so leave your mother and father and become one with your spouse. The nun who becomes the bride of Christ in taking up the habit as an outward sign of this love for her spouse to the world.

    I find it interesting that anyone who disagrees with the removal of the habit is attacked as if to say you should have no voice in the matter. I like this blog because you can see many viewpoints and, while chastised, you seldom block anyone from posting that I have seen. I have felt your sting a few times with admin notes to set me straight. Keep up the good work. We are in a time of serious battle in both the visible and the invisible world.

  • Jeanne

    I LOVE the stories you post about vocations to the consecrated life!! Habit or none! Please continue to do so..I look forward to them. As Fran did a ” cut and past” for her post on your blog from Deacon Greg’s ..I’ll do the same……..
    There are some great comments over at Msgr Pope’s blog post. The most interesting is from a former woman religious…she mentions the “dying orders” ….if they’re looking for young vocations they need to PUT THE HABIT BACK ON…she says something like..”They (young women)…cannot see what they DO NOT SEE”…..and she’s right! This is not a time to “blend in”…..it’s time to STAND OUT for the radical call of consecrated life


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