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The religious habit

Friday, October 21, 2005

Breaking my rule of having only short posts...

Yes, there is something appealing about the religious habit. At a minimum, it identifies. It identifies our beliefs, and to which group we belong. It is visible witness. It's wonderful how the religious habits stand out in a crowd.

So identifiable are the habits that they make for some rather whimsical situations. The secular love to have some fun with them. The religious themselves sometimes enjoy a little extra oomph of humor that the habits add to their moments of playfulness. A game of softball is more entertaining when the players are in full religious habit.

It is also simplicity. No more thinking about what to wear.

I hope that communities that have abandoned the habit will revisit it from time to time. It may be that the decrease in vocations has to do with the lower visibility of religious--lower visibility due to them not wearing the distinctive habit. At the same time, I know that much discernment went into the decision, and I respect the decision to shed the religious habit. Undoubtedly, it was determined that they could minister more effectively without the garb.

I hope that communities that continue to wear the religious habit will explore the possibilities of the newer, technical fabrics. Surely those in the south are NOT expected to wear wool!

For me, I will continue to focus on the spirituality and personality of a community above all else.

Please voice your opinion regarding the religious habit.


ChrisWoznitza said...

Hi I´m Chris. Greatings from Germany Bottrop !!

Natty said...

Hi, thanks for the comment on my blog! I think I'm pretty much with you on the habit thing. I have a draft of a post I've been tinkering with for quite a while, but mostly it's a collection of links and such. Who knows, maybe I'll write a book exploring it someday. (On a personal note, your initials wouldn't happen to be B.W. by any chance?)

seeking_something said...

my initials would be H.C., or more precisely H.N.C. but that brings other connotations :)

xaipe said...

The real "plus" to the habit is not that it simplifies your wardrobe decisions (that actually depends on the habit itself; ours involves a blouse or sweater, and honest, some days I "don't know what to wear," because all the decent-looking ones are in the wash, and my worn-out ones are not presentable or are not appropriate for the weather). (This is Chicago, and the weather varies from block to block.)
The real advantage (and disadvantage) of the habit is that it is a statement of relationship. Perfect strangers can come up to me and know that I will receive them as a brother or sister. I find that men especially are comfortable dealing with a sister in a habit, because they do not have to wonder if you are secretly angling for any kind of attention. The street people... oh, that's a hard one, because they have immediate expectations that you (who are "the Church") will give them something besides a warm greeting and acknowledgement of their humanity. People with issues concerning the Church may also see (and treat) you as part of the problem.
Some religious I know who do not wear a distinctive habit made that decision because they found that the habit separated them from people. I imagine that was more the case twenty and more years ago, when religious life had a kind of prestige factor to it in Catholic circles. If people treat you with special reverence, make exceptions for you, let you in ahead of a line, etc., in other words, give you preferential treatment because of what the habit meant to them, that certainly would compromise the Gospel values inherent in religious life, especially the part about choosing the last place. Since my community does not work in a distinctly "Catholic" setting, our habit is part of our communication; part of making the transcendent unavoidably visible on the street. Not all of our sisters worldwide wear a "religious" style habit; it depends on the culture, too. Our sisters in India wear a saffron sari, because that is "religious" attire in their culture. The sisters in Pakistan wear long tunics and pants in flowy blue fabric, because the European style habit of the congregation is not considered modest by the general populace. Our African sisters wear bright prints (always with blue) wrapped from waist to toe, with a matching scarf headdress. In the African context, they are clearly recognizable as sisters--with all that that implies!

Sixtina87 said...

YOu are lucky, you got sister to post on your blog, but she has yet posted anything on mine but i did find out someone from pauline fmaily is loking at my blog though, not sure who!!!! I loved the entry about the habit, have you seen the Carmelites Habit, so BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

seeking_something said...

heh heh, Thanks. Glory be to God.