Jump to content

40 years later, is it time to reconsider the religious habit?


Recommended Posts

  • Replies 99
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

  • BarbaraTherese

    21

  • beatitude

    8

  • Gabriela

    7

  • Sister Marie

    5

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

Founders create, make decisions and set things up depending on the time in history and the place, context, culture etc in which they and their foundation live. At a later time and/or in a different pl

I just wanted to add that we also have Sister Christina as part of the vowed religious group in this discussion at least. You are right beatitude that the externals sometimes confuse the essentia

I'm glad Ignatius wrote what she did in response to this comment.  I do hope that in rereading it you see that there would have been a better way to express an opinion in favor of habits rather than p

Sisters and Nuns should wear their habits. Honestly I don't like Orders that don't. You wouldn't know they were Sisters by looking at them. And the habits also help them get respect 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm in a catholic college, but the students aren't catholic. We have a brother and a sister as teacher. 

The brother wears an habit : nobody want to speak to him because "you see what he wears."

The sister don't : we have very interesting discussion about religion. 

One day, I asked my mom to go with me at an evangelization event. She went, but refused to stay when she saw the brothers and sisters in habit : "I don't want to be taught by people who dress like muslims and man in dress." 

I asked one of my students if she wanted to come to my school. Answer : "I don't like it because there are so many brothers and sisters with their dress. They make me feel bad because they want to show to the world how better they are."

I could multiply the examples, but yes, they are people who are repulsed by the religious habit. Brothers and Sisters who don't wear the habit, who live like Jesus in Nazareth, are good for these people. 

+ a lot of congregation never had habit. Why should they now ? During the French Revolution, a lot of orders were founded clandestinely, so they didn't wear habit. Do they have to change their history just because some people like pretty pictures of habited nuns on Facebook ? 

I'm discerning with congregations who wear the habit, and congregation who doesn't. All of them gave me the same explanation : they wear and don't wear habit to reach out people. 

 

I'll add, the "problem" with the habit, is that not everyone understand it (i.e my mom). People who understand it ("this is a catholic sister") can benefit from it ("there's a catholic sister... I'm going to speak with her"), but not people who don't understand it (mom...). 

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, DominicanHeart said:

Sisters and Nuns should wear their habits. Honestly I don't like Orders that don't. 

DominicanHeart: I've read enough of your posts to know that you are a nice person. I suspect that your post ideally would have read, "In my own discernment, I'm not attracted to Orders/Communities that don't wear habits." I was surprised that you would dismiss whole groups of Catholic women (and men) who have dedicated their lives to Christ by saying you "don't like" them, simply because they do not wear habits. And, your statement would seem to include consecrated virgins who have also dedicated their whole lives to serving Christ, but do not wear habits because they are not part of an organized Order/Community.

Everyone is not alike. You may find yourself more attracted and inspired to greater holiness by women who wear habits, but this is not true for everyone. Nada's post just above mine gives several excellent examples of people for whom the fact that a Religious wears a habit is an obstacle. Granted, Nada lives in France, but I doubt that the U.S. is completely different. I'm sure there are any number of people in the U.S. who would find it harder to relate to a Religious in a habit than a non-habited Relgious.

The habit itself does not make a Religious more holy or safeguard an Order or Community from unhealthy actions. There are a number of women on VS who left Religious Life because their (habited) Community was very psychologically unhealthy. Note: I am NOT saying that non-habited Communities are better or holier than habited Communities, only that it is not the habit that determines an individual's holiness. or the effectiveness of the apostolate of a Religious Order/Community, or the healthiness of the Community.

I think we need to recognize that other people are often VERY different than we are, and our personal preferences should not be projected onto others. As we all have heard, the Vatican recently did an extensive study of active Religious Communities in the U.S., and after the study, the Church continues to recognize and support both habited and non-habited Religious Communities. It seems to me that as long as a Community is recognized by the Vatican and obedient to the magisterium, a non-habited Community may be able to reach out and serve people who might be intimidated or even "turned off" by a habited Community. (Those kinds of feelings toward habited Religious are unfair to the habited Community, but nontheless those feelings still exist and need to be respected.)

Again, I see nothing wrong if an individual person prefers a habited Community in their own discernment (although those feelings may mean that the person won't explore Communities that may be very holy and serve truly serve God, despite not wearing a habit). But, I know from my own experience that I have often fallen into the trap of thinking that other people are like me, and I have lost count of the times that I have been proved wrong.

 

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

Nada, your post got my attention as it raises several tricky issues. There are some situations where sisters and brothers seriously need to think about how they are perceived - for example, in Scotland the Sisters of the Gospel of Life will sometimes remove their veils when they go to visit a pregnant woman or new mother who has requested their help. This is because they support a lot of non-Catholic women in their pregnancies and the women might be put off getting help from the sisters if they arrived looking so conspicuous. They are doing lifesaving work and it makes no sense to prioritise a veil over that. In other cases, the sisters and brothers are meant to blend in with those around them, the Little Sisters and Brothers of Jesus being an example - they do have a habit, but they have always adapted it to match the clothing of the communities they live among. This is part of their charism, to be hidden with Jesus at Nazareth, and we must not undervalue the power of their prayer and witness: enclosed nuns are rarely if ever seen by the public, but do we ever for one second doubt the value of what they do? We should accord an apostolic sister or brother the same respect.

On the other hand, I don't think religious (or anyone, for that matter) should make people's reactions to their dress the main factor in choosing it, because no matter how we dress or act some people will always judge us harshly. A sister who doesn't have a habit might get, "Oh, she must be one of those hippie-dippy liberal wannabe priests whose idea of liturgy is tambourines and interpretative dance!" One who is in a traditional habit might get, "I'm not speaking to someone who's going to be judgmental and holier-than-thou." You can never please all of the people all of the time. Sometimes experiencing humiliation and ridicule is part of the cross that we bear, and itself can do some good. I have a hijab-wearing Muslim friend who lives in the UK and who has occasionally had horrible things shouted at her in the street, and who once had someone empty a can of beer over her head. She finds the sight of nuns in traditional habit comforting and reassuring. That experience of being spoken of in a derisory way ("They look like Muslims and men in dresses") may help our religious to live in solidarity with people who face that kind of humiliation on a regular basis.

Both habited and non-habited sisters are bearing witness, although they may not always do so in the same way. I think we need to respect the decision taken by each sister and her community on habits. In the linked article, Elizabeth Scalia talks about how the ice cream seller who gave habited nuns free ice cream was honouring God, not the nuns, before accusing the sister who was uncomfortable with the freebies of egotism. But isn't believing the best of that sister's motives another way to honour God, and one that we can all offer?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think an interesting experiment would be something I shall dub the great habit switch.  For Sisters that havent worn a rather traditional habit in a long time, or ever worn one, to wear one for two weeks or so.  This is only for communities where safety would not be an issue as I am aware that some cant wear the habit for that reason.  The other side is that for two weeks or so sisters who wear what we could call a full habit meaning a veil and the rest. take that off and wear secular clothes for two weeks.  I would love to hear their observations and thoughts!!!!

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I love habits!  There's something special about them and to me, I think it can make you feel special because it has meaning.  I say that as I relate it to my nursing career.  At my particular school, we went through the stages of learning and at one stage, we earned a cap, next six or so months, a diagonal stripe on the cap (total of 2) and the finale, the grand ceremony of striping and pinning, the stripe across the cap.  As I began my career as 'novice', it felt so good because people recognized that you were a nurse, no longer a student.  Then, it was decided that we didn't need to wear our caps or whites anymore, we wear scrubs now and folks don't know if we're housekeeping, nursing, respiratory, dietary etc.  

I recall my parents speaking of V2, stating that it didn't say to remove the habit, but to perhaps modify it.  My full habited 6th grade Dominican Sister who wore the full habit came to class one day with the shorter modified habit and new veil.  Months later, she strolled in with a deep purple mini dress on, high heels and no veil.  You know, I can see that image to this day!

I know it's what in your heart that matters, but I love habits! 

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, vee said:

I think an interesting experiment would be something I shall dub the great habit switch.  For Sisters that havent worn a rather traditional habit in a long time, or ever worn one, to wear one for two weeks or so.  This is only for communities where safety would not be an issue as I am aware that some cant wear the habit for that reason.  The other side is that for two weeks or so sisters who wear what we could call a full habit meaning a veil and the rest. take that off and wear secular clothes for two weeks.  I would love to hear their observations and thoughts!!!!

My DSMME Sisters would NEVER remove their habits for any reason.  They understand the full meaning of the habit, it's more than just being a witness to the world, it's a sacramental... and they would never part with it, even for an experiment like this... jus' sayin'

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
Alberto Guimaraes

Peace and Good!

I am sorry our Secular Franciscan leaders determinated to finish the use of the traditional Penance Habit (tunic without hood, chord and mantle).

When I entered SFO I did a private vow to use it.

Presently, Some franciscan secular fraternities use only the mantle, like the Braga Secular Franciscan Fraternity, I belong. But My mantle was so used, and I gave the whole habit to our future Fraternity Museum.

I wish you a Holy and Happy Easter!

Br. Alberto Guimaraes OFS

Braga - Portugal

Link to post
Share on other sites

Do people who "prefer" habits (for other people, please note, not themselves if they are not religious), and who think it makes people "look like religious" ever talk with sisters who do NOT wear habits? I have talked with literally thousands of them, including many who wore habits for years and sometimes decades. Do you believe that they changed to secular clothes without thought or for petty reasons? Again, this has nothing to do with those who decided to continue wearing distinctive clothing. But please give those who have discerned otherwise the respect and consideration they deserve--as adults trying to do God's will and to be witnesses to God's will. 

I also remember the superior general of one community--an amazingly holy woman--who said to me when she showed me around their heritage room, including many photos of sisters in traditional habits: "our habits were a violation of poverty, as many of the components were imported and increasingly difficult to obtain." She believed the witness to poverty (and her sisters worked and continue to work with the very poor around the world) of her sisters in used and simple clothing, appropriate to their ministries and to where they lived, was more appropriate to a congregation founded to meet the needs of the time.

 

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a really tricky one.

I wear a form of dress that could be considered a "habit", in that it's a signifier of my religious vocation. It's not, however, a traditional dress (it's a shirt and blouse, with a medal of the Holy Family), but I've been surprised at how many people recognise me as a sister even though I could easily pass off as a businesswoman. 

Before I entered, I had people telling me how important it was to enter a community that wore a habit, that the habit itself was a sign of faithfulness. I had to disagree with them, because I was at the same time considering a congregation that did not wear a habit yet which also had very faithful women as members. The fact that my congregation does wear a habit (full dress, or the blouse/skirt combo) did, of course, factor into my choice (and it would be a lie to say it didn't and in a sense foolish not to have at least given some thought to it) but it was not the main attraction. I gave most consideration to the charism, to what it stirred in my heart, and to how the sisters lived out their mission every day.

Many religious congregations in my country do not wear the habit, for reasons I'm not always sure about and that I'm hesitant to make a judgement on. Some sisters have unfortunately become quite bitter and antagonistic towards others who wear a veil or some kind of identifying dress, and I'm sure the opposite is true also in cases. One of my sisters (who wears full habit) went to a meeting last year and was told by a non-habited sister to "go back to the museum". It's a real shame and a sign of our increasingly secular world. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Spem - I don't know what country you live in, but the experience of your sister isn't common, at least not here in the UK. In common with the majority of UK religious I don't wear a habit, but I have several friends who do, or who wear some kind of "uniform". We don't make disparaging comments about each others' appearance - in fact, we sympathise with each other about the disparaging comments made by others. One habited friend told me recently that she wished people wouldn't "validate" her as a "proper nun" and assume she has certain attitudes based entirely on what she happens to be wearing, without getting to know her.

Incidentally, my habited friends didn't join their congregations specifically to wear or not wear certain things: they joined because here was the charism and community God was calling them to. They don't regard their habit as "a sacramental", and they're not fearful about changes and modifications and sisters in the community who remove their veils or wear ordinary clothes for their ministry. And they're as weary as I am of people making rude and personal remarks about our appearance, as if there's nothing more to us than what we wear or don't wear - and as if those people have a right to be rude, simply because they have an opinion. (I sometimes wonder how these people would feel if I were to start making disparaging comments and judgements about their appearance!)

Thankfully, though, such rudeness isn't the norm - and I haven't experienced being verbally abused in public, although I do feel under attack when I read online comments, such as those made at the end of the article this thread began with. I was in two minds about whether to come here and comment, but felt I needed to when I read what someone said to Spem's sister - and since I've started writing I've seen Sister Marie's comment and that she has also experienced rudeness. I'm happy to say that most of the people I encounter, and especially many of the young adults I work with, aren't fixated on my clothes. It just isn't an issue. If habits ever get mentioned, it's more about "have you ever worn one?" (no, I haven't) rather than "why don't you?"

So thank you to those who have commented on here in a thoughtful, even-handed way, seeking to maintain civility and respectful dialogue about a subject some people seem to get very worked up about.

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.



It costs about $850 a year for Phatmass.com to survive–and we barely make it. If you’d like to help keep the Phorum alive, please consider a monthly gift.



×
×
  • Create New...