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


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Well, wait a minute. I think I see where BarbaraTherese is coming from, cuz when I first read Sr. Mary Catharine's post and said I needed to go think about it, the thing I was needing to think about was the taking of private vows. Cuz if one surrenders one's God-given freedom through the taking of vows alone, then one doesn't need to be in a religious community to do that. And then wouldn't the taking of the (private) vows essentially place one in that "objectively superior, more-perfect" state that religious enjoy?

I recall that, when I discerned with the Monastic Family of Bethlehem, I learned that the sisters take their final vows privately, in their cells. They do that because they're hermits, but the point is: Those vows aren't taken publicly.

So... is there a difference?

(BTW: Sr. Mary Catharine, great analogy to wedding vows through the example of your friend. That really helped to make things clear.

Also, beatitude, I'm glad you mentioned the third-class citizen thing, cuz I think that needs talking about. We should really start a thread on that...)

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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

33 minutes ago, Gabriela said:

And then wouldn't the taking of the (private) vows essentially place one in that "objectively superior, more-perfect" state that religious enjoy?

It is celibacy that The Church states is objectively superior to a non  celibate state in life..........and to me, simply because Jesus was celibate.  The religious life is THE state of perfection as Jesus lived, poor chaste celibacy and obedient and it is vastly different indeed to the conditions under which I live my private vows.  Vastly different!  And I am not in THE state of perfection.  I think my quote from JPII says it in this post here JPII on THE state of Perfection (religious life) and perfection itself

Some can get all carried away by the term objectively superior and what is and what is not an actual state of perfection or the state of perfection............ and some can stop short of thinking the concepts right through paying attention to language and implications. 

Nothing whatsoever on the earth or in Heaven is more superior and objectively a state of perfection than The Will of God and living faithful to it.

Religious can be released from their public vows, as can I from my private vows. Although all I need do is ask a priest to dispense me, more or less.  For religious it is a far more complicated and serious move for quite obvious reasons.  All this is according to Canon Law...........the motivation to be dispensed is another matter as is the intention in making public or private vows in the first place.

 

As for 'third class citizens' in The Church.  Those in private vows for example might FEEL and THINK they are third class citizens and such might even apply in general Catholic cultural thinking - but it is NOT the objective truth of the matter.  What matters more to me personally than anything else is the truth of matters.

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14 hours ago, Gabriela said:

And then wouldn't the taking of the (private) vows essentially place one in that "objectively superior, more-perfect" state that religious enjoy?

In my opinion, when we're talking about the objective superiority of consecrated life as a general category from a theological perspective, I do think that a private vow could be as falling into that category. 

14 hours ago, Gabriela said:

I recall that, when I discerned with the Monastic Family of Bethlehem, I learned that the sisters take their final vows privately, in their cells. They do that because they're hermits, but the point is: Those vows aren't taken publicly.

In canon law, a "public" vow is a vow that's officially received in the name of the Church, regardless of how many people actually witness the making of that vow. So if a Sister of Bethlehem makes profession alone in her hermitage with only her superior present, that still is technically a public vow (albeit one made in de facto privacy).

On the other hand, a private vow is a vow which is made on one's own personal initiative, and which is not officially received in the name of the Church. Again, this distinction is completely independent of how many witness are present. It is theoretically possible for someone to make a private vow right after a Mass, with the local bishop and all her family and friends as a witness, with this vow still being considered "private." 

I wrote a bit about public vs. private vows here: http://sponsa-christi.blogspot.com/2010/12/consecrated-virginity-versus-private.html

13 hours ago, BarbaraTherese said:

Some can get all carried away by the term objectively superior and what is and what is not an actual state of perfection or the state of perfection............ and some can stop short of thinking the concepts right through paying attention to language and implications. 

I honestly think that most people here on VS are able to handle this terminology and these kind of concepts. Some might disagree with whether or not those expressions are the most helpful or accurate, but I think the community members here are generally thoughtful, careful readers and posters, and therefore are unlikely to read something like this and come away wrongly convinced that Church considers them third-class citizens. 

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1 hour ago, Sponsa-Christi said:
15 hours ago, BarbaraTherese said:

Some can get all carried away by the term objectively superior and what is and what is not an actual state of perfection or the state of perfection............ and some can stop short of thinking the concepts right through paying attention to language and implications. 

I honestly think that most people here on VS are able to handle this terminology and these kind of concepts. Some might disagree with whether or not those expressions are the most helpful or accurate, but I think the community members here are generally thoughtful, careful readers and posters, and therefore are unlikely to read something like this and come away wrongly convinced that Church considers them third-class citizens

Thank you, Sponsa.  I was not speaking of those that are regular contributors on VS so much as more general readers, including lurkers.  I am most always conscious of the latter because I think it is likely/possible some come to Catholic discussion sites for information.  I used "some" (persons) to keep it quite general.  Personally, I think that the terms are accurate, spot on - but not so much helpful possibly unless qualified so there can be no doubt of just what "objective" indicates. 

After all, as I have stated in previous posts, what can be more superior than The Will of God? 

Even if a person chooses and lives out a vocation that was not strictly God's Particular Will for their life, ever after in that particular chosen vocation, The Will of God (and something else not generally understood in relation to vocation in this instance) will be their faithful and loving guide and support to holiness and with every necessary Grace - and I don't think that that is quite generally understood either. 

 It doesn't take too many words, I don't think, to qualify "objective" and far less words than I could probably attempt.  In this way, there is no room for problems for even the most uneducated of Catholics and others one would hope.  It would be more helpful too if there was an explanation of why indeed certain states are regarded as objectively superior - and that would not take too many words either.

At this point in our journey, The Church as hierarchy desires to underscore the holy nature and great importance of the Sacrament of Marriage as this Sacrament indeed is.....and in the same breathe as it were stating that the celibate state and the consecrated state (Canon Law) are the superior states and vocations.  The ordinary Catholic can stumble over that as not making much sense at all.  I am yet to read somewhere (and I am not stating it does not therefore exist) that nothing can be superior to God's Will - and explaining the concept fully in relation to vocations and living them out..........such would be helpful and serve to eliminate (I would hope) any misunderstandings.

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I have to agree with BT that "objectively superior" is probably not correctly understood by the majority of people who read (rather than post) in the VS. I think that the dominant understanding of "objective" in our society will lead people to interpret a statement of the objective superiority of the RL to mean: "They are officially, without question, proven to be superior to other people". And that is not what it means.

I disagree with BT that it is easy to explain what it really does mean, and I also think the dominant meaning of "objective" in our language and culture is likely to always creep back in when the word is heard, even for a person who did once learn what it properly means in the Church.

I thought for a moment that we could start a poll to see who really does understand, but that would be pointless, because the lurkers don't have accounts to vote!

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2 hours ago, Gabriela said:

I disagree with BT that it is easy to explain what it really does mean, and I also think the dominant meaning of "objective" in our language and culture is likely to always creep back in when the word is heard, even for a person who did once learn what it properly means in the Church.

You may well be correct, Gabriela.  The way I think of it is that if I had a list of all vocations and had to arrange them in order superiority, on top of the list would be religious life as the objectively superior vocation of them all as that way of life most conducive to growth in Charity and most closely mirrors the life of Christ on earth and is a "a school of Charity" (Summa Theologica Question 189 Art 1) - and an intellectual exercise only. 

  However, where a person is concerned and the real journey of life, the most superior vocation becomes that vocation to which they are called and this is the subjectively superior vocation for that person. God's Will I think personally is probably most commonly/quite loosely indicated at least initially by the three A's and it is God who gifts the following dispositions, while some may have other indications:

1 - Attraction to the vocation

2 - Ability or motivation to live the vocation

3 - Acceptance into the vocation

I do think that the more educated could define the difference between objective superiority and subjective superiority far better than I have done and far more concisely and accurately.

________________________

Edit: Just occurred to me that the subjectively superior vocation for a person might also be the objectively superior vocation for the person ........... but now I am out of my depth I think.

..........further occurs that one is an intellectual exercise, the other is related to life and living, the journey of an individual.

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Gabriela said:

"objectively superior" is probably not correctly understood by the majority of people who read (rather than post) in the VS. I think that the dominant understanding of "objective" in our society will lead people to interpret a statement of the objective superiority of the RL to mean: "They are officially, without question, proven to be superior to other people". And that is not what it means.

I agree with the above, and once the person arrives at "They are officially, without question, proven to be superior to other people"  it can then lead on to grade all the vocations as designating the grades of superiority throughout the whole Church according to one's vocation and The Church is thought of as a class system.........upper class and lower class.  The problems that flow on from that can be that is a (sometimes unconscious I think) reasoning about spirituality and holiness, the following of The Gospel, that it is the business of the upper classes, while the lower classes just have to live their secular lives keeping the Commandments of God and The Church, nothing more.

Once in Australia the 'lower classes' (the married and laity not in consecrated life)would attend Mass on Sunday and Holy Days and Confession on Saturdays every so often - sometimes family rosary.  Nowadays most often, it is only Mass on Sunday if they can.  Our Sunday Mass numbers will often fall according to sporting functions for example.  However, this past Easter Sunday was packed to the rafters as never before.  Now that might be a good thing, but it might also indicate the opposite.

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Just generally speaking, it seems to me that The Church as hierarchy has a need to speak to the well educated and also to the not well educated.  We are all The Faithful.  Probably the not so well educated are in the majority.  The Church as hierarchy in addressing a particular subject or subjects sometimes, even most often, largely is speaking in terms more for the well educated and those not so well educated can get things wrong, misunderstand.......or will ignore Church documents altogether gleaning any information from media......all kinds of media, any kind of media.

Most often, I can only read Church Documents for example with a dictionary open.

If The Church 'looses' the not so well educated then it seems to me the loss is a loss in the majority of The Faithful.

 

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Barbara and I have been in touch by PM and she's asked that I apologise publicly to her for my comments earlier in this thread. I shouldn't have made assumptions about the reasoning behind her posts when I didn't know what it was. I'm sorry for that and for being irritable about it, as well as for upsetting her.

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So much for PM's remaining private........I guess Private Message is a misnomer on Phatmass.

My request for a public apology was based on far more than what is stated. It was also about statements made about me personally that are quite untrue.

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Barbara, I did not share the content of your PMs and I don't think mentioning their existence is a violation of anybody's privacy. I have apologised both publicly and privately now and I don't think there is any more I can do. If you aren't happy, please take it up with another moderator. I think I've said all I can here.

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So stating publicly that I had asked you to make a public apology via a private message is not disclosing the content of a private message? 

No problem, I'm outta here - and this time I won't return.  Wished I hadn't returned in the first place.  And, laughing here, I have absolutely no illusions about being missed.

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  • 4 years later...
Brother No one
On 3/15/2016 at 8:23 AM, Sister Leticia said:

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.

Reading this thread has changed my mind about it. Glad i was able to see this.

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adoro.te.devote

This is a hard topic to discuss... (superiority of states of life)

It's Church dogma that celibacy is superior.. and certain forms of it like cloistered life and religious life may be superior STATES of life, but it's true that we should be where God wants us to be. For example, from what I recall, St Faustina wanted a stricter order, but Jesus told her she needs to be where she is - in the active community. I read about a mystic whom Jesus told that if she had been a nun, she would have been a mediocre nun, and He lead her to private vows in the world instead. Some states are "higher" than others but our path is the one God wants for us, and we need to do His Will. It's fine to seek the most perfect path we can, but sometimes He leads us elsewhere... for instance, I'm also thinking of other Saints, like St Catherine or St Rose, whom God clearly called to be Third Order Dominicans rather than Religious! They also had private vows. :)

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On 3/14/2016 at 9:53 AM, DominicanHeart said:

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 

I completely agree. All clerics and religious should wear a habit of some kind. They live a different life and that should be reflected in their garb.

I find it interesting that many communities would rather die out completely than admit that discarding their habits and communal life was a huge mistake. Perhaps in God's mercy and understanding their charism is coming to and end. I have full confidence that these communities apostolates and charisms will be sought by newer more traditional founders. There are so many new communities that it's hard to keep up with them all, thanks be to God!

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