Are habits optional for religious?

I don’t understand the thing about habits, or what they signify; I know they symbolize something more than just poverty, and that’s probably why Our Lady applied such importance to the Carmelite habit in particular.
I once met an OP priest not wearing a habit as I met him; I have also seen pictures of him online in habit, so perhaps I only caught him out once for whatever reason (I did not ask; I was more intrigued why his name sounded like a birth name and not a chosen name).
I am also aware that it was a political issue once that nuns would not wear habits. I am curious as to where they got non-habit clothing, given vows of poverty (donations?).
Is wearing a habit binding on sin? Why wouldn’t you want to wear one?

Very briefly, different orders have different rules, and even in the same order, the practice can vary from one country to another.

You mention a priest’s “birth name” and “chosen name”. That, too, is something that varies from one order to another. I have known Carmelites and Franciscans who adopted new names when they were ordained, and I have the impression that, in those two orders, it’s the standard procedure. But among Dominicans it doesn’t seem to be a usual thing, and the same goes for Claretians and Jesuits.

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It depends on the order. Most do require a habit of some sort, others are more relaxed now. I don’t remember which ones off the top of my head.

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Habits---- their colors, their styles and their whole make up have very special meaning to each order. Do some research and you might find out some very interesting things about what habits symbolize and mean to different orders.

Interesting. I wonder if it depends on the province. Every Dominican I know had to adopt a new name when he joined the order.

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Each habit for each order has different symbolist attached to it, from parts of it to colors, type of belt, etc. Even within communities, there are traditional variations among provinces.

In general, they are supposed to be an outward expression of an internal “habit”, which is not all that different from from when we use the term in daily context “good habit” or “bad habit”. It refers to habits, as in the daily habits we do, we live, we integrate into ourselves, and ultimately the habit (clothing) represents that.

Whether or not they’re optional depends on the order, or even norms within a province, or even the judgement of the particular person. There’s really no one rule to that.

Habits are not cheap, and usually require specially trained people to make them. In the Franciscan family we are only provided two habits. So some communities use the habit more as formal wear because of that, so as to not ruin them so quickly. Some orders or individuals will wear one for ministry, but not errands to the grocery store to keep from wearing them out. Some orders wear them all the time. For most Capuchin’s, at least in my province, wearing a habit is pretty common, but it depends on circumstances. A lot of it come down to personal preference, but for Capuchin’s, most ministries and church or province related activities are always in habit, while individual friars have the option to wear them more than that if they wish. Some ministries do not allow habits, though, and sometimes it’s advisable not to wear a habit for certain reasons.

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Perhaps you’ll enjoy this thread:

Our new congregation has a spectrum of garb. In this time before diocesan approval, we have a uniform, which our Seminary (Novitiate) sisters will wear, known as High Garb. We also have three different kinds of civvies – one which is a combination of royal blue and white with our Crucifix (Low Garb); civvies with Crucifix (Civvies); and civvies without our Crucifix (Incognito). When we do get the habit, it will take precedence over the other versions.

We wrote in Incognito because our pro-life Minister is not permitted external religious signs when handing out brochures. Vatican II also states that “clothing appropriate for the Ministry” is to be worn.

Mrs Cloisters, O.P.
Lay Dominican

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