I am getting feedback from a group on Facebook that is driving me crazy. It is based on the argument from a few non-habited sisters and I think they are being a little too pushy about the subject. Someone originally posted an article on non-habited orders amongst women religious. The problem does not lie in the article at all. But the sisters have stated some pretty upsetting things that I don’t like at all.
I am currently in discernment towards becoming a religious sister, but even if I wasn’t, I would consider the habit crucial for a variety of reasons. The most important being that it is an outward symbol of abandonment of the secular lifestyle for Christ. But I don’t mean that doesn’t mean there aren’t women religious in our society who don’t wear a habit and live a good Christian lifestyle; it simply means that if you are called, why can’t you abandon your dress?
Here are some quotes of the sisters with my thoughts:
“As the next two years went on I found that wearing a habit distanced me from people.”
–This could be true for people who don’t understand it. The sister then decided she didn’t want to wear a habit anymore because of this reason. What I gather from this statement is that her idea of sacrifice is: only do what people will approve of. That may not be true, but how else am I supposed to think when I hear this? Didn’t Christ say that people would persecute His followers, but that they persecuted Him first? Isn’t it holy and commendable to continue with something that may separate you from humanity, than give it up simply because other people don’t understand? Some people will never understand, but Christ, I believe looks at our acceptance of humility as a testament to our faith.
Many told me outright: “You’re so much easier to talk to; I felt intimidated by that habit.”**
–Nobody can be intimidated by clothing. Clothing is inanimate. Perhaps they felt intimidated by the character within the habit? Many progressive sisters say, “A habit doesn’t make the sister.” But maybe some of those who wear it consider themselves above others in society. If this is the case, they should take a good look at themselves and see if their ego is inflated?
“To others it was a sign of entitlement… because I wore it, I deserved to be the first in line, to get out of paying a traffic ticket, and to have my opinion weigh a lot more than anyone else’s.”
–How can just wearing a piece of clothing say this? I would definitely think this sister’s view of the habit is warped.
“I wanted to be a real sister to people, not just a Sister with privileges and power. (Notice the capital “S” and lower case “s”. )”
–The only time I have ever seen this distinction is between a name and a reference. Sisters in habits are no different than sisters in secular dress, in terms of holiness or privilege, and certainly not power. Take the Poor Clares for example. They live a hidden lifestyle full of poverty and simplicity. They do not seek power or greater privilege. They take example from St. Francis (and this sister who said the quoted statement is Franciscan, so she should understand this), who desired to be forgotten. He wore a habit, but he wanted to wear it simply to show that he had no clothing; that he had abandoned it for Christ’s ministry. I certainly think that’s commendable.
“Second hand clothing is what the poor wear today; not medieval clothing.”
–The current habit is not medieval!
"So, naturally, when I hear younger folks today who feel adamant about wearing the habit, my first thought comes from my own experience and it’s “My gosh, are they seeking just to be recognized and thanked?”
–No one in the argument for habits said that they were seeking acknowledgment from anyone other than Christ. Some of her statements really make me angry because like this one they are stating that those who want to wear the habit are just doing it to be noticed. I think it is quite the contrary. I want to live a hidden life amongst either the Carmelites or the Poor Clares. No one will see me in my habit except the sisters and visitors. I will not be on the streets. But I still want to wear one simply because I want to surrender EVERYTHING to Christ, including my secular dress!
I don’t mean to imply that sisters without the habit are no less holy than ones who wear it, but I have discovered that most women without them embrace more New Age ideals. Take this picture for instance:
This sister is performing a liturgical dance that I have noticed that only non-habited sisters embrace. “What order does this sister belong to?” is what you are probably asking yourself. She is a Discalced Carmelite nun from Baltimore Carmel. None of the nuns at Baltimore wear habits.
Please give your feedback. I want to hear better arguments. My view will not change about wearing habits, but it could help others. Thank you, and God bless!