Is there hostility toward non-habited sisters?


#1

Hello,

I am currently considering a religious life. For me, ever since I was young I wanted to serve God--when I was very young as a "Priest" (:o), but once I got older I'm thinking about becoming a Sister instead. :p After I finish school and pay back my loans of course.

I want to be the type of Sister that exists in my own parish, or my Great Aunt. They live active lives and work to help and support their fellow Catholics. They've always been intelligent, sociable, and do very wholesome and honorable work for the Church, as administration, teachers, and counselors. I know habits are "pretty" and can make you look "special" but to me that seems such a distant issue--if I find habited sisters who seem to share my own active goals, then I will join, if I find plainclothes sisters who share my own active goals I will join. If I can do my best to follow the works of mercy, dedicate my life to God, that is the most "special" thing to me.

But today I also came across a blog post that was just extremely hostile toward non-habited sisters. I had to double check that it was a Catholic site, because for me it seemed so different from what the teachings of Jesus were. The comments there called them "lesbians" and they will soon "die out", they are "liberal from the 70s" a bunch of other really over the top hostile type of comments. These were self-professed lay Catholics. :( It was disconcerting for me as someone who was raised Catholic and who has always seen the habit as optional. (Sort of like when I found out altar girls were considered controversial in more conservative Catholic circles...) Are these types of views common? Has any sister here faced this type of thing? I just want to talk to some people about this. Thank you and god bless.


#2

Aizi,

Common is perhaps too strong a word, but they are not unusual. We get a thread on religious dress every month or two here at CAF in which (IMHO) some people make this kind of judgement usually based upon aesthetic rather than spiritual or historical considerations, and feelings run kind of high sometimes. :o

People are perfectly entitled to prefer a habit if they think it adds something to religious life, obviously, but I don’t believe they should force that preference on others, expecially when the individual religious must be obedient to the charism of their institute, not to the views of other people.

Can I refer you to this thread, which rehearses the arguments in detail:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=2052

It’s worth hearing the views of both sides, but I would recommend the posts by Brother JREducation in the thread: he gives a very detailed analysis of the role of religious dress (and it’s absence) in religious life, and explains why not all institutes wear it.

Please feel free to ask any other questions and people here will do their best to answer.

For myself - speaking as a religious who does wear a habit, simply because it is normal for my order to do so - I think you are absolutely right to be indifferent to the issue. We should discern God’s will for us before allowing our own tastes to enter into the equation, and not read too much into what are ultimately just clothes, which anyone can put on; living the life of a religious is much more complex and challenging than getting dressed in the morning.

I hope you find the right path for yourself; prayers and best wishes.


#3

Thank you very much for the link and for your prayers! :) Both you and Brother JREducation have some very intelligent and knowledgeable things to say. Other comments are a bit ignorant but I don't think any are as outright ugly as the ones on the blog post that I saw. Its too bad that some people lose sight of the work of Jesus and the calling of God and instead focus on fashion. Hopefully it is one of those things which is a vocal minority. I never really saw it in my own parish, that is for sure. :D


#4

[quote="Aizi, post:1, topic:237077"]
Hello,

I am currently considering a religious life. For me, ever since I was young I wanted to serve God--when I was very young as a "Priest" (:o), but once I got older I'm thinking about becoming a Sister instead. :p After I finish school and pay back my loans of course.

I want to be the type of Sister that exists in my own parish, or my Great Aunt. They live active lives and work to help and support their fellow Catholics. They've always been intelligent, sociable, and do very wholesome and honorable work for the Church, as administration, teachers, and counselors. I know habits are "pretty" and can make you look "special" but to me that seems such a distant issue--if I find habited sisters who seem to share my own active goals, then I will join, if I find plainclothes sisters who share my own active goals I will join. If I can do my best to follow the works of mercy, dedicate my life to God, that is the most "special" thing to me.

But today I also came across a blog post that was just extremely hostile toward non-habited sisters. I had to double check that it was a Catholic site, because for me it seemed so different from what the teachings of Jesus were. The comments there called them "lesbians" and they will soon "die out", they are "liberal from the 70s" a bunch of other really over the top hostile type of comments. These were self-professed lay Catholics. :( It was disconcerting for me as someone who was raised Catholic and who has always seen the habit as optional. (Sort of like when I found out altar girls were considered controversial in more conservative Catholic circles...) Are these types of views common? Has any sister here faced this type of thing? I just want to talk to some people about this. Thank you and god bless.

[/quote]

I would imagine the blog you found also carries the belief that any woman wearing feminine trousers is going to hell in a handbasket, along with women that don't cover their heads 100% of the time, and have more than an 8th grade education...;)

I found over the years that Catholicism runs the gamut from the uber-liberal that believe in ordaining women and making gay marriage in a church commonplace to the people that honestly believe the things I mentioned in my first paragraph are the Gospel-truth and must be lived out that way under the pain of eternal damnation.

Good for you for seeking a balanced and educated opinion on things (and for questioning that very uncharitable blog post)!


#5

I think a lof of people are just very frustrated by the lack of a visible witness that such individuals have brought into the Church.

In a time when the "visual witnesses" of the enemy have grown profoundly overwhelming (TV becoming more and more blatantly immoral, internet, pornography, magazines, etc.) the visual witnesses of the Catholics have gone into literal hiding.

As a result, a young man or woman growing up is inundated with visual witnesses to dress skimpy, have a fancy car, be wealthy, use birth control, have abortions, support homosexuals, etc., but they have hardly any visual witnesses that say "dedicate your life to God! Turn to religion! Be a priest or a nun! Look around you - there are priests and nuns everywhere making great sacrifices for God! It can be done!"

There are NOT priests and nuns everywhere - at least not that we can see unless we are in Rome or in a particularly Catholic environment, which it is sad to say the vast majority of society is not in and could therefore be passing nuns all the time and not know it due to the lack of a habit.

What does that say to the youth? It says that more people want to be like Brittany Spears than a nun or a priest. After all, what can you SEE everyone is doing? You cannot SEE them donning habits, etc.

This has caused a lot of damage to the church. These individuals say "oh you do not need a habit to be holy" and toss it aside.

But they forget that while this is true, you may not NEED it, maybe someone ELSE needs it.

Does Brittany Spears need to make videos of herself half naked and screaming nonsense to spiral into a web of narcissism and sinful thoughts? Nope. She could sit at home in her pajamas surrounded by pink teddy bears, drawing rainbows, and still think "man I am hot. Everyone wants me. I am so incredible....etc."

She does not NEED to do anything to send herself into a sinful method of thinking.

But for the devil to spread such thoughts, and make it look more and more normal, you know what HE needs? He needs her videos. He needs her out their dancing loosely and shouting nonsense and telling the world that they should imitate her to be cool. He needs her to run around the streets in skimpy clothes...you get the idea.

The devil needs those visual witnesses to seduce others into whatever negative spirals she is in. Without them, his "witness" is not NEARLY as effective.

So does a nun or a priest, etc., need a habit to be holy? No. But it is not just about THEIR salvation. We are also here to save others.

A picture is worth a 1000 words. Images are powerful.

Nuns that take their visual witness into hiding do a great disservice to the world. They basically back off and give the enemy a lot more breathing room.

Anyways, I don't think a lot of people mean to be vicious (although people do need to be careful what they say), but I think many people are just very frustrated with the spiritual debt that is accruing in our society as a result of such actions. I am not saying all our societies problems would be solved if we had nuns and priests in habits running around everywhere, but they would help people more to stop and think and say "there are people out there choosing this other path. Lots of them."

In other words, their visual presence in habits would be far, far more effective as a witness on the side of God if they were habited versus non-habited. Seriously, just think how many people one nun in a major city passes in one day? If she is not in a habit, who knows she vowed her life to God? So many people are being denied the witness of her life which could positively affect their lives.

There is power in numbers. There is power in images. So multiply the images and the numbers and you can do a lot :)


#6

I’ve seen those websites too and thought the remarks were awful, remarks not just about the lack of habits, but everything else non traditional.

Then I saw where a local order of nuns, Catholic order of nuns, was offering a New Year’s program on Finding Peace through the Baha’i Faith, and I began to see some of what they were angry about. I was stunned.


#7

Yeah :frowning:

I always thought that once they start throwing the habit out the window, you have to start questioning what else they will be willing to throw away.

They have thrown away so much sometimes they barely seem Catholic :frowning:

It is so sad and such a loss for the Church.


#8

[quote="Prayerfully, post:4, topic:237077"]
I would imagine the blog you found also carries the belief that any woman wearing feminine trousers is going to hell in a handbasket, along with women that don't cover their heads 100% of the time, and have more than an 8th grade education...;)

I found over the years that Catholicism runs the gamut from the uber-liberal that believe in ordaining women and making gay marriage in a church commonplace to the people that honestly believe the things I mentioned in my first paragraph are the Gospel-truth and must be lived out that way under the pain of eternal damnation.

Good for you for seeking a balanced and educated opinion on things (and for questioning that very uncharitable blog post)!

[/quote]

:p To be honest I didn't read too much of it afterward! But yes, the Catholic Church can be a pretty diverse place, with both extreme conservatives and extreme liberals who seem to put their own politics taught to them by secular society in front of the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of the Church. (whereas in Protestant Christianity I think these types of people would probably just break off and make a new denomination or 7..)

When I was 4-9 years old it was hard for me to swallow that I couldn't be a priest, I wanted ordained women and to one day administer the sacraments too. I remember I argued with a poor sister of my parish, the same sister who later inspired me and is now helping me in my own discernment. For me what makes the difference was getting more maturity and studying the reason WHY behind the law. For the Catholics who protest non-habited sisters or who protest the fact that marriages between a man and a woman are the only type in the Church...if they were to learn the reasons WHY instead of getting angry or judgemental, I think that would be probably the most beneficial thing for the growth in their faith.

*Faira,
*

Well I am a youth. I mostly disagree, though I understand the point you are trying to make. I just don't think the call works that way. I saw their great acts of mercy, their beautiful souls, the teachings of Jesus, this is what drives me to become a sister. And I think this is what SHOULD drive people to become a sister. I think most devout Catholics do know sisters and know them by what they do, not what they look like. They aren't hard to find at all, at least in my experience. And when God wants you to come, he does not ever stop calling.

By your logic, should a woman called to a more cloistered, contemplative life now reconsider, because she stays in her community instead of working among people where they can see her habit? Is the regular lay Catholic now problematic because they dress the same as secular people instead of having a clear dresscode for the laity like a devout Sikh or a Muslim? Or does the Catholic Church have many peoples which work together in all sorts of dress, traditional and plain, and with all sorts of goals to build a stronger faith?

Also you say sisters "throw the habit out the window" but in many cases the habit was imposed on them to begin with and was a foreign part of their mission.

Pollycarp,

Can you give the order of nuns? Don't forget, buddhists have nuns as well. Nuns are the sisters who take their solemn vows, so to have a whole order suddenly start proselytizing for Baha'i is something I am very skeptical about and would like to see for myself. :p In any case, the sisters being bashed by this website were definitely promoting Catholicism, both in word and in deed. :( I have no problem with you call out or question someone who is promoting beliefs which are 100% contrary to Catholicism (though even then, bashing seems counterproductive, educating is better)...but wearing plain clothing is not contrary to Catholicism at all.


#9

Not all have thrown it away, given that some congregations never were meant to have a habit to begin with.


#10

I think you’re probably right. However, I think that you and these other people may be misunderstanding the primary reason that individuals are called to religious life, which is to live out their charism. And that may or may not include public witness. I’d refer you to another excellent post by Brother JREducation:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=7735510#post7735510

That is actually quite a serious charge to make - that consecrated religious harm the world by not dressing as you think they should. Is it a charitable thing to say without having a certainty that I doubt you could actually have?

In other words, I think this is an opinion, not a demonstrable fact; and I believe our opinions should be expressed in a manner that shows respect for others. I think this is disrespectful.

I doubt we see any nuns in major cities, because nuns live an enclosed life and rarely work out in the world; religious sisters walk amongst the people more often.

This is a key point, by the way, not just pedantry on my part. Historically sisters wore simple dress rather than religious habits, but more recently (in the 19th century, most predominantly) began to dress like nuns, thereby creating the impression that this kind of garb was normal for religious, and that ‘nuns’ worked outside the cloister. From here stem many of the misapprehensions about religious life, because it was (quite wrongly) homogeneised into a singular norm.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law recognised this (as a codification of the 1965 decree on religious life Perfectae Caritatis) and encouraged religious institutes to rediscover the visions of their founders through constitutions that reflected their own history rather than this false norm.

I think we have to be cautious in telling other people how it’s their failings that are damaging the church, especially when we are unsure as to what their mission is meant to be. Instead it’s usually preferable to discern what role God wants us to play in the building of the kingdom.

Best wishes to you.


#11

Well I am a youth. I mostly disagree, though I understand the point you are trying to make. I just don’t think the call works that way. I saw their great acts of mercy, their beautiful souls, the teachings of Jesus, this is what drives me to become a sister. And I think this is what SHOULD drive people to become a sister. I think most devout Catholics do know sisters and know them by what they do, not what they look like. They aren’t hard to find at all, at least in my experience. And when God wants you to come, he does not ever stop calling.

By your logic, should a woman called to a more cloistered, contemplative life now reconsider, because she stays in her community instead of working among people where they can see her habit? Is the regular lay Catholic now problematic because they dress the same as secular people instead of having a clear dresscode for the laity like a devout Sikh or a Muslim? Or does the Catholic Church have many peoples which work together in all sorts of dress, traditional and plain, and with all sorts of goals to build a stronger faith?

Also you say sisters “throw the habit out the window” but in many cases the habit was imposed on them to begin with and was a foreign part of their mission.

Pollycarp,

“Can you give the order of nuns? Don’t forget, buddhists have nuns as well. Nuns are the sisters who take their solemn vows, so to have a whole order suddenly start proselytizing for Baha’i is something I am very skeptical about and would like to see for myself. :stuck_out_tongue: In any case, the sisters being bashed by this website were definitely promoting Catholicism, both in word and in deed. :frowning: I have no problem with you call out or question someone who is promoting beliefs which are 100% contrary to Catholicism (though even then, bashing seems counterproductive, educating is better)…but wearing plain clothing is not contrary to Catholicism at all.”

-Benedictine. I do not mean to bash, but I’m still stunned. I clipped the article from my local Catholic paper, I’ll mail you a copy, pm me.

RE clothing, the nuns knew what they would be required to wear (have imposed on them) when they joined the order. To me it seems like you either go the whole way, look set apart and holy, show the world what you’re about, or look like a frumpily dressed woman in a blazer with lapel pin. I just think women should try to look attractive, or look like a religious, no in between. Just my opinion.


#12

[quote="Faira21, post:7, topic:237077"]
I always thought that once they start throwing the habit out the window, you have to start questioning what else they will be willing to throw away.

They have thrown away so much sometimes they barely seem Catholic :(

[/quote]

This is completely ad hominem, Faira.

Some religious wearing habits were responsible for horrendous abuses in the recent past. Religious garb doesn't imply or prove anything about the moral standards of the wearer, much as you might want to believe it does.

Remember, I wear a habit. I'm not prone to criticising people who also wear the habit. Nor would I assume that people who don't are deserving of condemnation. We're called to be charitable to all people, not just the ones to whom we feel an affinity.

You provide an appropriate commentary on this kind of disrespect:

[quote="Faira21, post:7, topic:237077"]
It is so sad and such a loss for the Church.

[/quote]


#13

We’re called to be charitable to all people, not just the ones to whom we feel an affinity.

Very well stated indeed!


#14

[quote="Ocarm, post:12, topic:237077"]
This is completely ad hominem, Faira.

Some religious wearing habits were responsible for horrendous abuses in the recent past. Religious garb doesn't imply or prove anything about the moral standards of the wearer, much as you might want to believe it does.

[/quote]

I'm sorry but... What? S/He didn't say anything about the moral practices of the individual without the habits. The poster said that the individual is throwing away the Catholic identity. Then again, the habit was to reinforce those moral practices, a Gospel witness to the detachment from vanity, greed and becoming.

It is also an honest question, what then is next?

To be rebuked, maybe, but not condemnation.

I disagree, there's quite a few of us who find that the abandonment of habits are a loss and disrespect for the Church.

God Bless.

Chris.


#15

Please read the two threads cited in my earlier posts. They provide a solid historical analysis of the place of religious garb in consecrated life.

With all due respect, the ‘abandonment’ was rarely anything of the kind. It was instead an example of religious institutes doing precisely what they were told. This is obedience, not ‘disrespect for the church.’

Aizi, your first post asked whether there was much hostility to non-habited religious. Sadly it seems that there is. I hope you will be able to continue your discernment independently of these misunderstandings. I think the point has already been made, but I will just restate that we do not become religious and follow our charism and constitutions to gain other people’s approval, but because it is what God asks us to do. Feel free to ask any further questions or IM me if you want.

Best wishes to all.


#16

People died to wear their habits in the past when cultures persecuted them for it - DIED.

If the habit was so insignificant, why on earth would they die over it?

I also once read that in an approved apparition, Mary said that it really saddened her to see religious without the habit. Not that we have to believe apparitions, they are not mandatory, but that suggests something.

Furthermore, I have read transcripts from exorcism where the demons are foced to admit things against their will, and they literally laugh at priests who do not wear their cassocks, etc. They admit that it does them great good when this occurs.

If you look into the history of the Church, many great reforms came when nuns were NOT sticking to the habit - among other things. In St. Teresa of Avila's time, for example, I believe the nuns were trying to dress more like the laity - altering their habits according to whim, etc. St. Teresa of Avila was very insistant that it was important to get the nuns back into a uniform habit and if I recall right, she was very persecuted for this and other things.

Also, the orders where nuns are not wearing habits are GENERALLY dying off, and the ones where they are wearing habits (not all, but many) are GROWING at beautiful rates. This also suggests something.

There is absolutely nothing non-charitable in what I said and I think it makes no sense to say otherwise. I did not insult anyone. I did not call anyone a dike or a liberal wacko or anything insulting at all. If I had, that would be another story.

I simply pointed out that it is not fair for others to deny the witness of their life to others.

Seriously, how do you think I was uncharitable? By stating a different opinion? Forums are here for different opinions. I was very clear that people should be careful what they say as far as insulting others, but I am well within my rights to state my opinion as long as I am not insulting anyone.

That is what bothers me. People do not want to let others express their own opinion without saying that "oh you are not charitable if you disagree."

Religious dialogue will never be possible if people cannot let others have different opinions without saying they are "uncharitable" if they are expressing a different point that someone does not like.

I truly feel it is a disservice to others. I have a right to feel that. I am not condemning anyone. I would stand up for the habit any day. No, not everyone who wears a habit is perfect - many commit abuses throughout time. Even the disciples were not free of a Judas. And I am sure there are many good sisters who do not wear a habit.

But I stand with all those who gave their lives for the habit, Mary who has said it saddens her to not see religious in their habits, and all the reformers who insisted on the importance of the habit. I really feel that there are valid reasons for why the habit helps people visualy - even in a cloistered community - by reminding them of their commitment, by making uniformity so that there is room for less division, by turning the heart away from worries of clothing, etc. - many, many reasons.

I stand behind my position. I am not being uncharitable, and I think that could be some kind of "shaming" to try to shut people up when they are called "uncharitable" for stating a valid point without insulting someone. If others choose not to wear the habit, I cannot say they are bad people and have not done good. But I have a right to feel they are doing a disservice to our world in a small way.

If someone wants to condemn me for that, and say I am not charitable, so be it. I think it is more charitable to point something out to others than to stay silent.

I am amazed that this is condemning others and being uncharitable.

Should we call Mary uncharitable for saying in an apparaition how much it bothers her?

Or St. Teresa of Avila? Well, we know many did call her names when she was alive...

But I am so used to that from people who want you to agree with them - they are all "love and hugs and kisses" until you disagree. Even when you try to disagree in the most polite way, you are "uncharitable." Like they want to shame you into shutting up and agreeing with them.

If I had attacked anyone, or called them names, fine call me out on it. But that is not what I did. Not at all. I stood up for the habit I will always stand up for it in most cases.

I guess if I said a priest was doing a disservice to his congregation by not preaching hell I would be called uncharitable too?

Or if I said people should not show up to mass in shorts and tank tops because it is not respectful, I would be called uncharitable?

Or if I say a priest that tells a couple that it is ok to use birth control is doing them a disservice, I would be considered uncharitable?

Or if I said that homosexuality is destructive to the soul and society, I would be uncharitable?

Or if I said that a young couple sleeping together outside of marriage is sinning I would be uncharitable?

Just curious how far this uncharitable thing will go...usually it starts with something small, like saying "oh, you should not be so worried about a habit - it is uncharitable" and the next thing you know.....well, I do not think I need to go into details.

The 1960s showed enough proof of what happened. And that was very uncharitable because I, along with a vast multitude of others, ended up with a watered down Catholic education, surrounded by people who did not even believe in the devil and never even conveyed to me the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the importance of a good confession, etc. which really compromised my youth.


#17

[quote="Ocarm, post:15, topic:237077"]
Please read the two threads cited in my earlier posts. They provide a solid historical analysis of the place of religious garb in consecrated life.

[/quote]

Some religious orders didn't originate with the garb - of course this is true, yet they eventually adapted it as the Church enforced it.

JReducation rightfully points out that morality is not associated with the garment, this is also true.

The whole overall problem is the symbolism and authority it is supposed to represent. A habited nun represents more than what a nun in a business suite would represent.

Clothing is a key item in identity.

Even when the Church herself enforced it?

Canon 669
§1 As a sign of their consecration and as a witness to poverty, religious are to wear
the habit of their institute, determined in accordance with the institute’s own law.

The habit is essentially a poor woman's dress with the denial of the self and full desire of Christ. The Sisters of Mercy for example.

I'd still say it was disrespectful.

God Bless,

Chris.


#18

Thank you!!! :slight_smile: That is what I felt - “what???!!!” LOL :smiley:


#19

I agree.

It is uncharitable to point out what you said or to say you’re uncharitable.

That’s the problem with these statements, rebuking isn’t uncharitable.

[quote=Faira21]Thank you!!!
[/quote]

No problems.

God Bless,

Chris.


#20

Thanks again - much appreciated :blessyou:

Now I think I am going to go out and find a habited sister and tell her thanks for wearing the habit :wink:


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