Nuns With Habits

Looking back in a Catholic Statistics book, I found that vocations to the religious and ordered life drastically dropped after the habits were done away with for “distinctive clothing.”

:nun2: Would having habits for all nuns prompt a return of vocations to the religious life? :nun1:

Before you make a complete decision, take the following article into mind. It shows an “excuse,” and then counters with a “reason.” I think it will help you make an informed decision. :thumbsup:

I know quite a few nuns with habits! Mostly good habits and not vices, I mean :smiley:

Seriously though, I think there is a real problem for vocations when the “old” habits are discarded and less traditional garb is donned.

I personally think there is an identity issue: when one wears the traditional habit, one knows who one is, everybody knows who one is, and that is a Christian in the Latin Catholic tradition of prayer who is in the world but not of the world. One knows that one is a Christian of the Latin Catholic tradition, and one can more easily identify with the Latin Catholic clergy, monks and nuns of previous centuries.

But when the traditional habit is removed…just who are you? Yes, there is a true interior conviction that you are a Latin Catholic nun, monk or priest, but your exterior clothing doesn’t completely reflect this personal reality. You look both like still a member of the world while not a member of the world at the same time. Especially considering the fact that what is expressive of “Latin Christianity” (guitar Masses?, charismatic movement?, [edited by Moderator] Protestant hymns?, Divine Mercy?, TLM?, etc.) is not universally clear, the change in habits only goes to exacerbate the problem by further disconnecting the present religious life from the religious life of previous centuries in the Church.

I always am amazed at the number of priests (especially Jesuits it seems) who, unless they’re serving at Mass, are barely distinguishible from secular businesspersons or professors.

I don’t buy the argument that the discarding of traditional habits is in keeping with VII’s desire to make things “less ornate,” or the idea that this emphasizes how both lay and religious are both called to holiness (watering down one to meet the other is not the solution).

A few months ago I went to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. There I witnessed the Papal Tiara of Paul VI. While standing there, I thought to myself: the act of discarding the papal tiara, rather than being an act of humility as it’s commonly viewed to be, seems to me much rather to be an act filled with pride, shame and disrespect of the papal office.

I think having mandatory habits would certainly help.

Of course, this must be coupled at the same time by a total return to orthodoxy and orthopraxis in order that the man-made vocations crisis in women religious vocations will go away.

It’s not just the habits. The orders who are thriving have a clear sense of purpose, community life, and (most importantly) a deep prayer life.

I voted “Most Likely”. I didn’t go with “Undeniably” simply because I think there will always be some to whom the habits have little to no appeal. Still I think they would for the most increase vocations.

The habit marks simultaneously removes individuality while marking one as seperate. It causes one to more strongly identify themselves with their order and causes those on the outside to take note.

Habits, robes and collars all serve a purpose as a beacon as well. People see those things and know that this is someone they can approach and talk too when they need too. It also sets an outside reminder of an inner life that this world often easily distracts one from.

A prominent theologian who happens to be at my school once said that, “People need signs to understand the symbols. When you see a sign, you have one conscious thought. Stop. Slow Down. Toll Ahead. However, when coupled with a symbol, the sign takes on a more profound role. People are more reverent when seeing a cross because this symbol stands for so much more than a simple sign.” The same can be applied to Roman Collars, Habits, Cassocks, etc. . . because these things evoke a sense of solemnity, of utmost reverence, and very often, a sense of calm. I attend a Jesuit School, and I find myself often mistaking a Fr. for a Mr. We used to have a certain priest who would never wear his priestly clothing i.e. collar, black pants, shirt, shoes. Lately though, we have had a massive influx of very orthodox, dare I say, “conservative” Jesuits entering our school’s staff. From the point of a discerning teen, things already seem to be picking up with benedict and his reforms.

Sometimes the habit acquires a symbolism it was not mean to bear. For instance a monk who has caused scandal may be described as “unfit to wear the habit”.
This is about as sensible as “doesn’t deserve to wear jeans”. The habit, the word means “dress”, is meant to be a sign of humilty, a simple garment similar to those worn by the poorest of labourers.

However nowdays the poor don’t dress like that. So maybe a McDonalds’ crew uniform?

While I believe having habits is part of the attraction of holy orders, it’s not a major part.

It is submission to the rule, of subsuming one’s identity in part by conformity of appearance, of identification with the group.

I feel that the traditional habit may not be worth returning to, with it’s starch and pins for the nuns, and for some friars its itchy wool… but the uniformity of appearance of a simple habit is a good thing both for the church and the order.

The habit itself is a symbol; the wearing of it a submission to the order. Symbols change. The use of symbols to indicate submission to authority doesn’t, even tho’ the specific symbol does.

To my mind, nuns who wear habits signal that they belong to a community which is solidly loyal to the Pope. With nuns who do not wear habits, they may very well follow the Pope, only it’s harder to tell, due to the fact that so many liberal orders have opted for regular clothing instead of habits … so that nuns in regular clothing tend to send me, personally, a confusing signal.

In fact, I’ve seen people on the forum post that actually, nuns who do not wear habits in fact belong to orders disobedient to the Pope … can someone please clarify?

Wearing a habit gives witness to modesty in a culture which seems to be the one spoken of by Jacinta the seer of Fatima who stated that fashions would appear which would not please Our Lord.

Wearing a habit allows for opportunities for ministry … A lay person seeing a sister in a habit may approach with a question or prayer request, whereas if the nun were not wearing a habit and because of this she was assumed to be not a nun, the lay person might walk right on past and an act of charity that the nun’s appearance might have occasioned would go undone.

Wearing a habit might not always be the most physically comfortable thing in the world, but is a small inconvenience indeed if it is worn as an expression of love for Christ.

~~ the phoenix

Our Sister Mary…has a huge chocolate habit!

is that on topic still? :smiley:

I said not at all likely because wearing the habit should be a free choice that no one is pressured into. It should be an unwritten rule, essentially. When you make it mandatory, the meaning gets lost as to why you are wearing it.

Ideally, nuns should wear the habit on their own.

Aunt Ronnie - aka Sister Mary Joachim, SSND - still wears hers. She is 92 and still sends our Christmas cards. It’s better for her (spiritually speaking) and for the quality of the nuns (spiritually speaking) to choose to wear the habit rather than to be forced to wear the habit.

There is a girl’s high school in our area run by Dominican Sisters (of Nashville, I think). Academically and theologically, it is a top notch school. The nuns wear full habits and still manage to enjoy playing basketball with the students. My friends whose daughters attend, say the girls adore the nuns :thumbsup: .

My mom grew up when all nuns wore habits. She says it created a mystique about the nuns - their lives had some mystery. It made the girls curious. Even non Catholics respected the sisters.

I don’t think the lack of habits alone caused decline. There were other factors, IMO. I tell you though, my girls and I just love seeing a nun in a habit. It’s very inspiring! —KCT

I think it is best if priests and nuns do wear religious attire (cassocks, collars, habits, etc.), since it does make them recognizable to the public. Now, I also believe that habits can change over time. For instance, soldiers wear uniforms that make them recognizable to everyone else as soldiers. But soldiers of the Civil War, WW2 and the Iraq War do not wear the same uniforms. Therefore, habits can change, but I still think it is better for a priest or nun to wear clerical garb or a habit rather than ordinary clothes, just as a soldier wears a uniform not ordinary clothes.

I’m married and I wear a habit…it’s called a ring. It’s a constant reminder that I’m married. It should be a constant reminder to the priest that he’s a priest.

Nuns used to wear rings too, to show that they were married to Jesus.

Typically, symbols don’t change. The cross is a symbol of the passion. How can it change forms? Sure, there may be the byzantine Cross, the Traditional Cross, the Orthodox Cross etc. . .but they are all symbols of Christ. the whole understanding of a symbol is something that does not change. If we change our symbols, we lose touch with our traditions which means (for Catholics) trouble.

I pose this question: If the wearing of a habit, or even a uniform in general, shows a submission to will, then how is there a sign of submission when nuns wear secular clothing? When priests wear business suits rather than a collar? When a McDonald’s employee “dresses down” without her manager’s approval?

Just bear in mind, that the last time a symbol was deleted (not altered as we are presently discussing,) was the Iconolcast Controversy. This was one of the things that split the west from the east. To destroy or “change” a symbol into something else renders the feelings the symbol evoked null and void. If someone looks at a nun in full habit, he finds himself tring to be just a bit more reverent. When a person sees a priest with his Roman Collar, there is a "jump’ deep down inside where only your soul and conscience reside.

I’m not sure about every order, but I know that the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of St. Joseph still wear rings. I’ll have to do some research.:coffeeread:

Back in the habit, young nuns on the rise

Nashville’s Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia part of the growth

Associated Press Writer

MIAMI (AP) – Their arrival is a blessing and a curse.

Twenty young prospective nuns arriving this fall at one convent _ so many there aren’t enough beds.

But sisters there offer only prayers of thanks, considering many years brought no one.

See the rest of the Article at

I was talking with the old religious sister who oversaw my catechesis when I was being received into the Church, and she was telling me how, though she disapproved that the post Vatican II era allowed no habits, she was also thankful because they were given more latitude in selecting their habits. Before, they had to wear a tight woollen one meant for a cold European climate in Africa, and she was illustrating how difficult it was to iron, especially when there was scarcity of water. Not to mention being stuffy.

[quote=lak611]Nuns used to wear rings too, to show that they were married to Jesus.

Not only do the orders here (Marianist, Carmel) wear rings, but my aunt (Loretto) and great-aunt (Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary) wear them also, even when they came on “holiday”. I remember asking my aunt about it and she told me she wasn’t allowed to take that or the cross off.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit