Should Religious wear the habit at all times?

What do you think?

Canon Law seems to so indicate as does LOGIC.

Wearing and being identified as a Roamn Catholic in and of itself is a form of Catecheis.:slight_smile:

Without question.

I have always wondered why someone would go through years of school/training to be a religious and get the habit, and then not wear it…

I think it’s important to make sure that we do not judge religious orders based on their choice of a traditional habit or not. For some religious orders a habit may be a huge part of their charism - for Franciscans and Poor Clares, for example, their habits are a big part of their extreme poverty. For others it may not be and not wearing a traditional habit may be compatible with their charism.

Personally, the traditional habit was very important to me. I will admit that I did only consider religious communities that wore the traditional habit because for me it was a significant part of what I felt called to. I think for discerners it is something they have to think about and it is a very personal element of the call to religious life. Some may feel that the religious habit is an essential, others may not want it at all, others may not care either way. Each is called differently: to different charisms, to different apostolates, to different spiritualities, to different ways of life and even to different ways of dress.

It is not for us to say.

It is for the religious to determine themselves at their chapter.

It is a fact that some religious institutes were formed by founders who did not want them in a habit.

Canon Law indicates no such thing.

The actual canons state;
Can. 284 Clerics are to wear suitable ecclesiastical dress, in accordance with the norms established by the Episcopal Conference and legitimate local custom.

Can. 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.

§2 Religious of a clerical institute who do not have a special habit are to wear clerical dress, in accordance with can. 284.

The Episcopal Conference has left it up to the bishops to decide and the local custom is for the wearing of clerics when actually ministering so that would apply to habits as well unless the religious institute says otherwise within its rule/constitutions/statues.

Its really not something that the laity has any right commenting on.

Wouldn’t the answer to this depend on the rule of their order or congregation, as well as the nature of the work they might be engaged in at the moment?

For example, it wouldn’t make much sense for a Sister who is a registered nurse in an operating room to be wearing a long habit dragging on the floor kicking up whatever microbes are there, and trying to fit a surgical mask over a veil and keeping that veil out of a sterile field. Similarly, real Trappist monks make Monks’ Bread. The bakery monks wear clothes suitable for the large scale production of bread while they are in the bakery, slip resistant shoes on the loading dock (not sandals,) etc., etc.

My aunt, recently deceased, was a Sister of Charity and an RN employed in an operating room in the 1940s through the early 1980s. While in that role, she wore scrubs, same as everyone else who worked there. She put her habit back on at the end of the work day to return to her convent quarters.

Well said and I completely agree.l

Put me down for yes. Otherwise, how could we distinguish them from normal people? They are living as witnesses for the church when they wear their habits.

My daughter is a Sister (Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist) in Ann Arbor. She had a random stranger walk up to her in an airport and say, “Oh sister, would you please pray for my relative who just passed away? I asked God for a sign and then I saw you.”

So we never know what kind of impact these little things have on people. I always have the urge to go up and talk to a priest or a sister when I see them on the street - they are such special people.

John Marie Philomena

It’s a good thing that some religious sisters do NOT wear a habit. Can you imagine Pope John Paul II being scolded by a eligious sister in full habit? Although there are some good nuns who don’t wear a habit, and some bad ones who do wear one, in general it would be too hard to distinguish between religious who are faithful to the Church and those who are not.

I’m all in favor of habits, though. It’s a sign of poverty and a sign of consecration. It’s just that, in the times that we are living in, it’s also (in most cases - but not in all!) a sign of faithfulness to the magisterium. If dissenting groups wore a habit, there would be mass confusion…“Will the real religious sisters please stand up?”

What you are implying here is very uncharitable towards religious.

I disagree. It’s just a fact. And like I said, it doesn’t apply in all circumstances.
And I wasn’t implying it. I was flat out saying it.

I deleted part of my post because it mentioned someone specific, and I’m sorry for having used a real “for instance”.

Always inquire as to what the statutes/constitutions say. In many cases the constitutions say “clothing appropriate to the ministry.”

If I had known more about discernment 30 years ago, I would have followed grace into a local convent, even if they had some in habit and some in civies. I still carry their chapel in the cloister of my heart. Mom nearly ball-and-chained me to the vocation director, and some of the guys from school had the same idea. I was too intent on founding my own community, though.


How many times do we have to have this conversation? Not all religious orders, communities, societies even *have *a habit to wear. And certainly not all rulings about dress include what we consider a traditional-looking habit.

Each order should follow the direction of their founder and wear the clothing proscibed in their rule. That may be a “flying nun” type of habit or ordinary street clothes. If a religious is following her rule and founder, than she is doing what she should.


Wearing a habit has nothing to do with the state of anyone’s orthodoxy. As history has very plainly shown us, religious in full traditional habits can be dissenting, and those who don’t wear a habit can be completely orthodox.


OK :slight_smile:

I read somewhere that the orders that do wear a habit (for the most part) are growing and those that don’t (for the most part) are not. Is this true? Does anyone know?

I’m really not sure. Certain order/socities/congregations have longer lives than others. There have been foundations throughout the history of the church that have come and gone, seemingly created for a specific purpose and then dying out. Also many “orders” are actually subsets of larger orders. So for example, overall numbers of Dominicans may remain stable, but individual groups within the Dominican order may be growing or dying out.

There are hundreds of orders within just the US, let alone across the world. There was recently a study done on major orders of women in the US, reports from that should be coming out over the next 12 months and we will all learn alot more about that subsetof religious life in the US.

I agree with you, as you can see if you read my post over. Nevertheless, in many, if not most cases, it is an indication.


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