Friday, November 12, 2010

The Habit of Witness...

... an old friend once revealed to me how he chooses a church to visit when he travels. He goes to the website and immediately looks for the information about the priest. Is the pastor wearing jeans and a popped collar polo or a plain old business suit as opposed to collared clericals or a religious habit? Does he go by Father Bob or even drops his title all together? These may seem like insignificant details but they can reveal quite a bit about the nature of the parish. Admittedly, when choosing communities to visit for retreats I narrow my choices down by excluding the communities of nuns who do not wear the habit.

That is how powerfully the sight of habits and collars can effect us. They are potent outward witnesses of faith that show the boldness of the wearer. Illustrating this point, Patheos has begun a series of essays written by members of religious communities recalling encounters they experienced while in "uniform".

In two articles, a seminarian discusses the Roman collar and a nun recalls a prayerful meeting at a bus stop.

Image source.


nazareth priest said...

Today my source for Christian/catholic witness might not be so glamorous/lovely/inviting.It's the sight of a massacre; of Catholic priests and faithful in Iraq. Which do not look as thought it is going to to be an individual kinda thing.
Whanna belong to Jesus in His Holy Catholic Iraq...or in the the Middle East?
Best you pray and invoke the Mother of God and give you life to Jesus.
These m************* take no hostages.
Just sayin'.

Just another mad Catholic said...

I've said this before and I will say it again; nothing moves my heart so much as a Bride of Christ wearing her Habit

David S said...

How very, very sad... to "shop" for a Mass, or for a retreat, on the sole basis of what the pastor or the nuns are wearing.

Does Christ not give Himself to us in His Body and Blood even at the hands of "Fr. Bob" who wears a polo shirt outside of church?

Is a nun not wearing a 'traditional' habit necessarily excluded from giving wise and holy guidance to retreatants?

Reminds me of one of my seminarians who told me he wanted to switch to a certain order "because they had such pretty habits". I encouraged him to go right ahead and switch.

What is it you are really looking for... "pretty habits" or the guts of what makes the Church the Church?

Dorian Speed said...

What a marvelous photo!

The Crescat said...

avid, there is no doubt the sight of a habit is a very strong witness & I prefer the ones who are "gutsy" enough to wear them.

You asked, "Is a nun not wearing a 'traditional' habit necessarily excluded from giving wise and holy guidance to retreatants?"

My answer is "Yes". When the habit is tossed out, unfortunately in most cases, so is good solid Church teaching. I know there is an exception to every rule but we are speaking in generalizations.

Anthony S. "Tony" Layne said...

David, I understand your concern. St. Francis of Assisi was once asked what he would do if he knew the priest celebrating the Mass was committing adultery. His response was, "I would accept the Body of my Lord from the consecrated hands of his priest."

However, we lay people also have a responsibility to build up the Faith. This means directly and indirectly encouraging those priests and religious who are not only orthodox in their witness but who aren't ashamed to wear that which publicly advertises their vocation. What's sad is not just that we can roughly gauge the orthodoxy of these people by what they wear, but that we have to make such a judgment, that we can't just assume their orthodoxy.

karyn said...

Well, wearing a habit is not an indicator of holiness. We all know that. St Alphonsus often rebuked religious who were so in clothing and name but not in their lifestyles.

However, the situation in the Church today is such that those who have tragically chosen to do away with their habit do so out of reasons that show a deplorable lack of understanding of their own vocation and respect for the traditions of the Church. It is a good indicator of the orthodoxy of an order, and I heartily support the blog owner and her friend for endorsing these standards. I know conservative priests who have very laudably advised their charges not to consider orders without a habit.

If you do not want the world to know you as a sister or priest with one glance, why are you in that vocation still? Isn't your habit meant to aid evangelisation and to be a witness? Some claim that habits create distinctions between the laity and the religious: i answer that these distinctions are supposed to be there in the 1st place.

Just another mad Catholic said...

As somebody who is considering the Priesthood and Religious life I would not join an order that didn't wear the habit; even if as is the case with the Fathers of Mercy and the Jesuits the habit is simply a modified Cassock.

Dymphna said...

David, I never trust a priest who doesn't wear his clericals and I never have anything to do with nuns who don't wear habit. I've been burned by both types.

Christina said...

It's anecdotal, but I find this to be true.

While searching for a Dominican community to join I found that there were only three traditional habit-wearing groups (Nashville, Ann Arbor and Hawthorne). I'm neither a teacher nor a medical worker, so I opened up my search to those who didn't wear the habit.

It was so frustrating to try to find information on their prayer life, and when found, interpret it. I can join any group of women and do good stuff, that's not what's desired in religious life. The desire is to give oneself completely to God and consecrate every moment of the day to Him.

Aside - If Fr. Bob is a Dominican, he's keeping with a tradition of using the first name. From what I understand it's traditional for the diocesan priests to use last name, and religious priests to use first.

James said...

@David S
- What I find very, very sad is your obviously self-satisfied encouragement of someone with much deeper problems than an admiration for "pretty" habits. And you allowed him to become someone else's problem. It is indicative of the internal corruption that has brought the Church so low these past years.

Anonymous said...

I know this is a late post, but I had to say something. I'm with Kat. I would much rather have habits than "sister" like the one I talked to years ago. She was wearing earrings, for crying out loud. To me habits are an outward sign that one is separated from the world. 'Nuf said.

David S said...

Just so there's no misunderstanding. I didn't let that seminarian become "someone else's problem". I asked him the same question I asked The Crescat: "What is it you are really looking for?" He eventually decided that he didn't have a vocation to religious life and left the seminary.

Had he actually tried to go to another order, I would have been obliged in justice to inform them of his immature motivation. They would have known how to respond to such an applicant.

Hisbridetobe said...

@ Christina, there are actually more dominicans wearing the traditional habit than the ones you mentioned. There are the sisters of the immaculate conception as well as very many contemplative dominicans.

Crescat, which community is this? they look lovely.... I'm thinking benedictine but I'm confused by the novices' habits.