Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Modifying the Habit

Last August, the night before final vows, I sat on the fifth floor with Simona and Kathy and a handful of other Sisters. We had been leafing through one of the "Celebrating the Journey" books reading about the congregation's history. A sister, who's name is eluding me, began sharing some stories with us. Some of the details are escaping me, but somewhere in the evening pictures were brought out and shared. As one picture of the "modified habit" was passed around this particular sister exclaimed, "this was the beginning of what I like to call the slow strip-tease." For those unfamiliar with what she is referring to, there was a time when the habit began to change, hems were raised, hems were lowered, veils were altered, etc, etc, etc. and slowly pieces of the habit began to be removed.

Today there is no official habit for the sisters. I can appreciate the history of the habit and I can understand why leaving the habit behind was hard for many sisters, and I can even understand why some sisters choose to remain in the habit. I can appreciate that for those women who had been wearing it for countless years, the habit had become intertwined with their identity. Much like, dare I say, mascara has become intertwined with mine? No matter what those things are, we all have them, things that become a part of us. And for that I can recognize the importance of the habit.

For me though, 28 in the 21st Century? That habit would have to be pretty darn modified for me to be found desiring to wear it! Today however, I came a little bit closer to the modified habit I would consider jumping into as I dress in the morning!

I spent the afternoon at Assisi House with Neumann students who regularly visit with the sisters. Today we were celebrating February birthdays. An "entertainer" who was quite entertaining, but probably for different reasons than intended, was singing and dancing, I guess you could call it that anyway. In between songs she gave out silk flowers to the sisters. I was sitting next to Sr. Helen Veronica, who is totally growing on my heart! I quickly grabbed the flower from her hand and inserted it in the side of her veil so that the beautiful purple flower graced the side of her face. GORGEOUS! If only we had a camera!

I'm now thinking of additions I could continue to make, maybe I could bust out my old beddazzler and add rhinestones! Okay, maybe that's going a little far, and might make Francis turn over in his grave . . . but it has potential right?

Rhinestones or not, Sr. Helen Veronica looked beautiful! I look forward to spending another afternoon with her to joke, and laugh, and enjoy each others company--in fact I may want to make a habit of it!


  1. Thorny issue...the habit. Some observe that the habit wearing orders are getting all the vocations. Getting awe and aproval for one's clothes is tempting I suppose.Many assumptions are made about how women religious dress- with or without a hhabit.

    The question that plagues me though is why don't men have this "dress" issue. It seems that they have retained the tradition without the tradition constraining them.

    Having worn habit and veil- which at the time I loved and for a not so holy reason (low stress dressing:)and having scrapped the veil but still retained the black (again- low stress)I find the habit issue has not left the collective consciousness of the laity, who stragely long for something many never experienced.

    I often think about Francis, how he chose the poor man's garb. How he encouraged his friars to have a patch on their habit. How does that translate for his followers today?

    What truly disconcerts me is that orders that truly are living the gospel, building the kingdom, forming genuine community and caring for the last and least, as Jesus taught, are overlooked for a set of clothes.
    10 O'clock Scholar

  2. Thank you for your input! Good thoughts, things to ponder!