The following comes from a Feb. 13 posting on the site of the New Liturgical Movement.
The following is an essay written by one of the sisters of a community in Santa Rosa, California, called the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa. She is a seamstress for the community, and part of her work is making their habits. I asked her to describe why she felt this work was important, before going on to describe (in the next essay) how this informs her work in making the habits for the other Sisters. (This was for her degree studies at Pontifex University.)
…The habit is very connected to my vocation to the religious life. In the diocese of Santa Rosa where I grew up, there were a few sisters from three different communities ministering in the schools and the hospital. However, if I had not been told, I would not have known they were sisters because they did not wear a recognizable garb other than professional-looking clothes, a lapel pin, or cross necklace.
Besides the saints who were religious, the other community of sisters I was most familiar with was the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration on EWTN. Wearing the full habit, they were an unmistakable witness of religious life. At age six or seven, I thought I was going to be a nun, which in my mind meant going to Alabama to that community. My sister and I would play that we were nuns and always wore fabric on our heads for a veil since we knew that was part of being a nun.
Even at that young age, I had an intuitive sense that being a sister involved wearing a habit. The thought never even crossed my mind to be like the sisters in my diocese, since I just thought they were a different kind of sister and not the kind that I would want to join. After high school, when I was seriously discerning the religious life, the habit was a necessary component of any community I considered. If God was calling me to be a sister, I desired to look like one. The Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa, who had just come to the diocese, wore a beautiful habit of white and blue. There was no question of who they were since their clothes proclaimed that they belonged to God.
Since receiving the habit of the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa, I am so grateful each morning to dress in this habit. The habit provides a freedom that to the world seems like a restriction. I am free from the worry of what to wear if it will be appropriate for the occasion, if the color suits me, or if it is modest enough. It takes much less time to get ready for the day when putting on the habit since there is no deliberation involved. When wearing secular clothes, one outfit is tried on, and then removed to try another, until, after much time and effort, a set of clothes is decided upon…
When any of the sisters walk or go anywhere, we receive attention because of the habit. Some people spontaneously ask for prayers, intuitively trusting in our intercessory power with God. Others will relate stories of being educated by nuns, or share fond memories of an aunt who was a nun. Many comment on the beauty of the habit, happily surprised to see it after thinking it was a thing of the past. These are some of the responses we receive from those who come up to talk to us, but many more see us and are affected by the presence of God apparent in us, even from a distance.
To travel to my apostolate, I walk for ten minutes along one of the busiest streets in the city. Hundreds of cars pass me each morning as I pray my Rosary. One day recently, I received the comment, “I saw you on the street corner, and thought how beautiful your outfit, or whatever you wear, is!”. It is not uncommon for a generous soul to anonymously pay for our meal, or grocery purchase, not because they have talked to us, but because they know who we are by the habit. Though we might never interact with those who see us, we pray that we are a channel of grace to bring them closer to God….
I received ashes on my forehead a few hours ago while kneeling at an altar rail. it was a sister in a traditional habit — long robe, long veil – who traced them on my forehead. What impressed me was that they were not a smudge as I usually end up with but a well-formed cross. I know through experience that female teachers usually stress perfection in handwriting more than most male teachers. Male doctors’ prescriptions usually look like “chicken scratch” whereas most female doctors’ are readable.
Regarding my last post, I did not mean that the priests as that particular church where I received the ashes put smudges on the forehead of people as I did not get the ashes from any of them, but it has been my experience elsewhere. I need to apologize, too, as my posts are kind of off topic, although they are meant to give praise to sisters in general for teaching good handwriting..
How beautiful! It’s lovely that she knew from a young age that she wanted to be a sister and she wanted to belong to an order that wore the habit. And how providential that she found one close to home! Thank you, Sister!
Wearing the habit proclaims, not hides, the word of God.