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Full Version: The Glories of a Religious Habit
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whole item can be read at www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2018/02/a-young-nun-tells-us-how-wearing-habit.html#.WoMXp0xFxjo
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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.

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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. Now, my time is used to beautify my soul for the reception of my Spouse in Holy Communion later that day. To the world, only having one choice might be seen as a lack of creative freedom to express my personality by what I wear. In my experience, never having other options of what to wear frees me from thinking so much about myself to think about the more important things in life. While donning the holy habit, I am praying, asking God for the strength for what I am to face that day, and clothing myself in His grace. Creativity is not suppressed but redirected away from myself to invent new ways of giving glory to God and showing love to Him and those around me. My personality, instead of being stifled by the habit, is revealed even more clearly through my actions and words because my clothes are not a distraction. Wearing the habit, I am free and even expected to pray in public, and to say “God bless you” to everyone because I am what I look like: totally dedicated to God.

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.

The habit, while being a sign of God’s Presence in the world, is also a reminder to the religious herself of who she is. In my experience, the habit aids recollection and prayer in times of formal prayer, as well as when going about my duties. The sides of our veil, coming over our shoulders, act as slight blinders to our peripheral vision, directing our focus straight ahead to God. Our habit is long, obliging us to move with care and Mary-like grace. When I am struggling, or need assistance with anything, I find my hand reaching up to clasp Our Lady on my Miraculous Medal. As a professed sister, I wear a ring, reminding me that I am Christ’s Bride before any role or duty I have in the apostolate. I know, whenever I am acting, that I act not as an individual, but as a representative of Christ, His Church, and our community. The respect or attention I receive from others is not for me as an individual, but on account of the habit, it is for Christ, whose bride I am and whom I reflect to the world.

The religious habit is the beautiful sign of consecration to God since the early Church. All who see it are reminded that there is a higher purpose in this life than the concerns of this world, that there is some reason, namely the love of God, that religious would dress in this way. The habit declares without words that this person has a strong relationship and intercessory power with God. The value of the witness of the habit is proved by its resurgence in the Church and will continue to be a clear manifestation of God to the world.