Saturday, February 16, 2008


One of our more talented young priests seems to find himself regularly published in various Catholic mediums. This past week Fr. D. gave a heads up about an article he wrote that will soon be printed in “U.S. Catholic.” The article concerns itself with whether those in priestly and religious vocation should be wearing clothing that publicly gives witness to the vocation they have chosen. It is a very well written and intelligent article and you can find it here.

But what you might find interesting is that following the article there is a survey inquiring what you think about the issue. It will not take you long to realize that it is a heavily skewed set of questions, but you might enjoy engaging in it all the same. Presumably some of the comments will be included with the article.

Long time readers of Adam’s Ale will surely know the basic stance on this position from the person whose fingers stamp out these prose. In the end however it has to be realized that our opinions are not worth they cyberspace they are electronically brought up on. It is the same set of principles that will determine who will survive in the future in the contraception and abortion debate: those who are striving mightily to end their bloodline or those who enjoying full families. In regards to habits and collars versus no habits and collars, the practice that will flourish in the Church in the next twenty years are those that attract faithful, practicing Catholics that wish to adopt a vocation. Orders that attract young vocations will grow, those that do not will practically be gone. Priests also tend to attract to the priesthood similarly minded men. Time alone will tell where that is going (though it seems to be clear to many already.)

That being said I would like to share with you a couple of my answers to the survey (just in case the magazine is not wise enough to print them!) One is that it may be true that the wearing of the habit or the collar will not bring anyone to conversion but look at it this way; suppose a person is a Steelers fan. He may wear a Steelers jersey. I doubt that seeing him wear that jersey will make me Steelers fan. But it did make me think of the Steelers when I perhaps had no cause to. It may make me more aware that even in Cleveland there are Steelers fans. Who would have thought? It may cheer other Steelers fans that see him and even be a cause of friendly words between them – a recognition of what binds them. If I had been wanting to ask a someone who is a Steelers fan a question, I might take the opportunity. And it may make me think twice before cheering for the Browns in their presence.

A second question asked that if we expect priests and religious to dress so boldly, should we not expect laypersons to do the same? Should they not be encouraged to wear crucifixes or T-shirts and hats that announce their religious proclivities? That has a time and a place but is not necessarily so. But it is just as important a witness that lay people dress in such a way that shows their piety, their modesty, adorning the body as to bring the greatest respect and honor to it, to the virtue of chastity, and in showing respect for others and their Creator.

Those are my thoughts. If you have the time, go and read and share your insights!


Adoro te Devote said...

Oh, you KNOW I've got an opinion! LOL!

I have a co-worker who is very much involved in the Mission world, and many of the Sisters there don't wear habits for various reasons: danger, identification. There is a particular country that would actually see a woman in a habit as representative not of the Church, but of a community of their enemies. So I'm going to exclude the Missionary world from my answer.

My friend has also commented that habits were originally supposed to make the religious communities blend in with the people...they were a uniform of sorts, sure, but they didn't stand out, as people in religious garb do today.

I answer that our world right now NEEDS that very public witness. Hugely. Just last week I had to attend training through our Archd. and a really liberal DRE sat down next to me. Somehow our table began talking about Vocations, as I have a friend entering a cloister. The DRE was shocked...absolutey shocked. What makes people do this? She was of the mindset that people don't choose religious life anymore, or the priesthood. Because her parish doesn't see it (there are reasons for that...). So I explained the reasons, focusing on women. I said that young women desire to live for Christ in a radical way, to show that witness to the world in a visual of that evangelical call to share their faith. I cited the faithfulness to the Magisterium and traditions, both major and small-t, that have always been a part of our faith. And we all discussed the large communities...Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, Nashville Dominicans, LA Carmelites, etc. She was almost falling out of her chair. She'd never HEARD of these communities!

We have an entire population of the Church that thinks that there is a crisis in vocations because no one chooses them anymore...yet it seems that those communities that are growing wear habits, and to even DISCUSS them gives a witness of faith.

We NEED to see religious garb in this world, not only because it helps us to identify those who represent Christ, but also because it gives us hope.

And that's my novella for today.

Anonymous said...

The world keeps getting more and more casual. People (myself included) wear jeans EVERYWHERE. I was at the grocery store last week and a grown woman was there literally in pajamas. I think we moderns miss half the fun of important events because we don't dress for them.

Nowadays the clerical garb shouts its message. I think people are hungry to see someone LOOK as if they are doing something important. I think the whole nuns in street clothes thing is an attempt to be "cool" but it just ends up being pathetic. No one feels awe or inspiration from seeing social workers who don't date.

I've only seen a priest in a cassock in person once. I can still see it. It takes my breath away.

Fr. V said...

"No one feels awe or inspiration from seeing social workers who don't date."


Adrienne said...

When I grew up all the priests dressed like priests and the sisters were in habits.

Now, if you visit a Jesuit run college, you would be led to believe their 401K's are invested in cardigan sweater companies. Not nice!

My Lady of Perpetual Help medal is always visible and I frequently get comments which lead to "spreading the word." That's our job.

Adoro te Devote said...

Sparky - LOL and AMEN SISTER!

I forgot to mention...I often wear "Catholic" t-shirts, which is very handy when going to work out. Because the #1 reason, according to one T-shirt all about staying Catholic, is the everyone behind me gets to read John 6!

I also often wear a crucifix necklace, and I have a rosary ring, so these things keep me very conscious about who I represent out there in the world.

Gretchen said...

My priest often wears a cassock, God bless him. And I've only seen him out of his collar, perhaps twice in 6 years. He is a walking testimony to the priesthood, and I like that.

I agree that sisters (and priests) without habits/collars lack the "pizzazz" and inspiration. Some of my fondest memories of my early school years (I'm 40) are those of the priests and nuns at my Catholic school.

God bless.

Stina said...

I completely agree with Adoro about the "public witness" wearing collars and habits provides and that they are signs of HOPE in world that can get you down so quickly.

And I love your analogy of the Steelers jersey. Just seeing something like that puts your mind on that subject. And I'm not even talking about non-Catholics. There are definitely times when we Catholics could use a good "reminder" of who we are and what we believe.

Plus, for me, it makes my heart smile to see these great examples in "my world." Growing up, I never saw an actual habit-wearing nun except in the movies. But when I went over to Europe and saw them everywhere, just walking in the streets like normal people, it was like a breath of fresh air in this all too often "grimy" world. It gives me that nice reminder of the dedication that nuns and priests have for our Lord and just how much that I could (and should) be "upping my game."

Great post!

Anonymous said...

I like sweaters, but that's not the first image that springs to mind with don Bosco, Fr. Damian, or the Cure d'Ars. And to say that I like to see habits is to say that I like chocolate. There was a long-lived Sisters of Mercy convent beside the Immaculate Conception church also beside St. Patrick's school where the Sisters taught. Especially with that 50-lb. Rosary dangling at the side of her yards of black material, we knew that if even a grizzly came near, Sistah would've thrown it on its back and put the fear of God into it. Alright, so I exaggerate. A little. But I can't help thinking of how welcome a sight must be clerical garb and habits to homeless folks and runaways on the street who might shy away from law enforcement uniforms. I saw what it did for even the most confused people in nursing homes. It was like Dad or Mom walked in. The sudden hush and the turning of wheelchairs toward was something I'll never forget.

And indeed, it's important as a witness to the faith. A sincere thank you to all who wear their collars and habits.

Jeffrey Smith said...

I agree that it's an important witness, but it pays to be reasonable about it. I've never seen my pastor without his collar ( and he was ordained in 1964 ), but he often wears a tweed sport coat with it. I don't see anything wrong with that. Cassocks are good, in their time and place, but I don't thing a trip to the grocery store qualifies.
We need to be even more reasonable where nuns are concerned. A simple habit is a very good thing, but I've seen too much nostalgia for the sort that must have been a royal pain to deal with. There's also too much of a tendency to equate nuns who don't wear habits with Sr. Chittester's sort. I know from personal experience that's not true. The nun who's principal at the elementary school in my parish never wears a habit, though she always wears a very noticable cross. She makes sure all the students attend the weekly school Mass, has weekly Stations of the Cross, and is the non-Catholic students have a remarkable tendency to convert. It's never a good idea to judge a book by its cover.

Fr. V said...

You guys are awesome.

Thanks fot lots to think about!

Anonymous said...

Reading this late -

Adoro - great comments - I totally agree! Our society totally needs a public witness.

Adrienne - I grew up at St. George's Church in Erie, PA, where the Priests and Monsigniors (spelling?) all wore Cassocks!

Just Me - I witnessed something similar at my Parish. One of our Priests wears a Cassock and the other two do not. It amazed me after Church one Sunday. There were some children playing while their parents were talking. The Pastor walked by and the children continued playing, not paying any attention. But, when our Associate Pastor walked by in his Cassock, they stopped in their tracks and watched him. How awesome!

For me, I will not accept anything other than those Orders who wear a full habit. It is such an honor to be chosen by God - why would I want to hide it? Yes, I may be ostracized some day because of it, but look at Christ. Can I ask any less? Can I accept anything less than what He did for me?

Of course, one thing I will miss (because we Sisters don't get to 'dress down') is my blue jeans & black jeans. But then I think of Who I'm giving them up for....
Lillian Marie