“We’re in the habit of making a difference!” This quote from an older Sister of Charity of Cincinnati appears in this month’s edition of E-Voc. It seems entirely appropriate to offer this as an indication of what these sisters are doing year round to promote vocation awareness among various branches of the Vincentian Family.
“Don’t just wear it! Live it!” reads the billboard advertising a brand of western clothing. Kind of catchy – or at least it caught my eye as I drove to town. Instead of boots and belts, my imagination conjured up religious apparel. First I thought of how irritated I get when people wear rosaries as necklaces. My immediate judgment is that they probably don’t even know the Hail Mary!
Then I thought of a recent comment by a customs and border protection agent when we came home from our ministry in Mexico. “You’re nuns? Where’s your habits?” S. Peggy said, “I have lots of habits but not the ones you’re thinking of!” I showed him my Congregational medal after opening the hood of the car so he could be sure we weren’t carrying contraband. Driving away from the port of entry I wished I had remembered the favorite line of one of our older Sisters: “We’re in the habit of making a difference!”
“The deeper reflection here is about the value of an external sign of our religious commitment. The decision to wear a distinctive form of dress as a witness to consecrated life is a highly personal one. It definitely increases public visibility.
‘Being identifiable can also indicate availability to those in need, as does a uniform worn by public servants like police or firefighters. A religious habit may also convey, without words, values of consecrated life such as simplicity, dedication to God, humility, and unity.
“As with many choices in life, however, there are trade-offs. While some people find religious in habit reassuring and approachable, others express an opposite reaction. Particular ministry settings are also less amenable to formal religious garb. One thing is sure: the dress does not indicate the validity or depth of commitment of the one who wears it. With a religious habit or without, the most important decision each day is to “live it.” Whatever your commitment, live the life with integrity and love.