Nuns Should Wear Habits
By 'A Concerned Catholic Lay Woman'
Summary: Some reasons nuns should wear habits
Keywords: Nun, Nuns, Sister, Sisters, 'Bride of Christ', Habits,
Religious Orders, Community, Consecration, Vows, Vocation, Female
Religious, Women Religious, Clothes, Clothing, Attire, Apparel,
Garments, Garb, Proper Appearance, Proper Dress, Modest Dress,
Dignified Dress, Appropriate Dress, Customary Dress, Ensemble,
Outfit, 'Uniform', Street Clothes, Plainclothes, 'Stealthy Nuns',
Traditional Habits, Modernism, Novelty, Novelties, Modesty,
Poverty, Liberal, Liberalism, Tradition, Symbolism
I join the many others who believe that nuns
should wear traditional habits at all times (of course excluding bathing
and such). Here are some of my reasons...
1. The habit sets nuns apart from others - This distinction is
appropriate because nuns are set apart from the world by being brides of
2. The habit makes nuns easily identifiable in public or private -
In many walks of life, persons are expected to 'dress the part' in
order to be identified as such by other parties (e.g. firemen,
policemen, mechanics, football players, soldiers, nurses, etc). Those
who do not wear the proper attire may be seen as 'outsiders'. They may
not be easily accepted (or may not be accepted at all) as part of the
3. Wearing of habits is not worldly - Non-worldliness is
appropriate for these very special women - these brides of Christ - who
should be 'other-worldly' and not worldly. As Pope Pius XII once said,
"The very habit which you wear, reminds you that you should live not to
the world, but to God."
4. Wearing of habits is modest - Unfortunately, some 'plain
clothes nuns' have been seen wearing immodest clothing, even in public.
It is especially scandalous for brides of Christ to dress in such a
manner. In contrast, traditional habits are always modest.
5. The habit inherently evangelizes - The garment is a means of
evangelizing those outside the faith -- souls may inquire into or
research the reason for a nun's special dress, and they may even
6. The habit is a continual profession of a nun's faith -
Everywhere a nun goes in her habit, she publicly professes her faith.
This is certain to win her graces.
7. The habit prevents a nun from the possibility of wearing offensive
clothing - The need for this is clearly demonstrated by 'modern day
stealth nuns' who have scandalously been seen dressed in pants (click
here), low cut
tops, and skirts that might pose a danger of exposure when the wearer
8. Wearing a habit saves time, money and energy - With a
habit, there is no need to waste time & energy shopping around for
clothes. There is no need to search all over for (often rare) modest
clothing. There is no money wasted on buying or maintaining expensive or
trendy clothes either (in fact, habits have been known to symbolize
poverty). With a habit, the bride of Christ is spared all together from
shopping for clothes and always has the perfect thing to wear. This
saves time, money, and energy.
9. Wearing of a habit helps vocations - How many times I have
read that women's religious orders which still wear habits are
'flourishing', while those that do not wear habits are dying off! Many
(smart) young women wouldn't even consider entering a religious order
that rejects traditional habits. Good for them.
10. A nun wearing a habit is more likely to be treated with respect -
God fearing people typically respect nuns dressed in habits. 'Plain
clothes nuns' are not likely to receive similar respect from the first
moment as others cannot immediately identify them as nuns. Not only is
the respectful treatment of a nun appropriate & necessary, but it is
good for both parties.
11. Wearing of a habit prevents men from being drawn into lust -
In contrast, a nun without a habit may risk becoming the object of a
man's lust. Could anything be more inappropriate for a bride of Christ?
12. Wearing of a habit helps to show the Church & the world that the
nun is not modernist - As
is a dangerous plague on the
Church that has been condemned by popes, a good nun should want to show
the Church & and the world that she is not a part of this terrible
plague by wearing a traditional habit.
13. A habit is a daily, even hourly, reminder of a nun's vocation -
A habit-wearing ("habited") nun only has to look down, or in the mirror, to be reminded of
her awesome vocation. It may also help her to better live out her
vocation when she is reminded of it so frequently by her own dress.
14. Wearing of a habit shows that the nun puts God first - With a
habit, it is clear that her life is devoted to God and that God is first
and foremost in her world. Many people respect that and even learn from
15. Wearing of a habit may make a nun's religious order more well
known & successful - Good nuns wearing distinctive habits can help
with 'public relations' for their order, inspire donations to their
order, and may even inspire vocations to their order.
16. When a nun wears a habit, she may be automatically seen as an
ambassador of God - Such a sentiment can prove quite important for
people that the nun comes in contact with (including students, patients,
elderly, etc.). There is no real, equivalent way to automatically
reproduce the sentiment with a 'plainclothes nun'.
17. A nun's wearing of a habit is dignified and proper - A nun's
lack of a habit seems inherently undignified and improper. Sadly, nuns'
improper secular dress may also be accompanied by improper actions (e.g.
'plainclothes-wearing social-justice nuns' holding signs promoting
18. The wearing of a habit shows that a nun is set apart from others
- Besides actually setting her apart from others, a habit SHOWS she
is set apart from others. It is fitting that a bride of Christ should be
clearly identifiable as such.
19. Wearing of a habit is an act of humility - This humble
attitude - often mentioned favorably in scripture (e.g. Mt. 18:4, Mt.
23:12, Lk. 18:14, Eph. 4:1-2, Col. 3:12, Jms. 4:6, 1 Pt. 3:8, 1 Pt.
5:5-6, etc.) - should obviously be the desired attitude of nuns.
20. Wearing a habit may be penitential (e.g. if it is less
comfortable than other clothes) - Penance is obviously a good thing
for Catholics who want to become holy, as nuns should want to be. Nuns
also typically want to help others, so this gives them something to
offer up for the good of others' souls.
21. The wearing of traditional habits may inspire better behavior on
the part of the nun - A woman may forget herself when she is in
'street clothes', whereas a woman in a nun's habit has a continual
reminder in front of her that she is a representative of God. The result
may be that she acts in a more pious & holy manner, with appropriate
gravity of conduct, which is clearly good for her and good for others.
As I see it, if something can't be done in a habit (bathing, medical
issues & such obviously excepted), a nun probably shouldn't be doing it
22. When nuns wear habits, it fosters community in the order -
Unlike nuns in orders that adopt 'street clothes', habited nuns would
not face 'competition' or 'poor taste' issues among members of their
order with regard to their dress or appearance.
23. Nuns in habits remind people about God and their faith - Can
we ever have too many reminders?
24. Nuns wearing habits may inspire fallen away Catholics to return
to the faith - For example, fallen away Catholics familiar with
habited nuns as children may be inspired to return to the faith when
they encounter other habit-wearing nuns as adults.
25. Habits are identifiably Catholic - Shouldn't a Catholic nun
always want to be identifiable as a Catholic?
26. The wearing of habits may inspire others to better behavior -
In some cases, violent crimes may even be avoided as criminals may
change their mind if they see a nun in a habit where they intended to
commit a crime. Even law abiding citizens - Catholics and otherwise -
may be inspired to better behavior by the presence of a habit-wearing
nun. In a sense, wearing a habit is an act of charity to others!
27. Wearing a habit makes a nun look like a nun, whereas not wearing
a habit makes a nun NOT look like a nun - Shouldn't nuns want to
look like nuns? Shouldn't nuns be proud (in a non-sinful sense) of their
28. Wearing a habit helps a nun to be taken seriously as a nun -
I have a hard time taking any 'nun' seriously who won't wear a habit -
and I am not alone. Even good priests may find it difficult to take a
woman without a habit seriously as a nun. She certainly doesn't look
like a nun without a habit.
29. Wearing a habit may prevent a nun from being exposed to sin -
People may act differently when a habited nun is around. For example,
people may hold their tongue if a habited nun is nearby. This prevents
the nun from being exposed to sin and also helps the other person to
30. People may feel closer to God when a habited nun is around -
When a nun wearing a habit is around, people may tend to feel a
closeness to God. These people do not even need to speak to the habited
nun to know that she is Christ's bride. Her being there is enough to
make them feel closer to God.
31. Nuns without habits speak beautifully without saying a word -
There is a deep non-verbal association among the populace concerning
nuns & habits. In fact, when a nun is wearing a habit, no verbal
communication is required to let others know that she is a nun. People
instantly recognize her as a bride of Christ. They know she is Catholic,
has devoted her life to God, and that she should be pious & 'holier'
than the average person. Her presence may inspire people to behave
better, and it may even prompt others to engage in prayer & good works.
All this with no words! Her habit alone conveys the message. Clearly
this is good in general, but the effect may be even more beneficial in
certain situations (e.g. when persons cannot talk, around students,
around the sick, etc.). Even persons who have lost mental faculties can
also be affected. For example, it has been seen that when some dementia
sufferers see nuns in habits, they instinctively start praying the
rosary. In such cases, no verbal communication with them was required
(and it may not have been possible). Yet, the message got through to
them thanks to the nun's habit alone. There is no similar response to
'street clothes wearing nuns'. No one instinctively knows a
'plainclothes nun' is a nun. How could they?
32. Wearing a habit sets a good example of modest dress for women -
Women of today really need this good example & instruction more than
33. Wearing a habit may make a nun more approachable - Good
Catholics may appreciate being able to identify and respectfully
approach a nun in public. Nuns should be appropriately approachable as
their order permits, and their habit may foster this behavior. I do not
agree with those who argue that a habit makes a nun less approachable.
If nuns have street clothes on, who even approaches them because who
even knows they are nuns? And if they are approached, they may not be
approached respectfully and properly because they are not easily
identifiable as nuns. If some people have a problem being around nuns in
habits, these persons may have other issues in their past (e.g. abuse)
that is the real source of the problem, not the habit itself. Even so,
however, such issues should not affect the vast majority of the
population (and therefore for nuns to wear 'street clothes' to
supposedly 'benefit' this very small segment of the population may harm
an even larger segment of the population who would have benefited from
the nuns wearing their traditional habits).
34. Wearing a habit shows a nun is serious about her commitment to
God and to her order - Wearing the habit is also a continual public
sign & affirmation of a nun's lifelong commitment.
35. Wearing a habit is the appropriate, becoming attire for a nun -
Nuns are set apart and should dress appropriately. Remember what Jesus
says about those who do not dress appropriately (see Mt. 22:11-13: "But
when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed
in a wedding garment. He said to him, 'My friend, how is it that you
came in here without a wedding garment?' But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet, and cast
him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding
of teeth.'"). Even Hollywood (no fan of the Catholic Church!) identifies
nuns with habits and sees them as iconic.
36. Wearing a traditional habit may show a nun's rightful adherence
to tradition and her proper rejection of liberal ideals - On the
other hand, if one encounters a 'plain clothes nun', one may rightfully
wonder if she has a liberal agenda that she wants to inflict on the
Church (I think it is very safe to say that 'street clothes wearing
nuns' are closely associated with liberal ideals & agendas). It is
characteristic for nuns with a liberal agenda to reject (or at least
alter) traditional habits. It is also characteristic of those who adopt
novelties to seek more and more novelty as time goes by - even in
matters affecting doctrine (e.g. the adoption of heresies). If a nun
does not dress properly outwardly, what assurance is there that she is
adorned properly interiorly? The facts tell us that 'plainclothes
wearing nuns' are often associated with heterodoxy, whereas nuns in
traditional habits tend to be more orthodox. Please don't get mad at
this statement, just look at the facts.
37. The wearing of a habit may automatically engender trust -
Just like one may almost instinctively trust a firefighter wearing his
uniform, habited nuns may enjoy almost automatic, instant trust.
'Plainclothes nuns' do not enjoy such automatic trust.
38. Wearing of a traditional habit enables a nun to pray properly at
any time - Since a traditional habit prevents bare-headedness,
habits enable proper prayer for nuns at any time. Remember that women's
heads should be covered for prayer like St. Paul says in the bible in 1 Cor. 11:5-10
(emphasis added): "BUT ANY WOMAN WHO PRAYS OR PROPHESIES WITH HER HEAD
UNVEILED BRINGS SHAME UPON HER HEAD, for it is one and the same thing as
if she had had her head shaved. For if a woman does not have her head
veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off. But if it is shameful for
a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should
wear a veil. A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head,
because he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.
For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; nor was man created
for woman, but woman for man; FOR THIS REASON A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE A SIGN
OF AUTHORITY ON HER HEAD, BECAUSE OF THE ANGELS." Sadly, 'plain clothes
nuns' are not always properly prepared for prayer as their heads are not
covered. Yet, shouldn't nuns always be ready for prayer?
39. The wearing of a habit saves a nun's time as she does not have to
spend hours deciding on and preparing outfits & hairstyles, and
maintaining a variety of clothing and accessories - This leaves the
nun more time for prayer and spares her from engaging in various
40. Wearing of a habit is simply the proper thing to do - If you
are a nun, good people will expect you to wear a habit and they may
wonder why if you don't wear a habit (that assumes someone finds out -
somehow - that you are a nun). As a wedding ring may signify marriage to
the general population, a habit makes it clear to others that you are
married (to Christ). Women who purposely leave off their wedding ring
may be up to no good, and women who never wear a wedding ring may have
to regularly tell flirtatious men & other potential suitors that they
are already married. A nun should never find herself in a similar
situation! A nun's habit should tell the world that she is already
married to Christ.
41. Nuns without habits don't seem like real nuns - For many of
us (some priests included), nuns without habits do not seem like real
nuns. In fact, many of us have a hard time accepting 'stealth nuns' as
real nuns. It seems quite legitimate to question a woman's rejection of
the traditional garb of her religious order, her adoption of a worldly
appearance, her presentation to the world without an obvious profession
of faith, her inability to engage in proper prayer at any moment of the
day, etc. If a woman is consecrated to God, she should look like it!
42. When habits aren't worn, damage can be done (or at least much
good can be lost) - Failure to wear a habit can result in more sin
(as persons don't know a nun is present and act differently then they
would if they knew a nun was there). It can result in worse behavior on
the part of the nun (who may fail to act the part she is not dressed
for). It can promote an unfortunate 'spirit of novelty' that is contrary
to doctrine & good Catholic morals. It can result in lost graces (e.g.
from her failure to continually profess the faith), lost conversions (as
her street clothes no longer evangelize people or inspire them to return
to the Church), and fewer prayers & good works (e.g. as her 'stealthy'
appearance no longer inspires those actions). It may assist in the
demise of her religious order (as fewer young women join religious
orders without habits) and may even have negative eternal consequences
for souls. As I see it, wearing plainclothes brings NO real benefit to
nuns or to others, despite objections that are sometimes made (typically
by liberals). In fact, reasons put forth not to wear habits can seem
misguided, shallow, or simply false when they are subject to critical
While it is true that clothes by themselves don't
make the nun, they are still very important and can either help or hurt
both the nun and others. The ill-advised rejection (or change) of
traditional habits since the 1960's is just one more of those
unfortunate occurrences that have followed in the wake of Vatican II
that has clearly harmed the Church. This is simply a fact that the
statistics bear out.
The bottom line: If you are going to be a nun,
please dress the part at all times. You are very special and should be
seen as such. Do not dress in a way that is 'alien to your dignity'. Do
not let your good work be discredited by improper dress or lose the good
that proper dress would bring. Dressing in a traditional habit - a clear
sign of your consecration - is good for yourself and for others. Thank
you for your service to the Church. May God always bless you.
'A Concerned Catholic Lay Woman'
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