How do you know I am who I am?

That almost sounds like a line from a Dr Seuss book. How do you know I am who I am?

Today I bought a classic Little Golden Book. Nurse Nancy. Retro story and illustrations, from 1952.

I was buying books for Kumon and I just couldn’t reisist buying this picture book for me.

How do we readers, especially younger readers, of this Little Golden book , know that Nancy is a Nurse?

Because she wears a nurse’s uniform. The uniform makes it clear to others that Nancy is a nurse, one to call on for a particular duty, one wth a special vocation or calling from God.

We know who she is, we know of her vocation.

My wedding ring serves a similar role in my life. When I travel for work, it is not unknown for me to go to the bar with other workers, for drinks after conference sessions . We talk. I meet others. We laugh. We have a good time. And I am free to be friendly with members of the opposite sex, and they are free to be friendly with me, to drink and laugh and talk, without misunderstanding, because my wedding ring says it all. Tells of my vocation to marriage and to motherhood.And thus we avoid any ( far fetched, but possible) misunderstanding.

The ring is a visible sign of who I am, of my vocation.

And so today I met a nun. A nun who, unlike Nurse Nancy , unlike this married homeschooling mother, gave no visible indication of her vocation, of being a nun, a religious sister, of being consecrated, of being set apart and living a chaste life for Our Lord.

In fact, Sister wore more makeup, more hair product, more colour than I.

And , frankly, this is misleading. For a nun is espoused to Our Lord, and the wearing of the habit reminds both religious and lay people alike that there is a Heaven, that we are striving for Heaven, that this person has made a commitment, a commitment to Our Lord, to the Church, to a way of life.

A habit is a reminder of who the religious Sister is…first and foremost a nun. A Sister.

And those of you who have seen Elivs Presley’s A Change of Habit, that fun sixties movie with Mary Tyler Moore, are aware of the dangers of nuns foregoing the wearing of the habit. No visible

reminder of consecration can build familiarity and forgetfulness of one’s role and of one’s vocation.

Dr Seuss was right. Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

If you are you, if I am I, the we should not be afraid to let the world know our vocation.

In the words of Pope John Paul II… The Church must always seek to make her presence visible in everyday life, especially in contemporary culture, which is often very secularized and yet sensitive to the language of signs. In this regard the Church has a right to expect a significant contribution from consecrated persons, called as they are in every situation to bear clear witness that they belong to Christ.

Since the habit is a sign of consecration, poverty and membership in a particular Religious family, I join the Fathers of the Synod in strongly recommending to men and women religious that they wear their proper habit, suitably adapted to the conditions of time and place.(Vita Consecrata )

10 thoughts on “How do you know I am who I am?”

  1. We actually saw a priest in clericals last week while shopping – the kids helped with his cart and were so happy to talk to them. The priests I know personally don't wear clericals except for Mass – sad really. A few years ago we spent some time with the Brothers and Sisters of St. John. How nice to see joy-filled young people in full habit.Fr. Sebastian talks about wearing his clericals on an airplane trip here:

  2. Excellent blog post as always!!! As a friar and priest I am so sick of that overused and misunderstood cliche: "Cucullus non facit monachum"!!! Well to that I add, if a habit doesn't make a monk, neither do jeans, or in Sister's case, makeup and dyed hair!!!!

  3. Beate, thank you for the blog link, will check it out. And yes very sad that you don't see many priests in clericals.Father, very true! If what you wear really has no effect on the vocation,( which I question) then why not wear the habit? As my kids say, why become a nun or monk if you dont want to wear the habit?

  4. No one, on meeting my 82 year old cousin, would doubt she was a nun no matter what she was wearing!! And any Catholic in Chicago would flinch at the site of her!!! lol…..she's a fabulous lady–just pretty darned intimidating!! When she got to wear "street clothes" in the late 60s it was made her no less imposing than the black/white wool Benedictine habit of old! Sorry I haven't stopped by much lately! Came by today to see what you're up to!

  5. The girls LOVE Nurse Nancy. Gordon vomits when he has to read it. And they love Little Mommy, too. Sorry, I'm fascinated by the real message of the post but drawn inexorably to the trivial…Pam

  6. I agree totally about clericals and habits. Just one point I have been musing on. My daughter was with the Benedictines for two years. The long totally covering habit and veil was very hot and uncomfortable for Western Sydney conditions. I was thinking that a lighter, more modern habit might be acceptable. It seems sensible while still saying "I am a nun". I know my daughter suffered greatly in the heat, especially when she had to work outside. Tradition versus functionality?

  7. Leonie, I just saw this post. LOVE it!! I am so glad that there are others out there that feel the same as I do! I heard a comment the other day from someone who as upset that another had said that women should come modestly dressed to Mass and that coming in jeans was disrespectful. The comment was that God doesn't care what we wear bu that we're there and loves us no matter what. This made me so sad! Yes, He loves us as we are, but coming to Mass is for God! It is what we give to God and if we can't come r4everently with the absolute belief that we go to honor the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in something other than our street clothes, then, that is sad. Same thing about the nuns in street clothes. We are called to something better! What we wear absolutely refects who we are and what is important to us. I pray for our priests and religious that they all seek to serve Him and be set apart for all of us. Thanks-you for this post, my dear!! Darlene

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