| A Sister of Providence wearing the traditional habit in the 1950's.|
That little girl on the right could have been me!
I am speaking here of two issues that are of particular sadness to me, both of which have changed the landscape of daily Catholic life. First, I miss seeing the Sisters in their habits. The nuns are an essential part of the Faith -- they have educated generations of children, nursed the sick, countless other services, all without personal gain and with utmost dedication. I miss being able to recognize them. I never felt any objection to the habits being modernized ... the long flowing skirts and some of the larger coifs limit movement and side-vision, and are certainly not conducive to driving or other modern activities that did not exist when the style of dress of another era was worn. But why were they discarded altogether? Every piece of a nun's habit symbolized something about the life and love of Christ. I mean absolutely no disrespect to nuns today ... they are just as dedicated and holy as their elder sisters, but it is sad that you can't tell a nun from any other woman on the street, to say "Good morning, Sister" and feel that simple reminder of service to God. Some orders of enclosed nuns do wear the habit, but we do not see them unless we go to their monasteries. Most active orders of nuns wear completely secular dress, with only a small cross to identify them. I too wear a small cross, as do many other Catholic women, and we are not Sisters. That is a sadly lacking type of identification for nuns.
Traditional habits of different orders of nuns:
|The traditional habit|
of the Dominican Sisters
|This is St. Bernadette Soubirous|
in the habit of the Sisters of Nev'ers
Newer habits that retain the look of a nun, but with modern features -- great idea:
|Nursing nuns with modern habits|
which identify them but allow complete
freedom of movement for their daily work
|Modern habit just right for a hot climate!|
|The old and the new -- I love this sweet picture|
The second change is one that I personally feel removed an important part of Catholic identity. Mass is still Mass, and always will be, but I miss the beauty and distinction of the Latin language that was part of Catholic worship for centuries. Latin was the great equalizer. You could go into any Catholic Church in any part of the world and Mass was the same there as at home. You knew just what was being said and were comfortable. Now, what was meant to be a decision that would make everyone feel easy in their own language, has really split us apart. For instance, most parishes here in Indianapolis have Masses in English and in Spanish. It sounds nice, but it seems to me that it results in what is essentially two parish families, with too little cross-over in community life. With the Latin Mass, we all went to Mass together, whatever personal language we spoke. Gathering after mass, we would have a chance to get to know one another, to learn to communicate by putting ourselves out, become educated enough to start with simple hellos and go from there. Perhaps I have an optimistic viewpoint about that, but after all, it is a Christian's duty to be open to friendship within a parish, surely a better system than we have now.
In its understandable desire for the sake of ecumenical unity with other Christians, I believe that the Church has discarded essental aspects, kind of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There are other ways to practice unity without losing our Catholic identity. To my mind, our Sisters as a recognizable human quotient of the Church, and the ancient language of the Mass, are two definitive aspects of Catholicism, the loss of which is a great loss for us.