20 May 2014

Wearing Habits: Helpful to Prayer?

[[Dear Sister, you once wrote, "A habit is unnecessary and superfluous apart from the assumption of such rights and obligations; it is for this reason they are not usually approved apart from admission to vows." I think that I pray better when I am wearing a habit of some sort. No, I am not publicly professed but I had one made and I really feel more comfortable when I pray in it.You must know what I mean!  Don't you feel more comfortable praying in your habit? ]]

I suspect this may be the shortest blog post ever but the answer is simply NO. I honestly have no idea what you mean. So long as I am physically comfortable (i.e., warm enough, not constricted, etc) what I am wearing is of no consequence at all.

But let me say a bit about prayer and how what you describe doing strikes me. To be frank (and pardon me for this) I believe you are fooling yourself and making of prayer something marked by pretense. I also think you would do well to speak with someone you know and trust about this practice, especially someone who does spiritual direction. Not least you need to understand (and perhaps work through) why you are comfortable when dressed one way but not so comfortable in prayer otherwise. You see prayer is simply being who we truly are before and with God. If who we are involves the right and obligation to wear a habit then fine; if it does not, then wearing one before God is pretense --- that is, one is pretending to something one has no right to; one is pretending to be someone one is not.

Because I have been given the right (and privilege) as well as accepted the obligation of and responsibilities associated with wearing a habit --- and because I wear it routinely --- yes, I am entirely comfortable praying  in it. However, I am equally comfortable praying in jeans and a work tunic, pajamas, or even (for some forms of prayer anyway!) naked in the shower. In other words, I am comfortable in my own skin before and in the power of God. You must be yourself in prayer. Nothing else makes sense. Nothing else is truly reverent or really open to God. Anything else is an offense to the God of Truth who truly accepts us as we are and loves us into wholeness. Anything else is contrary to our being  humble persons who are and allow ourselves to be wholly dependent upon the mercy of God. Playing dress up in a habit is contrary to humility which is a loving form of truthfulness; neither is it the basis for prayer to or empowered by the God who makes all things true.

By the way, what you might like to do instead of dressing up in a religious habit is to use a prayer garment. I do not mean a cowl, for instance (this is associated with solemn public profession and monastic or eremitical life), but many people use prayer shawls or garments like a Jewish "Tallit" .  Meanwhile, thank you for your question. It is actually a significant one and I am truly grateful you asked it.