Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Catholic Sisters in America Exhibit

In this week's Catholic Standard, we read an article about an exhibit at the Smithsonian International Gallery on Catholic Sisters in America.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). You may have read about them here, but much more on them has been covered on Fr. Z's blog.

The author, Laura Wright, says the following:

Many of the older photographs depict sisters wearing habits, while the majority of the modern-day sisters are not wearing a habit. This is potentially misleading because of the large number of women religious who still don the habit.

How true this is and a good insight (congrats Ms. Wright).

The article goes on to say that Sr. Mary Dacy (former President of LCWR) stated "that the same number of people think the habit made it difficult to relate with the sisters." In addition, she later states that "the exhibit will help people realize some sisters don't wear habits anymore."

That is because most of the membership of LCWR is composed of sisters who do not wear habits. In fact, many of them do not even wear a religious symbol on their clothing. Further, many of the LCWR orders are not growing. The majority are shrinking. It is the orders who wear habits which are increasing. (Yes, it is not because of the habits but something much more.)

In fact, whenver I see a sister in a habit, I always make it a point of going over and asking if they are in need of assistance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Uhhm. Cough cough. Concerning religious orders such as the Sisters of Saint Joseph, does anyone at the Smithsonian know what those black habits actually were?

ANS: They were French widow gowns. Plus, there was more than one style of them, being that France was multicultural. The point to wearing the habit was to show that the professed religious was dead to that which is worldly. That is why Jesuits wore black.

Mention was made that a former President of LCWR said that it was difficult relating to nuns in habits. Uhm, is not difficult relating to a widow, nor those who wore the widow gown.

After Vatican II, nuns starting wearing gauche polyester. They looked like office administrators, receptionists, and/or secretaries. Nothing mystical looking about that. In fact, they were hard to relate to, because secretaries and receptionists are the ones who chase unscheduled visitors out of offices, like little Wagnerian battle axes.

A person dressed like a widow, on the other hand, attracts a sense of compassion.

One more thing. This regards the claim that the habits were too bulky and oppressive to wear:

Europe went through the mini ice age between 1300 and 1850 (approx.) The Atlantic Ice Pack began to grow in the late 13th Century. Then, by 1315, there was that seven year famine that only hit the northern countries. The coldest period of that mini ice age was between the 1560s and 1730s. And the end of that era didn't occur till around 1850. In fact, the Little Flower wrote about shivering in her room during winter, and she lived in the late 1800s.

So, wearing those habits during that long era was not the result of this so-called Catholic Guilt and Repression. It was a matter of common sense.