Shock and Awe: Wearing the Habit to School

I made the decision to wear my habit to class at St. Xavier University today. It's only 10AM, but so the impact has had as much to do with the others as it has with me.

Initially I had weird feelings about wearing my habit to school. There were enough issues I was dealing with: being older and returning, being around an environment that was almost a different culture, and learning to integrate a school schedule with my prayer and ministry schedule. Figuring out whether or not I was going to wear the habit was another issue I didn't think I had time to reflect upon.

I also have issues with the habit being used as a means for self-promotion. I've experienced others who use their religious dress as a means of advertisement, self-promotion, even as a way of giving some sense of validity in what they say. My understanding of being a Capuchin Franciscan is to not see myself as "above" anyone else. Wearing the habit to school seemed like a selfish and attention-getting practice. I view my habit as something important to my life, not a costume to evoke reactions.

So my decision to wear my habit came as a surprise, but I think it came from a place of wanting to be comfortable at school. Unfortunately school is still the same: people walk looking down or into their cell phones, they wear ear-buds to block out the noise of others, and they wear blank expressions on their faces. I don't think it's ill-intention, but it's the first week of school and people are out of their element just like me.

So as a way to be comfortable with the current school surroundings, the thought of wearing my habit made sense. While I have the same sense of anxiety and shyness as most people in unfamiliar surroundings, I am okay with people staring at perplexed.

Since I've been here, I've gotten a lot more looks than usual. The point is not for the looks, however. I catch a lot of people staring, and use it as an opportunity to simply smile and say "Hi." Even as I write this, I can see someone over my shoulder staring at me. In a weird way, I'm okay with it.

But perhaps the best part is that I'm not becoming the same type of person: walking with my head down with ear-buds in my ear. That is not the person I want to be, nor is it the person I feel was called to live this life.

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4 Response to Shock and Awe: Wearing the Habit to School

August 27, 2010 at 12:22 PM

Dear Brother, I totally agree with you. I remember the first time I wore my habit to class, it sort of felt weird, but then I realized that it was a witness to the life I had chose, as a black habit it meant that I was dead to the world and that also the habit meant that I had given my life in the service of others. Bless you my friend!

Dom Michel Joseph, OSB

August 27, 2010 at 5:24 PM

I think wearing the habit can be a very good witness and it can even be a source for evangelizing and making conversation. I think it was the first time I visited St. Clares Fr. John had Todd Wieschowski take me to Xavier to show me around. We stopped at a little place in the school to get a sandwich for lunch and there was a lady there also getting lunch and because Todd was wearing his habit we got into a very good conversation. She wasnt Catholic so she asked what the "robe" was for and then eventually they talked about the similarities of being married like she was and then his relationship to the church and living in community. It was a great experience.

August 27, 2010 at 9:46 PM

But isn't Xavier a Catholic college? Aren't there others in habit? It would be different if you were at the public university. I'm not sure I'd wear it there. I brought a Dominican student brother out for lunch in a restaurant where there are not any religious in habit for miles. A few days later, a friend asked me what kind of Muslim I was having lunch with--so what kind of Christian witness is that? In fact, it would drive people away.

September 7, 2010 at 6:24 AM

Greetings Brother...I remember awhile ago we had a discussion in regards to the clergy and religious wearing their clericals/habits out in the open. It's awesome that you are wearing your habit out in the open...not showing off and saying to everyone "hey hey I'm a friar" but witnessing to Catholics and non-Catholics out there about the type of life you live. Who knows...people may start inquiring you about the life you live and be interested bout it many men and women out there are still trying to find their purpose in their lives...

God bless,
Ian Ibana