Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Tuesday 27 July |
Saint of the Day: St. Simeon Sylites
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Why do nuns (and others in religious life) wear habits?

Pope Francis Canonization Mass of Junipero Serra

SAMUEL CORUM | ANADOLU AGENCY | ANADOLU AGENCY VIA AFP

Philip Kosloski - published on 07/09/20

Many members of religious communities wear habits as an outward sign of their consecration to God and their belonging to an order.

Many Catholic nuns and other religious (monks, friars, sisters, brothers, priests, etc.) can be seen wearing a particular set of clothing called a habit. One of the most common questions is, “Why do they wear it?”




Read more:
Sisters, nuns, aspirants, postulants, novices: What does it all mean?

Habits have developed over the centuries, but have always been used as an outward sign of a religious’ consecration to God.

St. John Paul II affirmed this purpose of the habit in his apostolic exhortation, Vita consecrata.

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.

According to many traditions, these habits are frequently given to the founder of the religious order through a private revelation. For example, the Nashville Dominicans explain, “Bl. Jordan of Saxony recounts that the Queen of Heaven herself appeared to Reginald to heal him and, at the same time, revealed to him the signal element of the Dominican habit: the scapular. As Dominic had been a Canon of St. Augustine, the early brothers made that traditional tunic their habit. This practice was altered as a result of Reginald’s vision, and the addition of the full length white scapular has been indicative of the Dominican habit ever since.”

While the habits of religious orders have frequently changed over the years, the essence of the habit is to be simple, yet distinctive, as St. John Paul II notes.

Where valid reasons of their apostolate call for it, Religious, in conformity with the norms of their Institute, may also dress in a simple and modest manner, with an appropriate symbol, in such a way that their consecration is recognizable. Institutes which from their origin or by provision of their Constitutions do not have a specific habit should ensure that the dress of their members corresponds in dignity and simplicity to the nature of their vocation.

This is why there is not a single type of habit, but a myriad of habits to denote the thousands of religious around the world. Make sure to visit the slideshow below, which includes a guide to recognizing the many different habits of several monastic congregations. 

Tags:
CatechismVocation
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
morning
Philip Kosloski
This morning prayer is easy to memorize
2
Daniel Esparza
5 Curious things you might not know about Catholicism
3
Joachim and Anne
Philip Kosloski
Did Jesus know his grandparents?
4
ORGAN
J-P Mauro
Reconstructing a 12th-century pipe organ discovered in the Holy L...
5
SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been know...
6
BABCIA Z WNUKAMI
Cerith Gardiner
5 Ways grandparents impact our lives for the better
7
WOMAN,FACE,MASK
Cecilia Pigg
Simplify your life and honor your body with these 5 natural perso...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.