In her piece today, Elizabeth Scalia explores the topic of habited vs. unhabited nuns. She highlighted the Cenacle Sisters and the Little Sisters of the Poor as examples of the difference:
Perfectae Caritatis never said “abandon the habit,” but left it to each community to interpret their mission and determine their dress-needs accordingly. For some that meant shedding the habit, which had become an anachronistic reflection of what had been the “ordinary” wardrobe of a foundress. As a Cenacle Sister once explained to me, the pleated headpiece and bonnet they wore until the mid-1960s had nothing to do with “custody of the eyes” as some might imagine, but was simply a traditional reflection of what Couderc and her secular contemporaries wore. Their purple capes were designed not with a mind to penance, but because the abundant local flora of Lalouvesc allowed for the plentiful weaving of purple cloth. For these sisters, whose charism is all about retreat-giving, hospitality and spiritual direction, it made a great deal of sense for them to abandon such outmoded garb, which would almost seem pretentious, given their work.
Seeing a habited nun in public gives comforting witness to the faith, but is it really necessary in our time? Sure, the Little Sisters of the Poor should to wear them to go begging, but do the Cenacle Sisters need to wear them when everyone at their retreat knows who they are? We would like to ask: