There is much that one can say about clothing, all throughout the ages. What we wear speaks very clearly about who we are, what we think, and what we believe in. All one has to do is cast a cursory glance around town to determine the values and morals of the area, and basically to discover what it is that the people actually do worship. Is it flaunting of self, sex, prestige, power, wealth, sports, music, celebrities, pleasures or modesty, respect of self and others, dignity as child of God? One can conduct the same survey in Church. What does the attire of those attending say?
As Sisters of Divine Grace we choose to wear clothing that speaks of our witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom we are Consecrated and Whom we have taken as Spouse. Traditionally, women religious have worn a type of garb that sets them apart from others, rendering them recognizable as one who has forsaken much of this life in order to be devoted to God and the life to come.
Every piece of our attire, our “habit,” carries meaning and is donned with a special prayer which invites us to to draw our minds and hearts to God. We wear our habits for all activities in our day, having forsaken convenience, personal preferences and fashion, as it is such a beautiful symbol of total Consecration to our Beloved.
Our collar is a symbol of the yoke of the Lord which we have freely placed on ourselves, surrendering totally to Him and allowing Him to lead us. We reflect on the Scripture from Matthew:
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Mt 11:28-30 )
We daily renew this pledge with our Collar Clothing Prayer:
Lord, lead me along the path that pleases You!
The dress of our habit is a simple, loose, A-line shift that is belted at the waist, generally having long sleeves.
Our Dress Clothing Prayer is from Isaiah:
I rejoice heartily in the Lord,
In my God is the joy of my soul;
For he has clothed me with a robe of salvation,
And wrapped me in a mantel of justice,
Like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
Like a bride bedecked with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)
The scapular is placed over the head and hangs slightly shorter than the dress. It is belted on the sides. Typically, a scapular is worn for protection, as with the small brown scapular worn to invoke the protection of the Blessed Mother. Our scapular, too, is a symbol of Mary's protection.
Our Scapular Clothing Prayer: Mother Mary, cover me with the mantle of your love and protection. Transform me into the likeness of your Son, Who is love and mercy.
The style of crucifix worn by our professed Sisters was common in religious life for many decades. As the Lord's spouse, we proclaim His death and resurrection with boldness, and carry Him both within and on the outside of our hearts.
Prior to vows a Sister wears the Good Shepherd cross designed by Pope Francis, which speaks so beautifully to our ministry with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
Our Crucifix Clothing Prayer:
For you Lord, save souls. Jesus, I trust in you.
Donning the veil renders the habit complete. The placement of the veil so as to cover the Sister's hair is a profound act of love and surrender, one which daily engages her heart so that it flutters.
Throughout the ages, until recently in Western culture and still practiced in some cultures, the covering of a woman's hair, her most renowned feature, has been steeped in meaning and symbolism. For us, it is a gesture of undivided love for our Spouse, evident in our Veil Clothing Prayer: Jesus, You are my only love.