Monday, April 30, 2012

The Language of Habits

Over the years, I've heard numerous discussions about habits.  Speaking as a layperson who has never had the opportunity to wear one, I offer my humble perspective.  Which is:  I personally find a habit to be a striking witness.  

It seems an external thing, and of course it is.  But a habit speaks volumes to the world around.  And I wonder: could it even speak to those who wear it day after day?  After all, we humans are affected by symbols, probably at levels beyond what can be discussed in words.

What does a habit say to me when I see it?  "I have found God to be worth the gift of my whole life," it tells me. "Nothing on earth is as important as He."

I think back to once when I'd been visiting a convent.  I was escorted to the street by a Sister wearing the same graceful habit her foundress wore in the 1600s.  As I got into my car, a gentleman passed by on the sidewalk and saw Sister across the fence.  He spoke to her, then stopped to talk.  Sister graciously stood to chat with this man (someone she had apparently never met), and as I left I heard the man say he was a former Catholic.  This gentleman seemed to be launching into a particularly important discussion - perhaps one which would affect him long after he walked on. Yet the meeting would have not taken place had this woman not been clearly identifiable as “Sister.” 

As a cloistered heart, I wear - and speak - the language of habits.  We've talked of this before in these pages.  To look at our original post on this, click on this line.

In the meantime, today I'm checking on the condition of my habits.  Am I in the habit of responding to persons and situations with love, kindness, generosity of spirit?  Am I in the habit of spending time with God in prayer?  May God clothe me ... and allow me to be seen.... in the habits of a cloistered heart.

“Do you see how little it takes to become a saint?  All that is necessary is acquiring the habit of wanting to do the will of God at all times.” (St. Vincent de Paul)

“Clothe me, O eternal Truth, clothe me with yourself, that I may run my mortal course with true obedience and the light of holy faith…” (St. Catherine of Siena)

“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 mantle of justice.” (Isaiah 61:10)

(Herbert James Draper painting US public domain)

© 2012 Nancy Shuman