Tuesday, July 8, 2014

We're in the Habit

Imagine this.  A woman just entering monastic life prepares to don a habit for the first time.  She looks at the pieces of fabric folded neatly on a table before her.  Soft veil, long dress, layers of material she has waited to wear.  Her new habit smells like it was dried in the sun and pressed with just a hint of starch.  It carries the scent of the wind.

She picks up the dress and slips it on, sliding it down over the stained orange jumper she wore through the enclosure door.  She lifts the veil onto her head, covering a tattered woolen hat.  The veil snags on her mismatched earrings, but never mind.  She’ll get used to all of this, in time.

Certainly the scene I've just described is ridiculous.  But let us consider this....“Clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12).  I look at these and other virtues and find myself desiring to “wear” them.  Yet if I make deliberate choices to boast as I pretend to be humble, or if I'm cruel even as I write of mercy, I am simply hiding one kind of clothing under another.  I’m applying a layer of veneer.  I am in need of a habit exchange.

Habits are actions acquired over a period of time, with repetition.  

I ask myself:  would I like to cast off lifelong habits of self-seeking in order to let God clothe me in the habit of seeking His will? 

Am I willing to turn in my habit of laziness in exchange for diligence in prayer?  

For me it remains a constant struggle, and I take heart in knowing I am not the only person to have faced it.  “I cannot even understand my own actions,” wrote the apostle Paul.  “I do not do what I want to do but what I hate… what a wretched man I am!  Who can deliver me from this body under the power of death?  All praise to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 8:15-25) 

I pray to cast off my threadbare, tattered vices and see them as the worthless rags they are.  I want to outgrow them, and to - through prayer and practice – develop habits of virtue.

I pray to be clothed in the habits of a cloistered heart.  

“You must lay aside your former way of life, and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire, and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that new man created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth.” (Ephesians 4:22-24). 

"Because you are God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another, forgive whatever grievances you have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.  Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect."  (Colossians 3:12-14)

“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)

"You must put on the armor of God if you are to resist on the evil day; do all that your duty requires, and hold your ground.   Stand fast, with the truth as the belt around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and zeal to propagate the gospel of peace as your footgear.  In all circumstances, hold  faith up before you as your shield, it will help you extinguish the fiery darts of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, the word of God."  (Ephesians 6:13-17)


all paintings on this post in US public domain due to age

For more about 'my habit,' click this line


  1. So pretty! This reminds me of a story a Nun once shared with me. She said that when she unpacked her few undergarments that her mother had packed for her on the day she entered her convent that her mother had tied a single pink silk ribbon around each of the little piles of required undergarments that she was to bring. She said that it was her mothers way of giving her one last feminine, motherly gift. She said after some 50 odd years, and eventually losing her mother, she remembers this tender moment with great love!

    1. Lindy, what a beautiful story. Such a tender, loving gesture. I can imagine the mother tying those silk ribbons, probably with tears in her eyes, her heart bursting with love. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  2. Wonderful post, Nancy! So much in there to meditate on....all those virtues! They are truly the "habit" Jesus loves. I wish there were virtue "pills" we could just swallow...sort of like spiritual vitamins, and within 30 minutes, we'd be so patient and meek and humble, etc. Wouldn't that be wonderful? :) But, it's much better this way. We have to do it out of love for Him. xoxo

    1. Virtue pills! Oh yes, I'll take a hundred bottles please!!! :) But you're right - it is better this way. It is not done FOR us this way - we must battle our natures every day out of love for Him.