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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Clothes call

MY ARTICLE ON CASSOCKS in MK news caused only minor murmurings, mostly positive. My main point was that wearing a cassock should be an "option" when deemed "appropriate".

There's the rub. Word now comes that one of our sems wore his cassock to the Sisters' oath ceremony and they were none too pleased. The interpretation was that it detracted from the Sisters, as if to say, "Look at me, I'm special."

But that is conjecture. I do not think that was the man's intention. Was it appropriate? When, as I mentioned in my article on cassocks, several men from other communities wore their respective habits at the Maryknoll ordination, I know of no one who thought they were upstaging Stephen. I thought it was cool. But maybe this is a guy thing.

For me, for example, if I invite Buddhists to a Maryknoll celebration, I would be honored and flattered if they showed up in their saffron robes---and disappointed if they wore street clothes such as Maryknollers are wont to wear. They honor us by wearing the best clothing their religion affords. Religious clothing directs attention to the transcendent, IMO.

Secular tradition states only the bride wears white at her wedding. But if she decides on another color, does that still preclude other women from wearing white? If you drop dead and I wear red to your funeral, should I be upset if other mourners wear black? (If you missed the "Moonstruck" reference, I apologize.")

The MK Sisters have every right to wear whatever clothing they choose. At issue is the feminism vs. patriarchy struggle, the female vs. male dynamic and the post- vs. pre-Vatican II mentalities. Not to mention personality differences. And I, for my part, would never think of showing up at one of their functions wearing a cassock, for all the above mentioned reasons and also because my titanium athletic supporter is still at the shop.

Clothes, uniforms and habits are symbols and symbols are important. Street clothes say you are one of the people and do not want to stand out from the crowd. Cassocks and habits say you dedicate your life to God and invite people to "lift up their hearts". Now, if EVERYONE is wearing cassocks, I guess if you wanted to stand out you'd wear street clothes. And if a Maryknoll Sister showed up at one of our ceremonies in a white wedding dress, I guess I would not be so much upset as confused.

1 comment:

  1. This weekend, we were privileged to have two members of the Friars of the Reformation and two members of the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word at Fathers & Brothers Center House. Their desire to be in full habit raised not one eyebrow here at the MF&B Center. I have always been of the opinion that if one wishes to wear to wear distinctive clothing befitting one's station in life that should be encouraged - as should those who wish not to wear such distinctive clothing. To my mind, it's all about the size of the tent which one wishes to occupy. And - NOT FOR NOTHIN'- when did it become more acceptable to wear shorts and flip-flops to Mass over wearing distinctive religious grab?! If a group of firefighters came to a Mass at Maryknoll wearing their dress uniforms, would we excoriate them? Of course not! We would honored. Why is it less of an honor when our own wear their respective 'uniforms'?