April 05, 2012

Suitable habits for Benedictine monks and nuns

[I first published this post several years ago.  It's still drawing questions and comments.]


A business suit consists of several items of clothing.

In the religious orders, our uniform or suit is called a “habit”.

The Order of St. Benedict (who died in A.D. 547) is the oldest religious order in the Church. From before A.D. 840 until shortly after A.D. 1200, there was no other religious life in the Church except the monks and nuns who lived by the regulations of St. Benedict.

The Benedictine habit is the forerunner of the habits of most religious orders that have come into being.

For the most part, the traditional Benedictine habit is simpler and has fewer elements than the habits of most other religious orders, especially those of women.

Here are the parts of the Benedictine habit. (You can click on the pictures to see larger versions.)

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TUNICThe tunic is black, loose and long, covering the wrists, ankles and the base of the neck. On top of the tunic, at the waist, goes the cincture (belt)— made of black leather or black cloth. (Benedictines do not use cinctures made of rope or cord like the Franciscans.)

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SCAPULAROver the tunic and the cincture goes the scapular. It was originally an apron for work, but over time it began to be seen as a symbol of the work of the Cross, and was made increasingly longer and worn all the time, not just for work. The scapular is a long panel of cloth with a hole in the middle for the head. It is shoulder-wide, straight-sided, ankle-length and square-cornered. The scapular hangs nearly to the ankles both in front of the body and behind. [The small devotional scapular that many Catholics wear is a symbolic miniature of the full-size scapular that monks and nuns have as part of the habit. The miniature devotional scapular has a front panel and a back panel like the full-sized habit scapular.]

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WIMPLEBenedictine nuns wear a white, cloth wimple— a covering that drapes around the throat, chin, cheeks and head. An extra band of cloth covers the forehead.

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VEILA “novice” is a new Benedictine-in-training who has not yet made vows. Over the wimple, a novice-nun wears a white veil. A nun receives a black veil when she makes vows.


A Benedictine monk has a black hood, instead of a wimple and veil.The modern Benedictine monk’s hood is streamlined, but in past centuries it was much larger.

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CUCULLAAt Mass and at Community Prayer, Benedictines add a formal, black gown, the cuculla over the habit. It has wide, deep, long sleeves, and also usually has broad vertical pleats or folds that hang the full length from the shoulders to the ankles. The cuculla is the ancestor of academic gowns, judicial chamber robes and choir robes.

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Benedictines do not attach or wear a rosary as part of their habit. They also do not normally wear any visible medal, pin, emblem or crucifix. However the superior of a Benedictine monastery (an abbot for monks, an abbess for nuns) wears a pectoral cross on a chain like a bishop.

The abbot, Blessed Columba Marmion;
and St. Scholastica, the twin sister of St. Benedict.


October 03, 2011

The Southern California teenage girl who grew up to wear a pectoral cross

[I first posted this in 2006.  A new comment just came in.]


At St. Walburga Abbey in Colorado, as at all Benedictine monasteries, the nuns weave daily life in and out of the repeating Liturgy of the Hours or “Divine Office”— services of communal prayer occurring throughout the day.

It is a rhythm of daily worship that the early church created— from matins before dawn, through lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers and finally compline just before retiring.

Monks and nuns also observe some time each day in solitary prayer and reading as individuals.

After these priorities of worship and prayer, domestic chores fill out the day at St. Walburga Abbey— feeding cattle, planting crops, cleaning linens, cooking meals, tending to the guests.

Benedictines follow the regulations of St. Benedict— seeking God in worship, prayer, work and community life under a superior.

St. Walburga Abbey's current abbess, Mother Maria-Michael Newe, O.S.B., was born in Norwalk, California, and entered the monastery at age 17 in 1976.

Three nuns from Abtei Sankt Walburg, Eichstätt, Germany, founded St. Walburga Abbey, Colorado, in 1935, originally to serve as one of several possible places of refuge for the Eichstätt Benedictines who realized the threat in Hitler's rise to power.

An abbess of Eichstätt, Mother Augustina Weihermüller, O.S.B., about 1959 ... yes, with pontifical gloves, ring, pectoral cross and crozier!

Read more about the Colorado monastery through the link below.
Click HERE for it.

May 21, 2011

The end of the world as the Church understands it

[I first posted this several years ago.  In light of those who advertised that the world was going to end today, I am re-posting this today.]


Certain Protestants in the late nineteenth century were the first to piece together the idea of a final "rapture." Though related to elements here and there in the New Testament, the notion of a "rapture" as popularized in popular fiction in the last few decades was unheard of in the history of Christianity before the late 1800's.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church presents specific understandings of how the world will come to an end.

I have posted the Catechism's three paragraphs that bear the heading "The Church's Ultimate Trial." The same post has the full texts cited in the footnotes for those three paragraphs.

Read: THE LAST TRIAL OF THE CHURCH
Click HERE for it.

April 27, 2011

It's Wednesday within the Octave of Easter.

In the summer last year, my monastery ordained two priests.  So my turn to preach comes around less frequently.  As a result I post fewer homilies.  My blogging is also minimal.

I've posted the homily I preached at Mass today.
Click HERE for it.

March 29, 2011

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

I've posted the homily I preached at Mass today.
Click HERE for it.

March 07, 2011

Blessed Junipero Serra needs one miracle for him to proceed to canonization.

Pray.
Spread the word.
He founded the Church in California, starting in San Diego.
Read about one of his supporters in San Francisco.
Click HERE for it.

February 28, 2011

Asking the impossible, and making it possible

I've posted the homily I preached at Mass today.
Click HERE for it.