Solemn Closing of the Jubilee Year of the New Habit
Happy feast of St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows! Today is always a special feast for us Passionists and especially for our novitiate dedicated to St. Gabriel. This year it is a particularly momentous occasion for the sisters who work in our cloth room: today marks the close of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of the New Habit!
When she noticed at the beginning of 2015 that the year wouldincludethreevestitions, Sr. Cecilia Maria (the cloth room’s primary seamstress) decided to celebrate all the habit-making on the horizon by declaring an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of the New Habit for the monastery cloth room. It began on Jan. 5, 2015, the feast of our Passionist St. Charles of Mount Argus, two days before we fitted then-postulant Elizabeth for her new habits (and the happy anniversary of both Sr. Cecilia Maria and Sr. Lucia Marie’s entrances).
Little did Sister realize how extraordinary this jubilee year would be! As you can see from the official Jubilee Poster, the cloth room has produced 22 habits during these 13 months, with two more in-process. Apparently everyone’s habits wore out at once!
Although each habit is tailor fitted to its nun, only eleven of the ones made this year were brand-new-cut-from-the-bolt habits. The others were re-made from hand-me-downs which still had a lot of “wear” left to them, but for various reasons had been turned in by their original wearers. As we live our vow of poverty, we try to conserve and re-use as much as we can, and this includes our apparel! Such re-making provides the cloth room Sisters with many opportunities for creativity (and seam-ripping…).
Normally, each nun begins her habit-wearing days with four habits:
- a “best” habit, reserved for Christmas, Easter, and other special occasions
- an “everyday good” habit, worn for Mass, the principal Hours of the liturgy, and any occasions of contact with externs
- an “everyday work” habit, worn for… everyday work
- an “outdoor” habit, often made of gray material or a very old and faded work habit, worn for dirty/heavy work, whether indoor or outdoor
There is a monastic art form to making our habits last as long as possible! We use an array of aprons to protect them as we work and recreate, and one quickly learns how to roll sleeves, tuck rosaries into belts, and pin up skirts to prevent snags and holes from wearing. We also try to prevent the sun from bleaching out our best habits (hence the gray outdoor material!).
St. Gabriel’s day is a fitting one to celebrate Passionist habits. He was so devoted to the holy habit that even when he was bedridden and dying of tuberculosis, he begged not to have to take it off. He desired to die clothed in the garment that symbolizes our love for and union with Christ Crucified, to enter the heavenly wedding feast wearing the bridal garment that proclaims to the world that we belong to Jesus.
St. Gabriel was also known for his devotion to holy poverty, which is wonderfully illustrated by a little story from his own days working in the cloth room. He never wanted to waste any thread, so he would carefully use every last inch of every piece of thread. As anyone who has tried it knows, this meant that he spent a lot of time threading and re-threading the needle, as the tiny piece of thread kept pulling out of the eye as he sewed. Finally, his saintly director reminded him that his vow of poverty extended to time as well as to physical goods and, in this case, he was wasting more time than he was saving thread! As we work in the cloth room, we also try to keep in mind our Holy Founder’s maxim that doing God’s will means doing what He wills, as He wills it, and as long as He wills it.
We leave you with a photo of our jubilant novices, the happy reason for this Jubilee Year, gathered around the statue of St. Gabriel which stands in our novitiate and displaying all 13 of their holy habits.