What’s up with Habits?

The habits are the most visible sign of what we’re up to. Adopting these raises very real questions about what it means to be marked as visibly religious in the world. What activities that seemed anonymous and invisible will suddenly become visible? Does dressing in this way make our work easier or more difficult? How does it feel, and what does it change? The habit is traditionally given at the novitiate, not at the time of first vows, because wearing the habit is among the things being tested and discerned during this time.

Our habits are a visible sign that calls us to dedication, humility, and pragmatism. They are designed to be functional and comfortable work clothes and are made from durable unbleached linen. They act as a recognizable “uniform,” although they reflect an attitude of unity rather than uniformity. In accordance with our community spirit of gender-expansiveness, Gregory has chosen to adopt a veil (a traditional element of women’s habits), whereas Marta has opted for a hood (a traditional element of men’s habits).

Our habits are not intended to enforce a kind of modesty that demands hiding the body—this feels important to say in an era in which women’s bodily autonomy is increasingly threatened. Rather, their simplicity calls us to a truly biblical modesty and humility: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matt. 6:25).

We are immensely grateful to Judith Schoonmaker, AKA Marta’s mother, who holds a BFA in Fashion Design from Pratt Institute. Judy worked with us to design the habits and produced them in her workshop in Marlborough, NY. As we wear them, we are surrounded not only by a great cloud of witnesses to the religious life, but also by the love and support of our family and friends.