Check out the November 20, 2006, issue of TIME magazine. The article “Today’s Nun Has A Veil—And A Blog” looks at the phenomenon of young women entering convents today and how they are changing “the sisterhood.” I like the diversity of religious life that this article illustrates. There are so many ways to live religious life. Each community has its own charism and unique lifestyle. I am also pleased that more and more religious are getting “wired” … that is hooked up to the Internet, blogs, podcasts, and a variety of technologies to spread the Good News and to tell people about who they are and what they stand for.
In the article, there is a somewhat odd commentary on the wearing of the habit in relation to living the “radical” dimension of religious life. The authors of the article say that the radicalism of living the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in today’s world “is, ironically, embodied by the wearing of the veil.” A quote from Cheryl Reed, author of Unveiled: Inside the Hidden Lives of Nuns, further suggests that women feel like they have given up so much to become a religious that they want to wear the veil and/or habit to show that they are special. While the wearing or not wearing of the veil and traditional habit is certainly a consideration when one enters religious life, I’m not sure that it is the “embodiment” of the radical dimension of religious life.
You don’t have to be around a religious community for long before you realize that the lifestyle is radical — not sleeping around is radical in today’s culture; not living for money and possessions, that’s radical too; and obedience? well who in their right mind is going to go for that? — yes, religious life is radical in and of itself without any need of relying on “accessories”. If we cling to a veil or a habit as the thing that defines us first and foremost as radical, then we are doing religious life, the Church and the world a disservice. If on the other hand, we cling to God and the particular mission he has for us — with or without veils — then we will be truly radical and faithful to our call as religious.