Back in the old days it was easy to get into the habit. Each nun had about three habits in her closet: a really nice one (the "Sunday go to meeting," "PTA meeting" habit), a really beat up one (the "pew duster"), and the everyday one ( the "Mama Bear"). Each habit had a skull cap for one's hair, then the wimple, that tied at the top and the back. Then the main dress. Then you put on the big bib and the headband and then the veil itself. The order supplied the whole shebang, complete with the giant rosary.
Getting the habit ready to put on was not so easy. The big bib and that white part inside the veil and the head band, and sometimes the wimple had to be starched within an inch of it's life. Starched so it could stand on it's own two feet without the benefit of having any feet.
We made our own starch, as if we weren't busy enough, what with keeping you from sinning and our own life in Christ. We made it thick enough to choke a horse and then we would squeeze it through cheese cloth into big vats and dip everything into it. It was so thick that if we got a hole in any of the white parts of our habits, we could simply take a little piece of white fabric and blop it onto the hole with some of the starch and iron it on there. Instant new wimple! Instant new giant bib!
And off you went. If you needed anything else, like a clicker or a ruler with an extra long reach, you were on your own.
Now, of course, the nuns are on their own for everything. No wonder they ended up looking so motley. It's not as bad these days as it was when the habits first flew away. Those poor women had no idea how to put together an outfit, suddenly on their own budget. (You try and look spiffy on $12.50.) Suddenly left with some hair showing ("Sister Mary Gerard is a redhead!" Remember that moment?), we ended up with the famous 'nun bangs'. So sad.
Which brings me to today's question, at last:
On the topic of modest dress, what do you think about shoes? I am a Eucharistic Minister, and we are required to not only abide by a modest dress code, but also wear only closed-toed shoes. Of course I abide by these rules at mass, but outside of church, am I sinning if I wear sandals? I ask this also because I am considering entering religious life, and I know it is customary for sisters to wear closed-toed shoes, too. When did this tradition begin?
I wish it were a sin to wear sandals, given the state of some people's feet.
It's not a sin to wear sandals. In fact, there are whole religious orders who wear nothing but sandals. This tradition was officially started by St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare. St. Francis took Jesus at His Word when He said, "Take no purse with you, no haversack, no sandals." That's why St. Francis took the vow of poverty, didn't wear shoes and walked upright.
These orders are called 'discalced'. That means they wear no shoes or sandals.
So much for open-toed sin.
I'm guessing that the Eucharist Minister rule to which you must abide was born of what we've been discussing for the last couple of days: the impossible bone-headed-bad-taste-in-attire that people show up wearing for Mass. We don't want the recipients of Holy Communion distracted by your horrible looking toes, your fuchsia toenail polish, your bunions, your callused heels, your toe rings....you get the picture. In order to not have to look at any of that while receiving the body of Christ, the priest would have to issue a gigantic edict:
"Dear Eucharistic Ministers,
We thank you with the love of Christ, but for the love of Christ, please don't wear open toed shoes if you have horrible looking toes, wear crazy nail polish, toe rings, have bunions or otherwise distracting or nasty looking feet.
Also, please refrain from showing tattoos, your knees, the upper part of your arm no matter how often you work out, or any other flesh between your collar bone and your upper calf. If you are a man, please don't show any flesh below your collarbone. This means you! Wear some socks!
Don't wear wacky colors, boas, leis, giant jewelry, feathers, huge hats, or bullet proof vests. Don't wear things that clack, jingle, jiggle or beep. Since your feet are alreacy covered, do we need to mention the reason some footwear is called 'flip-flops'? No flapping footwear. No tap shoes. No cleats.
Please don't show up in jeans, workout clothes, track suits, beach attire, togas or pajamas. If it says "Nike" on it, swoop it back into the closet.
Don't wear costumes...unless you actually are a cowboy, a fireman, a caveman, or a madam...in which case we'll know to work on saving your immortal soul all the harder.
Your Parish Priest
You think I'm joking, but I actually attended a funeral where a man arrived wearing a bullet proof vest. I suppose I should be grateful that he was fully clothed.
As for yourself outside your duties, you can wear sandals until the cows come home. And should you join the religious life (oh, we so hope you do!) you can join a sandal order. Look for "Discalced" in the title of the order.
As for myself, I have big giant black shoes. Bug Crushers, we used to call them. Mine are more like Mouse Crushers. They used to be supplied by the order, but now I just hit the men's department at Payless.