Wearing our habit when we go out (to get groceries, go the bank, the post office, etc) serves as a wonderful vocations billboard, and a magnet for prayer requests. If there is one significant drawback to wearing it in public, though, it is that it can impute more holiness to one than one actually has; it allows the appearance of Godliness when, weak as we are, we often deny its power.
The habit looks like diligence, repentance, and discipline…like recollection and the careful husbanding of thought energy…when so often we catch ourselves not watchful, not vigilant, and not attentive to grace right where it is (and sometimes don’t catch ourselves until long after). This is the process of conversion written into our clothes.
What do the external disciplines of our life have to do with its insides? It is all practice in aid of stamina for we are in this for the long haul of transformation into the likeness of Christ. St Benedict in Chapter 5 of his Rule says “It is love that impels them to pursue everlasting life; therefore they are eager to take the narrow road…they unquestionably conform to the saying of the Lord: ‘I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.’” If we cave in at every fifth opportunity to speak unnecessarily, we will be more likely to cave in at every fifth invitation to detraction or envy or some such. If we cave in at every invitation to satisfy idle curiosity, what more serious disease of soul will we give into?
Where do our thoughts habitually go because of practice or lack of it? Down the millrace of “fury, indignation and distress”, or “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control”?
We get to decide what kind of soul’s home we are each building for Jesus, but the materials for this won’t just fall out of the sky and assemble themselves. Like the kind of sacrifice that a parent makes for a new child, it takes the willingness to let go of a lot of what is internally or emotionally “mine”—my way of doing things, my idea of what is needful, even my resentment, my despair—to gently shape old habits into space for grace to dwell.