De·con·struct·ing the Habit

As seen in the Fall/Winter 2009 issue of Abbey Magazine (page 3)

By Fr. Stephen Rossey, O. Praem.

With its roots in thrift, practicality, and symbolism, the four-piece Norbertine habit has a fascinating history.

  1. The tunic is the basic garment of the habit. It originates from the everyday vesture of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Worn as an outer garment over street clothes, it is a great equalizer; in it, everyone has the same status.
  2. The scapular is essentially an apron, such  as was worn by manual laborers. It consists of a piece of cloth spanning nearly the width of the body and reaching to the feet in front and behind. It keeps the tunic clean.
  3. The sash, or cincture, is a long, narrow strip of cloth that confines the loose, flowing tunic and scapular, preventing them from impeding the movement of the wearer. It circles the waist and is tied in a knot at the side.
  4. The elbow-length shoulder cape fastens at the neck. It originally was worn only in choir but today is an essential part of the habit. Its small “hood” is a symbolic leftover of the full monastic hood worn during the medieval era.

Why White?

The Norbertine Religious Habit
The Norbertine Religious Habit

The choice of the Norbertine religious habit caused some lively disputes in its 12th-century day. Monks then wore unbleached wool dyed black. Canons regular—members of ministry-oriented rather than cloistered orders—wore fine white linen. St. Norbert himself wore a tunic, belt and cape of undyed wool, a poor man’s garment made from the cheapest material available in his native Germany, where flocks of sheep were numerous.

This unorthodox combination of a traditionally monastic fabric with a traditionally clerical color spawned great controversy and set the Norbertines apart. While no longer controversial, the Norbertine habit still does distinguish clearly members of this ancient order.

Read More

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    By Kevin T. Di Camillo
    November 8, 2017
    Catholic Digest

Canons on the RunCanons on the Run

Frater Jordan Neeck, O. Praem., and Frater Johnathan Turba, O. Praem., are co-hosts of St. Norbert Abbey’s biweekly podcast, Canons on the Run. In episode 008, compellingly and with a bit of humor, they discuss their habit, the conversations that have occurred because of it, and their continual witness to God’s call.

Listen now »