Hebrews 12:18-19, 21-24
Fashion has never been my forte. I learned that at an early age when my mother used my underwear as exhibit "A" demonstrating to my siblings on what not to wear when going to the hospital. Of course, I didn’t know I was going, I was hit by a car and without warning or any say in the matter was taken there.
Fashion was easy as a child in grammar school. We wore uniforms. The boys wore a tan shirt, a blue tie and khakis or corduroys. Ah, life and fashion were simple then, just the way I like it.
While in grammar school, I noticed the Confraters’ (Passionist seminarians) clothes when we’d be going home for lunch. They would be out walking in their black habits, with capes in the winter and sandals in the summer. That seemed to be to be very practical and efficient. No need to worry about what goes with what. Just put on the same clothes every day, just like school uniforms. Also, with sandals you don’t have to worry about getting two socks that match-you just don’t wear socks. While, sandals were not the main draw attracting me to the seminary, I was a bit miffed when I got to the Novitiate and they decided to do away with them. They did keep the simple garb however and everyone wore the same thing, from the newly professed to the superiors and those highest in deanship (length of time with the community). I would learn later that some clerics in the church wore clothing such as buskins (red slippers), red watered silk and cappa magnas. These told the world how important they were. That wasn’t a problem in the monastery. Everyone was equally important. A few Passionists wore these clothes when they were asked to serve as Bishop. Women religious avoided it all together. That’s probably why they are in trouble today. They do seem to know something about caring for the sick and educating those with the demon of ignorance though, something the gospel tells us about today.
It’s too bad Jesus didn’t know about the role clothes can play, or maybe he did.
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.