There is nothing that leads others to piety and to the service of God more than the life and example of those who have dedicated themselves to the divine ministry. For since they are observed to be raised from the things of this world to a higher position, others fix their eyes upon them as upon a mirror and derive from them what they are to imitate. Wherefore, clerics, called to have the Lord for their portion, ought by all means so to regulate their life and conduct in that dress, behavior, gait, speech, and all other things nothing may appear but what is dignified, moderated, and permeated with piety; avoiding also minor offenses which in them would be grievous, so that their actions may inspire reverence.
WOW! On one hand, I say, "THANK GOD I can't be a priest!" (Nor have I ever desired to be!) I'm not sure I could live up to such a spotlight.
But then again...Sisters and Brothers in habits are under that same spotlight. The world looks to them as a holy example. If that example isn't given, that way of life is not attractive, and it turns away Vocations, and even turns away people looking for Christ in the most basic of ways.
So that leads me to ponder those religious communities who have chosen to dispense with the habit entirely. While I will not say that all of those communities are heterodox (I know of some heterodox communities who wear habits!), there is a trend among MANY of the habitless sisters of pagan practices and other things. It's quite saddening, and extremely destructive.
In considering it in light of the words of the Council of Trent, however, now I look a it a bit differently. For if I was attracted to things I knew were wrong, I would do what I could to keep it wrapped in the shadows so that others could not see, or at least might not automatically associate me with such a thing were I to be seen in public somewhere.
For example...if I were a woman wearing a blue and white habit and veil, and working to practice things such as aura-reading and Gaia-worship under the guise of "Bible Study", well, knowing full well that these things are condemned (rightly!) by the Church as offenses against the First Commandment, well, I wouldn't want to go around being recognized as such a public offender.
And so I would dispense with the thing that would identify me the most clearly. Besides, I'd be aware of the symbolism of the habit and the prayers involved with each piece of clothing...and each day I'd be confronted by my spiritual adultery.
Nope...wouldn't want to wear that habit!
Now, all that said, we are ALL called to holiness, to living exemplary lives of virtue, and we especially are called to this witness in our every movement and action in life as an example of Jesus Christ. If we say we are Catholic and we are not recognized as such, then perhaps our actions don't match our words. Because although I've focused on the clothing (given the passage from Trent), everything that applies to the clergy (and religious) applies to ALL. Except for the fact that the clergy have the greatest responsiblity as they are the most visible, they are our spiritual leaders, and they lead us in the way to holiness. At least, that is what they are SUPPOSED to do.
So, hats off to all you who wear the Roman Collar or don a veil...the entire world is watching everything you do every moment you're in public.
You know...I've been considering becoming a hermit...