It's been a long time since the rites of my investiture as a novice, but some things keep coming back to mind that I'd like to share with you: the symbolism of holy garb. You can read the Bible verse about the armor of God here: http://www.acts17-11.com/armor.html. But while even though experience has taught me that "the habit does not make the nun," there is still the silent testimony to the Gospel in her appearance. While I no longer wear the habit, I do observe specific private devotions.
For instance, in the investiture of a novice, each piece of the habit is symbolically significant in regards to the aforementioned Bible verse (see link). Depending on the order, 'the belt of truth' is a symbol of the virtuous practice of chastity or of all of the vows the nuns take. They silently renew them when they put the belts on every day. The helmet of salvation is the veil - perhaps a bit of a stretch to a lay person, but by a nun wearing a veil, she acknowledges her sharing in the salvific suffering of Christ's body, the Church. The shield of faith, the shoes of the Gospel of peace, and the sword of the Spirit take on different representations depending on the religious order, but more or less along the lines of prayer and the practice of virtues. The breastplate of righteousness depends on the religious order. If the order requires it's professed members to only wear a cross or crucifix, that would be the breastplate. However, if the order requires a full habit with scapular and crucifix like mine did, the scapular would be the breastplate and the cross/crucifix would be the shield of faith. But as it has been a long time, the symbolism of the scapular and cross/crucifix meanings could be reversed.
Why am I posting this? Well, just recently - last Sunday it was - while at Mass I heard God speaking to me to wear the cord of St. Philomena in order to preserve my chastity. And so when I get up in the morning and put it on, I say the required prayer and put it on. It's a simple little prayer, and important to me as I am what you might call a dedicated (but not consecrated) virgin. It goes as follows: "St. Philomena, pray for me to obtain purity of mind and heart which leads to the perfect love of God." And so I have one aspect of religious decorum left, not counting my daily rosary and many chaplets, or the Little Office of the Virgin Mary. If you would like more information, I would recommend this website: http://www.philomena.it/st-philomena-waist-cord-and-scapular-pack-detail.
Why decide to share this with you when I've put my convent days behind me? Perhaps it was the woman in the local Christian store I encountered yesterday who vocalized her disdain for Catholics, not realizing that what she was looking at, an ICTHUS bumper sticker. The ICTHUS was a symbol of the early Christian faith was long established before any church schisms occurred. It saddens me to know how judgemental people are within the Christian faith, no matter what denomination. Perhaps, like my Aunt Sandy and cousin Keal, she had a very bad encounter of people who were professed Catholics. Truth be told, when she saw the decade rosary on my wrist, she went to another part of the store and I really had no idea what to say to her or approach her about her dislike for Catholics or the practice of the Catholic faith. I know the best thing I can do is pray - and do what I love: teaching people about history. Not just U.S. History which I majored in in university but Christian history as well, especially our early roots and what we have in common. For example, many years ago I had dinner at a friend's house with her family. While I consented to join hands in prayer before the meal (they were Baptists), I made the sign of the cross when we finished. The stepmother asked me why I did that, why Catholics do that? At the time, I could not articulate an answer beyond "that was what I was taught." But did you know making the sign of the cross comes from early Christian practice, an idea stemmed from the New Testament? St. Paul said "We proclaim Christ crucified" and stated "May I never boast except in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ." As Christians, we bear witness to Christ by acknowledging our faith in a simple but profound gesture. We profess Christianity by admitting we are weak and need a Savior, and that we are saved through Christ crucified and risen. That is what the cross stands for in Christian doctrine. So, as Christians, go forth and preach Christ crucified, and if necessary, use words (St. Francis of Assisi).