Starting in the 1960s there was a great iconoclast movement in the Church—not to the Church, but within the Church. Priests and religious left in droves. Religious life lost much of its sacred nature. And the liturgy was ”modernized.” This was done partially of out good intentions, but the consequences were devastating. Now it is a rare occasion indeed to see priests even in the Roman collar much less a cassock or a religious habit.
Sadly, these days there’s still a suspicion surrounding those who ”flaunt” their religiosity through external signs anywhere but in a church building. These people declared the ”flaunting” of the hierarchical church as being ”outdated and passé.” As a result, it permanently hindered vocations to the priesthood and religious life; and it has been on the downslide ever since. The Church needs to change its attitudes on this front. And while I don’t think I’ll have much effect on my own, I do believe that the witness of the Faith through the wearing of the religious habit in secular settings is one of the ways that the Church can have visible signs to those who would never cross the threshold of a church.
I try and wear my habit all the time, whether it’s convenient or not (though on rare occasions it is quite impossible). Critics often forget that the wearing of the habit is sometimes protection on a personal level. Knowing that we represent Christ’s Church on earth carries a heavy responsibility indeed. It’s easy to create scandal by negative, improper speech and actions while wear religious garb. Thus, wearing them is an additional way of protecting ourselves from ourselves in the form of inappropriate behavior.
The upside is that it can great fantastic opportunities for evangelization. People are indeed curious, and they often ask questions. I’ve encountered such individuals countless times while on the trail, a ski lift, or on public transportation—all occasions that would be lost if I merely looked like the rest of the crowd.