Cloistered Dominican Nuns Corpus Christi Monastery

Clothed With Christ – Investiture Day for Sister…

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Come Holy Spirit…

Investiture.  Clothing Day.  Reception into the novitiate.  What does it mean for a woman who has already lived within the enclosure for six months or more, but who is not yet under the commitment of vows?

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Being clothed with Christ

Discerning religious life is a divine romance.  During the time leading up to her investiture, she has been growing in her relationship with Christ, the lover of her soul, listening for His voice and testing whether she is called to follow Him as His alone.  In some ways, aspirancy and postulancy are similar to meeting and spending time with the family of your beloved while dating and discerning marriage.  In religious life, you give your heart to Jesus, but within the larger context of a community – a family – who will test you and help you grow in your relationship with God.

Then comes the day you are made a novice.  You are clothed in the habit of the Order.  It is as significant as an engagement to marry.  You are welcomed into the family as a child of the Order and you undertake to learn and live the requirements of religious life.  The habit is a sign of this “putting on of Christ” and a witness to poverty.  It is an aid to help you live the life you are seeking to embrace.  Though it will be at least a year or two before you will profess first vows (canon law requires one year in the novitiate; our community requires two years’ novitiate), you are now a child of the Order.  A daughter of St. Dominic.

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Stories abound in Dominican tradition about the importance and sacredness of the Dominican habit.  During the earliest days of the Order, St. Dominic and his friars wore the garb common to canons – a tunic with surplice and cloak, or mantle.  Shortly after Bl. Reginald was accepted to join the company of friars as a postulant, he became deathly ill.  St. Dominic begged in prayer for his recovery and, as Bl. Reginald slept, he had a vision.  In the vision, our Blessed Mother Mary appeared to him and, after anointing him with oil, she held out to him a scapular and said, “Behold the habit of thy Order.”  From that time forth, St. Dominic and his friars put aside the surplice of the canon (which was looked at by society with a certain degree of distinguishment), and wore instead the simple, poor scapular given by Our Lady.  Because of this, one of the titles of Mary in our Order is “Ordinis Vestiaria” or “Habit-Mistress of our Order.”

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In the Order, you will be called Sister Marie Dominic of the Incarnate Word.

The habit of the Dominican nun consists simply of a white tunic, belt with Rosary attached, a white scapular and black veil and cappa.  Traditionally, wool was used – at that time, and until recent history, it was considered a poor man’s fabric: widely available, often rough and uncomfortable, and not as refined as it can be today.  The novice is clothed in a white veil, as a sign she is not yet consecrated by vows.

Putting on the habit, a nun is reminded to clothe herself in Christ interiorly as well as exteriorly.  Fastening the belt, she prays to remain pure and chaste, bound only to God.  Putting on her scapular, she is reminded of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s promise of protection.  The rosary at her side, which takes the place of a sword commonly worn by crusaders and soldiers, reminds her that prayer is her weapon and the Blessed Virgin Mary will always lead her to her Son, Jesus.  Donning the veil, she asks Jesus to keep her hidden, under the shadow of God’s wings.
The appearance of a true Dominican was described this way by the Venerable Julia Cicarelli of Camerino (A.D. 1532-1621):

The custody of the eyes shows the attention we ought to pay to our own defects; the head inclined signifies submission of will; the arms crossed the desire of suffering for God; kneeling, the remembrance of our falls and weaknesses; woolen garments, the patience and meekness of a lamb; the white habit, purity of heart; the black mantle, death to the world; the hair cut off, the retrenchment of worldly thoughts; the shoes made of the skins of dead beasts, the remembrance of death.  When the interior is conformable to the exterior, then ‘this is indeed the house of God.’

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Prioress Sr. Maria Christine of the Cross, O.P., Sister Marie Dominic of the Incarnate Word, and Novice Mistress Sr. Joseph Marie of the Child Jesus, O.P.



Vestition SMD Artwork

Meditative artwork by Sr. Marie Dominic

 Beate Pater Dominice, ora pro nobis!

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