The Habit

“Monks should always look like monks. We have only one identity and that identity is being a monk.

Q: I’m wondering, why do some Benedictine monks wear a habit and others don’t?

A: Personally I can’t explain why some Benedictine Monks elect not to wear the habit since according to the Benedictine Rule, the habit is all a Benedictine should own.

The monastic tunic, commonly known as the habit, clothes the monk in modesty, it stands as a sign of contradiction to modern fashion and the vanity of the world that the monk leaves behind when he enters the monastery. And this is a key note, when a man becomes a monk he leaves the world behind or as we prefer to say, he dies to his former self.

When a monk is clothed in the holy habit of religion at the time of his Investiture, his old clothes are left behind and in their place the Abbot invests him in the habit.


While doing so, the Abbot prays, “May the Lord clothe you a new man, who is created according to God in justice and holiness of truth.” Indeed, the habit is ultimately this: a sign of the new man who has renounced the world that he might be united to God and bring God to the world through his life of prayer and penance.

Some modern day monastic say they find the habit cumbersome, yet wearing the habit is part of our daily obedience in carrying the cross of Christ.

Some monks honor the words of being clothed in the new man who has renounced the world, while others disregard the words and wear secular clothing so that they can “fit in with others”. The saying goes, if you can do it in secular clothing, you can do it in the habit; and if wearing the habit is not a good idea where you’re going, then don’t go, but don’t stop wearing the habit.

Some say, the habit doesn’t make the monk, however true as that may be, the comment is nothing more than a convenient excuse. A policeman wears a uniform to identify himself, as does a nurse and so on, their uniform is part of their profession, as is the habit for the monk.

We are monks first and any extracurricular activity we have comes second. And for those who have heard me say this before, I’ll let someone else say it for me now…

…“We monks should always look like monks. We have only one identity and that identity is being a monk.”

Above quote by , Abiquiu, NM.

  1. The habit or some form of religious attire should be worn at all times, even within the confines of one’s own house.
  2. Just as one puts on the habit in the morning, so too are we putting on a way of life.
  3. No matter what one does or where one goes throughout the day, we will be reminded of our commitment.
  4. Ordinary secular clothes lack the separation from one’s old way of life to capture the gravity of a vowed life.
  5. In public, the habit serves as an easily recognizable sign to the others of a religious person.
  6. The habit offers a protective barrier from the secular world by drawing clearly distinguished lines between appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
  7. The presence of the habit in ordinary situations offers a sense of comfort, purity, and Godliness to those around it that cannot be captured by simply wearing secular clothing.
  8. When someone sees a religious in a habit, like it or not, consciously or subconsciously, one’s behavior will be effected; regardless of whether it is for better or worse, people act differently around a habited monk than they would if they had just met someone wearing street clothes.
  9. It’s important that those in the world see good examples of religious in the world, and that no one will ever walk up to us and ask us to pray for them if they can’t find us.
  10. We need to wear our habit from the time we wake up, to wear it to the bank, the grocery store, or anywhere we go and wear it until we go to bed.
  11. There is a need for the world to see habited religious in normal everyday secular places and yes, even when we visit our friends and relatives.