Page 12, 9th June 1995

9th June 1995
Page 12
Page 12, 9th June 1995 — Letting down old habits

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Letting down old habits

ALICE THOMAS ELLIS IT HAS BEEN suggested that nuns deserve praise for leaping so enthusiastically into what is often called the spirit of Vatican II.

This is rather like commending lemmings on their courage.

Doffing the habit so that often, even if they are nuns no one can tell, flogging off the convents and vocations diminishing in numbers to a mere trickle doesn't seem such a good idea when you come to think about it, not altogether a matter for rejoicing.

I miss nuns more and more. I worry about the dearth of dedicated teachers and nurses and contemplatives and I miss seeing them around.

My friend Jennifer, delighted at meeting a rare old-style nun, congratulated her on her appearance. "Well, you see, dear," responded the nun, "no matter what your age or shape, you always look nice in a habit."

How true, and how truly frightful the poor ducks look in the things they wear now. I can hear the righteous tutting at this concern with their appearances, but the righteous are missing the point: there is no virtue in looking like something the cat hauled home.

Some 'nuns' make no concession at all to religious attire, but go about in lipstick and earrings and ordinary clothes. I can't imagine why. One of them tends to begin her talks with a brief rundown on what she said to the hairdresser and what the hairdresser said to her. This is not interesting at the best of times, but is positively bizarre coming from a 'religious'. I thought, in my naivety, that St Teresa of Avila had done away with all that.

However, the lady I have in mind is keen on 'empowerment' and scornful of humility so perhaps that explains it.

I am still left with a puzzle. One of the purposes of the habit was, presumably, to discourage the attention of the lads: no evasions, no excuses, just a wordless and therefore tactful sign, an implicit "Buzz off".

How do they manage now? Or does the problem not arise? If not, why not? If we are to believe what we are constantly told, no female is safe from sexual harassment in the street, workplace, pub or even home.

I would have thought th habit offered at least a much protection from suer nuisance as skill in th martial arts.

While on this subject have another puzzle: why ar women on the one han shrieking to be allowed int men's clubs, and on th other demanding houses fo women only? It doesn't seer consistent.

But back to the nuns: I tuf heard one talking about he visit to a conference o sexism: nothing wrong i that except that all these ehs feats are a waste of time Surely there are more useft things to do. Too many reli gious perceive themselves a social workers, a group e people popularly esteeme. (admittedly rather unfairly about as highly as traffi wardens.

There is a parish wher the people have bee: maddened by the presenc of certain 'sisters' whose doubtless well meant, effort have caused divisiveness an distress. Much of th modern attempt to be Fibers and 'with it' succeeds onl in annoying its victims wh. do not like being patronise. by people for whom they fe( no respect and do not fet the need of.

The phrase 'nosey park era' is not infrequently used The dissolution of th monasteries was and still is horrible mistake.

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