Catholic Mom Book Spotlight

The Habit: A History of the Clothing of Catholic Nuns by Elizabeth Kuhns

Many of us treasure childhood memories of hours spent in classrooms shepherded by women in flowing black gowns and exotic headgear...such was the case for me, educated completely in Catholic schools.  I remember hours of debate over whether or not Sister Agnes actually did have hair under that veil - most vehemently argued the "anti-hair" position, but I always secretly guessed that Sister's tresses were indeed long and healthy and that her willingness to not show them off was just another of the many sacrifices she endured to live out her vocation and her love for Jesus.  I never did find out the answer to this pressing question, but like many of you I grew to love and respect the women who were responsible for my fine parochial education.

In her new book The Habit: A History of the Clothing of Catholic Nuns, author Elizabeth Kuhns presents a visual gallery of the diverse forms of religious clothing and explains the principles and traditions that inspired them. More than just an eye-opening study of the symbolic significance of starched wimples, dark dresses, and flowing veils, The Habit is an incisive, engaging portrait of the roles nuns have and do play in the Catholic Church and in ministering to the needs of society.

As a convert to Catholicism and a regular contributor to Faith and Family magazine, Elizabeth Kuhns writes on topics which are of essential interest to the Catholic family.  I thank her for her comments, shared below, and invite you to explore and learn from The Habit

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The Habit: A History of the Clothing of Catholic Nuns
by Elizabeth Kuhns
hardcover, Doubleday, 240 pages



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Comments from Elizabeth Kuhns, author of The Habit: A History of the Clothing of Catholic Nuns

I hope your readers will enjoy learning some of the fascinating history of the habit and its importance in the lives of Catholic nuns over the centuries.  Writing the book was a sheer delight, because it gave me the opportunity to talk with sisters all over the US and abroad.  I was profoundly impressed and deeply moved by these women, who, on one hand are "regular people" just like the rest of us, but on the other hand, have devoted their lives to prayer and good works in a way that is utterly unique, particularly in today's culture.  Let's put it this way, I didn't meet a nun I didn't like . . . a lot.
My goal for writing  The Habit was to shed some light on a universal icon that seemed to me to be quite mysterious.  In fact, I discovered many surprises and paradoxes, that the habit is certainly not a "black-and-white" matter.  I also hoped to highlight the unmatched contributions women religious have made throughout the centuries.  Their history is absolutely remarkable and inspiring.  How many of us know that President Abraham Lincoln wrote the highest words of praise for the brave sisters who served in the battlefield hospitals of the American Civil War?  Or that the first US school for children of color was started by a revolutionary Catholic nun?  Or that St. Vincent's hospital in New York City, a vital institution to the victims of 9/11, was founded by four fiesty Catholic sisters?  I love the idea that we Catholics have in nuns some of the finest examples of strong, intelligent, groundbreaking women in history.  It's something I hope we pass on to our daughters--whether or not they will consider a personal vocation.  Catholic nuns are wonderful female role models, and their accomplishments are an important piece of our Catholic heritage.
I converted to the Faith in 1997, and started researching and writing on topics of Catholic traditions to fill in my personal gaps of knowledge about Catholicism.  It's led to a full-time career--currently I work as an associate editor for an exciting new Catholic website

I also contribute regularly to a fantastic print magazine, whose audience is . . . Catholic moms.  It's called Faith & Family Published by the Legionaries of Christ, I highly recommend it to your readers!


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