The White Habit returns

Marian Fathers of old (in the white habit, including St. Stanislaus Papczyński) and Marians of recent times (wearing black, including Bl. George Matulaitis) are gathered together under the mantle of Our Lady of Mercy.

Who we are and what we do is “tinted” by the Immaculate Conception. The main fruit of the Immaculate Conception for the Blessed Virgin Mary is total purity, which is fittingly represented by the color white.

Read the official announcement from the General Curia of the Marian Fathers in Rome on the use of the white habit: click here. 

Brother Stephen Castellano, MIC, was invested with the White Habit after his profession of perpetual vows on Aug. 16. He is the first Marian in our province to receive the White Habit. Watch the Mass here. 

By Br. Jacob, MIC

You might be surprised the next time you see one of the Marian priests or brothers. In recent years, we have all dressed like diocesan priests and seminarians, wearing black clerical suits or black cassocks. However, the latest General Chapter of the Marians approved the wearing of our white habit, which Marians wore from 1671 until 1909.

In recent years, there has been a growing desire among many Marians to return to the white habit worn by our Founder, St. Stanislaus Papczyński (1631-1701), especially after his beatification in 2007 and canonization in 2016. He chose a white habit for our community to honor the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary; this habit is an external sign of our religious consecration and a witness to the world of the Immaculate Conception.

According to the Constitutions of the Marian Fathers, “The mystery of the Immaculate Conception is the essence of the charism of the Congregation and has been, from the very beginning, a particular sign, strength, and joy of the Marian vocation. From this mystery flow the identity and mission of the Congregation” (Constitutions, 2). 

Marian tint
Who we are and what we do is “tinted” by the Immaculate Conception. While our identity and mission as Marians of the Immaculate Conception is primarily spiritual, it is aided by material means, such as images of Our Lady, Rosary beads, and various publications. Many Marians feel that the white habit will also help us to promote our charism of spreading devotion to the Immaculate Conception.

The main fruit of the Immaculate Conception for the Blessed Virgin Mary is total purity, which is fittingly represented by the color white. By wearing the white habit, we remind ourselves externally that we are called to remain pure spiritually. It is first a reminder to us who wear the habit to develop purity of body and soul, and then a reminder to the world that everyone needs to be pure. 

Developing purity and chastity according to our state in life is especially important in our culture where sexual impurity is rampant. Purity is the first virtue of Our Lady mentioned in the Gospel, and the first virtue of the Rule of the Ten Evangelical Virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on which the Marians professed their vows for the first 210 years. The Immaculate Conception and purity are the foundation of Mary’s whole spiritual life and allowed her to love God with an undivided heart while on earth and now forever in Heaven. 

The white habit of the Marian Fathers is a reminder to all of us who wear it that we must develop that same purity and fully live out our vow of chastity. We hope that through the witness of our lives and by wearing the white habit, we will inspire others to grow in purity and imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Past persecution
At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, our Congregation, as well as all Catholic religious orders, faced extreme persecution from the Russian empire. Many Marians left to be diocesan priests, who were less persecuted; others were sent to Siberian labor camps; and the remaining older Marians died. 

By 1908, there was only one Marian left in the last Marian monastery in Marijampolė, Lithuania: Fr. Vincent Sękowski. He thought the Congregation would die with him, but Fr. George Matulaitis, who later became an archbishop, came to him and secretly joined the Marians.

Now-Blessed George adopted the attire of diocesan priests so that the Marians would blend in and not suffer persecution from Russia; he did this out of necessity. When he was initially in contact with Fr. Sekowski by letter, he expressed his desire to wear the white habit. He also wrote in his Journal that in our effort to bring Christ everywhere, “… we should make use of any lawful and worthy means available to us: the cassock of the priest or the habit of the religious or, if need be, the clothes of the layman…” (Journal, October 17, 1910). 

We can be witnesses to Jesus no matter what we wear, but certain clothing may help us more in different situations.

When to wear
Marians now have the possibility of wearing the white habit again, but no one is required to wear it; each member can discern for himself whether or not he will wear it. The white habit will normally be received at perpetual vows, when Marians make a total offering of themselves to God forever, and those already in perpetual vows may start wearing the habit.

We are encouraged to wear the white habit at least eight times per year: on feast days that are important to us, such as the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, and the feast days of our Founder and Renovator. 

We hope that the white habit will strengthen our identity as Marians of the Immaculate Conception and help us to carry out our mission in the Church more zealously.


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