Sister was operating under a willful delusion; she justified forsaking the habit with appeals to solidarity, compassion, and humility, but her story illustrated egoism and presumption. She bemoaned a possibility of cheating a man out of his wages. In fact, she wascheating that man, but not in the way she imagined.
The ice-barrow man was not giving sister a free ice because she wore a habit, but because a man who revered (or at least respected) God saw an opportunity to demonstrate his regard in a little way that St. Therese might have applauded.
And she was cheating others, too. Her habit was a reminder to the community of faith, and to everyone else as well, that we are all called to simplicity and sacrifice—that for all of our Martha-instincts to work ourselves to death and carve our identities from what we “do,” we must cultivate our inner Marys as well, and embrace the challenge to simply be. Sister might correctly say that she was “nobody special,” but her habit was a witness to “being,” and it confirmed Christ’s covenanted life among us with a reassuring immediacy.
What the Anchoress says of religious sisters is just as true for Priests and in certain situations Deacons. This is a great example of why:“An actor on location in France walked off the set for a long break, and went for a walk in the countryside. He was playing a priest, and was dressed still in his stage robes. Suddenly a small boy came running to him over the fields, smiling and gesturing and jabbering away at him in French. He called him “Pere” — “Father” — but beyond that, the actor could hardly make out a word of it. Then the boy ran off again. And the man wondered, “What is it that so inspires confidence in these people? The boy didn’t know who I was, but just because I was dressed this way, he trusted me and talked to me.” The actor hadn’t been a devout sort, but that was the beginning of his own journey into the Christian faith. He and his wife, some years later, did enter the Church. When death came to part them — I am not certain whether he or his wife died first — they took their leave of one another in peace, saying that they would meet again soon. That actor was Sir Alec Guinness.”