Lord, I never wanted to be separated from You.

What happened to my original Dominican habit?

What happened to my original Dominican habit?
Rev.Fr. Louie R. Coronel, OP
April 11, 2011

The Chapel of Colegio San Juan de Letran (Calamba)
It has been eleven years since our batch received the Dominican Habit. Some might have not been conscious to celebrate it or even forget the date of their vestition but we hold it dearly. Twelve out of the 20 postulants were accepted to the novitiate but only eleven   received the habit in a solemn investiture rite on April 15, 2000 at the old Chapel of Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Calamba City. One of our companions opted not to proceed because of personal problems.

Candidates to the Novitiate prostrating and asking for mercy
The Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Philippines, Rev. Fr. Quirico Pedregosa, OP and the Prior of the Convent of St. Albert the Great, +Rev. Fr. Romeo Asuzano, OP (May he rest in peace) vested us with the Dominican habit while the choir sang the traditional Veni Creator Spiritus. It was such a moving moment when we were stripped off of our polo barong, the secular clothing, and received the religious habit.  This marked the beginning of our Novitiate. (cf. LCO 176).

The Dominican Novitiate of Annuncoation in Manaoag, Pangasinan
In the Philippines, the vestition falls on the Saturday before Palm Sunday. From Calamba City, the newly vested junior novices will, then, proceed to the Dominican Novitiate of the Annunciation in Manaoag, Pangasinan immediately after the snacks and refreshments. Imagine how much we perspired since we were not yet accustomed to such clothing considering that Holy Week in Manaoag is hot and humid. However, we took that penance happily.

c/o Godzdogz.op.org
The full habit of the Order consists of a white tunic with a white scapular and capuce, with a black cappa and capuce, a leather belt and a rosary (cf. LCO 50). We usually wear the habit during celebrations of the Holy Eucharist, the major hours of the Liturgy of the Hours, and other special and formal occasions. A Dominican can wear it anytime since it is basically our garb. Some would say that they were magnetized by the habit which prompted them to join the Order. It might be unconventional but I was more attracted to the Filipino Dominicans’ way of preaching than our habit.


St. Hyacinth of Odrowatz receiving the habit from St. Dominic himself 
The thirteenth chapter of the primitive constitution of the Order of Preachers under the title “Of those to be Received” provides us a hint of our tradition:
When those to be received come to us, they shall be conducted to the chapter at the time set by the discretion of the prelate or certain older brethren. Upon arriving there, they shall prostrate themselves in the middle of the chapter, until they are asked by the prelate, What do you seek? and they answer, God's mercy and yours’. Then, they arise at the command of the prelate, who explains the austerities of the Order and asks them what their will is. If they answer that they are willing to observe all these things and renounce the world, he shall, after other things, finally say,Dominus qui coepit, ipse perficiat’. The community responds, ‘Amen’. Then divesting themselves of their secular clothing and putting on the religious habit, they are received into our society in chapter. However, before they promise stability and life in common or vow of obedience to the prelate and his successors, a period of probation shall be assigned to them.”


A detailed description of the prescribed habit, on the other hand, has been promulgated in the third appendix of the present Constitutions and Ordinations of the Order of Friars Preacher:

The tunic, closed in the front and back, is to reach to the ankles inclusively and no lower.  The cappa should be four fingers shorter than the tunic, and the scapular a little shorter than the cappa and of such width as to cover the juncture of the sleeves with the tunic. The opening of both the white and the black capuce shall not be more than a palm's breadth longer than the face.  It shall not come down farther than the breastbone in front, and at the back not farther than four fingers below the belt; at the sides it shall extend from the shoulders no lower than halfway down the bone that is between the armpit and the elbow.

Practically, we are not too conscious and scrupulous on such provisions but we take it as a guideline. Furthermore, the General Chapter celebrated at Madonna dell'Arco in 1974 (Acta, p. 163) suppressed the provisions on the color of shoes; the clothing worn under the habit; the simplicity of hairstyle; and the need to obtain the Provincial's permission to wear a beard.


The habit is black and white. White signifies the purity of life with Christ and Black signifies penance and mortification. In the habit’s physical orientation, the black cappa of mortification seems to be safeguarding the white tunic, scapular and capuce of purity. The habit clothes the Dominicans with purity and penance as they follow and live the life devoted to Christ in imitation of St. Dominic de Guzman (ca. 1170-1221).

All Dominicans, clerical and cooperator brothers, novices, and even the Master of the Order wear the same habit with no distinction. Lay Dominicans do not usually wear the habit. However, they may be buried wearing it.

The Dominican habit is virtually unchanged for nearly eight hundred years. In the pre-Vatican II times, mandatory prayers must accompany a Dominican in wearing each part of the habit. Today, these prayers are highly encouraged.  It is also interesting to note the significance of each part.


The tunic is a simple white woolen one-piece, shoe-top length gown with long sleeves and cuffs. It is made of light materials for tropical countries like the Philippines.  It signifies consecration and purity. A Dominican first puts on the tunic while praying:
Clothe me, O Lord, with the garments of salvation.
By your grace may I keep them pure and spotless,
so that clothed in white, 
I may be worthy to walk with you in the kingdom of God.


The Dominican cincture is a black leather belt with a simple silver buckle. Like St. Thomas who is girded by the angels with a mystical belt of purity after his proof of chastity, a Dominican gird himself each day with the cincture of chastity. Traditionally, we ask St. Thomas for his intercession to protect our purity. While fastening the cincture, a Dominican prays:

Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of justice
and the cord of purity
that I may unite the many affections
of my heart in the love of you alone.


The rosary is hung from the cincture on the left side as if a sword ready to be pulled out from the scabbard in the spiritual battle. According to tradition, when St.
Dominic’s labors among the French heretics became futile to the point of depression and utter disappointment, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him and asked him to preach her Psalter which is known today as the ‘rosary’. Typically, the rosary has black beads and hangs from a clip near the hip. While adding the rosary to the cincture, the following prayer is recited:

O God, whose only-begotten Son,
by his life, death, and resurrection,
has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life,
grant, we beseech Thee,
that meditating upon the mysteries of the
Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise,
through the same Christ our Lord.


The scapular is a long white strip of cloth (about shoulder width), with a hole for the head, that is worn over the shoulders, extending to near the bottom of the tunic in the front and the back. The scapular was given to Bl. Reginald of Orleans (ca. 1183-1220) by our Blessed Mother for him to pass on to St. Dominic.

Reginald became deathly ill shortly after his entrance to the Order. St. Dominic, knowing that this bright young man would be an invaluable asset to the fledgling Order, prayed earnestly for his recovery. It was the Blessed Virgin Mary herself who responded to the prayer. In a dream, Reginald had a vision of Mary, accompanied by St. Cecilia and St. Catherine of Alexandria. Our Lady anointed Reginald with a heavenly perfume. She also showed to Reginald a long white scapular and told him it was to be part of the habit of the Order. The friars, who up until that time (1218) had worn the garb of Canons Regular, gladly changed to the scapular designed for them by the Mother of God. After two years Reginald died, having the honor of being the first friar to wear the distinctive Dominican habit and the first one to die in it.

The scapular was traditionally the most important article of the habit which signifies the Order’s devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. It is put on while saying this prayer:

Show yourself a mother,
He will hear your pleading
Whom your womb has sheltered
And whose hand brings healing.


The white capuce, a short rounded shoulder cape that has a white hood attached to it, is the only head covering used by Dominicans liturgically, and fits over the scapular. The hood is a sign of contemplation while its lower part, similar to that of the bishops, signifies that in the 13th century, the Dominicans, along with the Cistercians, shared in the Episcopal authority of preaching. Not everyone can preach during those times. While donning a capuce, a Dominican prays:

Lord, You have set your sign upon my head
that I should admit no lover but you.


The black cape is a long black cloak that is equal in length to the tunic and scapular. It has a religious significance as noted above and it has a practical use as well during winter in cold countries. In England, the Dominicans are referred to as Black Friars because of the black cappa or cloak they wear over their white habits. Dominicans are Blackfriars, as opposed to Whitefriars (for example, the Carmelites) or Greyfriars (for example, the Franciscans).While putting it on, a Dominican prays:

We fly to your patronage, O Holy Mother of God,
do not despise our prayers in our necessity,
but free us from all peril, O Blessed Virgin.


Finally, the black capuce, with hood, which overlays the cappa and serves as an outer black shoulder cape and covering for the hood. The black capuce completes the Dominican habit and, along with the cappa, is traditionally always worn by a Dominican while outside the convent, and inside the convent as well from All Soul's Day until the Gloria of the following Easter Vigil. It is still practiced at the Convent of Sts. Dominic and Sixtus in Rome. While putting it on, a Dominican prays:

Heavenly Father,
Who were with your great servants Moses and Joshua
and used them to bring your children out of bondage,
fill us with that same grace
that we may preach your word boldly and with authority
for the deliverance of those under the bondages of sin.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Blessed Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) in his Post-Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata (1996) acknowledged the significance of the religious habit as “a sign of consecration, poverty and membership in a particular Religious family.” He strongly recommended the religious to wear their proper habit, suitably adapted to the conditions of time and place. It can also be dispensed depending on the nature of the apostolate.

Before we took our simple vows that formally marked the end of our Novitiate, we have undergone the scrutiny of a three-man panel. Facing them was tense-filled but I satisfactorily answered the questions of the first two panelists until the third brought me to deep reflection.

Fr. Filemon de la Cruz, OP, our novice master for our first 8 months was the third panelist. He asked: “What are you wearing?” I confidently said “The Dominican habit, father.” He continued his interrogation: “What does it signifies?” Knowing that I have read all the pertinent resources, I assertively quoted the constitution: “Father, the Dominican habit is ‘a sign of our consecration’ (LCO 51).” But he added: “Not quite. Yes, it is a sign of our consecration but it is just an external sign. What’s important is our internal consecration, that is, the offering of ourselves to God.” I was awestruck to hear that. It means that we should not only keep in mind such constitutional provision but put it in our hearts and live it.

So what happened to the original habit that I wore on our vestition day? Well, the white tunic, capuce and scapular were mixed up with the other habits in the novitiate. I could not pinpoint where they are now. I have probably disposed them.

The black cappa and capuce were stolen in Rome. The perpetrator may have thought that my old bag contained something that is valuable to him (or her).

My original rosary which Fray Kuray made for us was already kept for posterity’s sake since the 15 mysteries was replaced with the addition of the Luminous mysteries in 2002.

Our Director of postulants, Fr. Gerard Timoner, III, OP told us before that our leather belts are so durable that it may last even after our ordination. Yes, it was proven to be true. However, I only used it until my second year in the Studentate not because it was broken but because it lacks the slot to accommodate my increasing waistline.

So practically, my original habit is gone but what remained is the consciousness that we have offered ourselves completely to God. So, whether we are wearing the habit or not, we remain consecrated religious. External signs can be seen by everybody but the internal consecration can only be seen by God to whom we asked mercy on the very first day of our novitiate.

Happy Vestition Anniversary, batchmates!


  1. Happy Vestition Anniversary Fr. Louie! I could feel that you're so much inlove with your vocation! Keep it up and Congratulations po!

  2. What fabric is each part made from?


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