Today the Friars continue to revere the holy habit and wear it proudly as a sign of their consecration in the Discalced Carmel. When a young man enters the novitiate he is first clothed with the brown tunic of the habit. The tunic is a sign of a man who has renounced the world and has taken on the life of Christ. “May the Lord clothe you with the new self, created in God’s image, in justice and holiness of truth.” The cincture, or belt, is then fastened around his waist. The Rule of St. Albert indicates that “our loins are to be girt with chastity (cf. Eph 6:11).” “When you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18).
The new friar is then given the brown scapular. The scapular is a sign of Mary’s love for Carmelites and also represents the yoke and the cross of obedience. “Receive the sweet yoke of Christ and His burden that is light.” The capuche, or hood, a sign of humility, is then placed over the head of the friar. In the words of our Rule, “On your head set the helmet of salvation (Eph 6:7) and so be sure of deliverance by our only Savior, who sets His own free from their sins (Matt 1:21).” Finally, the friar is clothed with the white mantle. The mantle recalls the Elijan tradition and serves as a reminder of Our Lady’s immaculate purity which we are called to imitate. “Therefore let your vesture be ever unspotted as a token of interior purity.” The habit is traditionally complemented with sandals and a large rosary which hangs from the cincture. Finally, a profession cross is given that is worn over the heart and underneath the scapular.
The habit is a sign of our consecration to God, our intention and promise to devote ourselves entirely to Him in the life of prayer and self-giving charity. It serves to remind us of the immensity of what we have vowed: complete dedication to God and to the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross encourages us to strive for great fidelity in our blessed vocation: “When we receive the holy habit of Carmel, we pledge ourselves not only to extraordinary service to our divine Bridegroom, but also to his holy Mother . . . . By taking on the garment of righteousness, we thus oblige ourselves to strive for perfection with all our strength and to preserve the holy garment intact. There is no better way to serve the Queen of Carmel and to show her our gratitude than by contemplating her example and following her on the way of perfection.”