Confession: I am a Harry Potter fanatic. I have read the books and seen the movies more times than I can count, and could recite most of the lines for you if asked (no one does :-). So, it should be no surprise that in a recent meeting when a sister said, “I’m just going to put on my invisibility cloak,” my mind immediately went to young Harry, opening his first ever Christmas present, and finding an invisibility cloak inside. If you’re unfamiliar with the movies or this particular scene, you can watch it here.
The cloak ends up playing amajor role inHarry Potter lore. Harry, along with fellow wizards-in-training Ron and Hermione, use the cloak to get into all manner of mischief, from sneaking around the castle to playing pranks on friends, but then ultimately using it in their quest to defeat the villain of the series, Lord Voldemort. But the sisters’ comment that day got me thinking. The invisibility cloak from the Harry Potter series is very much like the “invisibility cloaks” often worn by women religious as they move about and minister in our communities.
Here are 5 things Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak and sisters have in common:
- They move around the world unseen.
While they are not using their invisibility to sneak past teachers in the hall, the invisibility cloaks of sisters do allow them to move through the world without being noticed. Since Sisters of St. Joseph no longer wear the habit that many people still associate with women religious, they are once again able to move through our communities without calling attention to themselves, as they did way back in 1650 France when they first formed. Wearing plain clothes means sisters are no longer seen as “separate” or on a “spiritual pedestal,” but it also means you may not know when you are seeing a sister.
- They work for the good of others.
More often than not when employing the invisibility cloak, the characters in Harry Potter have altruistic goals. They are trying to uncover the keys to a perceived danger or help a friend escape trouble. In this same way, the invisibility of sisters is used for good. The Sisters of St. Joseph’ mission is to bring all into unity with God, with one another, and with all creation. They, along with their partners in mission, do this through prayer, direct service and ministry, standing with and for the poor and vulnerable, and advocating for systemic change. By putting themselves in the background, they are able to focus on the needs of others and our world.
- Many people don’t know about them.
“There are still nuns?” “How would I have known you’re a sister?” “Why don’t you wear a habit?” You’d be surprised how often we hear these questions. We know that there are many sisters living and working in communities all over the country and the world. But many people’s idea of what a sister is, or should be, means that they don’t see sisters in their lives. Just as many of the adults in Harry Potter don’t suspect that the students are using an invisibility cloak to get around undetected, many people don’t realize that sisters are around either! In fact, you’ve probably talked to or seen a sister out in the community and not even realized it.
- They helps us in our most human moments.
Ok, so I know that humans are not actually invisible. But in a poignant scene, Harry has just learned that his parents were betrayed by one of their best friends. Upset, he uses the invisibility cloak to seek solitude in his pain. Who hasn’t wished for the ability to disappear from the world in times of trouble? But what is even more important about this scene is that Harry’s friends don’t just let him go off on his own. They follow him, letting him lean on them for support. While sisters may seem to wear an invisibility cloak to much of the world, they are also always surrounded by a community of other sisters who understand their struggles and support them in their most human moments.
- They are an unexpected gift.
When Harry comes downstairs on that first Christmas morning at the castle, he does not expect to receive any presents. He has never received Christmas gifts at all, let alone a gift that is such a magical, and ultimately important, one. When one becomes a sister, the gift of invisibility is not one that is expected. But their ability to do good in the world, to move through our communities and help others sight unseen, is a true gift.
So the next time you watch Harry Potter, remember the Sisters of St. Joseph and how, like Harry, they sometimes wear invisibility cloaks. While you may not always be able to see them, they are still here, working in the world and praying Jesus prayer, “that all may be one.”
About the Author
Elizabeth Powers is the Electronic Communications Coordinator for the Congregation of St. Joseph and manages the blog, Beyond the Habit. She sometimes acts as a contributing writer when faced with a particularly poignant, sister-inspired moment. She loves reading, writing, and Harry Potter.