Sacrament: an visible sign of an invisible reality. This simple definition of a deep theological reality emblazoned on the website of Sacra, an ethically made t-shirt line created by Lucy Rahner, encapsulates my interview with the creator herself. Sacramentality reverberates through everything the 26-year-old contributes to the world through her art, her clothing, and simply her presence. In each of these ways, she unapologetically and tangibly reveals the intangible grace that has been poured into her life, and I know you will understand what I mean as you continue to read through my interview with her.
Lucy grew up as the second of eight children, which might be the only stereotypically Catholic thing about her faith-filled family. Her parents did not choose to live on a homestead somewhere where they could raise their children apart from the world, but rather the entire family lived in the inner city of Cincinnati because it was important for them to live and work side-by-side with the community they were serving and ministering to. “Typical Catholic culture can often seem a bit more ‘put together’ than where we were from,” Lucy said with a shrug and a smile, “Because of this, each of my siblings and I have found creative ways to express our Catholic identity that aren’t necessarily the norm. The idea for ‘Sacra,’ which is maybe a bit different, came out of this creative stream in my family.”
Sacra is exactly the brand you might expect to find at the intersection of both art and culture, which is fitting since Lucy studied both in college. “I have always been fascinated by how art itself is sacramental; different media and materials are used to transmit truth, beauty, and goodness, which are immaterial things. Beauty is powerful, and you can change and influence culture through it, and then culture can have a big impact on society,” Lucy explained.
One of my personal favorite things about Sacra is this statement from the website: “[Sacra] is inspired by the hard-hitting intentionality of streetwear brands; and the reverent, sacred intentionality of religious habits. The resulting pieces, utilizing the strength of age-old symbols, are offered as armor for the everyday.” I asked Lucy what she means when she says that clothing is offered as armor. She thought for a moment in stillness and replied, “I think it says both positive and negative things about us. Clothing, particularly street-wear, can be protective gear in a way; we are conscious of the fact that there is something to be protected when it comes to our bodies. Maybe we are anxious about how we look, or how other people view us, and so we protect our vulnerability. But on the other hand, we can be greatly strengthened by what we’re wearing, similarly to a religious habit. You can feel like a powerful Saint-to-be when you walk out the door, less scared to live out God’s will for your life because you feel confident and strong.”
It is clear that Lucy believes that what we wear is important, and I asked her to dive into what that means for her when it comes to how it’s made. “Specifically as Catholics with a sacramental mentality, we believe that there is significance to physical, concrete things. It makes me think of how people are worried about where their food comes from. That’s sacramental in a way too: your food becomes who you are, what you are made out of. If it comes from an ethical or unethical place, we see the significance of that, and I think it’s the same with clothing… It ultimately comes down to loving your neighbor and recognizing that your actions affect others.”
Sacra promises an ethos of “end-to-end dignity” because it is Lucy’s mission to provide clothing that respects the human beings associated with it from its conception to its end. “That’s why organic materials and sourcing fair trade was so important. From the people making the item all the way to the person wearing it, it should respect the dignity of the human person. Everything from the design to the feeling of the shirt on your body, it makes you feel dignified.”
Lucy’s passion and creativity are not solely reserved for her t-shirt line either, she also designed the logos for us here at Litany! The full logo prominently features a pomegranate, which is a traditional symbol for the Church because it represents the diversity and richness of one Church made up of many people. When I asked Lucy what her thought process was behind her design, she replied, “It was Olivia and Veronica’s idea to use the pomegranate and I loved the symbolism, I thought it was genius. But it was difficult at first! You want something relatively simple for a logo, something you can translate to different mediums, and a pomegranate is not that simple, in fact it's very detailed!” She laughed and continued, “So I was unsure at first, but through playing around with it, we came up with something beautiful. I’m definitely a perfectionist and I really care about their mission, so it was something personal for me too, I wanted it to be what it should be.” Lucy’s attention to detail can be seen in everything she creates—nothing is without meaning.
As Litany is committed to largely the same mission as Sacra, I asked Lucy what she would like to see from Litany, as well as the fashion industry as a whole, in the future. She thought for a minute and replied slowly and honestly, “The sacramental view of fashion and the body is huge. It is such a big thing that has not been fully explored or celebrated by Catholics in fashion, yet what Litany does is such a tangible way to spread that message. When I first looked at their mood boards, I was in love with the fact that there was such a spiritual component. It ties in aesthetically too, it’s really exciting. I hope they never back down on that mission.”
As for the future of the fashion industry as a whole, she says, “I think it would be really amazing if the sanctity of the human body was able to be portrayed in a really attractive way through Catholic fashion, because I think it’s a message that is being spread in some ways in secular society, but it’s not consistent. And by embracing slow fashion, and being able to clearly communicate the reason for that, I think it would lead others to see Catholics as people who really live out their faith and are genuine witnesses.”
If you’d like to see more of Lucy’s beautiful and authentic witness to the sacramentality of the human body through fashion, you can find her work at www.sacraclothing.com.