It needs to be known that I went to upload my pictures from retreat and was surprised to find this happy face staring at me.
Apparently Brother Thomas found my camera and snapped this beauty before returning my camera to its rightful owner. Baha!
ANYWAY. Yesterday I wrote about Franciscan fashion and our friend Fr. Pio Maria. But! When I was at Marytown taking these pics, I took pictures of other Franciscans as well, just so you could see their habits. But then I ran out of space so I decided to expand into today’s post as well.
Today we will look at some “Conventual” friars and their habits. Fun fact: on the last day, at lunch I sat next to a man who introduced himself as Brother Augustine, the tailor for the order…he is the one who sews the habits for the friars as well as some of the vestments for mass.
So then we were positively COMPELLED to talk about sewing machines–regular vs. Sergers– and fabric content (he prefers the wool/ polyester blend) and he even drew some patterns on a napkin as we chatted. It was delightful.
And then I told him that I would talk about the habit on my blog and he started pointing things out to me.
“When we receive the habit,” he gently said, “it is an outward sign of an internal position. The habit is only as holy as the person wearing it strives to be.”
He went on, “The habit is a shield against our enemies…but also a target for them.”
And then he began touching on some of his “innumerable” stories of wearing his habit in public places like grocery stores or airports. He shared that most of the time (but not all of the time) he was very well-received and that people would thank him for being present in their lives and communities.
He said that sometimes people would ask him to pray for them and he does, sometimes right in the supermarket aisle if that’s where he is asked.
And then he pulled a little notepad out of his pocket so he could find my blog and read it, and the gesture was so fantastic that I decided he must be featured as well. Good brother Augustine, I enjoyed our chat. I hope to frequent a fabric store soon. I will look at fabric content and think of you. 🙂
Another young fellow from the retreat is Brother Thomas. He’s a bit closer to my age and he is on his way towards becoming a Franciscan priest. We call this process “discernment.” It sounds kind of mystical and exciting…but it’s actually kind of hard.
Anyway! Brother Thomas is a ray of sunshine, the kind that’s hard to understand. Have you ever seen joy so incarnate that you just want to ask, “Who are you? What have you encountered that causes this eternal smile?”
That, my friends, is like meeting Brother Thomas. And I haven’t even mentioned home-boy’s dancing skills. And those skills are to be mentioned.
(Is it fair for me to share this kind of information?)
Some people dance self-consciously, other people dance to perform for observers. Brother Thomas subscribes to none of this. Brother Thomas dances fully with all that he is–jumping and spinning his habit and stomping with full gusto. It’s beautiful and freeing.
I charged Brother Thomas to tell me about his Franciscan experience. It’s important to note that these men are men, too. They have dreams and aspirations just like anyone. They struggle to be holy. Why, then, does a young man leave everything he has and join this life of poverty, chastity, and obedience? His response was:
The very first thing that popped into my head about why I joined the Franciscans is that we are communal. At least, the Conventual Franciscans tend to be (that’s the name of my branch). The name “Conventual” comes from the word “convent” and we are so-called because soon after St. Francis founded the Franciscan order, the guys who went into the larger cities decided to set up communal houses there rather than running around in the forest (which would have made city ministry rather difficult). Those houses became “convents” and those friars came to be known as “Conventual.” We recognize in this movement a call to live St. Francis’ joy as a brother to all, for he recognized Christ as brother to all, and so St. Frances recognized not only the people he encountered as family but even called the sun his brother and the moon his sister. In a sense, brotherhood is the gift we offer the Church.
I’ve often heard that communal life is our greatest strength and our greatest cross. Our way of life is joyful and very beautiful and the spiritual friendships I have formed breed joy and authentic spirituality. At the same time, when you’re living together with so many different people from so many walks of life (whom, unlike your spouse, you did not get to hand-pick), you’re bound to bump shoulders, have some drama, all of the excitement of family life. This is what has shaped me the most since I became a friar, for learning to love fully in the circumstances of the community teaches me how to better love whomever I meet, to be a brother to all.
What the dangity ding dong, right?? That’s so epic and beautiful.
When Father Pio spoke to me about his habit he pointed out that it was a sign of poverty and a sign of Christ. And, here again we see in Father Anthony and Brother Augustine and Brother Thomas signs of poverty and Christ among us.
May the sweet Bambino Gesu be praised.
St. Francis of Assisi…pray for us!