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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Wearing Habits

No question, wearing a habit, cassock, or clerics for that matter, is a clear witness to the world of a life lived for Christ.

Two stories.

Watching EWTN morning Mass one day, one of the Friars was preaching, in part, about wearing the habit. He talked about visiting a convent of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in the Southwestern U.S. with several other Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word (MFVA). He told how they were in a restaurant eating, and as they would, they forgot about the fact that they were dressed a bit differently than the normal customers. He went on to say that at some point their young waitress came out and said, "everyone wants to know, what are you guys?" The friar answered fairly succinctly, satisfying her curiosity as she went back to the kitchen to relay the answer. A little while later she came back and asked more questions like, what is a "Franciscan"? Several rounds of questioning later, she said she didn't "know God". At that moment, one of the lay brothers answered immediately "You may not know Him, but He knows you, and He loves you!" The Friar preaching the homily jokingly said in his homily, "man, why didn't I think of saying that!"

The Friars may never know what will become of that young woman, or the other employees that were asking questions of them, but one thing is for sure - No habits - probably no conversation about the Love of God.

Second story. A few weeks ago a young man came into my office to talk about vocations. What was driving the beginning stages of his discernment? He had been visiting the Grand Canyon, and ran into, all of people, Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (they have a friary in New Mexico). He spoke to them, and it got the wheels turning. Weeks later he's in my office asking all the right questions. Again, no habits, and this story doesn't happen.

Ask any religious that wears a habit and they probably have a dozen stories just like this. I'll never believe the relativist idea that "I don't need to wear a habit, my habit is living my life according the gospel." Maybe, but you'll never be a visible witness, to someone driving by, of a truly counter cultural life. "They're uncomfortable to wear" - I'm glad Christ didn't say the same about "wearing" His humanity when it became "uncomfortable", and give it up for "casual wear".


Jean said...

In reading this, I'm reminded of our recent trip from Loretto to Washington. Br. Gregory, as usual, was wearing his habit. We stopped to get gas and have some lunch at a Subway restaurant. After finishing, Lisa and I returned to the car. We thought Br. Gregory was right behind us. We waited 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes. I started to go back inside Subway but when I saw Br. Gregory standing inside the door, talking to a man, I quietly went back to the car and started mentally praying for him. When he finally returned to the car he had quite a story to tell. This man had approached him and asked, like the waitress in your story, "What are you?" As Gregory began to talk to him, it came out the man shared with a lot of anger that a priest had hurt him as a child. He was not more specific and Br. Gregory did not ask for details. He did tell the man that on behalf of that priest and the entire Church, he apologized for the hurt he suffered. This deeply touched this man and Br. Gregory was able to continue to witness to him about the love of Christ. I believe God was able to begin a healing in this individual through Br. Gregory's conversation. And it never would have happened if the T.O.R.s did not wear habits!
Thanks again for your blog. I love reading it. And thanks for your ministry; you remain in my prayers.

FrZ+ said...

In 2006, a fellow priest and I in Charleston, South Carolina (serious Baptist country!) had two different "incidents" within a matter of weeks: 1st, when going to dinner (stil 'cassocked')with parishioners after Benediction, we were approached in the parking lot by a Hollywood type-cast "Good Ol' Boy", who stopped his pickup truck and stuck his head out the window to ask "Hey, if y'all don't mind... what are, anyway???". (I don't insult easily (I was a Marine and police chaplain-- I've been insulted by pros!), and figured it was an opportunity for a bit of evangelism.

The second and much better story didn't allow for evangelism, though. We were returning from a Saturday evening Latin Mass in our cassocks and birettas and decided to stop at a rather nice restaurant to get a bite to eat. After fasting before Communion and then a late and long Mass, we were stuck waiting for our table. The four year with the family ahead of us. Finally,he burst out in a whisper that could be heard in the next county; "Look, Mom! Ninjas!!!

Mom wanted to crawl under a table, but I told the little boy that we were better than regular Ninjas... we were Ninjas for for GOD!

At that point, the family was called to their table, and they left... remarkably quickly.