Monday, June 27, 2005

The Religious Habit as a sign

This article, along with so many other very important articles, may be found at:

Religious garb opens so many opportunities to witness
THE ATTRACTION OF A HABIT Sr. Joseph Mary Maximilian, FTI
Sisters without a habit miss so many opportunities to speak about God to souls hungry to hear of Him.

June 20, 2005
Feast of St. Anthony

This past weekend an invitation was received to participate in a åThird Order Awareness Weekendπ. So there, with the Benedictine Oblates, the Secular Carmelites, and the Secular Franciscans, I set up my little table and wore the habit of a Tertiary of my particular branch of the Franciscan Order.

On the table were Miraculous Medals, Rosaries, and printed pamphlets with information on them. Books that the Order publishes were on display and there was a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and Sts. Francis, Maximilian, Pio and Anthony. A framed picture of St. Francis was a focal point as well.

Printed information on the Franciscan Tertiaries from the web site was available for the taking. Then a most enjoyable experience commenced!

It was wonderful to be able to speak about things of the faith to those who were truly interested. I taught a woman how to pray the rosary, gave many away, was able to explain the Miraculous Medal to others and spoke about all sorts of faith topics.

It was such a pleasure to talk with a couple coming in from the Episcopal Church, excited about beginning RCIA this fall. Moreover, their excitement was contagious! They wanted to know more about Our Lady, to share their great joy in the new things they were discovering in the faith.

Young people had many questions. Many did not know about the Miraculous Medal. Both medals and information were given to them. One mother said that she wished I could teach her childrenπs religion class. All Mom had as evidence was the habit being worn and the religious articles being distributed.

Now, it must be admitted that the majority of people walked by with a gaze straight ahead and did not want to even make eye contact but it was fun to greet those who did.

It was joyful to speak of the faith, about adoration and the Sacraments, about Our Lady, the Franciscan life, our Lord and to be encouraging to others. It was such a good time; the kind that is difficult to explain because it is a spiritual joy.

One of the Seculars came over and said, "I don't get it, why have you had so many people at your table and talking to you?"

I thought about it and found the answer. It is the habit!

It is that outward sign that has been abandoned by so many. That is what drew people to come over to my table, to ask questions. It certainly was not åme!π

Pondering this thought, I recall a dear religious brother who enjoys wearing the habit because it draws people to him, people asking religious questions. Since talking about things of God is my friend's favorite subject, it has been his great joy to wear that external sign of the consecrated religious life.

The religious garb opens so many opportunities to witness for God and to plant seeds of faith and encouragement in others.

What a pity for those who gave up their habit, especially for those who were forced. The religious habit attracts souls! For example, my own sons have never seen a Sister in a habit. We do have some religious Sisters in our area, but one would be hard pressed to pick them out, sorry to say. Sisters without a habit miss so many opportunities to speak about God to souls hungry to hear of Him.

There was sadness at hearing of the time when a Sister in our parish burned her veil in the trashcan in her back yard. If blending in was the goal, it has been achieved because most of our parishioners have no idea who the Sister listed in the bulletin might be. Her clothing cannot recognize her vocation.

More shamefully disappointing is when priests do not wear their clerics in public. Most likely, there are times when it is uncomfortable or a burden to be obviously seen as a priest. Living a life of Christ is not easy.

I have so admired those who are first, foremost and always a discernable priest, wearing the distinctive garb of their vocation.

One particular spiritual director who always wears his clerics in public says wearing his clerics invites people to approach him. He has heard confessions in mall parking lots and other interesting places. Father rejoiced that Our Lord brought souls to him for reconciliation.

Another priest, a cousin, is never seen out of his religious garb. Even family outings, such as going to the ice cream store, brought him the opportunity to give a Miraculous Medal to the sales girl at the counter and to answer questions about the Catholic faith. Opportunities are everywhere for those willing to witness by wearing that sign of consecration in the world ≠ the religious garb.

Itπs well documented that those religious Orders whose Sisters are wearing their habits are growing, some phenomenally.

There is attraction to the habit and not just because it is special clothing, but also because it is a witness to the way of life behind the habit and to the person clothed in it. Here we find someone dedicated to God! Wearing their habit is saying, ≥May I be of service!≤

Maybe a question that has been on the heart for a long time can be asked. Perhaps good advice can be sought. Oh, how we need these souls of consecrated life in the world.

This is only a small taste of what it must be like to wear the habit. In ordinary life, I am a wife and mother. I do dress differently in some respects, modestly, as well as wearing the Miraculous Medal of the Order.

As a Franciscan Tertiary, care must be taken to be reverent and to set a quiet example, for like the Seraphic Father, St. Francis, we must always spread the Gospel by our actions first, using words only when necessary.

Outside the Franciscan setting, the habit is worn only at chapter meetings and on very special occasions, therefore rarely seen in public. But, there is no denying how much I enjoyed that little taste of what it must be like to attract souls by the wearing of the religious habit.

Ave Maria!
Sr. Joseph Mary Maximilian, FTI

Sr. Joseph Mary Maximilian of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the religious name of a member of the Franciscan Tertiaries of the Immaculate (FTI). She is a wife and mother, a professional person in a medical field and active in her home parish.

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