In the photograph on the post below this you can spot a couple of the famous London phone boxes. These friars are in London, and it reminds me of a little story…
I was travelling across London a few years ago with a friend who was a lapsed Catholic. We spotted a couple of Hare Krishnas with their orange robes, shaved heads and begging bowls scurrying along about their business, and my friend said, “Now that’s real religion. People living it out. If only there were more Catholics like that!”
I replied, “Oh, we’ve got our share, don’t worry.”
As providence would have it, later in the day we saw two of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity with their distinctive habits and wearing cheap cardigan sweaters against the damp and cold. They were hurrying about their business and I nudged my friend, “Look, there’s a couple of ours!” At the end of the day we were on the underground train when one of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal got on board and stood there with his shaved head, big beard, rough Franciscan habit and huge rosary.
I nudged my friend again, “Look there’s another one of ours. We’re ahead three to two.”
I asked the young friar where he was from. Turned out he was from Kansas. “What are you doing in London?”
“Evangelization” was his one word reply.
“What, street preaching, parish work, schools work? What?”
“Mostly we just stand around.” he said with a wry smile.
A few months later my friend returned to Mass.
That’s the value of the habit. It’s an evangelistic outfit. It preaches on it’s own. It says to the world, “There is another set of values. There’s another set of beliefs. There’s another way of looking at everything.” It says to the world, “Think again. Stop, Look and Listen.”
UPDATE: Here’s a cool slideshow of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal