Get in the Habit

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

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11900159133427169416 timothy

    “Mostly we just stand around.” Awesome!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00890263882434450870 pritcher

    I’m grateful for your enriching and challenging preaching at St. Mary’s. This story, which I remember from a couple months ago, is still my favorite of yours.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Thanks. Sorry for the re-run!

  • Anonymous

    Fr, I’m starting to wonder if there is something in the water in Kansas. A few years ago, when I took my daughters to Rome, the first person we met (on a bus) was a very young sister in a beautiful blue habit (don’t know the order). She was so joyful and beautiful and a Kansan! Travel from Wichita to Rome and meet with a young sister from Kansas. Basketball player as well (as were my daughters). Not to mention that two of my favorite US Bishops are also Kansans (Chaput and Olmstead). Think there’s any possibility of a Kansan pope?? (Kidding, kidding–I’ll keep our current Holy Father for as close to forever as possible!) Now I hear that our Kansas religious are in England as well. Wow, just wow.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06735175874152541268 Stephen Wikner

    . . . and yet, by and large, can one get clerics or religious of whatever denomination to dress the part outside their immediate ‘place of work’? It’s almost as if they are afraid of appearing distinctive.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05227411938775535934 Jeffrey Smith

    Habits as a tool for evangelism. There’s a point where we can completely agree.

  • Anonymous

    I spent time with the Benedictines many years ago, and wore my habit in public without incident, until I paid a visit to my home parish in Massachusetts. A dioscesan priest meeting me at the rectory told me adamantly that “Male religious don’t wear their habits on the street!” After Mass, the pastor, an older man, asked me not wear my habit to Mass in the future because it “might confuse the people”. I have no idea even now as to where they got these ideas from, but am glad that more and more religious and layfolk today value and respect religious garb. Seeing it worn does make a difference.Hans