Quotes. They’re a powerful literary and rhetorical device that bring meaning to what we’re saying, strengthen our argument, and legitimize our ideas, showing that someone of significance had the same feeling about something that we have.

Or they’re completely made up.

As comedian John Oliver presented on his late night HBO show two years ago, we live in a world where the spread of information reaches further than our ability (or desire) to fact check. While presenting a number of ridiculous and obviously fake quotes from Abraham Lincoln, Marie Curie, Alexander Hamilton, and even himself, he points out, “If you have the right font and the right photo any quote can seem real.”

No doubt, we have all witnessed this phenomenon on social media, and while we probably don’t want to admit it, we have probably perpetuated it. I mean, who among us hasn’t quoted Ghandi saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world” or seen a quote from Albert Einstein and said, “Wow, I like that”? Chances are, all of us have fallen prey to at least one of these 50 common misquotations or, more to theme of these blog, a misquote of the Bible or a popular saint.

Which brings us to the beloved saint, Francis of Assisi. Arguably the most popular saint behind the blessed Mother, what St. Francis lacks in popularity behind Mary the Mother of God is more than made up for in misappropriated quotes. Sure, you can find pictures every once in a while of Mary holding the rosary (praying through herself…?) and there is no shortage of claimed apparitions, but no one matches the breadth of famously-quoted-but-never-actually-spoken lines as St. Francis. Do a quick Google search of “St. Francis quotes” and you will find tons of beautiful words attributed to the saint, many of which you have undoubtedly heard before. Many of them are great lines that touch our hearts and captures our imagination. And most of them have nothing to do with St. Francis! In researching this topic, I went to a popular quote website to see what he is credited with saying. Of the top 20, he might have said three of them (although none of them were exact quotations), but he most definitely did not say the first 16 listed.

That would not get you a good grade on an essay. Just saying.

But it raises an interesting question: what do we do with all of these quotes attributed to St. Francis? Outside of an academic setting where accuracy is paramount, I’m a bit torn. A part of me, sharing in John Oliver’s frustration, seeks for a purity of history, sticking as close to the facts as we are able and citing sources to support our claims. The spread of incorrect information is no small issue. And yet, there’s another part of me that sees the merit in even misattributed quotes. While not historically factual, there is nonetheless something true about some of them. Maybe St. Francis did not say these exact words, but he lived by their meaning, and, had he lived in the 21st century with us, might have said it just like that. In these historically inaccurate and misattributed lines we find an insight to the saint that we love and a way to carry on his legacy in a new world.

Or not. Some are just ridiculous and insulting and really frustrating and should never be said or shared or thought ever again. *Regains composure*

So, which quotes of Francis are authentic, and what do we do with the not-so-historically-accurate ones? That is the topic of this week’s Catholicism in Focus. In honor of the Feast of St. Francis this Wednesday, I look into some of his most popularly shared quotes on social media and give my take of their significance in our lives today.

For email subscribers, click here to watch the video.

As a final note, I have left here at the bottom some of my favorite quotes of St. Francis that actually have a source. Now, we can question the historical accuracy of the document (a much larger discussion for another time), but we are probably much closer to the real Francis when we quote sources from the 1220s rather than the 1990s… (All quotes from Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, New City Press, volume 1.)

“For what a person is before God, that he is and no more.” (Admonition XIX)

“A person sins who wishes to receive more from his neighbor than he wishes to give of himself to the Lord God.” (Admonition XVII)

“Nothing should displease a servant of God except sin.” (Admonition XI)

“Nothing belongs to you; you can boast of none of these things.” (Admonition V)

“Most high, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity, sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out your hold and true command.” (Prayer before the Crucifix)

“We must never desire to be above others, but, instead, we must be servants and subject to every human creature for God’s sake.” (Later Admonition and Exhortation to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance)

“When the day of death does come, everything they think they have shall be taken from them. The wiser and more powerful they may have been in this world, the greater will be the punishment they will endure in hell.” (A Letter to the Rulers of the Peoples)

“It is a great misery and miserable weakness that when you have Him present in this way, you are concerned with anything else in the whole world!” (A Letter to the Entire Order)

“The Lord gave me, Brother Francis, thus to begin doing penance in this way: for when I was in sin, it seemed to bitter for me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me was turned into sweetness of soul and body. And afterwords I delayed a little and left the world.” (The Testament)

“Hail, O Lady, Holy Queen, Mary, holy Mother of God, who are the Virgin made Church, chosen by the most Holy Father in heaven whom he consecrated with His most holy beloved Son and with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, in whom there was and is all fullness of grace and every good. Hail His Palace! Hail His Tabernacle! Hail His Dwelling! Hail His Robe! Hail His Servant! Hail His Mother! And hail all You holy virtues which are poured into the hearts of the faithful through the grace and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, that from being unbelievers, you may make them faithful to God.” (A Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

The other day I had an unfortunate run-in with someone on Facebook.

Scrolling through my newsfeed, I found an acquaintance of mine had posted something about the election from the viewpoint of the Catholic Church. Not recognizing the news source (not a good sign) and seeing a provocative title (something like, “Vote correctly or see your church close in November”) I hesitantly clicked. Apparently, some priest was telling everyone that if a “certain party” was elected, Churches would be forced to accept new doctrines, decided on by the government, or they would be forced to close because it was the goal of this party to destroy the family and shut down all churches.

Ugh. Talk about fear-mongering and dangerous rhetoric… and in the name of the Church.

While I try not to get involved with things like this when I can, I felt that, as a representative of the Catholic Church and knowing that this person had influence, I needed to make a public statement about the article. Responding via comment, I said that I was very disappointed in the priest and article, that it is yet another example of people trying to manipulate voters with fears that are not based in reality, and assured people that neither party has stated it plans to (or is even capable of) repealing the First Amendment, and that despite statements like this over the past eight years, religious houses of worship have always been granted exemptions to issues of religious freedom. This person’s response? “I’m entitled to my opinion and so are you.” The problem I had with this article, of course, was not that it shared opinions different from mine, but that it shared “facts” that were not true. No one is entitled to say things that are not true.

After writing this as a response, I was not only “defriended,” I was blocked entirely. Ouch.

The reason I write this is not to dwell on this particular encounter, as this is a nice person and I do not mean any harm, nor is it to discuss the issue of religious freedom and the interplay of government and religious institutions, as that is a topic for another day and another time. Instead, I have something very specific, and very important on my mind: we need to learn how to argue with each other.

This may sound like a strange statement coming from a man of peace, but I think the very fact that it does is one of the great failings of our current society (and Church!) and why we are as polarized as we are today. Arguments are not evil encounters that only exist with bad people and so should be avoided at all costs. No! Arguments are simply situations in which people who have come to different conclusions about something engage one another in conversation. Sure, they can be heated. Of course, passion may drive the conversation. But choosing to stand up for one’s opinion rather than ignore the situation or immediately assent to the other’s is not a bad thing, and it most certainly doesn’t have to end in punches or defriending. It can be a very good thing. At least, if it’s done well. As a Catholic and as a Franciscan living in a pluralistic United States, I think that we absolutely have to engage people, but that we need to do it with a few things in mind.

Arguments are not meant to be “won” The biggest issue for many is a conceptional one: the point of a good argument is not to defeat one’s opponent, it is to improve the understanding of the issue at hand for everyone. If the goal of each is to simply “win” the argument, the conversation becomes less about the issue itself—presumably something important worth doing—and more about determining who is “right” and who is “wrong.” But is there ever really a case in which one person is 100% right and the other 100% wrong? Likely not. No matter the situation, there is guaranteed to be something that both parties can walk away with better off than where they started.

But let’s say that there is such a case and one person is just categorically wrong and refuses to accept the truth, i.e. someone who believes that vaccinations cause autism. What is truly gained from seeing each other as enemies and creating winners and losers and making it one’s goal to belittle them? In those cases, I think we as Christians are called to go below the surface of the argument, to seek to understand the person a little better so as to know why they see the world as they do. There might in fact be something very true—a life experience, a fear, a hope for the future—that is shared between both parties and may help to bridge the gap of understanding. This is a situation in which everyone wins, no matter what they ultimately conclude.

Some arguments are just bad… but that doesn’t mean people are In a class years ago, a student shared an opinion that I felt misinterpreted the situation. I raised my hand and said, “I see where you’re coming from, but based on X and Y, I have to disagree.” After class, he came up to me and asked what I had against him. Huh? I don’t have anything against you! For him, there was no distinction between one’s ideas and one’s self, and so me attacking his idea was interpreted as me attacking him.

The fact of the matter is that sometimes good people have bad ideas and bad people have good ideas. In entering a debate, we need to always make the distinction between who someone is and what they’re arguing, and not a) let our emotions get the best of us and become offended by disagreement, or b) belittle an argument based on the character of the one saying it. If God has taught us anything in history it’s that the weakest and least likely people are are just as capable of speaking the truth as the wealthy and well-learned. Truth exists not because of the merit of the one who says it, but because it’s true in itself. In arguing, we are seek the truth irrespective of who says it.

Humility can go a long way The opposite is also true. Certain friends or family might find this final statement a bit humorous coming from me, but one of the most critical traits one has to have to argue well is the ability to admit to being wrong and change when necessary. Being impervious to change and unrelenting in one’s opinion does not make one “faithful,” it makes one dogmatic and an ideologue. Jesus denounced these people when he walked the earth and he certainly doesn’t need people like that now to build up his Church. What he did need, and what he desperately needs now, are men and women who have a firm foundation in the truth of God and God’s creation, but are willing to admit that they themselves are not omniscient or omnipotent—people who are willing to work from a foundation but adapt to the pastoral and cultural “signs of the times.”

Does that mean that everything needs to be on the table at all times? Of course not. For what it’s worth, I will probably never change my opinion on the human and divine nature of Jesus, the holiness of human life, and the need to care for the poor and marginalized. These are non-negotionables for me, and we all have them. What must always be open to change, however, is what these things mean in the modern world and how we are to live them out. And if this is can be true for something as important as how we honor the holiness of human life (something that has drastically changed every century in Church history), then it seems only fitting that we be able to do the same when it comes to taxes, education, daily habits, liturgy, where we eat dinner, foreign policy, and bed times.

***

We live in a world with seven billion people, all going in different directions with different sets of values. Thinking that we will always get along, or worse yet, that we should avoid anyone who disagrees with us for fear of conflicts, is not for Christians. It’s not the way Jesus lived by any means. When we commit to living by a radical worldview, we should not only expect arguments with others, we should welcome it. Evangelization does not occur when people already agree with us, it occurs when we engage people who have come to different conclusions about the world than us. As Christians, are we going to treat these people as our enemies, putting them down or running from them, or are we going to welcome them into peaceful, fruitful dialogue in which we learn to seek the truth together?

Upon turning 70 years old last week, one of our friars took the opportunity at mass to share some words of wisdom and a beautiful prayer about what the experience of getting “old” is like. Using the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, he said something to effect of, “as the body begins to break and weaken, filling up with holes, one finds room for God they never had before.” It was from the heart, insightful, and highly appropriate.

Or so I thought.

After concluding mass, a parishioner approached him, agitated at what he had said. “You’re not old! I’m 78 and I still do so much. Do you think I’m old?!” While the friar was simply using the word as an objective category, “someone who is closer to death than baptism,” as he said, the parishioner took the word to have an offensive undertone: something that is “old” is less-capable, out-of-date, and undesirable.

It’s a situation that I have been in many times in my life as a friar. Being the “youngest” friar in the province, I learned very quickly that what I considered “young” and “old” was often not what others did, and that using such words was to be done with extreme caution, if ever at all. Despite being a senior citizen, 65 was not “old” to a 70-year-old. Despite being the average age of death, 75 was not “old” to an 80-year-old, and so on. Depending on who I’m talking to, someone who is 40, 50, even 60 can be considered “young,” and you don’t dare call them otherwise.

You can guess what that frame of reference does to someone in my position. At 27-years-old, having entered at 22, I am the youngest professed friar in our province… and can never forget it. “Oh my God you’re so young!” is a phrase I hear from parishioners and friars alike on a regular basis. For five years, it has been my “minority status,” the underrepresented category in our Order and Church that defines me, making me the unofficial spokesperson, expert, and representative for all things youthful. Because the friars are aging in this country, I am and probably will be “young” in this line of work far longer than if I were to do anything else.

Which is fine. Hooray. Outside of the occasional question of my maturity, being “young” is a great thing. It’s the reason that 78-year-olds still think of themselves that way and refuse to use the word “old.” It’s the reason that Bob Dylan and Alphaville sung songs about it, why we have so much nostalgia for our youth, why it takes some people a decade to move on after college. Being “young” is what we want and being “old” is terrible. Right?

What I want to suggest in this post, and why I have the words “young” and “old” in quotes throughout this whole post, is that these words are generic terms that do not adequately reflect the human experience nor do they point us to what is really important.

As someone who has been branded with the title of “young” over the past five years, I can’t help but recognize the irony of the fact that I have come to recognize my own age and mortality in that same time period. At 22, when I became the “youngest in the province,” I played my last ever competitive baseball game. I reached an age in which the best of something was behind me. At 24, being the “youngest novice in the country,” I tore my shoulder and was told that I would have to begin exercising in a different way. I became physically unable to do something I once could. At 27, as parishioners can’t believe that I’m old enough to be a friar, I notice that the small cut on my face from shaving has become a permanent scar, the stray and occasional grey hair has become a dozen fixed features of my scalp, and my one eye sags a little bit when I smile. My body is shifting from growth to decline. Despite being so “young,” I can’t help but feel “old” compared to how I used to be.

Am I “old” then? Aren’t I still “young”? The obvious answer is that these terms are meant to be relative and only make sense in comparison to something else: I am old compared to the students at Immaculata Elementary School but quite young compared to my formators and provincial leadership. But I don’t think that is what offends people at church or drives people to want to be “forever young.” No, the problem is that we associate being “young” with life, vibrancy, and potential whereas we associate being “old” with weakness, decay, and the past. Despite the fact that youth comes with its tremendous detriments (immaturity, doubt, lack of experience) and that increased age comes with its tremendous benefits (wisdom, confidence, identity), we somehow only remember the things we used to do but now can’t, rather than all of the things we couldn’t do but now can.

Why such pessimism? I can’t speak for everyone, but I have a theory for most: we fear our own death more than we think. With everything that changes, diminishes, gets weaker, or disappears, we are reminded that there will come a day when we are a shadow of the person we once were; with everything that we lose, we are reminded that there will come a day when we lose it all. The little things we lose—the color of our hair, the quickness of our mind, the strength in our step—do not bother us in themselves. Who cares about a few grey hairs? It’s what they represent that gets us. Loss. Diminishment. Irrelevancy. Death.

That’s the problem with the categories we use: no matter the age, we all experience death and loss. It’s not a binary system in which one goes from “young” to “old” overnight, from a period of growth to decline as if we’re two different people. No matter the age, we are all confronted with the fact that the past is gone, that what we once knew and loved will not last forever. All things must come to an end.

So to speak.

While all of us have an innate fear of the unknown, difficulty handling loss, and uneasiness about death, we as Christians know at our very core that death is not the end, that loss is not the final note. It is precisely from death that we receive new life; it is from our pain, loss, and weakness that we find relief, gain more than we had, and know that Christ is strong in us. In an ultimate sense, we know that we our death from this world will be made new with the resurrection and we will rise with Christ on the last day.

But it’s more than that and sooner than that. With every loss that we experience throughout our years, there is the sadness of saying goodbye to something we loved, but also room to welcome something new to love. Leaving college was sad… but starting a career is exciting. Not being able to play baseball anymore was devastating… but taking up a new hobby of golf is invigorating. Saying goodbye to the people we love is tragic… but finding the time and need to love others in their place is a life-giving opportunity. With every loss comes new life. It is in that understanding that I understand very clearly what my Franciscan brother meant to share at mass last week: sometimes, in the weak moments when all we seem to know are the holes of what used to be, we find that we have more room for God’s work than we ever had before. I tell you, that is a lesson to learn, no matter the age.

A Tribute To Nana, God’s Joyful Servant

On November 11, 2014, my grandmother, Mary Hendel, died at the age of 91. She was a beloved woman and the life of the family. Yesterday, I was privileged to be able to give a reflection of her life at her funeral mass. My message was this: Nana led us to God, and God will lead us back to Nana.

Mary with her husband Albert

Mary with her husband Albert

When I think of Nana, I think of a woman of great joy. Tremendous joy. Infectious joy. As I thought about her over the past couple of days, I struggled to come up with even one memory of her that did not include a smile. And do you know what? That made me smile. She was an affective person, someone that simply could not contain her joy. She was the woman that played tennis well into her 80s. The card player that could bid the same thing all night and still beat you… with a smile. The life of the party that found herself on YouTube playing beer pong (seriously, check it out here!). There is very little that she did not get out of this life.

When I think of Nana, I think of a woman of great sacrifice, always giving of herself. Tremendous sacrifice. Infectious sacrifice. As someone who will never have kids, I can’t even imagine how much she must have given of herself to raise ten children, and to raise them well. And trust me: I know all of you and I’ve heard stories. She must have been a saint to handle you through your teenage years! And that’s the way she was until she breathed her last. Nana was a woman always looking to serve, ready to do whatever she had to do to make sure that her family was happy, well-fed, welcome. There is very little that she did not give of herself in this life.

When I think of Nana, someone who is truly a saint in my eyes, it makes me wonder: what made her so joyous all of the time? What was it that gave her the strength to love so selflessly and unconditionally? The only answer that I can possibly give is the love of God. Nana was a woman of strong faith and great hope. God was her shepherd, the one who guided her through tough times and rejoiced with her during the good. He was her comfort, and clearly her strength.

The fact of the matter is that Nana was someone so close to God that she truly embodied Christ in her person. Think about the Gospel passage we have just heard. Right before his death, a death he freely accepted, Jesus took time to do two things: share a meal with his closest companions, and wash their feet. Joy and sacrifice. That, I believe, is the totality of what God meant to reveal to us in the person of Jesus. That truly is the meaning of our life here. Through Jesus, we know the joy of our salvation, the good news preached to the poor and oppressed, that God loves us and wants to bring us home to him. This is not just some passing emotion; I’m not talking about simply being happy. What Jesus brought was the day in, day out, eternal joy of knowing that God was walking with us as our shepherd. And how did he reveal this to us? As a king lording it over us? As one demanding his strict obedience and service? No, quite the opposite. Jesus showed by his example that the way we are to love one another, the way that God relates to us, is as humble servants. Without arrogance. Without entitlement. Without pride. Just love without counting the cost, even if that means giving of our lives.

Isn’t that the way Nana lived every moment of her life? A joyful servant of God?

Pictures like these were more than plentiful at the viewing. Nana was joyful and outgoing.

Pictures like these were more than plentiful at the viewing. Nana was joyful and outgoing.

What I love so much about our psalm today is the image of an overflowing cup. Isn’t that truly what our lives are? Overflowing cups? How could we begin to count the ways God has blessed us? When has our cup ever gone dry? For those who ask to be refilled, God will never stop pouring. That’s the way Nana lived her life. She never thought twice about taking a sip out of life, enjoying every blessing God was going to give her, never fearing that she might run out tomorrow. She was joyful because she knew that God would fill her back up. She never thought twice about giving of herself, emptying her cup for love of others, never fearing that she wouldn’t have enough for herself. She was a servant of others because she knew that God was going to fill her back up.

As she grew older and older, she used to joke, “I think God must have forgotten about little old me down here.” I hardly think this was the case. God had not forgotten about her, and she certainly had not forgotten about God. But I think there’s something so human about a statement like that. Even when joking, it touches on the deep, existential questions we all have to some degree. Does God exist? Why am I here when others have died? What happens when we die? What is the meaning of life? There is within each one of us a longing to know the answer to each of these questions, a struggle to realize that we cannot prove our answers to any of them. It is the human condition, to know that we will never find absolute certainty in this life, but that we have to make a decision anyway. On the one hand, we can let our doubts and skepticism get the best of us, focus entirely on what we don’t know, and wallow in our great loss. Nana is gone from this world forever. But that is not our only choice. We have within us the capacity to hope to believe what we have heard in Scripture and what others have told us. We have hope that what we have seen with our own eyes is God working in this world. This is not some wishful desire made up to comfort us. It is the experience of good and faithful people for thousands of years. It is hope that keeps us from despair; hope that keeps us going until that final day when we breathe our last and we find ourselves face to face with the one who created us and called us home.

As Christians, gathered around this saint named Mary, how can we have anything else but hope and joy for where she is now. Are we sad? Of course. Do we miss her? Undoubtedly. But if we have hope in the life of Jesus, how can we not have nope for Nana. Jesus came to us for a short time, brought us the Father’s joy and love through humble service, and when his work was done, he returned to the Father. Isn’t that Nana’s story as well? After witnessing to the great love of God our father for 91 years, she now returns to that love, to remain in the comfort of his hands forever.

And so I ask something of you, something for you to think about and ponder as you remember the life of such a wonderful woman. If Nana has touched your life is some way, if her joy made you smile (or continues to make you smile), if she has made your life better because of her great sacrifice, if she has made you the person that you are today… would you allow yourself to believe that is was God who touched her life and made her who she was? Would you allow yourself to believe that it was God working through Nana to show you his love?

If you say yes, know that Nana will never be far away. For what we truly loved about Nana is before us here and before us always. God’s love is ready to be poured out to all who ask for it and made truly present here in the word and at this table. God’s grace made Nana’s cup overflow so much that we couldn’t help but feel his presence in our lives. May you allow your cup to overflow with the grace of God so that you may also bring joy and selfless love to all you meet.

Why I Wear My Habit: Everything I Forgot To Say

Despite my last post being the longest entry so far, I realized after speaking with a number of people, embarrassingly enough, that I forgot a few key points that I wanted to make. I mentioned quite briefly that wearing the habit makes me a better person, but failed to mention exactly why I believe that. I mentioned that the habit is a sign that is not only external, but also internal, but failed to fully explain what that sign represents. So, without further adieu, I give you part two of “why I wear my habit.”

Francis' habit may have changed a bit through the years, but I believe that it can still be relevant.

Francis’ habit may have changed a bit through the years, but I believe that it can still be relevant.

A Habit of Penance

Most embarrassingly about my last post is that I did not once use the words penance, simplicity, or poverty. These are major oversights on my part, as they are at the very core of what it means to be a Franciscan, and among the primary reasons for wearing the habit.

You see, Francis and his charism are all about conversion. Once the son of a wealthy merchant, Francis wore clothing that was expensive and flashy, full of color and drastically distinct from that of the peasant class. When he decided to leave the world behind, he dramatically stripped naked in the town square, renouncing all that he had once believed to have possessed, and put on instead a new habitus, that is, the status and way of life, of the poor. At that time in Assisi, the poor would have worn cheap, colorless and mended together fabrics, and for Francis, would have been the drastic external sign to represent his drastic internal conversion.

The habit, however, was much more than simply an external sign, a point that I hastily made at the end of the last post. In reality, the fabric would have been terrible uncomfortable, insufficient in protecting one from the elements, and unlike the habit of today, completely identifiable with the most rejected and repulsive people of society: the poor and diseased. To wear such clothing has an obvious external effect, but the day-to-day internal effect is what is key here. Wearing a habit was a constant reminder to the friars that they were poor, downtrodden, superior to no one, dependent on God and neighbor, simple, and most of all, sinners that sought to do penance.

Today, as I mentioned, the habit has evolved into something slightly different. For some, unfortunately, it has come to be a source of power and authority, respect, affluence, and judgment. I know that people wear it for this purpose, and I completely understand those who choose not to wear it as a reaction to such an abuse.

But as I mentioned in the last post, the possibility of abuse and the changing nature of the habit does not mean that its original purpose cannot remain true. For me, it is a tangible sign of the major conversion I have made to enter religious life, and the many small conversions I am called to each day to die to self. For me, it is a constant reminder that I am a visible person in the world, and that I must strive to be a good example of a Christian no matter the situation. For me, at 95 degrees this week in Washington, it is absolutely a habit of penance, uncomfortable and unable to protect me from the elements, making it absolutely impossible to forget that I have limitations as a sinner, that I cannot go through the world by myself, and that God is the only one who is able to save me. For me, it is a choice for simplicity and modesty, never having to worry about what my clothing says about me, how much I have to spend on clothing to wear something new each day, or how I can look good; wearing the habit, I hope, makes me work to attract people to God, not to me and what I can offer people.

Lastly, I’d just like to say that while each of these reasons expressed in the last two posts are great reasons to wear the habit at all times, I think discernment is needed each day as to when, why, and how I wear it. The negative effects, whether intended or accidental, perceived or real, need to be taken into consideration if we are to be pastoral people for Christ. The habit is a tool, a sign, an aspect of our life, but it is not something that should come at the expense of others (if such a situation exists.) The blessing that we have, and the truth that we as Franciscans can offer, is that we can just as easily take our brown habits off and put our denim ones on while still living with the same habitus, that is, our converted way of life. And that’s the key: whether one chooses to wear the habit or not, and I do believe that there are many good and bad reasons for both, we must always remember that we are people on a journey of conversion, unstable and in need of help, ever seeking to be people of God. For me, this is best remembered and expressed by wearing the habit.