Thursday, August 24, 2006

a little more about the Franciscan way (in the Bronx)...

a recent "friar news"...

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August 8, 2006

It was 104º in the shade on August 2nd. Our seven Postulants were scheduled to receive the Holy Habit of Saint Francis, and after a year of preparation, no “heat index” was high enough to warrant a postponement! They were excited—and so were we all! What could be more beautiful, or more inspiring, than seeing these zealous, joyful, radiant young women lay aside their former lives and all that the world could offer them for a closer following of Jesus?

Each part of their Habit was blessed. Their hair was cut. They were vested and they were given a new name to mark the beginning of a new life.

What does it all mean? Why were these lovely young ladies so eager to have their hair shorn? Why would anyone put on a long-sleeved habit and veil in this heat? What’s the point of changing your name when your parents have given you a perfectly good name to begin with?

The Habit: Our clothes are more than protection from the elements—ask any teenager! Our clothing is an extension or an expression of ourselves. The Habit is gray—subdued and earthy, nothing to draw attention. It is course and sturdy—suitable to work in. It is in the form of a cross—a reminder to ourselves of who we are and what we’re about.

The Cincture: The rope around our waist is rough and simple, reminiscent of what Saint Francis may have actually worn. The three knots symbolize the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience (no money, no honey, and a boss, as we tell the neighborhood kids who come to our door). Why would a rational human being vow to live a life of total celibacy, poverty (personal and communal), and obedience? There is only one good answer to this question: Jesus Christ. He was poor, He was chaste, and He was obedient. It’s as simple as that. We want to be more like Jesus—literally.

The Rosary: We wear a large wooden rosary on our cincture as a sign of our love and devotion to Our Lady. We pray the rosary communally each night with night prayer. Love of Our Blessed Lady is a hallmark of the Franciscan Family. We know that all graces and blessings come to us from God through Our Lady’s hands and we want very much to stay close to her! We rely on her protection and intercession!

The Veil: After the hair is cut (which is an offering to God) the head is covered with a veil from that day forward. Like a bride who is veiled on her wedding day, the Bride of Christ is veiled for her Bridegroom every day. Again, the sign value is firstly for the Sister herself, but also for the rest of the world!

The New Name: Abram became Abraham, Sari became Sarah, Jacob became Israel, Saul became Paul, Simon became Peter. There is a long Biblical history to the name change. When a person had an encounter with God and they were to take on a role in salvation history, often God renamed them. The Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel calls Mary “Full of Grace,” can be seen as a kind of a “naming.” Even today when a young woman marries, she takes her husband’s name. To mark the beginning of a new life with a new mission and a new intensity, the young religious chooses or is given a new name.

Please pray for our new Sisters as they begin their two year novitiate in preparation for their first profession of vows. May they (and each of us) be like what we look like!

Sr. Clare Matthiass, CFR


Our seven new novices, with Fr. Andrew Apostoli and Sr. Lucille Cutrone, are (l-r) Sr. Monica Maria Faustina Ward, Sr. Maria Francisca de Jesús Alvarado, Sr. Ann Kateri Hamm, Sr. Bernadette Petra McAteer, Sr. Mary Pieta Geier, Sr. Joseph Thérèse van Munster, and Sr. Maria Teresa Hellberg.

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Oh, how beautiful! And how even more moving it was for me reading it this time with this webpage's music playing in the background (also a great page to see if you are interested in what it means to be a Franciscan in the Franciscan Friars/Sisters of the Renewal)!

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