A Theology of the Habit

The day of my investiture brought to me a greater look at what it actually meant to wear the habit. For the past year, I’d eagerly awaited this day – the way a man in love looks forward to the day he will propose to his loved one. There exists excitement, fear, anticipation, worry, and joy in heart.

Upon arriving in Pennsylvania I had to unpack my habit which had sat in a box for the past 3 months. Since the ceremony wasn’t until 4:30 in the afternoon, I spent most of Sunday washing, drying, and ironing the habit.

As I took the time to iron my habit and chaperon, I was able to reflect on the symbolism of the moment. I felt like a groom preparing the tuxedo he would wear to his wedding. I partly felt like a soldier, preparing his uniform as he prepared to be commissioned to some duty. But most of all, I recognized that the habit that lie in front of me would be an external symbol of my faith. The robe and cord would display my commitment and my vow to live the Gospel in a specific manner. Whether I liked it or not, I would be defined by the garb of my Order.

As I continued to iron I knew that donning the habit meant different things to each of us. Some saw it as a transformative experience. By wearing the robe and cord they felt closer to God and more secure in their discernment of living this life as a religious vocation. Others felt the habit gave them a greater connection to the current friars whom were solemnly professed. While I’d always been treated as a friar in my province (in spite of my obvious Postulant status), others were just now experiencing that fuller sense of brotherhood. By being invested, the now held a greater status within their respective provinces.

Still others recognized that level of status that is attached with the habit, either within the religious community or when in public. Their thought is that the habit does not change who they are. To “over-wear” the habit is a matter of personal pride and possibly a sign of religious elitism.

All these different concepts of this robe raced through my mind as I continued to prepare my habit for the upcoming event. And in all honesty, I spent almost 2 hours ironing, primping, removing lint, and fitting my garb. Yet in the time I took to get out all the wrinkles, perfectly place the knots on my cord, and add the side rosary, I’d understood the importance of being invested and how it would affect my vocation at this point on.

I refused to think that being invested would provide a mystical conversion, yet the wearing of the habit held great importance. The habit is simply cloth; I would never consider it to be anything more than that. However this cloth represents a group of men to whom I have come to love and greatly respect. Starting from St. Francis and continuing down to the friars I’ve met over the years, this habit symbolized some of the holiest, smartest, devout, hard-working, funny, and caring guys I’d ever met. My presence here in Allison Park was a statement that these guys felt I was good enough (called) to be a part of them.

…and part of me wonders if I can ever be as great as the men I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

I realize this desire to be a “great friar” is a construction of my own making – the remnants of a lifetime trying to compete and be the best. Yet since that Sunday when I was first invested, I recognize that I now belong to a group that believes in something great. As corny and simplistic as I think it is, perhaps my challenge this year will be to “Let go, and let God.”

And so begins my year of being a Novice.

The Next Chapter

Last night, surrounded by the guys with whom I spent 9 months in Milwaukee and 2 months in Kansas, we gathered at the Kierns Spirituality Center in Allison Park, PA. And with 15 other Postulants, we stood and made our request:

Moved by divine inspiration,
we wish to share your life in the brotherhood of the Capuchin Friars Minor.
We earnestly ask to be clothed with the habit of probation.
We seek to prepare ourselves to follow Christ more perfectly through the example of Saint Francis, the poor and humble lover of the cross.
We also ask that you teach us to carry the yoke of the Lord
in love and joy.

So begins the next chapter in my life. More to come later. (Pictures to come soon...I promise!)

Final Touches

Today and tomorrow are time to pack our bags, put the furniture back where it belongs here at St. Fidelis Friary, and cover up any holes or burn marks we might have made during our two month stay. In our defense, we've been told by the other friars that we are the quietest class to go through the program in a long time.

At this point, there are very few activities for us to do. This morning, after Lauds and Mass combined (a unique blending that we've learned to call Prass), we spend time moving furniture back into the attic, chairs back into their respective rooms, and turning the friary back into the way it was before our arrival. Most of the year, this friary serves as a retreat house.

After lunch, we decided to take advantage of the gym that we've been allowed to use. The gym is actually in Hays, KS (about 10 miles down the highway) however running in Michigan or Wisconsin during the day is a completely different experience than running in 100+ degree weather here in Kansas. I'm sad there hasn't been any more soccer, but again the weather is just too hot to be active during the day.

We leave for Allison Park early Friday morning. We will stop near St. Louis for the evening, as the Secular Franciscans have graciously offered to put us up for the evening. We arrive in PA sometime Saturday, and the investiture is Sunday evening.

I've enjoyed my time here, but I'm very anxious to leave. There are times when I wish I could sleep until we go on Friday...but there are a few fun events planned between now and then.

As this may be my last post for a while (seeing as I won't know what will happen once I get to Allison Park), keep my in your prayers!

Moving Soon...Again!

After 2 months of being here at "Camp Capuchin" in Victoria, KS., it's time to pack up again and prepare our trip to Allison Park, PA. It is in Allison Park where we will be invested into our habits and declared as Novices for a period of 1 year.

The actual investiture process is a low-key event. Attendance is limited to those within the Order. The ritual of "dressing" novices in their habit is an old tradition and is a formal initiation into the community.

I know what you're thinking: The room will be pitch dark, people's faces will be hidden, there will be a lot of Gregorian chant, and before we get invested we must stand naked within a circle surrounded by candles, be branded in the chest with a hot iron, and then recite a long litany before the ritual is completed.

Unfortunately we won't have that much excitement. No brands like the Omega Psi Phi's, no being tied to a street sign, and no binge drinking. The ceremony will look less like something from DaVinci Code and more like a formal induction ceremony as we are welcomed by the community into a tough year of discernment, self-discovery, and understanding of our place in God's plan. In the end, being invested is a minimal ceremony that holds a great deal of meaning as we begin the next stage of our religious formation.

That takes place on Sunday. The rest of this week we are packing, cleaning up the friary here, and getting ready to leave. Since most of the classes and ministries are done at this point, much of my day is spent playing soccer, working out, and praying. Hence the "Camp Capuchin" title.

"Can You See Through Me?" A Discussion of Transparency

In this life as a religious friar, I strive for a lot of things. I try to be humble instead of prideful, I try to be a servant instead of being needy, and I try to give of what excesses I have to those who have less. However there's one trait that I've had to learn since joining the Capuchins:


For others in my community, for those I minister to, and for those who just look at my life, being transparent is an important part of living the Gospel. We are not monks who remain cloistered in an abbey; we spend most of our time out in the world. In an environment where "everybody has an angle," sometimes people question our intentions as to why we work with the poor and marginalized.

Read the full article here, and please remember to vote!


I have a confession, Readers. I have been putting my input into another blog. I pray that God and you all may find room in your ever-growing hearts to forgive me!

OK enough drama. Here's the deal:

About a week ago I got an invitation to help contribute to the Spirituality and Faith column at BloggersBase.com. The basis of their site is a competition forum for people to put in their blogs, get noticed, and possibly even get a shot at writing for a bigger blog and making money.

I've never written as a way to make money, however the opportunity to share my story on a wider scale has a benefit. Maybe I feel my story has merit, or maybe I just want everyone to know about me. I haven't quite figured it out yet, however this decision was made in the most self-less mindset I could reach.

So between dealing with this cold (thankfully I've finally gotten over it!) and learning how to use this new interface to write and publish my posts, I had to let this site suffer for a few days as I worked out the kinks.

Now I am up and running and have already written two posts (both of which I've already written 1 and 2, but in case you think you missed something, you can check them out here). I'm still figuring out how I can get readers to "cross formats," but I hope to have all the bugs worked out before getting to Allison Park next week.

Thanks for following along and dealing with my occassional absences. Remember if you see a blog (be it mine or someone elses) that really speaks to you, be sure to vote for it!


I STILL Hate Being Sick!

This weekend has continued to be horrible as I try to battle this nasty cold. I have more phlegm than I know what to do with, and I've missed out on some great days to play soccer, go to the gym, etc.

One thing that I have accomplished, however, is that ability to write a few blogs on paper. When I am feeling better (hopefully tomorrow) I will be back up to speed.

I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend (I have pictures of my weekend at the beach to show), and you may want to get out the Purell when visiting my blog, in case you catch my cold!


Music and Spirituality: Message At the Top

I've often found inspiration and meaning in songs that aren't normally classified as "spiritual." There are many songs that speak truth to me about my relationship with the Divine and the Spirit, but very few could be considered liturgical, gospel, or even Christian. I've tried to collect these songs, assuming no one else would understand such inspiration.

Fortunately, friars such as Fr. Mike Scully of St. Fidelis Church here in Victoria, KS does. He's a great guy, but here's his bio from his website: http://www.frmikescully.com/:

Father Michael Scully has spent most of his 40-plus years of ministry working with youth as a religion teacher, high school administrator, youth pastor, and parish pastor. In talks and retreats for high school and college youth, his presentation, "Rock Music and Leadership," has been presented to over 30,000 young people. He also has given many parish retreats and recollection days.
Father Mike Scully is currently serving as Pastor of St. Fidelis Church, the "Cathedral of the Plains" in Victoria, KS, pastor of St. Ann Church, Walker, KS, and pastor of St. Boniface Church, Vincent, KS. His radio show Message at the Top is aired on KJLS-FM, Mix 103 (103.3) in Hays, KS.

Fr. Scully's show Message At the Top takes the top ten songs of the week and breaks down the actual message behind some of these songs. Songs like: You Found Me by The Fray, If Today Were Your Last Day by Nickelback, and even older songs from John Mayer, Sara Bareilles, and Gavin DeGraw. The biggest surprise: this is all done on the local radio station in Kansas...not on public access or on an AM station. Fr. Mike's show airs on the biggest and most popular station in this part of Kansas.

His show brings a unique twist to songs not always found from older people or even clergy. He recognizes the power and the messages that are contained in songs, and he sees that all music can teach - the question is what does it teach. Even when one of the angrier or more sexually based songs make it onto the list, he does not hesitate to find some good from what is being sung. He admits he has his favorites and a list of songs he doesn't like to hear played, but he feels that too many people dismiss the message of music...rather than recognizing how it works with in us - especially the youth.

Fr. Mike's show Message At the Top, a ministry of the Mid-America Capuchins, verified a lot of what I felt about music and it's affect on my spirituality. I dropped the Music and Spirituality aspect of my blog for a time, simply because I didn't feel people were connecting with that form of contemplation as opposed to more traditional methods (devotions, Lexio Devina, etc).

Last week I had the opportunity to "guest host" his show. I may ask to join him again, and perhaps submit one of my song reflections to his list. If I go again, I will be sure to get pictures.

If you are anywhere near Hays, Kansas on Sundays between 10-12 (the station is too small to have live streaming of their broadcasts), be sure to tune in to 103.3. It may not be the ordinary ministry of the Capuchin Franciscans, but it's uniqueness and popularity tell me that someone is listening.

Transcripts of his last show can be found at his site for Message At the Top.

Unlucky Times

During the past 2 days, we haven't had much to do. This weekend, we will be headed out to a barbeque.

Unfortunately I've been sick. I'll be back to writing angry blogs soon enough!

Missouri Legislator Attacks School Lunch Program

From thinkpress.com:

State Rep. Cynthia Davis (R-MO) provided several “commentaries” to a press release from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services on a summer food program. The program provides “food during the summer for thousands of low-income Missouri children who rely on the school cafeteria for free or reduced-price meals during the regular school year.” Davis, who serves as the chairwoman of the Missouri House Special Standing Committee on Children and Families, questioned whether the program is “warranted,” and extolled the hidden benefits of child hunger:

Who’s buying dinner? Who is getting paid to serve the meal? Churches and other non-profits can do this at no cost to the taxpayer if it is warranted. [...] Bigger governmental programs take away our connectedness to the human family, our brotherhood and our need for one another. [...] Anyone under 18 can be eligible? Can’t they get a job during the summer by the time they are 16? Hunger can be a positive motivator. What is wrong with the idea of getting a job so you can get better meals? Tip: If you work for McDonald’s, they will feed you for free during your break. [...] It really is all about increasing government spending, which means an increase in taxes for us to buy more free lunches and breakfasts.

Rep. Davis' newsletter can be found here.

The article comes at an ironic time, as I've been reading Caritas in Veritate.

When Dreams Fade Away

I found out this weekend that G.T Autos, the dealership where I'd made my success in the car business, is now for sale. While I haven't sold cars in years, I found myself sad at the news.

Most of all I am sad for Elvis, my old boss. When I started, as you can read in my older posts, we got together with the intention of making a boatload of money...and we did. I remember checks and piles of cash stored away as we claimed ourselves as kings of the car sales world. His goal was to create a large enough business so he and his family (I'm pictured with his dad above) could be set. I only wanted to pay off my past debt and prepare the way for Capuchin life.

Even though my Bosnian boss couldn't understand who the Capuchins were or why I was going, he fully supported my in my decision. He and his family were Muslim, and while they were not of my faith, they respected my choice to follow this vocation. He was energetic, funny, and I knew he would succeed at his dream.

With the bad economy and the hit to auto makers, part makers, and sales lot across Michigan, I suppose it was only time before he closed up shop. I feel bad for him and his family. All of us have dreams, and when those dreams are taken away it forces us to change direction and find a new way to live.

In a way I also feel guilty. Perhaps my leaving was so well-timed, I wonder if I sub-consciously knew what was going to happen and made plans for it. It seems ridiculous, yet I feel that I found a way out of the business before I faced any of the loss.

I also realize that my "fall-back plan" is now gone. Where I to leave the Capuchins, Elvis always promised me a job at the lot. With the lot gone, I am at the mercy of the economy should I try make that decision. I've never considered leaving religious life, yet I'm a person who likes to have "all bases covered." As selfish as it sounds, I have a sense of anxiety about the closing of G.T Autos.

I remember my last discussion with him: "You're lucky you got out when you did. Things have gotten really bad. I don't know how much longer I can keep the doors open on this place."

Sometimes it's hard to feel you've done the right thing when you know others you care about are suffering hundreds of miles away.

A Somewhat Un-Patriotic July 4th Reflection

For most people, July 4th is a time of celebration. And since it hasn't completely turned into a day/weekend of binge drinking (e.g. St. Patrick's Day or Cinco de Mayo), something tells me that many people feel there is an importance to the date that supersedes us as individuals. It's a day that we can celebrate our freedom from oppression from the British rule...

...and then use that power to enslave, eradicate, displace, conquer, acquire land, then expel the indigenous...all in the name of Manifest Destiny.

I struggle with the sins of founders, and recognize the imitation of other leaders to achieve what we have through the same means. We wonder about the evils committed today, yet explain away the evils of our forebearers. In 100 years from now, will we forget the drive to end abortion, saying only: "That's how things were back then." In 100 years, will our descendants see any kind of evil in stem cell research with human embryos, or will we tell ourselves: "Yes it was bad, but look what we've done with that knowledge!" I realize I am making broad arguments, but I wonder if we as a country have found a way to explain away our bad deeds...so we can feel proud to wave our flag and to love our country.

All of this can surely be debated, however it is not the prime example of why I do not share in the usual July 4th celebrations:

When I was 16, my mother and I went downtown to see the fireworks on the 4th of July. It was our first year in Grand Rapids, MI...a much bigger town than Davenport, IA. I wasn't the out-spoken challenger of authority that I am now; I spent most of my childhood as a quiet poor kid surrounded by wealthy white kids...some of which had no problem telling me where I "belonged."

That evening when we got downtown, we found a place to sit and watch the fireworks. This (white) couple behind us starts making comments.

"Why do they always get in the way?"
"Why do illegal immigrants need to be here on the 4th of July?"
"I bet they don't even speak English."

There's two ways to experience this sort of thing. Being a quiet kid, I chose to not do anything. Underneath, I felt horrible...even guilty for having been "in their way."

My mother, on the other hand, whipped around and tore into the couple. Ironically enough, it was a middle-aged family with their 7 year-old son listening intently to the argument that now ensued. I remember hearing the man threaten to throw my mom into the fountain that was nearby; I remember the wife to tell her to "Shut up!" I remember the boy watching intently...all while the "Star Spangled Banner" played and the sound of fireworks filled the sky.

"United We Stand." No thanks, I'll pass.

Unfortunately, I've been forced to view my world without the rose-colored glasses. And if by reminding people of our past transgressions as a country labels me as "unpatriotic, unthankful, or even un-American," it won't be anything I haven't already lived.

May your day be spent with friends, family, and those you love.


Discernment & Music: Here I Go Again

The phenomenon of finding spiritual messages in secular music is not my own. For many people discerning, be it a religious vocation, love, a new start in life, there is something unique about a music that speaks to our very hearts.

One of my brothers asked a buddy and I to play a song for his vocation story. In spite of the over-acting and ridiculousness of the event, there is a greater irony that something as cheesy as an 80's rock song could speak to the very thoughts that someone has about joining a religious vocation.

Enjoy...and remember that God speaks to us in many ways...sometimes through our adoration, sometimes through silence in meditation, and sometimes with a sense of the absurd. =)

P.S. I was a huge fan of Whitesnake when I was a kid!


No I don't know where I'm going
But I sure know where I've been
Hanging on to promises in the songs of yesterday
And I made up my mind
I ain't wastin' no more time
Here I go again
Here I go again

Though I keep searching for an answer
I never seem to find what I'm looking for
Oh Lord I pray you give me strength to carry on
'Cause I know what it means
To walk along the lonely street of dreams

Here I go again on my own
Walkin' down the only road I've ever known
Like a drifter I was known to walk alone
And I've made up my mind
I ain't wastin' no more time

I'm just another heart in need of rescue
Waiting on love's sweet charity
And I'm gonna hold on for the rest of my days

Capuchin Vocation Project

Have you asked young men and women in your parish if they've considered the possibility of religious life? A new video put out by my province asks that question of everyone: if we can foster religious vocations simply by asking if somoene's ever considered that possibility, why don't we do it more often?

Here is the video as found on YouTube. Why am I not in the video as much as the rest of my fellow postulants? I was struck with a horrible cold at the time and wasn't able to participate in this video. I have enough press about me already...time to share the glory!