Posted by: fvbcdm | August 30, 2013

Feast of Saint Peter Trevi (30 August 2013)

 It was 51 years ago today that thirty-nine of us young men filed into the chapel of our novitiate in Winona, Minnesota, and prostrated on the floor with our arms out in the form of a cross to indicate the totality of our desire to give ourselves to the Lord in religious life. Then, we got up, and one by one, went before our major superior, called the Provincial, who removed the black suit coat that we were wearing and put on each of us the various pieces of the Dominican habit: tunic, belt, scapular, capuce, and then the black cloak which caused the people of the middle ages to call us “Blackfriars,” a name that still appears in that section of London where our priory was located from the time of Saint Dominic until the persecution of Henry VIII ended all Catholic religious life in the land. This morning, as I put on the habit to begin my fifty-second year of wearing it, I reflected upon the various kinds of clothing I’ve worn in my life. You might do the same thing. In grade school, we boys wore white shirts and dark trousers; in high school, because Jesuit High School in New Orleans had a special relationship with the U.S. Marine Corps, we wore the marine uniform—khaki in warm weather, and olive green wool in the wintertime.One day, at the end of college, I wore the academic cap and gown. Then, shortly thereafter, the uniform of the U.S. Navy for nearly four years. And now, I wear the habit of the Dominicans and have done so for fifty-one years—two-thirds of my life thus far.

It’s interesting how clothes can influence us and can make statements about us and our values. Religious garb and clerical dress can be so meaningful, especially to those who understand its significance and purpose. Those who deliberately put it aside or refuse to wear it do themselves and the Church a great disservice. And, of course, they condemn themselves to a dearth of vocations to their life, even though they won’t admit this. On the other hand, the immodest and outrageous way so many people dress nowadays tells you a great deal about them and their values. The vulgar display of female cleavage in the front and even of male cleavage in the back makes a very sad statement about those who cheapen and dishonor themselves in those ways.

Isn’t it interesting how, despite the constant changes of fashions among the secular world, we religious can wear the same thing that we wore from the beginning. We Dominicans, for example, have been wearing our habit for 800 years. It is medieval, outmoded, and somewhat impractical in our modern life, but it achieves its purpose very well, and I am happy and proud to wear it. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

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