I have a story to share with you about a Franciscan Friar.

Once there was a young man who joined our Franciscan Order.

He loved his brother friars, and he loved living the Franciscan life, but he sometimes became impatient with the other friars he lived with and always mentioned the faults he saw in them.

He also worked very hard among the poor, but constantly berated them for not being more orderly when they were lining up to receive the food the friars offered them every day. There was only one problem for him in our life as friars – he hated the brown Franciscan habit that we wear!

• He hated the sleeves – they were too long,
• He hated the material – to coarse!
• He hated the cord around his waist, he wanted to wear a belt,
• And, he felt claustrophobic whenever he put up the hood.

I know you must be thinking – “What’s wrong with him?” “These are only small problems to bear, compared to all that he loved in the Franciscan life of the friars!” But he became obsessed with his dislike of the Franciscan habit, and he decided to leave the Franciscan Order.

The night before he was to tell his superior that he was leaving, he knelt in prayer before the Tabernacle in the Friary Chapel and prayed that he was making the right decision.

The last two in the procession were dressed more beautifully than anyone else, and the young friar was overcome with how handsome and beautiful their clothing was. He was afraid to even ask who they were or why everyone was walking in this magnificent procession! Finally, he asked one of the few coming up near the end of the procession who were these two friars so beautifully dressed?

He told him that these were “all the Franciscan Friars who had died and were processing to Heaven singing God’s praises with great joy. The most beautifully dressed at the end of the procession are St. Francis and St. Anthony!”

God had transformed the Franciscan habit they had worn, which he had thought so ugly, into these beautiful clothes!

What he had seen as ugly and horrible, as annoying and difficult to bear, God had chosen to transform into a beautiful and holy work of love!

It wasn’t the Franciscan Habit – it was his attitude in life that had to be changed. The habit was only a symbol of his attitude toward others, his impatience and lack of seeing God in others.

Isn’t it true that often we see behavior in others as ugly or annoying, while God sees them as something that can be transformed into a beautiful part of life?

Maybe, when we are angry and want to yell at someone or diminish them by our words, we should pause and say something encouraging or helpful to them. Put on the new clothing of kindness and encouragement.

St. Francis always saw the beauty of every person and every creature on earth! He wore the simple, rough habit of the friars, and it constantly reminded him of the beauty surrounding him in every person and creature he saw. St. Francis knew it is not the habit that makes the friar or any person, but their attitude in life!

What if we try and look at how good and holy people try to be every day, instead of looking at the small annoyances that sometimes anger us?

It would be wonderful if we could put on the beautiful clothing of seeing everyone and all creation as being made in the image of the God of love.

Please join us, the Franciscan Friars, in our Great Novena to St. Francis, a time set aside for prayer and asking this most wonderful saint to bless us and grant us our intentions. We can pray to this Saint of the Poor to help us also care for the poor with our generosity and empathy. The Novena starts on September 25th and ends on October 4th with a Mass celebrated for The Feast Day, at St. Anthony Friary, St. Petersburg, FL.

This can be a time of new hope for us as we come out of the COVID pandemic into a new and different freedom – one of realizing the values we hold and the love we are called to share. This Great Novena to St. Francis can help grant your intentions, bring you into the friars’ prayers, and help you become closer to the Saint of Everyone – St. Francis of Assisi!

Please join the Francian Friars in this Great Novena to St. Francis and –

• feel his presence in your life,
• be part of the Franciscan prayers for the nine days of holiness,
• see the world through the eyes of the Saint who saw God in everyone and everything,
• and help us help the poor with your wonderful Franciscan generosity!

By the way, the young man I mentioned stayed with the Franciscans and became a wonderful friar and ended up in the heavenly procession with all the friars and St. Francis and St. Anthony in the great Franciscan procession to Heaven!

Join us in this Novena and hopefully, someday, we will all be together in the great Franciscan procession to God! Let me now pray the blessing of St. Francis for you and your loved ones. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He turn His face to you and smile on you.

May the Lord bless you always!
Fr. David Convertino, OFM
Executive Director
St. Anthony’s Guild