Franciscan Footprints

Why the Habit? Part 2

The Meaning Behind Our Habit

Our Religious habit is a visible sign and can be an instrument God can use to draw others closer to Himself.  Here is an explanation of the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis' habit.

Tau Cross in the HabitReligious Habit – When we extend our arms horizontally, we present the image of the Tau Cross.  (On our model here, to the right, the sleeves are more fitted than on our actual habit.  Typically, the width of the sleeve is wider, to show the horizontal piece of the cross.  Actually, I think our model has stiff shoulders, too, and really just wants to play airplane!)  The reason for Francis’ devotion to the sign of the “Tau Cross” can be traced to Ezekiel 9:4 where it became the sign of conversion.  The very shape of the letter “T” reminded Francis of his Crucified Lord.  Francis signed himself with the Tau of penance.  “Your Franciscan religious habit is a symbol of the cross of Christ on which He redeemed the world.  As you wear the habit, be attentive to always give witness to the power of His redemptive love to the world.”  As we put the habit on each morning, we pray, “I will clothe myself with the garment of penance and joy for sacrifice is the language of love.”

Scapular and Rosary Side of HabitThe Franciscan Scapular – A piece of fabric the width of the shoulders, hanging in front and back of habit, not quite as long as the habit itself.  See our model to the right. The scapular originally served as a working garment or apron.  The Franciscan Order adopted it over time.  Because of its shape, forming the vertical beam of the cross, and because it was the outer clothing of workers, it came to be a natural symbol of “taking on the yoke of Christ.”  Additional information on scapulars can be found here.  As we put on the scapular, we pray, “I will take upon myself the sweet yoke of the Lord that I may be meek and humble of heart.”

Franciscan Cord with 3 Knots – The “rope-like” cord was the belt of the poor that Francis himself wore.  The three knots symbolize the three religious vows that we take: Consecrated Chastity, Poverty and ObedienceCord Side of Habit There are five coils in each of the knots symbolizing the five wounds of Jesus on the Cross.  A new novice receives the cord without knots, because they haven’t yet taken any vows.  As we put on the cord, we pray, “Gird me, O Lord, with the virtues of chastity, poverty and obedience.”

Franciscan Crown Rosary – By wearing the Franciscan Crown Rosary, we express our devotion to Mary, the Mother of God and our Immaculate Mother.  As we wear this rosary, we are reminded to be attentive to always keep our eyes on Jesus, as Mary did.  (The crucifix on our model's rosary is not to scale!  The Crucifix on our rosary is 2.5" in length.)

Crucifix – When we receive our Crucifix, a 1.5" Crucifix on a chain, after we pronounce our First Vows, the Major Superior says: “Receive the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, our life, and our resurrection.”  We respond: “As for me, God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world.”  Each morning, as we place the Crucifix around our necks, we pray, “I adore you, O Christ, and I bless you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.”

Veil – When a postulant becomes a novice, they receive a white veil.  When they take temporary vows, they receive their black veil with a white band at the front.  Our veils are designed to show a little hair at the forehead, like our model.  When we receive our veil, the Bishop says: “Receive this veil which proclaims that you belong entirely to Christ the Lord and are dedicated to the service of the Church.  By this veil, you take upon yourself Christ’s humble obedience and His innocence of heart.”  As we place the veil on our head each morning, we pray, “I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done to me as you will.”

Profession Ring – When we receive our profession ring, at our Final Profession ceremony, the Bishop says: “receive this ring, signed with a Crucifix, for you are betrothed to the eternal King; keep faith with your Bridegroom so that you may come to the wedding feast of eternal joy.”  As we daily place the ring on our finger, perpetually professed sisters pray, “I will keep faith with my Bridegroom that I may come to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

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