SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The traditional ritual of investiture was held at the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate at Old Mission Santa Barbara on Oct. 20, when 10 novices representing four OFM provinces – and who have completed the first three months of their year-long novitiate – received the Franciscan habit of the Order of Friars Minor.
The 2020-21 novices who received the habit at the investiture ceremony – which included the blessing of the water, Liturgy of the Word, and blessing of the habits – were: Daniel Cruz, OFM, Tyler Grudi, OFM, Kevin Hamzik, OFM, James Kernan, OFM, and Chukwuma Obadike, OFM, of Holy Name Province; Juan Luis Guerro, OFM, and Joan Perez Lombera, OFM, of St. Barbara Province; Philip McCarter, OFM, and Brian Menezes, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province, and Daniel Samsel, OFM, of Assumption BVM Province.
Interprovincial Novitiate team members Michael Blastic, OFM; Erick Lopez, OFM; Jeffrey McNab, OFM, who serves as the director; and Freddy Rodriguez, OFM, participated in the prayers, music, and presentation of the habits. Novices and friars read the prayers in English and Spanish.
Dan Lackie, OFM, pastor of the mission parish in Santa Barbara who served as homilist at the investiture, spoke about the poet Louise Glück who received a Nobel Prize a few weeks earlier.
“Her approach to composing poems has a parallel with how I think about Franciscan life and the habit – which, of course, is our traditional attire,” said Dan. “Glück says the power of art comes from harnessing the power of the unfinished. Her poems reflect that theme very well.”
Dan continued, “Similarly, when we friars put on the habit, I see us harnessing our lives to a living tradition – which, although we are dressed the same – finds in each friar a unique expression of the unfinished work of compassion, reconciliation, and peace.”
He went on to say that Francis of Assisi told his brothers, “Let us begin again…” – which Dan said is an indication that Francis himself was always in a mode of setting out, discovery, ongoing conversion, and humility – and not having all the answers.
“We are harnessed to the Spirit and its ongoing creative power. Every time we put on this habit, we commit ourselves not to a spirituality that has all the answers or that is sealed in a nice package to offer to the world, [but rather] every time we put on the sign of the cross, we are committing ourselves to the work of something that is still unfolding,” Dan told the novices and friars at the investiture ceremony.
“We are stepping into the great unfinished work. Every time we step into the habits, we step into a commitment to non-violence,” he added.
As each novice was presented with his brown habit, the words were simultaneously recited: “Receive this habit of probation in the Order of Friars Minor. It resembles the Cross of Christ and is a sign of your commitment to the service of Christ and his Church.”
“As I participated in the investiture ceremony, I couldn’t help but think about my own investiture and the freshness a hope of this moment in the life we share as friars,” said Dan, a member of St. Barbara Province who has been stationed at Old Mission Santa Barbara since fall 2017.
For Daniel Cruz, receiving the habit was an outward sign of the choice he made to become a friar.
“When I put on the habit, it felt right,” he said. “I had friars from across the country send me congratulations on the days leading up to investiture. I carried their support and prayers into the ceremony with me. The habit is a reminder of my vocation and of my brother friars.”
“My first reaction upon seeing the habit hanging up in my room was to give it a hug,” said Tyler Grudi, a graduate of St. Bonaventure University. “The habit gives me a sense of belonging – a sense that I am loved – not just by my creator, but by the brothers who have accepted me into their way of life and their way of loving each other. I’m blessed to be a part of something so beautiful, and I’m thankful to the brothers for trusting me with their habit. In our religious life classes, our mentors refer to the habit as ‘swaddling clothes,’ and I identify with this description.”
Outside of formal occasions such as Mass, where the novices are expected to wear the habit, the use of the traditional garb is up to each novice. The habit can be worn as often or as little as each man wishes.
“I typically wear my habit at Mass or significant community events,” said Daniel, who became acquainted with the Franciscans while a student at the University of Georgia. “We have a saying that the habit doesn’t make the friar, meaning that the more important thing is living the life.”
The 10 men who received the habit were accepted into the novitiate on July 15 – the feast of St. Bonaventure. Since then, they have been learning about Franciscan life through academic classes, workshops, and getting to know one another.
Novitiate team members and outside professionals taught the courses, which covered a broad array of topics, including the history of religious life, the vows, prayer, communication skills and group dynamics, practical spirituality, the legend of the three companions, and The Rule.
They are currently taking workshops in preaching, scripture for prayer, intercultural living, and Franciscan history. After Christmas, the novices will take courses titled, “Bonaventure,” “Tree of Life,” “Life of Francis,” and “The OFM Constitutions.” The instructors include John Barker, OFM, Moises Gutierrez, OFM, Dan Lackie, and Dominic Monti, OFM.
In a ceremony in September, the novices were presented with the Franciscan Rule – and earlier this month, they decorated a room at the novitiate to mark the Day of the Dead. Photos of all events can be found on the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate Facebook page, which also includes a video of the investiture ceremony.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
Editor’s note: Men interested in learning about becoming a Franciscan friar may contact the US-6 OFM Franciscan Vocation Ministry Office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting beafranciscan.org.
- Old Mission Santa Barbara website
- “Interprovincial Novitiate Receives Ten” — Aug. 15, 2020, HNP Today
- “Discerning a Religious Vocation in Age of COVID-19” — April 8, 2020, HNP Today
- “Formation: Novices Share Experiences” — April 18, 2018, HNP Today
- “Provincial Vicar Writes Book on Franciscan History” – Dec. 3, 2008, HNP Today