BURLINGTON, Wis. — John Aherne, OFM, and Jeffrey Upshaw, OFM — along with a dozen other novices — received the Franciscan habit in a service at the Interprovincial OFM Novitiate on Dec. 4.
Fourteen men from seven provinces participated in the Sunday morning event, a ceremony that varied from Holy Name Province’s practice in the past.
The friars of Holy Name Province were long accustomed to be vested in the Franciscan habit on the day when they were received into the novitiate, said historian and Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM. “However, now that we are participating in the interprovincial novitiate program — first, last year at Cedar Lake, Ind., and now in Burlington — our novices are following the program that has been developed by the present formation team.”
This program introduces the various elements of Franciscan life in stages, rather than all at once — modeled somewhat on the stages of the RCIA in which the candidates are gradually presented with different symbols of the Catholic faith to which they will commit themselves at Easter, he said. “So, too, the novices are taking symbolic steps toward committing themselves to the Rule and life of the Friars Minor at the end of their novitiate year, in August 2012.”
Following the Order’s Ritual of Reception and Profession, the novices officially began their year of probation, or “testing,” on Aug. 15, in a “simple rite in the presence of the religious community only, seeking God’s grace for this special period,” Dominic said. Several months later, they had a symbolic rite of “divestiture,” in which they packed away some concrete symbols of their former life, such as cell phones or credit cards.
“Friars of my generation will recall that when we were received, we actually took off our suit jacket and dress shirt in the chapel as part of the ceremony,” said Dominic, who professed his first vows as a Franciscan in 1964.
Habit of Probation
The novices are now celebrating a third symbolic moment in this novitiate process, receiving the “habit of probation,” as the Rule calls it, the outward sign of the new way of life they are growing to accept. “It is important to realize that the Order’s ritual actually calls for the habit to be presented at profession, not reception, as the habit is a sign of religious consecration,” said Dominic, HNP secretary for formation and studies.
“However, it does go on to say that ‘nothing stands in the way of clothing the novices with a habit of probation,’” Dominic said. “It specifies that this habit must ‘differ from the habit of the professed,’ and is not to be presented in the rite of reception itself. According to the custom in the interprovincial novitiate, this ‘difference’ in the habit the novices receive is that there are no knots in their cord — as they have not yet made vows. They will receive a cord with three knots at the time of their profession.”
According to the Franciscan Interprovincial Novitiate Facebook page, “It was a powerful day for the brothers.”
Information about John, a native of Pennsylvania, and Jeffrey, of New Jersey, can be found on the Meet Our Student Friars page of BeAFranciscan.org.