Five days before the beginning of National Vocations Week, three men took another step toward committing themselves to becoming Franciscan friars.
During the moving investiture ceremony on Nov. 1 at Old Mission Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara, California, three novices – Brothers Dan Rey, OFM, Richard Gaunt, OFM, and Jason Peterson, OFM – received the habits of the Franciscan Order. As noted by Novice Master Br. Gene Pistacchio, OFM, the habit is made in the shape of the cross of our Lord. It reminds the friars, he said, “of our call, which is to make the kingdom of God, initiated by Jesus, a reality in our midst: a land where love, justice, peace and joy bloom for all of God’s creation, in every brother and sister who is crucified. In doing so, we embrace the same cross of our Lord, so together, we give birth to his kingdom.”
The novices were overwhelmed with joy, thankfulness and excitement, as they received the outward symbol of the life they are discerning, while reflecting on their response to God’s call that led to this point.
Br. Dan, a Chicago native, began considering religious life after attending World Youth Day in Panama City in 2019. “Seeing the youth and members of different religious orders come together to share and express their faith was meaningful for me. I realized it doesn’t have to be boring.” he said. “When I found the Franciscans and heard their stories and jokes, the way they interact with each other and live their faith, I wanted to be part of that. Every friar is different, but when we’re all together, the pieces of the puzzle just fit and create a beautiful picture of what the friars are. It’s kind of like how Francis describes the traits of his brothers when he describes the perfect friar.”
Br. Dan was “truly moved” in a spiritual way during the investiture. “Because the habit is shaped like a cross, this means that I now have sense of the cross that the other friars carry, the responsibility that each friar carries to serve the marginalized, to live simply, to support each other fraternally on the path of being Franciscan.”
Brothers Jason Peterson, Dan Rey and Richard Gaunt received the Franciscan habit on Nov. 1. (Photo by Br. Octavio Duran)
Br. Luis Aponte blesses the habits. (Photo by Br. Octavio Duran)
Br. Gene Pistacchio prepares to vest Brothers Richard Gaunt and Jason Peterson with the habit. (Photo courtesy of Br. Octavio Duran)
A prayerful moment during the ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Br. Octavio Duran)
Br. Dan Rey’s joy is obvious upon receiving the habit. (Photo courtesy of Br. Octavio Duran)
Friars from the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe and other provinces pray together during the investiture. (Photo by Br. Octavio Duran)
The newly vested brothers stroll the grounds at Old Mission Santa Barbara.
(Photo by Br. Octavio Duran)
Amid grad school at the University of Texas and working with Catholic Charities Central Texas, Br. Richard, a convert to Catholicism, found himself consistently drawn to the Franciscan charism. “The incarnational aspect of it speaks to me, as does the simplicity of it, how Christ-centered it is, and the focus on living the Gospel to the fullest,” explained Br. Richard, who hails from Greenwood, Delaware.
“Today it’s so rare to see an outward sign of faith in the world,” he added. “The habit reminds me of the reality that God is here. I feel excited about it, but also feel the weight of what it represents: giving myself to God. It’s a sign to everyone that I come in contact with that I’m a Franciscan, that I’m available and am present to them. I hope it opens up connections with others.”
Br. Jason, the youngest of the novices at 24, said he wanted to serve God’s people in some way from the time he was in the sixth grade, influenced by his grandfather, a minister in the Reformed Church in America and the Capuchin friar who served at his home parish in Tampa, Florida. “They had an impact on people and went above and beyond for those they served and did it with compassion and love. I don’t want to be stuck in a meaningless job that I don’t care about. I want to wake up and know that I’ll be able to make difference in someone’s life and draw closer to God.”
“I’ve been telling everyone that having the habit now matches what I’ve been feeling on the inside,” he said. “I feel like this is what a Franciscan should feel like – that I’m willing to do anything for anyone without a thought for myself. The habit reflects that.”
The novices will now continue their journey in formation in a rhythm of prayer, study, reflection and ministry, as they move toward temporary profession on July 2, 2024. They look forward to strengthening their relationship with God, deepening their Franciscan spirituality and growing in the bonds of fraternal life.