Franciscan

Kids say the darndest things

Members of most religious communities profess the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. My sixteen novitiate classmates and I made our first profession of vows at the end of our novitiate year in 1954. We vowed to live our lives as Franciscan friars by living in obedience to our religious superiors, without property, and in chastity.

When I was in Galveston, Texas at St. Patrick Parish, one of the religious education teachers asked me if I would come to her evening class and have an "Ask Father" night. I agreed and met with the class of third and fourth graders one evening. The kids asked me many different questions. They were curious about many things.

Katie, a very observant and curious little girl, asked me why there were three knots in the white cord I wore around my waist. I explained that our brown Franciscan robe was similar to the kind of clothes that poor men wore at the time of St. Francis of Assisi and that men secured their robes by tying a cord around them the way we use belts today. I explained that it was became a tradition for Franciscan friars to tie three knots toward the end of the cord to represent our three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. I then tried to explain what each vow means. I told the boys and girls that poverty means that we Franciscans vowed that we would not own anything personally. All of our income goes into a common account, our expenses come out of that same common pot, we don’t own the car we drive but it is owned by the community, and that I will have no estate when I die.

Little Katie asked me as only a child can, "If you take that knot that stands for poverty and untie it, can you go out and buy the kind of car you would like to drive?" I wanted to fall over laughing. I guess even in our earliest years we humans are looking for shortcuts to get around things that stand in our way.

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