One of the things I've been thinking about a lot recently is habits. Religious habits, particularly. When Francis founded the Third Order in the 13th century, it was intended to be a way that ordinary folks could participate in the monastic way without actually being in a monastery: particularly for married people and others who weren't actually called into a fully monastic existence, unlike the monks of the First Order and the nuns of the Second Order (Poor Clares). TSSF is for married, single, male, female, lay and ordained people (so says our Rule - I would also add gay and straight, but certain parts of the Order may have difficulty with putting that so plainly!).
As far as I know, the Third Order has never had a clothing habit - except for the Catholic Third Order Regular (TOR) which is a Third Order inside a monastery (go figure). In the TSSF, our Profession Cross is our habit, which we are encouraged to wear whenever appropriate - I for one usually wear it all the time, although sometimes at work I put it under my blouse, particularly when I'm training as I don't want anything to distract my trainees from the message I'm trying to bring to them.
I also wear a plain gold ring on the third finger of my right hand as a personal statement of my Profession (the third finger of my left hand has my wedding and engagement rings on it!). The ring I have chosen to wear has a bit of a history: Dad came in from the garden one day with this ring in his hand - he had literally dug it up from our garden. We took it to the Police but they couldn't trace the original owner and returned it to us, and as the ring fitted me perfectly, Dad gave it to me. I always intended to use it for my wedding ring, but my engagement ring is shaped and so the ring wouldn't fit, so I eventually used it as part of my Franciscan commitment - a very private reminder to myself.
However, I'm beginning to feel that the Profession Cross isn't enough. Yes, it states that I am a Professed Franciscan. Yes, it is part of my commitment and an expression of the Franciscan charism and way. Yes, it is beautiful: my daughter always wants to see (and wear!) my "special cross", but part of me wants something extra. I have begun wearing a wide headband (and when I say wide, it covers almost my whole head) on high feast days as a covering and reminder to myself that I am in the presence of God, and I have chosen to dress simply with a very limited palette of colours - mostly grey, white, and black, and everything goes with everything else so I need a smaller number of clothes (older clothes are still coloured but as they wear out I'm choosing simpler things) - and no makeup (but as I'm allergic this was no sacrifice!).
I'd love it if TSSF would authorise a simple habit and/or veil for optional use by Tertiaries, particularly at church. The original Franciscan habit was shaped like the Tau cross (a T) with wide-ish sleeves in brown or darkish grey, and the monks wear a hood (capuche), nuns a veil. TSSF could have a unisex one. I know the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans (OEF) has an optional habit. I know that the brothers and sisters in Melanesia have asked our Provincial Chapter for a habit but the position worldwide is that the Profession Cross is our visible habit - along with the other habits that we establish as we live our lives under the Rule and our personal rule of life. It would have to go to the Inter-Provincial Third Order Chapter (IPTOC) - which only meets every 6 years....
Please don't get me wrong though: I don't want a habit to show the world that I'm different or special in some way. I want it as a reminder to myself that I live a life that is under vows, given to God, dedicated. I have made vows of simplicity, fidelity, and obedience, and I want to express those to myself. It would also make TSSF more visible which isn't a bad thing either, but that is strictly secondary to my way of thinking!!
Not sure what the "rules" (spoken/unspoken) are for adopting a modified habit on a personal scale. I've been trying to get an answer on this one from monk and nun friends but no dice so far. For lurkers who are Franciscans, what do you think about this one? Would love to have some discussion in the comments section!