“Oh to know what your personal ‘rough brown robe’ is in life”

A bunch of years ago my Spiritual Director asked me, “What are you seeking in your spiritual life?” Not knowing that he was lobbing me a ‘softball’, I answered, “To become a holy man.” Then he dropped the fastball-curve on the outside corner with: “That’s noble and worthy, but first you have to define it.”  “Define what part?” was my quick retort, to which he replied, “The ‘holy’ thing…how would that look on you?”  That was several years past and I’m still working on the definition of what “holy” would look like on me.  Using examples of saints, I diligently searched for descriptions, behaviors, writings – anything that could enlighten me and lighten the load of my inability to find an acceptable, sensible definition that continued to gain weight with time.  You see, to become a “holy man” means really to become ‘saintly’ and how would anyone know what that would look like unless they first had some relevant source of information to compare. 

Since we’re all unique and that is often what defines us, it’s also what limits us because as we change, our understanding and appreciation of who we are must adjust to the ‘new you’ and we’re left with only the ‘old you’ with which to compare. I might try hard to emulate St. Francis in his humility but try as I might, for example, the rough brown robe doesn’t help to temper my pride, in addition to which it itches like crazy! He didn’t mind it because it was part of his uniqueness. 

Even the simplest of saints exhibits multiple facets of sainthood common to others that are uniquely expressed in their own lives, so they have no ‘objective’ standard with which to compare.  I’m left trying to define what ‘holy’ looks like on my unique person and that means I’ve got to discover what my personal ‘rough brown robe’ is and then learn to wear it humbly and walk with God. Do you know what yours is?

This blog was written by Scott Immel, RCIA Coordinator & Tribunal Advocate here at St. Francis of Assisi. If you’re interested in writing a blog for St. Francis of Assisi, please contact Joseph at [email protected].