What’s with the Gray Habit?
The name of ‘mendicant friars’ was given to several groups of ‘begging friars’ whose origins in Europe date to the 13th and 14th centuries. These friars, in contrast to the monks, moved about freely among the people, especially the poor, preaching the gospel. Recognized by their religious habits, they were popularly referred to as Grey Friars (Franciscans), Black Friars (Dominicans), Austin Friars (Augustinians), and White Friars (Carmelites).
The Franciscan Friars today are divided into three main groups or branches: the Friars Minor (Brown Franciscans – OFM), the Friars Minor Capuchin (Capuchins – OFM Cap.), and the Friars Minor Conventual (Conventuals – OFM Conv.). Each branch adopted a habit that would distinguish it from the others. The history of the community and their distinctive religious garb is long and involved. Basically, the Friars Minor and Capuchins adopted a chestnut brown habit, while the Conventuals gradually changed to grey and were known as the “Gray Friars.”
“The habit does not make the monk or friar,” says the adage, but it is both a reminder of our religious consecration and a bond to our 800-year tradition.