Many orders have turn their backs on shoes and only wear sandals. Why? Are they really that penitential?
I assume you mean orders like the Discalced Carmelites and the Franciscans? More often than not, the order wears sandals because of their religious history. The word, “discalced,” means “shoeless.” When St. Teresa of Avila reformed the order of Carmelites (O.Carm.) to Discalced Carmelites (OCD), she wanted to return to the original hermits’ ideals, which included austerity in the strictest sense. Leather shoes back then were only worn by the wealthy, so she opted for a poorer shoe. I don’t know any OCD orders that go barefoot, but before the modern times, the nuns made their own sandals (looked like slippers or poor espadrilles). I used to have a picture of a Carmelite nun’s sandal, but I can’t find it. It looked something like this (without a heel and not as nicely made):
The Franciscan order is a mendicant order which means they are poor as well. The Poor Clare Colettines (a stricter Poor Clare order) wear no shoes at all:
I hope this helps.
Off Topic Warning
When I first heard of Discalced Sisters of Carmelites…I thought it Discalced ] was some sort of painful illness…o
Back in the day, many of the great saints went shoeless as a form of penitence. It was a penitence because they walked so much! Saints such as Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists, St. Camillus, founder of the Hospitallers and St Francis, founder of the Franciscans and many others walked halfway across Europe and back many times to found their orders and congregations, so it was truly painful to wear only sandals and in many cases a simple cossack in the bad weather, so it was truly a penance offered up to God.
I’m not so sure that the wearing of sandals would be considered penitential now because modern man walks very little today, even future saints!
St. Teresa of Avila actually made the “alpargates” or sandals part of the habit because they produced minimal to no sound at all in the choir or anywhere else in the monastery. She placed very high emphasis on the practice of silence.
I had the privilege of touring a discalced carmelite monastery several years ago. It was new to our diocese and before the bishop sealed it they offered tours. The sisters wore simple flat brown leather looking sandals that appeared gender-neutral. They looked neither feminine or particularly comfortable.
Sandals without socks are certainly penititential at least during winter and colder months. Wonderful in hotter months. They also tend to be quieter on the floors than shoes and condusive to the quiet desired in contemplative cloisters.
Not all Franciscans wear sandals. This is a great myth. Even during the life of Francis, shoes were allowed in our order. In fact, they are mentioned in the rule. We have to be very careful not to develop and idealic vision of religious life based on pious myths and Hollywood.
Our Holy Father did not travel barefoot through Europe. This is a myth. Sandals were worn in warmer climates or from spring to fall. During winter the friars wore a shoe that was very much like a boot, but not as genteel. It was the same boot worn by the peasants and farmers of the time. You have to remember that the Franciscans were originally farmers. We did not beg from door to door as it’s often painted. The friars farmed to make a living. They begged when they could not make enough to support themselves. Since they worked on farms with the local farmers, they wore the same footwear as their employers wore.
In later years, long after the death of our Holy Father, the order grew into many branches. There were no telephones, e-mail, snail mail, or other forms of communication except to send a letter by courier from one town to another or one country to another. This took a great deal of time to get communications back and forth between the motherhouse in Assisi and our houses around the known world. The friars adopted different customs from their specific regions. As a result, these regions eventually became autonomous branches of the same Franciscan Order.
In some branches only shoes were worn and in other branches sandals were worn when the weather permitted it. The reason that the sandals were worn was because of specific traditions in some regions of Europe. For example, the Capuchin Franciscans were born in a region where the custom was to take off one’s shoes when entering a chapel or church in order to preserve the silence. The sandal was a much easier footwear to kick off and slip on. Like the Capuchin Franciscans, other branches of the order had the same customs, but not all.
The Conventual Franciscans, who are the original Franciscans, never wore sandals and never wore a brown habit either. They wore grey or black habits with shoes. It was the Capuchin Franciscans and the Franciscans (which were not founded until the 1800s) who wore the sandals and the brown habit.
In our order the sandal has never been a symbol of penance, just a very practical item of clothing that allows you to put on and take off without effort when entering places where shoes are not allowed. The same applies to our nuns. They also wear sandals for the sake of silence or they are barefoot inside. Our sisters on the other hand, have never worn sandals. Franciscan sisters have always worn shoes, because they were founded to do ministry, which out nuns do not do. The sisters wore the common shoe of the region, because they spent much of their time outside of the convent, while our nuns never leave the religious house.
Br. JR, OSF
Very interesting. Hollywood does have a way of distorting the facts.
In our country, wearing of sandals seems to have turned into a symbol of simplicity. Practically all Franciscans here wear sandals - friars, nuns, seculars and TORs. I once felt out of place once, when I visited a Secular Franciscan local fraternity, and I was the only one wearing shoes. :eek: Nowadays, when I am with those guys, I make sure I wear sandals…It is practical to wear them though.
There was a priest in our diocese in the 1970s who always wore sandals, summer and winter. I don’t know how he managed going out in the snow with bare feet! He’s now with the Franciscans [OFMs] and runs a large soup kitchen in Philadelphia. This priest also wore a brown Franciscan-type robe when saying Mass-he was a Third Order Secular Franciscan at the time. He was quite a character!
I went to a Visitation monastery in the spring of 1998 for a five-day retreat, and I wore ‘quiet’ white sandals. It would have been quite incongurous [spelling?] ‘clumping around’ in ‘loud shoes’ !
O.C.D. men do not always were sandals any longer. I do not believe it is a part of their habit. Many O.Carm. men do wear sandals.
I was at a Carmelite conference and the number of O.Carm. men in sandals was higher than the number of O.C.D. men in sandals.
Personally i do not view sandals as penitential and for me penitential does not necessarily mean discomfort as it would be wearing sandals in a cold climate.
Peace and Good!
I am a secular franciscan brother, and when I joined the SFO I did a private vow to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, like a true religious one, to wear the SFO habit (tunic with the chord and mantle) and to go barefoot whenever possible. When it is no possible, I put on sandals or another poor and simple footwear. I only put on closed footwear when the environmental or social circumstances oblige me to do it.
Jesus, Mary and Francis be with you, keep you and bless you!
Br. Alberto Guimaraes SFO
Braga - Portugal
Hi brother! Pace e bene.
Praying the Liturgy of the Hours* is required for all OFS (at least over here)
We are to sign things as Secular Franciscans as OFS, not SFO. This changed probably a year ago
We as OFS are no longer allowed to wear a “religious-type” habit (again, at least over here)
Many blessings fratello!
*or the Little Office of the BVM
Sandals are pretty penitential in the winter when you’re walking through the snow.
Actually the Liturgy of the Hours is not required of all OFS.
The official guideline is that a member of OFS is required to participate in the Liturgy of the Church. The constitution expands this to say “preference is to be given to the Liturgy of the Hours.” However there are several options that are allowed to be used without question (i.e. the 20 Our Fathers, they are all laid out in the official explanations of the Rules) and other forms of prayer can be used with proper discernment.
One of the former Spiritual Assistants of our fraternity was on the National council and said it is a VERY common misunderstanding that it is required of members of the OFS.
Some fraternities have added it as a requirement, but it isn’t a national or Order-wide requirement.
**Peace and Good!
Nowadays, at home, I use a training suit with hood, and a TAU on the chest.
For some monthes I have to wear compressive socks, because I suffered a thromboflebitis, but I hope next month to return to bareefootedness. But I follow putting on open toe plastic slippers and flip-flops, and sandals when I go out home.
Jesus, Mary and Francis be with you, keep you and bless you!
Br. Alberto Guimaraes OFS
Braga - Portugal