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The Franciscan Friars and University Colors

Fr. Brian Lhota, OFM and Brother Ferdinand Woerle, OSF

The Friars at St. Bonaventure University are as common to the students and faculty as is the walk from Plassmann to the RC. Many know them by name and nearly every student has had at least one as a teacher. The Friars at the school are a symbol of what our University stands for and in times of hardship and darkness their guidance has proved to be admirable. These men wear the simplest of dress, the brown habit  decorated with a white cord.

Brother David Haack, visual arts teacher at the Quick Center for the Arts, talks about the habits as being a sign of poverty, and a symbol for the Franciscan order. In an interview he says that the habits are brown because back during the time when the order was gaining momentum brown was the color of the poor. People at the time could not afford dye for their clothing so they had to use what was available. Many times people, often the poor, would donate cloth to the church and then the friars would make their habits from these donations. The brown that is used now was not used until the 18th century when it first appeared in Northern Europe. Besides representing the vow of poverty, the brown also symbolizes the earth and the orders commitment to give back to nature and society.

The white cords that many see on the friars were once flax rope, the knots that one sees these cords stand for the vows that the friars must take to join the order.  Haack says that the cord used to hang down the middle of the body because of the type of painting that was done at the time. Because the Byzantines of the time did their paintings in a sort of "flatness" the cord could be better represented.

Now days many see Bonaventure's school colors and wonder why someone would choose the brown and white that decks the jerseys and clothing of the school.  Yet, Brother David says that is was nothing more than a logical choice at the time. Because the school was a seminary back in its early years, when athletic teams, mostly baseball in those days, started to play, the choice of brown and white was the most logical. 

Fr. Regis Marshall, OFM, Fr. Francis Win. Kearney OFM, Juan Cardinal Landazuri Ricketts, OFM from Peru,  unknown. 

In a special meeting of the Duns Scotus Debating Society, held in April,1888 the school colors were discussed. The secretary writes:

"There were a good many speakers, who expressed their ideas, clearly & forcibly. It is needless to mention everything. Very valuable suggestions were made, from which much profit must come to each individual, and among other things the following motions were put and carried."

"1st Rev. Mr. Barry made a motion which was amended by Mr. Walsh, which reads thus: that a committee be appointed form the different classes in the society to select 3 colors, from which one is to be selected...

"2nd Rev Lawrence Smith moved that badges be procured of whatever color selected which are not to cost more than 12 cents each.

"3rd Mr. J. A. Enright made a motion that a flag be procured which shall not cost more then $35."

The next meeting of the Society was on May, 1 1888:

 "...the committee on colors reported that in conference with a committee chosen from the College students it was decided that the three following colors should be presented for selection to the assembled members of our society; viz. wine-color as far as was known not used by any other institution, and therefore a novelty. 2nd  Cream color peculiar to Leo XIII, and 3rd Brown the color of the habit of the Franciscan Order. Among the committees assembled on colors it was agreed that to the selection made in this (debating) society the members of both Seminary and College shall unhesitatingly and firmly adhere. The above three mentioned colors were accordingly the candidates in the field and in a very brief peaceful campaign it was decided that the sons of the St. Bonas. would henceforth adopt as their emblem that color with which for the last 7 centuries the sons of St. Francis have gained so many victories on  the moral battlefields of the Christian world."

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Page created by David Patt; St. Bonaventure University, for History 419 (Computer and Archival Skills for Historians) 
Thanks to Ed and Linda Eckert for their input.

Last updated:  04/27/10
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