Reflections on First Religious Profession of Vows

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Some moments are too full of meaning, too valued, to find expression in words. They are deep and strong and fiercely intimate. They are sacred.  So if you would ask me what it is like to pronounce vows to God Himself, vows that are totally life-changing – and life-transforming – I would have to answer simply that there are no words.  For God is infinite, almighty, eternal and all-perfect.  Finite and human, I am painfully aware of my many shortcomings and, if the truth be told, I, like any other human being, have sinned.

That is part of the marvelous paradox of the vowed heart. To look at Him and then to look at yourself and think “God chose me to become His own.” It is a mind-boggling concept and very hard for many people to understand. The symbols used in the ceremony of religious profession manifest in a shadowy, obscure way the depth of the calling, the vocation to the consecrated life as a religious sister. Incense, candles, the veil and the crown, flowers and music.  Each has its place. Each has its own special part in manifesting the mystery.  Alone, or joined together, these symbols only mirror a part of the vocation to the consecrated life.

Yes, the consecrated life is one of giving, of service. Yet, not only that. It is so much more, and that is the part that can’t be put into words. Nor should it be. If a fragrant perfume is left opened it loses its fragrance. The important things in life are like perfume. They should be held in the heart, not opened to be carried away by every wind. How much more so the vocation to be a religious sister, vowed to God. Scripture says that Our Blessed Mother, “pondered these things in her heart” and so do we.

Sister Marie Andre, I was present on Sunday, January 20, 2013 when your parents accompanied you up the aisle of the Motherhouse of the Carmelite Sisters in Ahambra, California,  at the beginning of the Mass of Religious Profession. I watched them leave you at the steps of the sanctuary. Everyone present that morning saw you ascend the steps into the sanctuary, candle in hand. Your sister was there holding her beautiful infant only two weeks old. Your parents. Your Carmelite Sisters. The Mass continued and we all heard you pronounce your vows and receive the signs of religious profession: the crucifix, the constitutions, the veil, the crown of roses.

This article is being typed tonight by one of your Carmelite Sisters who tried very hard to capture the essence of your Mass, your ceremony, your day.  Alas, it can only be captured in symbols, in allegories and similes, and alluded to in various images in the hope that the deeper meaning can shine through them. May the deeper meaning shine through your life as a Carmelite Sister now and forever.

Congratulations, Sister Marie Andre of the Holy Family, and welcome into the community of Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles.