Please join us in praying for our Sister Pia of the Pierced Heart, O.C.D.

Homily from the First Profession

Mass of First Profession of Vows of Sister Pia of the Pierced Heart, OCD
Sacred Heart Retreat House
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

January 12, 2013
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

By Father Samuel W. Ward,
Associate Director of Vocations

“The Goal a Carmelite proposes to herself is very great; to pray and sanctify herself for sinners and for priests.  She immolates herself on the Cross and her blood falls on the priests to sanctify them.” St. Teresa of the Andes

 “The aim of a Carmelite and a Priest is to radiate Jesus: by our joy of spirit; our generous gift of self; by our adoration; by our solitude and silence, pondering on the presence of the Trinity within, so that we may be wholly possessed by them, that our life may be a radiance of theirs.” Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

I am a Diocesan Priest but of course I am a Carmelite at heart. In fact, I have had these quotes of these two holy Carmelites on the walls of either my room in the Seminary or the Rectory for the past twelve years or so. I believe that they provide us with a wonderful starting point for our prayerful consideration on this day that Sister Pia of the Pierced Heart makes her First Profession of Religious Vows as a member of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles here in this holy Chapel of the Sacred Heart Retreat House. Today’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, in which we conclude this holy Christmas Time, provides us with the Liturgical context in which to further meditate on the Eucharist mystery that we celebrate in this Holy Mass of Profession.

The Antiphons for Lauds and Vespers during these final days of Christmas time, especially at the Epiphany proclaim the awesome manifestations or revelations of the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord, from his Infancy to the beginnings of His public ministry:

“Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the wedding guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.”

“Three mysteries mark this holy day [the Epiphany]: today the star leads the Magi to the infant Christ; today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation.”

The “today” that these antiphons refer to—the Biblical events of the visit of the Magi; the Baptism of Jesus; and the first Sign or miracle of Jesus at Cana—are mystically made present to us through anamnesis, the reality that past events are truly made present to use through the action of the Holy Spirit. It is not mere remembering or pious nostalgia, rather these mysteries in the life of our Blessed Lord are living and effective for us today, indeed for Christians of all times as we faithfully and joyfully celebrate the sacred mysteries of our faith.

So today, my dear Sister Pia of the Pierced Heart, you are claimed as the bride of Christ the Bridegroom, and God-willing in a few years more perfectly on the day of your Perpetual Profession of Religious Vows.

• You who were already washed of the stain of Original Sin in Holy Baptism as an infant.

• You who have participated since your childhood in the miracle even greater than that of Cana, the miracle of Transubstantiation where bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ in each celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

• You who have also been guided to this day by a star, the Stela Maris, the Star of the Sea who is Jesus’ Mother and ours, the same Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

• You who hasten like the Magi with your three precious gifts of poverty, chastity, and obedience to offer to the Newborn King of the Jews, He who is indeed the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer.

Thus, what was begun at your own baptism, when your parents and godparents consecrated you to almighty God in the Sacrament of Regeneration, is today brought to greater perfection with your Profession of Religious Vows. You do this in this particular religious family of Carmel, which is a true reflection of the virtues and holiness, the purity and goodness of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

In other words, you do not do this alone, nor should anyone endeavor to live the Christian life in isolation. You come from a loving and supportive family, the Kuratomi family. You come from a loving and supportive parish family, St. Kateri Tekakwitha in Santa Clarita.

• That is where I first met you when I was the Associate Pastor at the neighboring parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Now as Associate Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese, working fulltime promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life, I am so very proud that I was able to play a role in inspiring and supporting the vocations of two of you here present for this Mass—you Sister Pia and Matt Murphy who is serving as Acolyte today and is a Seminarian for the Archdiocese currently serving his Internship Year at St. John Vianney Chuch in Hacienda Heights. You both attended my Nights of Discipleship Group at Our Lady of Perpetual Help for young adults and both later shared with me that those meetings were important in the discernment of your respective vocations. For that I am very pleased and grateful to God that I, like many people in your lives, am part of this incredible and exciting journey that you both are undertaking.

As I was saying before, you are not doing this alone. You come from a loving and supportive family and parish. And you are now a member of this loving and supportive Religious Family of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles.

And to return to our opening thoughts from Teresa of the Andes, the goal you Sister Pia, a Carmelite, propose to yourself is very great indeed. To pray and sanctify yourself for sinners and for priests. I like that line, because it means you have to pray for me twice as much, being as I am both a sinner and a priest. You are to immolate yourself on the Cross so that your spiritual blood—your sacrifices and penances, your prayer and adoration, your humility and hiddenness—falls on us priests to sanctify us. It is a grand task the Carmelites undertake, and so very necessary and of inestimable value for the Church in every age, and in our age in particular.

And we priests, according to Elizabeth of the Trinity, are in this together with you. What is the aim of a Carmelite and a priest, according to Blessed Elizabeth—to radiate Jesus. To radiate Jesus to a world mired in darkness, sin, vice, and unbelief. To radiate Jesus to families torn apart by jealousies and bitterness and infidelity. To radiate Jesus to the sick and the elderly to whom we minister. To radiate Jesus to the children that we teach. To radiate Jesus to the retreatants who come here to rest in the Lord. To radiate Jesus to your fellow Carmelites. To radiate Jesus to young people so that they might prayerfully consider that Christ and His Church are calling them to consecrate their entire lives to the Evangelii Gaudium, the Joy of the Gospel that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has invited the world to live anew. That is the same “joy of spirit” that Blessed Elizabeth describes for the lives of Carmelites and priests:

To radiate Jesus by our generous gift of self.
To radiate Jesus by our adoration.
To radiate Jesus by our solitude and silence.
To be wholly possessed by the Trinity
so that our lives are a radiance of our loving Triune God.

Sister Pia of the Pierced Heart, indeed all of my dear Carmelite Sisters, that is my experience of knowing all of you and praying with all of you for many years. This is the grace-filled task that Our Blessed Lord has entrusted to us. By God’s grace we will continue to endure in this great work of the Evangelii Gaudium, radiating the Joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for the salvation of souls.

To return to the Antiphon for Second Vespers of the Epiphany:

“Three mysteries mark this holy day [of the Baptism of the Lord and Mass of Profession of Vows]: today the star leads the Magi and you Sister Pia and all the faithful to the infant Christ; today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast of a Carmelite bride of Christ; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring…salvation [to all].”

Today we rejoice with Holy Mother Church as this daughter of the Church and daughter of Carmel makes her First Profession of Vows.