August 19, 2009

Perpetual Profession

Today I am three years perpetually professed in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. There is another brother here in the friary who professed the same day. He must have remembered too, because we acknowledged one another in chapel this morning.

Here is the formula by which we make our religious profession:

For the praise and glory of the Most Holy Trinity.

I, Brother N., since the Lord has given me this grace
to follow more closely
the Gospel and the footprints of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
in the presence of my brothers here assembled,
and into your hands, Brother N.,
with a firm faith and will:
I vow to God the Father, holy and almighty,
to live for the entire time of my life
in obedience,
without anything of my own,
and in chastity.
At the same time,
I profess to observe faithfully
the life and Rule of the Friars Minor
confirmed by Pope Honorius,
and I promise to observe it faithfully
according to the Constitutions of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor.

with all my heart I commit myself to this Fraternity,
so that, through the effective working of the Holy Spirit,
led by the example of Mary Immaculate,
the united intercession of our Father Francis with all the saints, and with you helping me in brotherhood,
I may strive for the fullness of love
in the service of God, the Church, and all people.

So I'm thinking this morning about how I've been doing. Have I become more free in my renunciation of ownership and acquisitiveness in favor of holy poverty? Have I embraced ever more fully the refusal to dominate, manipulate, or commodify other people in favor of evangelical chastity? Do I continue to renounce my own will and, as St. Bonaventure puts it so bitingly, the 'money bag of my own opinions' in favor of obedience for the Kingdom of God?

An honest person can only answer yes and no. Yes, by the grace of God, and no, because certain corners of my heart remain defended and chained up in selfishness, sin, and unfreedom. Vows are not magic and they don't make you a saint automatically. When you say this so plainly, it is obvious and reasonable, but it can actually be a hard thing to get into our dim and shallow minds.

I remember the day I was baptized, when--knowing it only obscurely then--I consented to set this whole thing in motion. I walked down to the little church on a Saturday afternoon, excited and grateful to begin this whole new journey in my life. I seriously thought, in my innocence, that things would be totally different, that I would suddenly leave all my sins and dissipations behind in favor of serving God in complete joy and freedom. It always makes me thing of that line from some Les Claypool song: "He remembered walking in/not knowing applesauce from sin."

Over the first few years of my life as a Catholic Christian, it was a hard lesson for me to learn that being in love with the idea of holiness was not the same thing as having the will to actually work toward it. Nevertheless, sanctity is the only thing really worth our efforts, and it is made out of a multitude of little ascetical acts which God--in his mercy--keeps secret and unglamorous.


Karinann said...

Happy Anniversary and God Bless, Brother Charles!

Anonymous said...

This was really neat for me to read now as I begin my own formation. Congratulations, Brother Charles. You've been a true blessing to the Church and to all of us who have been reading you these past years. May God continue to bless you and may you abide always in His grace. May the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary keep you pure in heart and filled with love of God and His Church.

GrandmaK said...

My hearties congratulation! Praying for continued success. God bless and keep you! Cathy

Adoro said...

Congratulations, Father! Happy Anniversary!

carl said...

Happy anniversary, Father :)

KAM said...

Congrats Br. C!

pennyante said...

Happy Anniversary, Fr. Charles!

My gift to you are the words of one of the gospel songs that I love. It is from Psalm 42 and speaks of our yearning for God:

"As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after thee
You alone are my hearts desire
And I long to worship thee.

You alone are my strength my shield
To You alone does my spirit yield
You alone are my hearts desire
And I long to worship thee."

4narnia said...

happy3rd anniversary, Fr. C! please give my congratulations to the other brother who shares the same anniversary. i think you've been doing great in your vocation & ministry. your Order of Friars Minor Capuchin is a very special order with a great CHARISM! that's part of what attracted me to become involved at Sacred Heart parish. it's an honor to be able to minister with you in at least the small way that i can. thanks for all you and your brother Capuchins do! you're all the BEST! PAX et BONUM! ~tara t~

Qualis Rex said...

Perpetual, eh? That sounds like it's gonna take awhile then.

Happy anniversary!!!! All the best!!!

Paul A. Zalonski said...

Great post! What a great line of St Bonaventure's: the moneybag of one's opinion. I'll have to use it sometime. Right, the idea never measures upon to the reality before us. Blessings as you continue to live the Capuchin vocation.

As point of comparison for those interested in vow formulas of another religious institute, here is the simple perpetual vow formula (first vows) of a Jesuit. Unlike other orders, these vows are recited before the Body & Blood of Christ at Mass instead of into the hands of the Provincial. Truly before God and the heavenly court. They are not renewed each year until final or solemn vows.

Almighty and eternal God, I, (Name), though altogether most unworthy in your divine sight, yet relying on your infinite goodness and mercy and moved with a desire of serving you, in the presence of the most Holy Virgin Mary and your whole heavenly court, vow to Your Divine Majesty perpetual poverty, chastity and obedience in the Society of Jesus; and I promise that I shall enter the same Society in order to lead my entire life in it, understanding all things according to its Constitutions.

Therefore I suppliantly beg Your Immense Goodness and Clemency, through the blood of Jesus Christ, to deign to receive this holocaust in an odor of sweetness; and that just as you gave me the grace to desire and offer this, so you will also bestow on me abundant grace to fulfill it.

Brother Charles said...

Thanks everybody. And thanks Paul for the SJ formula. It must be powerful to utter those words of immolation, and to say "understand all things."

Paul A. Zalonski said...

Yes, the understanding bit was difficult many years but what I found more challenging was the phrase: "just as you gave me the grace to desire and offer this, so you will also bestow on me abundant grace to fulfill it" to the end.

Julia said...

Congratulations, Father!

ben in denver said...

Congratualtions Father. Your vocation is a consolation to so many of us.