Sunday, April 10, 2011

A High Point

Just to begin by picking up a couple of threads from recent weeks:

This week we finally got a day or two that were both mild and sunny. We've waited long enough since I reported the first daffodil, but now that one is no longer standing there all by itself. There are some others, and some hyacinths looking very brave and dark blue. And tomorrow is supposed to be both sunny and warm - the first really warm day of the year, so after that Spring should really be established. We've waited a long time this year.

We've also continued the Lenten retreat and program ministry. Andrew has been in Montreal conducting a retreat for clergy on Celtic spirituality, Scott went to Albany to do an evening of speaking and conversation about the monastic life at St Paul's parish and yesterday Adam was in Stamford, Connecticut at St John's Church, conducting a program on the crafting of a Rule of Life. It's been a long time since we did this much outside retreat and program ministry. It's still too early to tell if it's a change in things, but it's a hopeful sign in any case.

Now for the big news of the week - an event that is always a high point in the life of any monastic community: our Brother Charles (now Br Julian) made his first profession of vows on Wednesday.

Br. Julian sings at his First Profession mass
accompanied by his Mom in the background

It's a simple service, actually (if a Solemn Mass can ever be referred to as "simple"). It was conducted by Br Adam and Br Andrew, the two brothers who have been Novice Master while Charles has been in the novitiate, and by Br Robert, our Superior, who received the vow on behalf of the community and preached a very fine sermon.

After the sermon Charles came forward, along with Andrew, who presented him to the Superior for Profession and certified that he had been trained according to our tradition.

Robert then asked the usual question: "Are you doing this of your own free will?" (not the exact words, but that's what it means). This is really important when you are doing something that involves promising your life to someone or someones. Although the days are thankfully past, by and large, when people are forced into marriages or into a monastery against their will, it's still a very good thing for people to hear you say - and for you to hear yourself say - that you are doing this because you want to. The marriage promises have this as one of their functions, and no marriage can be performed if the people being married don't agree that they are undertaking this relationship freely. And the same is true for people making monastic profession.

Then Charles knelt and read his commitment to our vow of Obedience, Stability and 'Conversion of my ways to the monastic way of life' for one year. He signed the paper on which he had earlier written out the Vow by hand and then he went to the altar and laid it there. Then the large full robe called the Cowl, which in the Benedictine life is a symbol of Profession, was brought and put on him. This is always something of an awkward moment, because the Cowl is so big and so cumbersome and there's no way to get it on someone in a dignified manner. It involves a lot of pushing and shoving and pulling and straightening, but it gets done, and when he's finally clothed, he's the newest Benedictine in the world! He then gives the Peace to the members of his community and then we proceed to Communion.

And from that moment on, he is going to be known as Br Julian. Well, in theory. It takes a while to get used to someone changing their name and there have been a good many slips, when someone will refer to "Cha..., uh, Julian", or just forget altogether and call him Charles. I remember how long it took people to refer to me as Bede, or for me to think of myself as Bede. Now, of course, it seems like it's really me. (It was the kids who really made the change easily. I was deeply involved in youth work at the time I changed my name, and the kids loved 'Bede' because it was short and sharp, so it made a good nickname for them, and also because it went so well with 'Bad'. So 'Bad Bede' it was for a number of years, and an occasional person, now well into middle age, will still come up with that from time to time.

Our Church was filled with people, friends, Associates, and some just plain guests. Julian's mother was able to come from Florida. I was especially moved by the number of people from other Religious Orders who had come. Sr Hildegard, a dear friend from the Redemptoristine nuns up the road was here, all splendid in her deep red habit, and Br John, whom we are just getting to know, came. He's a Marist Brother from their place just to the north of us. Sister Eleanor Francis, the Superior of the Community of St John Baptist in Mendham, New Jersey was here, and it's always a significant thing to have one of their sisters, because that community was involved with Holy Cross in our very earliest days in New York City in the 1880's and mentored us very lovingly for many years. Suzanne Guthrie was here from Brewster and represented the Holy Spirit Sisters, who are dear friends. Sr Susan John, a friend for a long, long time who is a solitary sister who lives in the Catskills came and also our really good friend Br Vincent from St Joseph's Monastery in Natchez, Mississippi. Vincent began coming to the Flute Master's classes some years ago, and quickly worked his way into our affections. He's a splendid organist, and he played for the profession. (He's also quite a tailor, and when he's here he can always be convinced to do repair and altering work - quite a gift to us).

So all of the monks, nuns, family, friends and well-wishers made quite a crowd in our refectory for one of our chef Edward's splendid feasts. All in all it was a grand day, and now Holy Cross has one more professed monk.

But stay tuned. There's more to come later in the month!

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