Homily for Simple Profession 2011

August 16, 2011

For more photos of our friars, please check out the Blog of the Director of Vocations. On August 15, 2011, the Solemnity of the Assumption, Fr. John Langlois, O.P., received the simple profession of sixteen men at the priory of St. Gertrude in Cincinnati, OH, marking the end of their noviciate year. These brothers have now been assigned to the Priory of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, where they will undertake studies in philosophy and theology. Below is the homily delivered at the profession Mass by the Vicar Provincial, Fr. Langlois: Today’s feast of the Assumption of Mary is a celebration of triumphant completion. Our Lady’s life on earth comes to a glorious end as she is assumed body and soul into heaven. She has faithfully accomplished God’s will for her. At the Annunciation, she humbly accepted her vocation as Mother of God, and offered her womb for the Incarnation. She gave birth to the Messiah, lovingly cared for him as a child and young man, and finally united her suffering to his at the foot of the cross as he offered his life for the salvation of the world. And as she so closely participated in his redeeming work on earth, she now reigns with Him in glory. Of course, her work is not ended, for even as she reigns as Queen in heaven, she continues to exercise her maternal mediation on behalf of the Church. The Assumption, then, is not so much an ending as a new beginning. How appropriate then that today you soon-to-be former novices also celebrate a completion along with a new beginning. Today, you mark the completion of your novitiate year with the profession of temporary vows. Certainly this is just cause for celebration and a sense of accomplishment. Through the grace of God, you have persevered in living the Dominican life over the course of the last year and now wish to formalize your relationship with the Order through profession. But for you also, this ending is really just a beginning, the beginning of your life as a professed Dominican religious. We can often have the mistaken notion in life that once we reach a certain milestone, we can sit back and take it easy. All the hard work is done, now we can coast and get by on auto-pilot. There is no longer need for growth, for we have arrived. If this kind of thinking is mistaken as regards normal everyday life, it is even more mistaken when applied to the religious life. Religious life, authentically lived, is one of ongoing formation, no matter how old one may be. There is never a time when we are fully formed. And the vow of obedience that we make is not just the gift of self to God in some grand gesture on the day of profession. No, it is a gift that must be continually renewed and offered over the course of a lifetime, sometimes at great personal cost and sacrifice. This was true of our mother Mary, it is certainly true of us! If we examine for a moment the life of Mary, we see very clearly that the fiat of the Annunciation was but her first of many “yeses” to God’s will for her. We know that this first “yes” was filled with joy as she acknowledged the great dignity being bestowed on her in being chosen to bear the Son of God. It led to her Magnificat, “my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, for he has done great things for me.” But most of her future yeses would come in the face of pain and sorrow. There was the “yes” of having to flee to Egypt shortly after Jesus’ birth and having to live there in exile for several years when King Herod sought to put the child Jesus to death. Then there was the “yes” of having to bear Jesus’ departure from home as he began his public ministry, and the “yes” of not having free access to him as he devoted himself completely to proclaiming the Good News and healing others. And finally, there was the ultimate “yes” of having to accept his shameful death on the cross, a “yes” that pierced her heart as if by a sword. These are only the highlights of her life of obedience. But what we see clearly is that Mary had to renew her fiat and her acceptance of God’s will not just once or twice, but many times over the course of her life. And each time she said “yes”, she grew in faith, hope, and charity. Not only that, but she grew in her vocation as Mother to the point that, at the foot of the cross, her motherhood was extended to all the redeemed, symbolized in Jesus confiding the beloved disciple John to her care. Through her life of obedience, Mary became more and more the person God had created her to be. In a similar way, the vow of obedience that you sixteen brothers will profess today in joy is not the final word. It is only the first of many yeses that God will ask of you over the course of your religious life. As with Mary, so for you also the “yes” of certain moments will be filled with joy while others will involve a measure of pain and suffering, for the vow of obedience is God’s way of molding and perfecting us. And molding means “re-shaping,” a process that is necessarily painful. But the good news is that the molding process is ordered to making you into something wonderful: preachers of grace! This is what you have been called to be in being called to the Dominican life. Yet, in order to become a preacher of grace, it is important that you not only come to have an intellectual understanding of grace but that you actually have experience of its transforming power in your life, otherwise your future preaching will lack the convincing power of the Spirit. And for grace to transform, it must be received, accepted, and cooperated with. In other words, obedience to grace is a key to growing in your identity as a friar preacher. It is God himself who will form you in this life and who will shape you more and more into the person he created you to be. But like Mary, you must give him free rein to do so by saying “fiat”, your will be done, to all that he asks of you. When you find it difficult to be faithful to the vow that you make today, to say yes to God in the midst of pain, know that you can turn to your mother Mary for help. She will understand your feelings and what is going on in your heart, for she knows what it is to have to say “yes” to difficult things. And as your mother, she will support you with her prayers and heavenly assistance. With her and in her, you will find the strength to say “fiat,” no matter what God may ask of you! And with her help, you will become powerful preachers of grace, for you will come to know the transforming power of grace in your life through fidelity to your vow of obedience. My brothers, today is the beginning for you of a wonderful life, a marvelous adventure as a friar preacher. You cannot imagine right now all the joys that will fill your heart in the years to come, nor the trials and sufferings that you will have to undergo. But you need not fear anything that lies ahead, for everything that God in his providence permits for you is ordered to one thing and one thing only-your becoming a holy preacher of grace! In union with Mary, may you learn to thank God for everything, and always sing Magnificat, “my spirit rejoices in God my savior…for the Almighty has done great things for me.”  

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