Simple Profession Homily — August 15, 2015
August 18, 2015
On August 15, 2015, the Very Reverend Kenneth Letoile, O.P., Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Joseph, delivered the following homily at the Mass of Simple Profession celebrated at St. Gertrude Church. I would like to begin first by extending a word of warm welcome to Bishop Roger Foys of Covington, KY , a good friend of our community, to my brother priests, to the Dominican friars, sisters and laity, the parishioners of St. Gertrude’s and lastly the family and friends of our nine brothers preparing to make First Profession, all of whom have come to join us for this wonderful event. On this occasion I would like to reflect on the Year of Consecrated Life, today’s feast of the Assumption and how profession invites all to “follow in the footsteps of our Savior.”
The Year of Consecrated Life
Dear brothers, our presence here at your first profession is a fitting and beautiful way for all of us to celebrate The Year of Consecrated Life. Pope Francis proclaimed this year last November and so you have lived your novitiate year at an auspicious moment in church history. In his letter announcing this year Pope Francis quotes St. John Paul II in these words:
You have not only a glorious history to remember and to recount, but also a great history still to be accomplished! Look to the future where the Spirit is sending you to do even greater things. (Vita Consecrata §110)
On the threshold of your first vows, which thrusts you forward into a new Dominican future, I thought it might be interesting to look back at our history – especially as we prepare to celebrate our 800th Jubilee next year.
The 800th Anniversary
As it turns out, something very important occurred in 1215. St. Dominic received the approval from Bishop Faulk to start a diocesan preaching ban, headquartered in Toulouse. Two recruits, Friar Peter and Friar Thomas, made profession into St. Dominic’s hands. Friar Peter donated his three houses which became the first convent of St. Dominic’s preachers. Through God’s grace, look how that first seed has germinated into a mighty Dominican oak, 800 years and growing. Could those two friars and St. Dominic ever have imagined the significance of what they began? Brothers, today as you make profession, you continue and will be part of the great history “still to be accomplished.” Never underestimate the power of God’s grace doing so much more that we can ever ask for or imagine. I am not aware of any of you donating three houses to the Order, but each of you brings your own unique, spirit-shaped gifts that Jesus will accept, bless and multiply for the sake of his Father’s kingdom.
The Assumption of our Blessed Mother
For this fruitfulness we very much rely on the intercession of our Blessed Mother. It used to be the custom in our province that religious profession occurred on the feast of St. Dominic. I believe it was the late and revered Fr. Tom Heath who moved profession to today’s beautiful feast and what an appropriate inspiration. As Dominicans we draw consolation and strength from the demonstration of Our Lady’s favor that occurred one night when she appeared to St. Dominic in the cloister dormitory as he was praying for his sleeping brothers. Our Blessed Lady blessed the slumbering friars with holy water – a custom we continue at compline- and then she revealed to a questioning St. Dominic how she had placed his new religious family under her protective mantel. The intimacy of this gesture reveals a profound truth in the words of St. John Paul II about today’s feast:
Perfectly united with the life and saving work of Jesus, Mary shares his heavenly destiny in body and soul.
Today’s beautiful gospel of the visitation portrays this union of mother and son going forth in mission. There is a profound similarity between Our Lady’s mission and that of the Order of Preachers. She was chosen by the Father, graced in her immaculate conception so she could say yes to His Divine plan, receive Jesus into her womb and then give him to the world for its salvation. This special bond with our Blessed Mother then suggests that your religious profession is like Mary’s “Fiat:” like her you are accepting and welcoming God’s plan for your life in the person of Jesus.
“In the Footsteps of our Savior”
St. John Paul expresses the connection between the vowed life and Jesus in these words:
The evangelical basis of consecrated life is to be sought in the special relationship which Jesus, in his earthly life, established with some of his disciples. He called them not only to welcome the Kingdom of God into their own lives, but also to put their lives at its service, leaving everything behind and closely imitating His way of life. (Vita Consecrata, §14)
This more intimate union with Jesus that your vows express makes your profession a sacred moment of renewal for all of us, religious and laity alike. We all seek this deeper bond with Jesus. As we pray for and with you, we also seek the graces to leave behind whatever keeps us from a closer, more complete friendship with Mary’s son. I invite you then to proclaim the words of your profession as a sacred preaching to all your brothers and sisters gathered here with you. Your profession will enable us all to renew our dedication to Jesus so that we can, in this Year of Consecrated Life and on the threshold of the 800th anniversary of the Order of Preachers, “Look to the future, where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things.”