Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Solemn Profession

Br. Brendan and I had the honor of attending the Solemn Vows of Br. Christian Raab at St. Meinrad's Archabbey this past Friday. Br. Christian lived here in Chicago some years ago and he and his family were regular visitors at Sunday Mass and at other times. It was a real joy to witness him professing the very vows that I have made, and, as one might expect, it was a profound moment to re-experience my own profession and to rededicate myself to a fuller appropriation of what I have professed.

There were several particularly moving moments in the liturgy. First, it should be said that the chapel at St. Meinrad's is very beautiful and stately, and that the community has a fine liturgy. They are especially known for their singing (for those of you who share my enthusiasm for chant: I discovered that Fr. Columba Kelly studied with Eugene Cardine himself back in the day!). It was the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, and praying the office was a good preparation for Mass.

Br. Christian was first brought before Archabbot Justin DuVall for examination. This included a question that is not part of our present rite in the Subiaco Congregation. After his desire to make vows had been determined, the abbot asked if he understood that, should he ever break the vows he professed that he would 'be condemned by Him Whom he mocked.' It is a bracing--and entirely fair--question. The question comes directly out of the Rule. But to hear it said directly to a junior monk was a robust way of encountering the seriousness of our faith.

Br. Christian also sang the first part of his profession. This added solemnity to the moment.

Most moving for me was his prostation beneath the funeral pall. The deacon stood over him with the Easter candle, and an Easter antiphon, "Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead!" was sung as the pall was removed and he stood again, dead to the world, alive to Christ. I was taken back to my own profession, and what it felt like to be under that sign of death and of hope. Since I am usually assigned to cantor, it was especially 'death-like' for me to have to remain still and silent, listening to others singing the Litany of the Saints on my behalf, sending me, as it were, under their care to the promise of the Kingdom of God, the kingdom that is not of this world. We arise to do battle for the True King, so it would be an exaggeration to claim that sin and concupiscence were things left underneath that pall, but it would not be exaggerating to say that one arises from this moment changed. Solemn vows are for life, there is no going back to the man I was. He is dying each day that I say 'yes' to God's call for conversion and new life in Jesus Christ.

Please join me in prayer for all Christians who undergo this death to self in baptism, especially for those whose baptismal grace is deepened in religious vows, ordination or marriage, that we may remain faithful to what we have professed. And let us never forget to praise God for the salvation He has offered us in baptism, and the sign of hope given us in profession. Glory be to the Holy Trinity, now and forever. Amen.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Prior Peter, as a Benedictine oblate of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, I was especially glad to read this moving account. Please count on my prayers as you request in your post.

Fr. Columba Kelly OSB teaches a two-week chant course at the Archabbey in the summer, and taking it in 1998 (I think it was) was nothing short of life-changing for me in two ways: opening the door to chant and its notation and scholarship (not to mention its beauty and prayerfulness), and the two-week experience of living a Benedictine rhythm and praying with the monks.

Fr. Columba developed virtually all of the chants the monks use in their office books, and he is one of the top authorities on setting English texts to chant in the traditional modes.

You probably know all that! But I thought I'd post on this anyway.

Many thanks for your post.


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