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Monday, April 29, 2013

A Monk's Profession

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Let’s say you were considering monastic life: After an inquiry visit, aspirancy visit, and 6-month tenure as a postulant, you could apply to be a novice if everyone considers it a good fit. This novitiate period entails living in the community while not holding any formal commitment; it is a time of further discernment and formation. Consider this the dating period of a relationship. 

After two years of being a novice -and if the community consents- you can make your first profession. This profession of vows binds you to the monastic order for 1 year. This would be the equivalent of getting engaged.

After the year, you renew for another year. You could repeat this for up to 5 years total, or you could make your life profession (the only ceremony more important than the initial profession). The life profession is the equivalent of marriage.

Saturday morning, after living as a novice for two years, Brother Roger made his first monastic profession.
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Br. Daniel (the prior), Br. John (the novice master), and Br. Roger
The ceremony itself was a full-fledged Eucharist with the profession following the sermon (much like a baptism, confirmation, wedding, etc). Br. John presented Br. Roger, at which time Roger made his official profession and signed it on the altar. 

“In the Name of God, Amen. I, Roger Stewart, desiring to consecrate myself fully and entirely to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, make to Almighty God, before the whole company of heaven, and in the presence of you, my brothers, the threefold vow of Stability, Conversion of my ways to the monastic way of life, and Obedience in the Order of the Holy Cross, steadfastly intending to keep and observe the same for the period of one year, the Lord being my helper. And I pray for the grace and heavenly assistance of the Holy Spirit, for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of our holy Father Benedict, of James our Founder and of all the saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”

It was a privilege to witness.
Unbeknownst to me, the congregation had a speaking role in the service: We were asked “Will all you who witness this vow, uphold and pray for this our brother Roger in the days to come?” It was the first profession I had been to, but my Episcopal reflexes kicked in: “We will, with God’s help!”

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The peace, after the profession
A monastic commitment involves a threefold vow of obedience, stability, and conversion to the Monastic way of life.

Obedience: You will obey God, and respect the God-given authority of the Prior, the Superior, and the community.

Stability: You are committed to the community. No jumping ship.

Conversion to the monastic way of life (conversatio morum): You adopt the monastic lifestyle. Among other things, this includes celibacy and communal ownership.

The entire service had the feel of an engagement celebration.

Our post-ceremony reception included refreshments, conversations, and smiling children.
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As mentioned above, the initial profession is the 2nd most important event in a monk’s public formation, surpassed only by a life profession (the 1-year renewals before life profession are done in private, and take only a few minutes; Br. Josias renewed his vows a few weeks ago and neither Stephen nor myself realized it until later). With no other novices currently at the monastery, this may be the last profession for a few years. Again, it was a privilege to witness :)

I hope you enjoyed this insight into monastic life, and that you have a wonderful week!!!

In Christ,
-Cameron S

1 comment:

  1. Hi Cameron, indeed I did enjoy this piece of the monastic story. It is quite a process. It seems like there are opportunities and time to really commit to this life choice. Great pix of the kids, as always. xo

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