Profession of Sr. Clare, Drumshanbo, 11th August 2017
Profession of Sr. Clare, Drumshanbo, 11th August 2017
Homily by Bishop Francis Duffy
We had a very happy occasion a few weeks ago in Longford, when a relic of Mother Teresa, now Saint Teresa of Calcutta, was welcomed at St. Mel’s Cathedral. During the course of three days about four thousand people came to honour her and to seek her intercession.
Saint Teresa probably first came to the notice of a wide audience after a BBC documentary entitled ‘Something beautiful for God’. Saint Teresa believed she was doing what we are all called to do as Christians, and that is to do ‘something beautiful for God’. Today, a happy and joy filled day, Sr. Clare is formally choosing to continue doing ‘something beautiful for God’ as a member of this Poor Clare community.
In a few moments Sr. Clare will make her solemn profession. In many senses leaving family and friends and career and becoming part of an enclosed religious community does not sit easily with the expectations and practice of everyday living. Sr. Clare will say that she is resolved, with God’s help, to unite herself more closely to God by the bond of solemn profession. This is a freely chosen resolution to give time and space and her very life to God and in so doing to enable a profound relationship develop with her creator. It is not an imposition or a burden but a freedom to closely follow the Lord as a sister in this religious and enclosed community.
As you will hear from her vows Sr. Clare is willing to embrace and observe forever, a life of chastity, of obedience, of poverty and of enclosure. They are vows that seem to fly in the face of the expressed values of the world. Chastity is sometimes regarded as a limiting of freedom and expression and identity. Obedience is similarly regarded as giving away personal autonomy and choice. Poverty is to be avoided at all costs and opting for it opting for vulnerability. Enclosure seems to be a limiting of liberty to move where we wish, in an age of mobility.
It is important to look beyond the surface, to look at what lies beneath, the motivation and the life that results from these promises. In scripture Jesus teaches us that “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for (his) sake will find it.” In one sense you lose your life for the sake of Jesus in order to find it, always relying on the Lord’s help, on his grace. Certainly there is great sacrifice, a renunciation of what are good elements of life, but carried out to give a greater freedom to follow Christ more closely. It gives a freedom to search for God within the context of an enclosed community. What is formally and freely renounced gives a greater freedom to follow the Lord in a life lived, for God, and for God alone.
Three signs of profession, of commitment, are used in our ceremony today.
The first is the ring, Mother Angela will place a ring on Sr Clare’s finger; it is a sign of her commitment to God and to his Church. A commitment expressed by her vows. The ring is also a reminder of Sr. Clare’s family, her parents who gave her life and her brothers and sisters and wider family who are so much part of her life in Ballisodare. Sr. Clare is very much a family member; a daughter, a sister, an aunt and a cousin.
Sr. Clare’s father died when she was eleven years of age. She looked after her mother in her later years in addition to the demands of her professional work life. It was in and from her family and local community that for Noreen O’Donovan the first stirrings of vocation emerged.
The second sign is a crown of thorns, it symbolises our sharing in the Lord’s suffering. Life is not easy for anyone, suffering comes our way, Sr. Clare meets many who suffer and turn to the Lord; the Lord is familiar with that way of thorns. We strive and we fail and we rely on the Lord’s grace.
The final symbol is the lighted candle. I think the lighted candle had a dual role. It is for Sr. Clare a reminder that Jesus Christ is her personal light. It is a reminder that Jesus Christ is also a light to point to the vows that are taken: chastity, obedience, poverty and enclosure. Many search for the fruits of these vows: purity and authenticity, direction, freedom from craving more and the stability that many seek. The vows taken and lived by religious in consecrated life are lights to our modern world. The commitment and faithfulness of religious in consecrated life can be gentle beacons that give guidance, a reference point, to those who wander and are searching.
Sr. Clare will promise to strive steadfastly for perfection in the love of God and of her neighbour. In other words living the gospel with all her heart, and doing so in the context, and with the support of the practice and the Rule of this Religious community. Saint Clare advised her sisters to “Love one another with a true love of Christ, and show the love which you have in your heart in both words and deeds, so that you may all grow together in mutual respect”. The community life of support, of challenge and of religious devotion and practice is the context in which Sister Clare turns her heart and mind to God. Here in Drumshanbo Sr. Clare will pray for many, many people, she will bring the intentions, the worries and the hopes of those who seek the Lord.
Sr. Clare is doing something beautiful for God in prayer, in contemplation, in worship and adoration and in living with her sisters in this enclosed community. That is only half the story because God is also doing something beautiful for Sr. Clare. He has given her the beautiful gift of faith and he has given her the gift of vocation; he has called and she has answered ‘yes’ to his call, as Mary did in the Annunciation. It is all for the glory of God and for the service of the Church, the people of God; today we give thanks to the Lord.