10 July 2007

A new spouse of Christ

As miserable as it is to travel by plane these days, it was definitely worth the trip this past week when I went to Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama. Sr. Elizabeth Marie of Our Lady of the Atonement (pictured here with her mother, Peggy Graham, and me) made her Solemn Profession as a Nun of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. Sister Elizabeth was a member of our parish until she entered religious life eight years ago. Nearly every year since then I have made a visit to see her and to witness her renewal of temporary vows. But this was the year for her final vows, and it was a grand occasion!

The Sisters really seem to look forward to the annual celebration of the Anglican Use Mass, right down to learning some Anglican chant for the gradual psalm at Mass. This year was no different. The stately words of the Book of Divine Worship, combined with the dignity of the Solemn Profession, made for a remarkable and inspiring occasion. The gorgeous words of the Collect for Purity (Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid…) were as much at home in the Chapel as was the chanting in Latin of the Litany of Saints. It all came together into a single beautiful liturgical sacrifice offered to Almighty God.

A particularly impressive part of the ceremony was when Sr. Elizabeth lay prostrate behind the grate, covered by the funeral pall and surrounded by her Sisters holding wax tapers. The Litany was chanted and the pall was sprinkled with holy water, after which I spoke words over her, which included these: “…cover with the shield of Your protection this Your servant whom You deigned to select from the entire number of the Flock, as a Good Shepherd, to preserve the crown of perpetual virginity and chastity of soul, and to prepare her for every work of virtue and glory with the aid of Wisdom, so that, overcoming all enticements of the world, she may merit the indissoluble union with Your son, Our Lord Jesus Christ…”

As the celebrant, I was privileged to bless the ring and place it on Sister’s finger with these words, “I espouse you to Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High Father; and may He keep you unharmed. Receive then, the ring of Faith, the seal of the Holy Spirit, that you may be called the Spouse of God. And if you serve Him faithfully, you will receive an eternal crown. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The Shrine Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament was filled for the occasion, and there were several priests present who concelebrated. There was lots of happiness all around, and we’re grateful to God for the vocation He has given to this daughter of our parish.