|The Religious Profession of Brother Luke and Brother
Feast of Our Lady of the Angels, 2 August 2008
Homily by the Most Reverend Robert J. Baker,
Bishop of the Diocese of Birmingham
The feast of our Lady of
the Angels of the Portiuncula is a uniquely Franciscan feast. Anyone who
knows the story of St. Francis knows the relation of St. Francis to the
Portiuncula Church within the larger "Our Lady of the Angels" Church in
the valley below Assisi. St. Francis was welcomed by the Benedictine
community to use this church in the early days of his community. It has
a special role in the Franciscan story....
The little church, referred to as the "Portiuncula," the "little
portion" in English, is inside a bigger church today, Our Lady of the
Angels Church. St. Francis had the friars bring him back to the location
of the Portiuncula Church before his death, as it was a very special and
sacred place for him. Assisi is one of my favorite places on earth, and
I have made many a pilgrimage there, and many a visit when I was a
graduate student in Rome in the early '70's. Many times I have visited
the unique and special Our Lady of the Angels Church and the Portiuncula
Church inside it.
Today Brother Luke and Brother Paschal make their first profession of
vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, in the pattern of St. Francis,
on this special feast. And we congratulate them and commend them on this
public witness of faith they are making, in the presence of their Bishop
and the Guardian of their community, the Franciscan Missionaries of the
Eternal Word. The Guardian is Father Anthony Mary Stelton.
Brother Luke Mary Braum hails from South Africa. You can detect a
tinge of his South African English accent in his speech when he reads at
Holy Mass. We envy his clear and precise diction. You will never miss
any of his words when he reads or speaks. Brother Paschal Mary Yohe
comes from near my hometown in Ohio. He is from Toledo, Ohio. Both of
them completed their novitiate and will be making their first profession
of vows. At the end of Mass Jason Bartow will be formally received into
the novitiate, following his time of postulancy.
We thank them for their faithfulness in assisting at liturgies for EWTN
Masses and for all their help behind the scenes at the EWTN studios.
Their efforts make them missionaries of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As
their Bishop I commend their community of priests and brothers for all
they do in service to the Lord and His kingdom. They represent a vital
part of the new evangelization proclaimed by our recent Popes, helping
to use the media to draw people closer to Christ.
They also reflect the deep faith, courage, and generosity of our
young people who are stepping forth to give their lives totally to the
The vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience are an acknowledgement
that the kingdom of Christ is more visibly and tangibly present in the
world of today through them. They remind us that God owns everything we
are and everything we have and that we are simply the stewards of the
lives and the resources God has given to us.
The vow of poverty is a simple acknowledgement that all material
things belong not to ourselves, but to God, and so these men hold no
title to anything. They are telling the rest of us in a clear way that
none of us own anything
— it all belongs to God. What we have is a gift to be used for
His greater honor and glory.
The vow of chastity is their profession of God's ownership in love of
their minds, their bodies, their spirits. God is all they need to be
happy. Of course, in eternity none of us will marry or be given in
marriage. So their celibate commitment reminds us of that fact. But all
of us are called to a chaste life, a way of loving that reminds us that
love is defined ultimately by God, and we can never steer away from God
and discover the true meaning of love. God is the author of love and of
life. Chaste loving is loving sacrificially and generously, as God has
Obedience is their witness to the fact that God's holy will should
predominate in all decisions of our lives. We do not own our lives. God
does. Our community leaders, acting in God's place, help direct us on
the pathway to God. We give deference to them to maintain unity in truth
and love in our communities, and to understand God's holy will for us.
Once again we acknowledge God's ownership of our destinies in life.
While the commitments of these men today may seem extraordinary or
out of sinc with the rest of us, I'd like to suggest that in many ways
God calls all committed Christians to a similar stewardship way of life.
When I celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation with teen-agers, I
remind them that God is calling them through this Sacrament, and through
the power of the Holy Spirit coming to them, to offer their lives 100%
in service to the Lord. All they are and all they have belong to Him. So
why not give it all back to Him.
Hold back nothing in serving God, and He will give you everything in
Remember the words of the priest at the Easter Vigil ceremony. As
he's lighting the Easter candle. Christ, yesterday and today, the alpha
and the omega. All time belongs to Him, and all the ages. To Him be
power and glory through the ages, forever and ever. Amen.
All time belongs to Him. I remind the confirmands of that fact. But
does all my time belong to Him, all my talents, all my treasures?
Hopefully, yes. Hopefully I give it all to him. I don't wait till I'm on
my death bed to give God everything,
These young men are doing that today. They are giving God everything,
because they realize He already owns everything they are and everything
Their profession today is a prayer commitment to Him, an
acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as the center of their lives and the
source of their love for Him and everyone else.
Can all of us participating today enter into the drama of their day
and their profession by making our own commitment today to serve God
100%, holding back nothing in our commitment to Him?
That is another name for Christian stewardship, another name for
total conversion of mind and heart to God, another name for holiness of
life. Not just Brother Luke Mary, Brother Paschal Mary, and Brother
Jason are called to serve the Lord 100%. In whatever vocation of life we
are in, the single life, the married life, the consecrated life, the
diaconate or priesthood. We are all called to live totally for Christ.
In this year of St. Paul we are reminded of St. Paul's words: "To
live is Christ," and "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Those
are the mottos of people like Brothers Luke and Paschal and Jason, and
you and me.
St. Paul is the patron of our diocese of Birmingham in Alabama; and
we are proud of that fact. In my previous life as Bishop of Charleston,
St. John the Baptist was the diocesan patron. I once looked to him as I
now look to St. Paul for intercession for the needs of this diocese.
It is interesting that both St. Paul and St. John the Baptist died as
martyrs. Both were beheaded for their convictions and commitment to
St. Matthew's Gospel today describes the strange sequel to John's
beheading. It tells us that John's head "was brought in on a platter and
given to" the daughter of Herodias, who in turn took it to her mother.
In Paul's case there is the legend that when he was beheaded, his head
bounced three times, and at each spot a fountain of water emerged. I
visited this summer the Church of Tre Fontane, of the three fountains,
over the alleged spot where the beheading is said to have occurred.
No doubt both Saints would have reacted with a light-hearted spirit
in the aftermath of the disposition of their heads. They held little
regard for the outcome of their human lives this side of eternity. They
knew God controlled everything in life and in death. Why be concerned
about what happens to their human remains once God greeted them in
We will not likely to face the great witness of faith of the martyrs,
but today we witness the faith of people like Brothers Luke and Paschal
and Jason. May their witness today, as that of Sts. Paul and John the
Baptist, lead us all closer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank
you, my brothers, for your great witness of faith to all who are with
you in this celebration of Holy Mass.