Homily, Mass of Perpetual Profession of Vows:
Br. Leonard Mary, MFVA, Br. Patrick Mary, MFVA
Most Reverend Robert J. Baker
Bishop of Birmingham, Alabama
14 August 2008
I thank Father Anthony Mary, the community servant of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, for the invitation to celebrate Holy Mass today, as Brother Patrick Mary and Brother Leonard Mary make perpetual profession of vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
We as their wider family of faith join their families of origin and their religious family in thanking them for their public profession of dedication to service of the Lord and His people through a life consecrated permanently in that service. Their Brothers Luke Mary and Paschal Mary made temporary vows recently. Today our two brothers make perpetual vows that unite them in God's love and in His service and service to His people for life.
Commitments for life in our American society come hard. Our culture is not supportive of life-long commitments to anything. With us everything is instant and quick, or it has no value.
We prefer to try this or try that, and if we don't like it, we move on to something new.
So what you two brothers in Christ are doing today is counter-cultural. There is very little in our society that supports what you are doing. You are out of the ordinary. In other words, you are extraordinary.
I use that word advisedly and deliberately, because it is true.
Of course, you haven't leapt into this mode of life quickly, without careful deliberation and preparation. For five years or more, you have prayed over your decision, and you have committed yourselves to a plan of life, a way of life outlined in the constitutions of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word
While your community exists to enhance the role of the Catholic Church in the use of the electonic media for the advancement of Gospel values along with other connected duties, you do so, not living as married men or bachelors, but as men consecrated to the Lord through a profession of vows.
That my friends is something extraordinary. In my homily a couple weeks ago I pointed out the similarity between the consecrated life and the life of every Christian in that everyone is called to give him or herself 100% in serving the Lord, in whatever vocation of life one is called to. And that is true. You have much in common with every other Christian.
But your life under the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience is admittedly extra-ordinary and extraordinary. Your life calls for a special grace from God that enables you to live more freely and more intensely the Christian life. By doing so you help other people live more committed and more faithful lives.
In the perspective of Pope John Paul II's theology of the body, which came from his Wednesday addresses early in his papacy, your vowed life has a nuptial meaning; you are espoused to the Church. You are father to all God's people. In that spiritual relationship you enter into fully today, you become a spiritual father, to all.
You are freed to hear the heartbeat of the world as it looks for the meaning of love. You are free to hear the cries of those in distress, those lost on the roadside of life. And you are there to rescue them.
Like St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast we celebrate today, a fellow Franciscan, although a Conventual Franciscan, you can insert yourself into the dramas of life, where others, committed to their families, could not. We recall how Father Kolbe took the place of a man slated for execution at Auschwitz, a married man with a family. Father Kolbe is symbolic of all religious men and women who take up the slot of service so others can faithfully follow their own ordinary ways of committed life. I had the privilege of visiting his prison cell in Auschwitz where he wasted away, physically starving to death, but spiritually becoming more like Christ, until his life was eventually forcefully ended.
Some may call your lifestyle abnormal, in relation to the, quote, "normal" way of life. I prefer to stay with the term extra-ordinary or "extraordinary."
Living as you do in a culture that is progressively more intolerant of religious values and that gives very little space for God, you need not be afraid of being different, of being counter-cultural.
By your commitment to the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, you are making a statement today that there is another way to live a life that can assure a person of happiness now in this life and in the life to come.
People may say your way of life is strange — until they get to know you and find out what is behind your commitment today — a tremendous sense of God's love — God's love for you and your love for God. Nothing can displace that rationale for the kind of commitment you are making.
Just make sure all is in place in your life so that dominant motivation comes through in your religious life — loudly and clearly. So people will know how much God loves you and how much He loves His people through you.
The Church today needs more prophets — that is, people who not only speak the truth about God's love, but people who live that truth with their love.
Help others find the Lord through you. Then you are a walking, talking sign of God's presence in our world.
Be faithful to the rule of your community. If you live that rule faithfully to the end of your life, you will become freer and holier, like St. Maximilian Kolbe, and like the Blessed Mother, whose special feast we celebrate tomorrow on August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption.
May Mary walk with you and guide you to her Son, as your model and intercessor. May she help you to be faithful always in your life and lifestyle to the vows you are making today, the perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.