Monday, November 17, 2008
Saturday was a joyous event at the Monastery as we celebrated Sr. Katie Cooper’s first profession. The monastery was full of people here to support and cheer people on for the occasion. Jeannette reports that at least a quarter of the oblate community was here for the occasion.
We celebrated the Feast of St. Gertrude Saturday so the special Office, readings and decorations helped set the tone for the profession. We hope that under the patronage of Gertrude we too might know the profound, mystical love of Christ that she did. The background of her feast day made Katie’s commitment in this monastery that much more powerful as we reflected on another Benedictine woman who made her own monastic profession so many centuries ago.
The profession ceremony, like all significant Catholic rites, always takes place in the context of Eucharist. In this way we acknowledge that all important events of our life are simply a small part of the greater paschal mystery. Everything in our life happens in the context of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.
There are also parts that are unique to the monastic profession ceremony. After the Gospel reading Katie and Agnes went to the back of chapel. Then they and the monastic community sang “The Call” three times. “Come my daughter, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Draw near to Him that you may be radiant with joy and your being will always be at peace.” As this was sung three times as Katie and Agnes moved further down the aisle.
Then, standing before the altar Katie made her profession by answering “I do” when Clarissa asked her whether she promised fidelity to the monastic way of life, stability and obedience. This was followed by a great round of applause from the whole community, the sisters, oblates, family and friends of Katie who filled the chapel and expressed their joy at her commitment.
Next, Katie read her profession formula, showed it to Clarissa and Fr. Eamonn and placed it on the altar. In the Rule of Benedict this act of placing the formula on the altar, written out by the monastic in his/her own hand, is a powerful symbol of uniting oneself with the self-sacrifice of Christ. Every day in the Eucharist we remember and re-enact Christ’s self-giving love on our behalf. By personally writing out her commitment to the monastic way of life in this community and placing it on the altar, Katie indicates her willingness to be united with Christ in the commitment to this community.
Next is the “Suscipe” the ancient song that symbolizes the nature of monastic profession. In the front of the altar Katie sang “Receive me O Lord, as you have promised that I may live, and disappoint me not in my hope.” After she sang it the whole monastic community stood and responded with the same verse in song. We did this three times.
The Suscipe is a prayer of profound humility. We do not take God’s love and mercy for granted. We come before God in hope, always willing to see God’s presence as gift. By responding to Katie’s Suscipe the community indicates that all of us are united with Katie in hope and that we will journey to God together as a community, supporting and upholding one another. By repeating the verse three times we allude to the reality of the Trinity, the ultimate community. We express our hope that as a monastic community we may in some small way model the self-giving love of the divine Trinity.
After the Suscipe came the homily by Sr. Clarissa, reflected on the Rule of Benedict as the compass by which Katie would live her life as a monastic. Sr. Wilma and Katie’s daughters Cheryl and Tina were gift bearers. The schola did an amazing job of of providing very moving music that added to the richness of the ceremony. One of the very last things Sr. Judith did before she died was to prepare the worship booklet.
After the Mass there was a big celebration in the dining room where everyone had a chance to rejoice in the amazing and wonderful gift that Katie is to our community and to congratulate her on what is very clearly her call from God to be in our midst as a member of our monastic community. On behalf of Katie and the entire cenobitic community, many, many thanks to all the members of the oblate community who were here to help and celebrate this joyous event.