Saturday, January 23, 2010
The Feast of Epiphany this year brought a very special joy for the whole Church, and for the Dominican Order, in particular. On this day, two more souls were made the eternal spouses of Our Lord Jesus Christ and three souls entered into their betrothals with the Divine Spouse.
A retreat, preached by Father Jacques Emily, prepared the sisters for the approaching ceremony by enveloping them deeply in the truths surrounding the sublimity of religious life - namely, that their perfection is to be attained by union with God, their Spouse, and this union will take place through charity. Daily conferences, including essential ones on the three religious vows, and benediction of the most Blessed Sacrament gave the sisters a most recollected and focused entrance to the upcoming profession and reception.
Fr Lavin, Fr Emily and Fr Becker.
On January 6th, Sister Mary Catherine, O.P. and Sister Mary Rose, O.P. pronounced their final, perpetual profession in a public ceremony attended by family, friends and clerics gathered for this occasion from all over the world. Fr. J. Emily officiated at the ceremony, assisted by Fr. Michael Lavin and Fr. Rainer Becher. At the Offertory of the Mass, the two sisters approached the altar with lighted candles and proceeded individually to pronounce their perpetual profession in the hands of their superior. As the sisters then knelt before the altar, the antiphon was intoned: "Veni, sponsa Christi..." - Come Spouse of Christ, receive the crown which the Lord hath prepared for thee for all eternity.
The Sisters kneeling in front of the Prioress to make their Perpetual Profession.
Blessing of the veil.
The celebrant went on to give the solemn blessing of the finally professed, followed by a most notable part of the ceremony - the blessing and giving of the ring. Receive the ring of bridal fidelity to God in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, that, wearing it, thou mayest be armed with the strength that cometh from divine protection, and that it may benefit thee unto everlasting salvation. Through Christ our Lord...
Blessing and giving of the ring.
Solemn prayers upon the finally Professed Sisters.
After having received the rings of their profession, the two finally professed sisters prostrated themselves in the form of a cross whilst the solemn prayers were chanted over them and the profoundly stirring responsory, Amo Christum was sung:
"I love Christ, into Whose nuptial room I shall enter: Whose Mother is a Virgin, Whose Father doth not know woman; and Whose voice singeth sweet to me: Whom when I love I remain chaste, Whom when I touch I am pure, and Whom when I take I remain a virgin. With His ring He hath wedded me, and He hath adorned me with most precious jewels..."
As the brilliant ceremony was brought to a close, the voices of the schola and choir united once more to praise the newly professed in the antiphon "Ista est": "She is the wise virgin, whom the Lord hath found vigilant, who hath taken oil together with her lamp, and when the Lord hath come, she was admitted with Him to the wedding..."
Schola and Choir members.
The two finally professed sisters, now wedded eternally to their Divine Spouse, were to share their immense happiness this day with three new sisters. The three postulants, heralding from all over the world - the United States, Argentina, and Australia, requested the holy habit of the Dominican Order this same morning. Once clothed in the Holy Habit of St. Dominic, they entered into the Church whilst voices were raised in the glorious Salve Regina. Forthwith they yielded their tresses of hair to the scissors - as a sacrifice of love to their future Spouse. Once veiled, they were blessed by the priest and each received their Crucifix and Rosary - two weapons by which they will strive to conquer the world for Christ and His Blessed Mother.
The Postulants before the start of the ceremony.
Request for and distribution of the habit.
The Postulants leave the Church to put on the habit.
When the Postulants return, their hair is cut by the priest.
The Prioress then veils them with the white veil.
The Priest gives the new Novices, who are kneeling, their Crucifix and Rosary.
As is customary in the Dominican ceremony, the new novices are offered a choice to be crowned either by a crown of roses or a crown of thorns. In imitation of their Crucified Beloved, and also of their Dominican Patroness, St. Catherine - the three novices each chose and were given the crown of thorns, as the choir chanted the Jesu corona virginum...
"Receive dear sister the crown of thorns in memory of the crown of Our Lord, and through this know that it is not fitting that those members be delicate, who are under the thorn crowned head, which is Christ, and if you wear the crown of thorns of tribulation in this life you will be rewarded by your Spouse with a crown of glory for evermore in the life to come."
Once blessed by the priest, the new novices were then given their names in Religion. The three sisters were each given illustrious Dominican saints as their new namesakes - Sr. Mary Raymond was given the patronage of St. Raymond of Pennafort, a renowned Dominican Preacher and confessor; Sr. Maria Lucia received the patronage of the Dominican mystic and stigmatist, Bl. Lucy of Narni; and Sr. Mary Jacinta was named for the celebrated St. Hyacinth, whose life of preaching the Gospel was filled with innumerable conversions and miracles.
While the Te Deum is sung the new Novices are given the kiss of peace by the Sisters.
As the new novices happily joined the other sisters, they rejoiced together for having heeded the invitation of Christ, "Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thy ear…and the King shall greatly desire thy beauty. For He is the Lord thy God, and Him thou shall adore..." The glorious Mass of Epiphany was finally closed by the Te Deum and the sisters' Dominican ceremony of the kiss of peace. The whole Church rejoiced to receive the professions of these sisters and to give the veils to the novices - it was a great day, indeed, wherein all was forgotten but the love and glory of God.
Please pray for these sisters and for the entire community of Dominicans in Wanganui, New Zealand.