On February 2, 2016, the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, we welcomed a new novice into our community. Sr. Catherine-Marie Carlin , having completed her first year of probation at our Abbey was clothed in the Benedictine habit during our Lauds prayer service. Below is a reflection given by Mother Maria Michael on the occasion of her clothing.
On the Feast of the Presentation, Christ is brought to the temple for his consecration. Two young doves are brought as a sacrifice. Every life that is consecrated to God requires sacrifice. One of the greatest sacrifices we can give is our love. For one who is celibate, the love that we receive from others is not to be taken for ourselves. The love we receive is for Christ. Everything that comes to us belongs to Him. We give Him everything.
|Catherine Marie prostrates before the altar as the community sings
the Veni Sancte Spiritu.
It is fitting that on a clothing day, we will sing the antiphon that says, “Sion, prepare your wedding chamber to receive Christ the King.” The novitiate is a time of probation, of preparation, for a wedding that is everlasting. The postulant will be presented with the question, “What do you ask?” We all must remember that we asked to be a part of this community. We asked to wear the habit of the Abbey of St. Walburga. We asked to be stripped of ourselves.
St. Benedict says it so simply, “Let him therefore presently, in the oratory, be stripped of his own garments and be clothed in those of the monastery.” What does it mean? It means to be stripped of everything that speaks of our self. We strip ourselves of ourselves in order to find ourselves in the center of Christ. The habit expresses the desire and readiness of the religious to serve her King with undivided devotion. When someone sees the habit there is no question of who you belong to.
|Catherine Marie receives the habit from Mother Maria-Michael
The belt of the habit is put on the novice, she does not put it on herself. It is to remind her of the chains of Jesus Christ. How many times will we be in a situation we are not in control of? It is like a chain which can hurt– but it only hurts our pride. It is also called the cincture of obedience because it holds together our desire to belong to Him. Without obedience our desire will mean nothing.
The veil is a sign of religious state where one is blessed, spotless, holy, and to be recognized as consecrated to God. How important it is for us to live with that recognition – we are consecrated to God, set aside from society for Him. We have to be faithful to that recognition.
At the end of the clothing ceremony, I will say this prayer: “O God you called us to turn away from the vanities of the world, its desires, cares and ambitions.” This is not a life of ambition. This is a life in which we are called to holiness; and it is a labor of love.
|Sr. Catherine Marie with Mother Maria Michael.