Renewing my Religious Vows: Reflection on Vocation
Every year around the first week of May Franciscan friars who are in what’s called Simple Profession renew their vows for another year. This happens for four to seven years prior to a friar’s final or Solemn Profession. The vows and the vow formula are always the same, those in Simple Profession have the same commitment as someone in Solemn Profession, but it is renewable. Yesterday afternoon I renewed my Simple Profession for the last time and the length was only for four months. God-willing (the official word is not yet out), the next time I profess the vow formula of the Order of Friars Minor will be in August at my classmate and my Solemn Profession.
As I stood in the Siena College Friary chapel and renewed my profession to live the life of a Friar Minor, I thought about how much I really love this way of life and the community that I have come to be a part of and embraced by over the years. I also recalled, as I have every spring since 2007, how powerful and moving the profession formula is. I said to one of the friars after evening prayer with the renewal of vows that I don’t think there is a prayer, especially within the Franciscan tradition, that I love more than the profession formula.
It contains a richness and beauty that bespeaks the desire one has to follow in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi in living the Gospel, keeping always in mind and making a priority the communal dimension of our way of life in the world. More than once the brotherhood, the rest of the friar community is named in the words of profession. It is as strong a reminder as one can have of what our way of life is about: prayer, ministry, all that we are about — in community. It was in many ways the community that first drew me to religious life. And, in many ways, it is what continues to nourish and sustain my vocation.
Like Baptism, religious profession is about relationship. We are joined together in a unique way: in Baptism, we are united to one another and to Christ in the Spirit; in religious profession, we are united in community to live the Holy Gospel.
Just as with the Baptismal vocation we all share and at most times live imperfectly, striving ever more to live who it is we are called to be and find in the Communion of Saints, the Body of Christ the strength to follow Christ and become who we are called to be; So too in religious life the intercession of those who have gone before us, as well as our brothers in community around the globe and more locally, provide one another with the strength and support to follow Francis’s model of following Christ. “With the help of my brothers” is perhaps the most moving line for me.
So here it is, the full text of the profession formula. Thank you to all who have so kindly offered their congratulations and prayers for me as I renewed my vows yesterday. Please continue to pray for me, my classmate, Steve, and all the friars around the world preparing to make Solemn Profession this Summer.
Peace and good!
Renewal of Profession
Since for the glory of God,
The Lord has given me this grace,
Of living more perfectly and with firm will
The Gospel of Jesus Chris,
I, Brother (name)
In the presence of the assembled Friars,
and into your hands, (minister provincial),
vow for (one year, the entirety of my life)
To live in obedience, without anything of my own and in chastity
According to the Rule of Saint France
Confirmed by Pope Honorious III
And the General Constitutions of the Order of Friars Minor.
Therefore with all my heart
I give myself to this brotherhood
That through the work of the Holy Spirit,
The intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary,
Our Father Francis and all the saints,
And with the help of my brothers
I may fulfill my consecration
To the service of God and of the Church.
This I promise.