Archive for baptism

Who Do We Say That We Are?

Posted in Homilies, Scripture with tags , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Jesus-and-disciplesWhat is the meaning of today’s readings from scripture? On the one hand, there appears to be a clear confession of faith in the Gospel when Peter, speaking on behalf of Jesus’s followers, proclaims that Jesus of Nazareth is “The Christ of God” in response to the question, “Who do you say that I am?”

Yet, this is not simply a one-way street. The confession that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the anointed one of God, cannot happen without at the same time our confessing something about who we say that we are. Most simply put, proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ carries with it certain aspects of what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be a human person.

What we have in today’s readings is a pattern or something of a guide for understanding who Christ is, while at the same time understanding who we are.

First, we cannot overlook that the whole exchange between Jesus and his disciples begins with prayer. Luke’s Gospel always has Jesus praying before some major event, revelation, or disclosure. Think of the desert before the proclamation of the reading from Isaiah, think of the garden before the Passion, think of the praying he does before the disciples ask him how they should pray, and so on. To be able to ask the question: “Who do you say that I am?” which is the desire to be known by our true identities, just as Jesus sought to be known by his followers, begins with a spirit of prayer.

We are under so much pressure today to conform our lives to the images that arise from others, focusing on “who do others say that I am,” rather than looking deep within to ask: Who does God say that I am? The starting place for that search for the true self begins with prayer.

Second, we cannot overlook the absolute necessity of relationship in this confession of faith. Peter and the other disciples were able to proclaim Jesus the Christ because they knew him, not just knew about him. We, too, are called to know Christ, to live a life of prayer that draws us every more closely to the one who already knows who we are and calls us to know God in return. So often we think we “know Jesus” — the question is often posed in evangelization moments, “Do you know Jesus?” — yet, this is often phrased in such a way as to really suggest knowledge about Jesus rather than a deep relationship with God that exceeds knowledge about the bible, facts about the church, and so on.

Third, in proclaiming Jesus as the Christ, we are also proclaiming something about ourselves. We who bear the name Christ — Christians — have our identity with Him. This is what Jesus says to us at the end of the Gospel today.

Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

To proclaim Jesus as the Christ means that we call to mind the self-offering love of Christ, that toward which we strive to live, that after which we have been shaped and changed in baptism.

That we are members of the Body of Christ by virtue of our baptism means that our identity is not simply “Who others say that we are” but, as St. Paul says in the Letter to the Galatians, we are children of God, brothers and sisters to one another, and heirs to the Reign that is truly the peaceable kingdom. Paul explains:

Brothers and sisters:
Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.
For all of you who were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free person,
there is not male and female;
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if you belong to Christ,
then you are Abraham’s descendant,
heirs according to the promise.

It isn’t always easy to live up to our identity as children of God, brothers and sisters of Christ and one another. It is difficult and challenging and tiring at times. But to proclaim that Jesus is the Christ calls us to flip the coin and look on the other side to see the perennial question: “Who do you say that you are?”

Photo: Stock

There Was No Needy Person Among Them

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Homilies with tags , , , , , , on April 9, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Christian CommunityWhat does it mean to be a Christian? What does it look like? Today’s first reading offers us a glimpse into what some of the early communities understood the ideal situation to look like, marked as it was by several well-known key features: unity in heart, unity in belief, unity in resources, and no one goes without what is necessary — there is no need.

The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
With great power the Apostles bore witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and great favor was accorded them all.
There was no needy person among them,
for those who owned property or houses would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale,
and put them at the feet of the Apostles,
and they were distributed to each according to need.
(Acts 4:32-35)

New Testament and Early Christianity scholars are generally sure that this quasi-utopic vision of early Christian life is idealistic rather than verbatim historical recounting of a specific community. Nevertheless, what this Lucan passage tells us is that the early Christian communities, after several generations, looked back at their origins and at least imagined what it would have looked like to be more closely following the Gospel.

This passage, in other words, is not really about returning to the past or looking back as much as it is about looking ahead and striving to emulate what an instantiation of the vita evangelica, what the “Gospel Life” would really look like if lived as truly as possible.

It is no surprise, then, that Francis of Assisi’s own Regula or “Rule of Life” begins with the line: “The Rule and Life of the Lesser Brothers is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without anything of ones own, and in chastity” (RB 1:1). It is an attempt to express, in both spiritual and legislative terms, what the Acts of the Apostles passage expresses narratively: living out one’s baptismal vocation is to observe the Gospel, to follow Christ, to live as a hearer of the word (obedience), without anything of one’s own (poverty), and in right relationship with others (chastity).  While these evangelical counsels (as they are technically called) or religious vows (as they are more popularly known) are often understood to be something reserved for those women and men who have a vocation to religious life, the Acts of the Apostles reminds us of our universal call through baptism to live these virtues in whatever state we find ourselves.

This does not mean that everybody is to live in exactly the same way, but it does mean that we have one source for how to live and to imagine what it looks like to do so authentically: the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Long before John Lennon wrote the beautiful song “Imagine,” the worldview of the early followers of Jesus Christ was transformed in such a way that they, too, asked themselves — as they ask us today — “Imagine that there’s no need or want and all live in peace.” Can we imagine a world about which we might say: “There was no needy person among them?”

You might say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

Photo: Stock

Insights from Franciscan Priesthood for a ‘Franciscan’ Papacy

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, The Papal Watcher with tags , , , , , , on March 16, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

0313_cardinal-sean-pope-francis-300x216One of the central tenets of a well-grounded theology of ministry according to the Franciscan theological tradition is the particular relationship one has to his ministerial office. As I tried to elucidate in a cogent and scholarly grounded way in my little book, Franciscan Priesthood: The Possibility of Franciscan Presbyters According to the Rule and Tradition (Koinonia, 2012) that one among many of the unique Franciscan contributions to a theology of ordained ministry is the formation of one’s identity as a minister in the church that strives to prioritize relationship, renounce divisive power structures, and to see one’s baptismal vocation as a member of the Body of Christ first and foremost. The very possibility of ordained Franciscans is occasioned by St. Francis’s Rule (Regula bullata), which, unlike other religious communities, does not provide for explicit provisions for members ordained to Holy Orders, but instead mandates that the friars are to work. Their work, whether it is of the sacramental-ministerial variety or some other form of pastoral or practical labor, is to take second place to the “spirit of prayer and devotion” of the community. Francis of Assisi never intended his community to be a clerical order, one especially designed to exercise a form of singular pastoral or sacramental ministry. And this is something that might help us to appreciate, in a broader way, Pope Francis’s decision to choose the name “Francis,” his extremely relational behavior since his election, and what could be in store in the future.

In his recent address to the world media, Pope Francis explained how he came to decide on the name Francis, noting that a friend of his — as the numbers were becoming clear in the voting — told him to “remember the poor!” The Pope explained:

 “Don’t forget the poor!” And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we? He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!

Francis of Assisi was indeed a man who let nothing get in the way of his relationship with others, following as he did the example of Jesus Christ, who welcomed all to him. A man of evangelical poverty, Francis of Assisi detested abject poverty, but praised the spirit of sine proprio (to live “without anything of one’s own”) so that material things would not get in the way of relationship.

Francis of Assisi was, as the Pope notes well, a man of peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness. And he was, without a doubt, a model of one whose relationship to the whole of creation — which he recognized as related to him as part of the family of God’s good creation — again reflects the familial quality of God’s intended relationship for all people and all creation.

What isn’t so overt and has certainly not been addressed by the hundreds of articles, reflections, op-ed pieces, etc., is the depth of the Franciscan tradition that informs and could shape this Pope’s self-identity and future action. Even as a Jesuit, Pope Francis has already exhibited classic and easily recognizable signs of kindredness with the Saint from Assisi, something many commentators have already spoken about at length: his humility, renunciation of rich entitlements, his work on behalf of the poor, and so on.

Although he is undoubtedly shaped by his Ignatian spiritual formation, his ministerial presence and pastoral decisions from the beginning of his pontificate have reflected the insights and guidance of the Franciscan approach to ministry and priesthood. Even as a Cardinal in Argentina, he preferred to be referred to as “Father” instead of Archbishop, Cardinal, or “Your Excellency.” His office as the local bishop, the pastor of the particular church in Argentina, appears to have taken a second place in his own self-identity as a member of the baptized Body of Christ, which should lead him at all times to be with his sisters and brothers. We might understand better his decision to forgo private transportation for public transportation in light of this.

The way he relates to his brother cardinals and even a group of high-school students on his car ride to a Roman church to pray the day after his election both reflect this desire to be with his sisters and brothers in a refreshing way.

It will be interesting to see how his understanding of ordained ministry, exercise of pastoral leadership, and continued seeking to be in relationship with others plays out in the weeks, months, and years to come. It is an exciting and hopeful time indeed.

There is much more to say about the tradition and its relationship to Pope Francis, the Jesuit with a Franciscan heart! Stay tuned for a fuller treatment and additional commentary to come!

Photo: Pool

What Does the Baptism of Jesus Really Mean?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 12, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

jesus[As the Christmas Season comes to an end with the celebration of the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord this Sunday, I thought readers of DatingGod.org might be interested in a brief theological summary of what Jesus's baptism by John is really all about. What follows in this post is a little technical -- aka: "boring" for many -- but it offers a succinct overview of some of the important themes surrounding the meaning of the Baptism of Jesus. This short reflection is part of a response I wrote in 2009 in a graduate course on the Sacrament of Baptism to the question of the theological meaning of the Lord's Baptism. Pardon the many footnotes, hopefully they are instructive and helpful. Enjoy!]

The existence of narratives depicting or implying Jesus’s baptism by John the Baptist in all of the synoptic Gospels naturally raises questions concerning the purpose of such an act.[1]  In order to provide a sufficient answer to the question of “why” Jesus was baptized, it is necessary to explore the manner in which the baptismal practice of John compares to Jewish proselyte baptism.  Through the elucidation of John’s baptismal practice we are able to glean a clearer understanding of the potential sources of this action, thereby illuminating the significance of Jesus’s request for baptism from John.  Additionally, such an analysis provides an opportunity to examine the content and form of John’s baptism as it stands in relation to Jesus of Nazareth.  Finally, a very brief textual study of the New Testament will allow us to investigate the significance of this act for the New Testament authors, better enabling us to characterize the theological implications present in the baptismal narratives.

John’s Baptism in Contradistinction to Jewish Proselyte Baptism

Drawing on the reconstructed Q (Quelle) source, the four canonical Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and the writing of Josephus,[2] Adela Yarbro Collins outlines an overview of John’s baptism that allows us to focus on the particular practice in question.[3]  The origin of John’s baptism is widely disputed, allowing for several theories to be posited over the years.  The first theory is that it was modeled after the ritual ablutions of the Essene community at Qumran.  While there are clear similarities between the two forms of water bath, these characteristics are not unique.[4]  Having set aside the possibility of the Qumran community as source, next we consider the Jewish proselyte baptism.  This seems a more likely possibility if the practice of proselyte baptism existed prior to John’s ritual.  Contingent on the antecedent quality of Jewish proselyte baptism, John’s baptism could be viewed as a “reinterpretation” of the prior practice.[5]  However, there exists little certainty or consensus with regard to the dating of the origins of Jewish proselyte baptism.  Therefore, it is also possible that the ritual developed after John’s form of baptism.[6]

The likelihood that John’s baptism finds its origin in Jewish proselyte baptism is minimal, if not completely unlikely.  There are shared features, not unlike (the non-unique) similarities found between John’s baptism and the Qumran practice.  For instance, both John’s baptism and Jewish proselyte baptism were viewed as once-in-a-lifetime events.  Additionally, both required water immersion.  However, the purposes of these two practices are markedly different.  By virtue of its title, Jewish proselyte baptism was understood as an incorporative practice, whereas John’s emphasis focuses “upon prophetic expectations of the divine cleansing to be consummated by the work of the promised Messiah in a time of greatly heightened eschatological hope.”[7]  Additionally, there were elements of the Jewish proselyte water bath that were in no way emblematic of John’s practice.  For example, its association with male circumcision and purificatory form of baptism in preparation for sacrifice were both distinct from John’s practice.  John was not interested in making Gentiles into Jewish converts.  Reginald Fuller notes that, “John’s baptism was riveted to his eschatology in a way that these other baptismal practices were not.  John’s baptism was a singular conversion event carrying with it the promise of eschatological salvation.”[8]  There was a prophetic symbolism inherent in the baptism of John that pointed toward “God’s approach as purifier before the promised judgment and transformation.”[9]  As to the precise relationship between Jewish proselyte baptism and John’s baptism, Maxwell Johnson offers a possible correlation noting that it is “likely the case that both Jewish proselyte baptism and the baptism of John are parallel developments stemming from a common source or context.”[10]  Instead of John’s version following in likeness and format, thereby modeling an alleged precedent Jewish practice, Johnson’s theory suggests a concurrent genesis that better reflects the widespread shifts in society and culture of the time.[11]

The Content and Form of John’s Baptism in Relation to Jesus

Having examined the ways that John’s baptism is related to similar practices of the day, we can move to specifically identify the relationship between Jesus and the particular content and form of John’s baptism.  Aidan Kavanagh highlights the particularity and distinctiveness of John’s baptism, noting that, in addition to standing apart from other parallel washing rituals of the day, John’s baptizing of Jesus transforms the Baptizer’s practice into the “prototype” of subsequent Christian practice.[12]  According to Kavanagh, Jesus submitted himself to both the content and the form of John’s baptism.  The content, as evidenced by the Baptizer’s preaching, demanded “conversion of life as precondition as well as its continuing outcome” in addition to remission of sins.[13]  Jesus clearly did not need remission of sins, but his submission to the content – concomitant with John’s preaching – demonstrated Jesus’s newly established solidarity with those who were in need for conversion and the remission of sins.  This was made manifest in Jesus’s concurrent submission to the ritual form of the water bath.[14]  The significance of Jesus’s baptism by John is also expressed in the apparent acceptance of the prophetic-eschatological meaning present in the act.[15]  In the act of acceptance of the prophetic-eschatological implications of John’s baptism, we can see the relationship between this submission and the subsequent preaching of Jesus announcing the reign of God is at hand.

New Testament Views of Jesus’s Baptism vis-á-vis Christian Baptism

There are divergent opinions about the meaning of Jesus’s baptism by John even within the New Testament canon.[16]  As Collins keenly notes, the eschatological interpretation operating in the early Christian community varied significantly from that “eschatological schema” embodied in the message and action of John the Baptist.[17]  It is necessary to note the clear distinction between Jesus’s baptism by John and Christian baptism.  The New Testament authors will, time and again, highlight the uniqueness of Jesus’s baptism by John.[18]  What is also important to recall while considering the New Testament views of the importance of Jesus’s baptism by John is the post-paschal hermeneutic operating throughout the composition of the nascent Christian texts.  Certain meaning was naturally ascribed to the baptism of Jesus in retrospect.  Additionally, this baptism became paradigmatic for the first followers of Jesus and the early communities, even if the subsequent Christian baptism remained different from the original.  While we are certainly confident in dismissing any initiatory dimensions potentially ascribed to Jesus’s baptism by John in se, the early Christian communities – very early on – developed an understanding of baptism as an initiation ritual.  This theological view is found in writings including the Acts of the Apostles, the Pauline letters and the Shepherd of Hermas.[19]  One can also see intimations of this theological perspective in Matthew 28:18-20.

Given the post-paschal interpretation of baptism by the New Testament authors, we can see emerge from the canon a theology of “baptism as death and resurrection.”  Here we see an adjudicated shift in theological signification from John’s baptism, which symbolized cleansing that inaugurated a new life of purity and sanctity, to a “Christian baptism” that denoted death that leads to new life.[20]  This idea of “new beginnings” or “new life” might even be understood as latent in the chronological location of Jesus’s baptism by John in the scriptural narratives in proximity to his mission.[21]  Connecting the beginnings of Jesus’s public ministry closely to Christian baptism only emphasizes the view of “Christian initiation as new birth through water and the Holy Spirit.”[22]  Furthermore, the New Testament authors saw “Christian initiation as being united with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection.”[23]  It is these understandings of the meaning of Christian baptism that remain central to any elaborated or modified interpretations found elsewhere in the New Testament canon and the early Christian communities.[24]

Photo: Stock
NOTES:


            [1] The respective versions can be found at: Mark 1:9-11, Matthew 3:13-17 and Luke 3:21-22.  For more on these passages, see John Donahue and Daniel Harrington, The Gospel of Mark (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 2002), 59-70; Daniel Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1991), 61-65; Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1991), 68-72; and Joel Marcus, “Jesus’ Baptismal Vision,” New Testament Studies 41 (1995): 512-521.

It should be noted that the Gospel of John does not make any mention of Jesus being baptized by John.  Instead, the ministries of Jesus and John are depicted as concurrently taking place.  For more on the significance of this, see Maxwell Johnson, The Rites of Christian Initiation: Their Evolution and Interpretation, rev. ed. (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 2007), 17-23.  Adela Yarbro Collins, however, makes a generalized suggestion through the inclusion of John with the synoptics that the Fourth Gospel also includes a narration of Jesus’s baptism (see p. 35 of n.3 source below).  See John 3:22-23.

            [2] See Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews.  For a critical English translation, see Josephus: The Complete Works, trans. William Whiston (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003), 30-650.

            [3] Adela Yarbro Collins, “The Origin of Christian Baptism,” in Living Water, Sealing Spirit: Readings on Christian Initiation, ed. Maxwell Johnson (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1995), esp. 35-39.

            [4] This is first explicated by Collins, “The Origin of Christian Baptism, 40-41; and elaborated by Johnson, The Rites of Christian Initiation, 7-9.

            [5] Collins, “The Origin of Christian Baptism, 41.

            [6] See Collins, “The Origin of Christian Baptism, 41-46; and Aidan Kavanagh, The Shape of Baptism: The Rite of Christian Initiation (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1978), 6-11.

            [7] Johnson, The Rites of Christian Initiation, 11; and Collins, “The Origin of Christian Baptism, 46-47.  Kavanagh further explains: “John’s baptism of repentance is preparatory for messianic work.  It is not a means for making gentiles Jews, as was proselyte baptism, nor is it wholly bound by the bathing ablutions of the Essene ascetics or Qumran” (10).

            [8] Reginald Fuller, “Christian Initiation in the New Testament,” in Made Not Born: New Perspectives on Christian Initiation and the Catechumenate, ed. Aidan Kavanagh (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1976), 9.

            [9] Collins, “The Origin of Christian Baptism, 47.

            [10] Johnson, The Rites of Christian Initiation, 10.  This is also explored in Fuller, “Christian Initiation in the New Testament,” 8-9.

            [11] This is perhaps best captured in the seeming reliance of both types of baptism on the ritual washings of Leviticus.  For more see Collins, “The Origin of Christian Baptism, 56-57.

            [12] Kavanagh, The Shape of Baptism, 10.

            [13] Kavanagh, The Shape of Baptism, 11.

            [14] Kavanagh, The Shape of Baptism, 11.

            [15] Collins, “The Origin of Christian Baptism, 47.

            [16] It is clear that very early on there existed a set of teachings on baptism in the New Testament.  For more on the manifestations of this theology, see Kavanagh, The Shape of Baptism, 11-12.

            [17] Collins, “The Origin of Christian Baptism, 52.

            [18] Kavanagh, The Shape of Baptism, 13.

            [19] Collins, “The Origin of Christian Baptism, 53.

            [20] Collins, “The Origin of Christian Baptism, 54.

            [21] Here I am drawing on the work of Johnson who notes, in Luke for example, that Jesus’s baptism by John is understood as a beginning.  This interpretation is further supported in the book of the Acts, where we read that Jesus’s mission of spreading the message of the reign of God and performing the healing works took place “beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced” (see Acts 10:36-38).  See Johnson, The Rites of Christian Initiation, 12-16.

            [22] John 3:5ff and Titus 3:5: see Johnson, The Rites of Christian Initiation, 38.

            [23] Romans 6:3-11: Johnson, The Rites of Christian Initiation, 38.

            [24] Some of the other interpretation of Christian initiation in the New Testament include: Forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), putting off the old self and putting on the new, i.e. being clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Gal 3:27, Col 3:9-10), enlightenment (Heb 6:4 & 10:32, 1 Pet 2:9), being anointed and or sealed by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 1:21-22, 1 John 2:20), being sealed or marked as belonging to God and God’s people (2 Cor 1:21-22, Eph 1:13-14, Rev 7:3) and so on.  See Johnson, The Rites of Christian Initiation, 37ff.

Professing Solemn Vows Today

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on August 27, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

This is definitely not how I imagined it. Hurricane Irene has introduced a new level of chaos and uncertainty that the usual working out of details for such an occasion bring. I am unsure of who will come today to the liturgy, but I know that my classmate Steve, his family, my family, a handful of local friars and a few friends are in town. While this is quite extraordinary to have one of the most important annual events in the collective life of the community (not to mention in the individual lives of the two friars) so minimized and under-attended, I am still excited about what remains in store. The details are entirely lost at this point. Who knows what musicians will be able to make it, who knows which of the ministers originally scheduled to participate might arrive, who knows how many friends, family and friars will attend — everything will be a surprise and a mystery.

Know that if you are able to come to today, you are indeed most welcome. All are welcome.

For those who will not make it in person, know that I appreciate your thoughts and prayers. My heart is indeed deeply saddened by  your absence, but I also understand that there isn’t much that can be done. Pray for Steve and I.

These are the words of profession that I will proclaim tomorrow into the hands of the Minister Provincial of Holy Name Province. They are, without a doubt, some of the most moving words and one of the most poignant prayers in all of Christianity. I share them with you — especially those who are far away and desiring to be close this day — as I share them with my community and the world.

Profession Formula

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 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.

Photo: stock

Renewing my Religious Vows: Reflection on Vocation

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on April 27, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

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.

Photo: Daniel Nelson, OFM

On Baptism and Violence: A Sad Reflection

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 9, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Today is the last day of the Christmas season, marked by the Church’s celebration of the baptism of the Lord. It is also a day, at least in the United States, for some serious reflection following the tragic attack in Arizona that left 20 people wounded and six people dead, among the victims a Democratic Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords.

According to the New York Times, Rep. Giffords has been able to respond to some simple instructions from doctors and is now in a medically-induced coma. What a startling contrast: death, violence and new life — the celebration of baptism in the midst of a stark reminder of human sinfulness.

I believe that in light of the tragedy this weekend and the juxtaposed celebration of the Baptism of the Lord we should take some time to think about what it means to be baptized into a unique relationship with Christ and with one another as the Body of Christ while at the same time living in such a violent world.

Not that long ago I published a blog post about the necessity of pacifism and nonviolence for those who claim the title Christian. The political discourse in this country has become vitriolic in recent years. The rhetoric of certain political groups, particularly that of the Republican Party and their kindred yet multifariously expressed Tea Party patriots, has reached a disturbing low.

The comments, oftentimes factually erroneous, of certain television personalities, political pundits and candidates and average angry citizens has taken on a violent hue and disrespectful tone. It is easy to lambaste on political group, while exonerating the other – that is not my intention. Although those who self-ascribe the moniker “conservative” are often the most vitriolic in their rabble-rousing, the more progressive political groups are also culpable, if to a lesser degree.

There is perhaps no better example of this sort of discourse-gone-too-far than the campaigning of former Alaska Governor and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Palin’s midterm political speeches increasingly alluded to violent actions. And despite criticism that suggested Palin’s rhetoric could cause real violence, she and her like-minded ‘patriots’ continued forward in drawing on violent images to illustrate their positions. Terms and phrases like “reload” were used alongside photos and maps that featured the crosshairs of a rifle. The crosshairs (see accompanying image) are placed over the districts of Democratic Representatives that voted for the healthcare legislation. One of those crosshairs was over Rep. Giffords’s district in AZ.

What troubles me the most is that those women and men who are the first to invoke violent images and engage in disrespectful discourse are also those who are the most vocal about their Christian faith. Many of those who find Palin to be an admirable political and cultural figure see her religious identification and public reference to her faith as an asset. Nevertheless, these same Palin fans (and fans of other Palin-like political figures) do not see the inherent contradiction present in such violent rhetoric and the Christian good news of peace and humility.

That Christians are baptized into a unique relationship with Christ and one another means that no one can rightfully speak about another human being the way that these political figures have about their political opponents. Some will say that it was the mental instability of the gunman and those like him that is the real problem, not Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and others. But the truth is that no one who dares to call him- or her-self Christian could ever justify such uncivil discourse.

If we are the Body of Christ, if our Baptism means anything, then we need to work to make this world a place more and more like the Kingdom of God and less like a world where political discourse reflects the worst in our society and violence is championed as the answer to our problems.

 

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