Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Catching Up - Again

Okay, so it's not every week. Amazing how time flies. Before you know it, two or three weeks are gone. How do those "blog" folks do it? They must have all kinds of time on their hands, or they stay up half the night staring at screens and munching candy. Perhaps I will try some regularity, such as posting something every Saturday morning.

Today is Wednesday, but pretend it's Saturday.

The major events of the last couple of weeks occurred last weekend. We had three of our Brothers make their Final Profession Vows at Saint Mary's College. And the following day we were at Mont La Salle in Napa to witness the "Habit Taking" of one of the three novices at our Novitiate there.

The Final Profession Mass was a big deal. One of the Brothers involved, Br. David Caretti, did a very thorough job in planning, preparing, overseeing, and participating in the ceremony. The music was well-chosen; the pacing was very smooth, and the whole thing really was a celebration.

The main celebrant was Fr. Kenan Osborne, OFM, who many of the Brothers already knew and appreciated. He's the former head of the Gradurate Theological Union in Berkeley, author of some 23 books (many on Christology), and has a gracious, engaging sense of presiding at Liturgy. His homily was the best I've heard yet at such an occasion. Kenan knew exactly what to say when and how to both grab his audience and hold onto them - leaving them with something to think about. It had to do with the fact that religious life is essentially a lay movement, starting in the 3rd and 4th century of the church, and it touched on many of the elements that make our religious charism unique in the church. At one point, I noticed how the whole church was absolutely quiet, paying careful attention to what he said, and moving right with him as he moved from point to point.

The "main event" of course was the vow ceremony itself. Each Brother approached the altar with his sponsor (chosen by him) and they knelt down in front of the altar. The sponsor went to light the vow candle, which the Brother then held as he pronounced the same vows (or 95% of the same vow formula) as those pronounced in the late 17th century. One Vietnamese Brother said them in Vietnamese.

Wisely, the "speeches" were made after Communion. They were short expressions of appreciation by each of the three Brothers making the vows. Then it was off to another location on campus for a reception and a luncheon. All in all, a very fine affair.

After that ceremony, for the first time in the history of the San Francisco District, we had no one who was in any of the stages of "initial formation" (novitiate, studies, temporary vows). The next day, however, that was remedied with the habit-taking of Chris Patino. He is the San Francisco District's participant in the regional novitiate at Mont La Salle. Two other novices from the Baltimore District were already robed, so we included them within the ceremony in another way. The habit-taking is the first time that a Brother received the Brother's robe and is able to be called "Brother."

The ceremony was simply, outside of the context of Mass, and included readings, chants, and the giving of a variety of Lasallian symbols associated with our life (e.g., Rule, New Testament, cross, rosary). There were a good number of Brothers in attendance. Afterwards, there was a reception and dinner in the Novitiate courtyard. Yet another enjoyable experience.

Those two events together made for a healthy "shot in the arm" for the Brothers of the District, since we hadn't had such events for some years. And, of course, the next time that we might even have another final vows is when Chris finishes his novitiate, goes out into community for at least five years, and decided to make final vows. So it was sort of like a rare grouping of planets in the sky. We're likely to not see it again for quite a while.

It also puts a little pressure on me, of course, to "bring in" more candidates for the Brothers, but that's another blog.