Archbishop Lori’s Homily: Solemn Profession and Consecration of Sister Mary Martha

Solemn Profession and Consecration of Sister Mary Martha
The All Saints Sisters of the Poor
July 25, 2022
Feast of the Apostle, St. James


It is a joy to return to this holy place of contemplation and worship, this place where the poor are loved, to celebrate and witness the solemn profession and consecration of Sister Mary Martha… Sister Mary Martha, I greet you warmly on this day, when, in the grace of the Holy Spirit, you dedicate the totality of your life to Christ, the Bridegroom of your soul, the One to whom you are wed, body and soul. Today, the presence of your religious community and indeed before the whole Church, you embrace Christ by solemnly and publicly embracing his evangelical style of life – a life wholly dedicated to the saving will of the Father, a life of self-emptying poverty, a life of single-hearted love for God and for his People.

In this moment of grace and joy, we are surrounded by the Angels and Saints – and how could we not be, here among The All Saints Sisters of the Poor? That great cloud of witnesses, glimpsed in the Book of Revelation, surrounds us: the Virgin Mary, first and foremost, the Apostles, the martyrs, virgins and religious, holy pastors, and that vast army of holy women and men whom no one can count, but whose names are written in the Book of Life. They too are with us, praying for us before the Throne of God Thrice Holy, extending their friendship, seeking our holiness and joy, urging us onward. How blessed we are, for whenever we come into the Presence of the Lord, we find communion with those who have espoused themselves to him in the Spirit.

Saint James

To-day, the Church would have us focus on one member of that holy assembly, namely, St. James the Apostle, or “James the Greater” as Tradition dubs him. When called by the Lord, he and his brother John immediately said “yes”, leaving behind his boat, his livelihood, and indeed his own father, Zebedee. Together with Peter, the first among the Apostles, James and John were leaders, a sort of “inner-circle” among the Apostles, who witnessed the glory of the Lord Jesus atop Mount Tabor, as also the anguish of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. James was also the leader of the Church in Jerusalem, and was the first of the Apostles to undergo martyrdom, the first of them to bear witness to the Lord by the shedding of his blood.

Sister Mary Martha, St. James’ vocation and his life’s story are very different from your own. Yet, in the Body of Christ, the vocation and life-story of every saint is tied to ours. Thus, we learn from those who lives were very different from our own how to live the vocation to which we are called. Indeed, both in life and now in glory, St. James is poised, I think I can say, to lead us to inner counsels of the Triune God, especially on this day of your final profession and solemn consecration. What lessons and graces might we draw from his life and example?

Responsiveness to the Lord’s Call

First, St. James teaches us how to respond to the vocation to which God calls us. As I mentioned, when Jesus called James, he did not hesitate, or tarry, or make excuses. Drawn to the Person of Christ, James made his decision quickly. He abandoned his former way of life and became a disciple of the Lord. To be sure, he did so without really understanding how that call would upend his life. Even so, James said “yes”, and as he came to know the Lord better and better, and he progressed from being a disciple to being an apostle, James had to assent to his vocation over and over again, usque ad finem.

Sister Mary Martha, you have also answered the Lord’s call. Today, we celebrate the gift of your vocation to consecrated life as well as your acceptance of that gift, a vocation that reveals even now something of what heaven is like, when every facet of our life and personality will be in the thrall of the Triune God. By your consecration and your vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, you help us all anticipate that happy day, that eternal day when God will be ‘all in all’. But since we are on this side of heaven, not yet in the Heavenly Jerusalem, answering this call, assenting to this vocation at any stage of life is challenging. It means departing paths one took before, leaving behind one’s security, resolving to make one’s life a total offering, witnessing to his love with courage. To such a vocation, one must assent each day, and without delay.

The World Turned Upside-down

A second lesson James teaches comes, not so much from James, as from his mother. In today’s Gospel, the mother of James and John asks Jesus for a favor. Imagining that Jesus came to inaugurate an earthly kingdom, she asks that her sons occupy position of prominence and power. Jesus rightly responds, “You don’t know what you are asking” – because neither she nor as yet her sons really understood what it would mean to drink from the same chalice as Jesus, the chalice of his Blood. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he embraced the words of Christ, “Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” As it turned out, James was the first of the Apostles to drink from that chalice inasmuch as he was the first of the Apostles to lay down his life for Christ.

Sister Mary Martha, your spiritual journey has led you to embrace a vocation which, in the eyes of the world, does not lead to power and glory. Many in the world would find the way of life you are embrace as incomprehensible. You renounce power, wealth, and pleasure – the world’s trifecta – only to embrace chastity, poverty and obedience – the only winning wager! And you do so, not solely for the salvation of your soul, but in loving service to the Church’s mission which is not driven by relentless activity, by project and plans, and meetings – but is driving by prayer and by the witness of a life caught up in divine love. That is why, in the real ordering of vocations in the Church’s life, consecrated life stands at the forefront.

Desolation and Consolation

And just as the Apostle James experienced the consolation of Mount Tabor and the desolation of Gethsemane, so too, in living your vocation day by day, you will experience moments of deep spiritual insight and joy, moments when you exult in being called to a transfigured way of life. But you will also experience moment of spiritual barrenness and interior suffering, not the sadness of the world but the sadness experience by the Savior as he took upon himself, as the Lamb of God, the sins of the world. One cannot pray for the world’s redemption in a passive disengaged way. The Lord invites those who follow him to share in his sufferings. If you are to befriend the Lord, you must drink from his chalice.

And just as James and his fellow Apostles manifested Christ’s glory as they brought the Good News to the ends of the earth, so too they continued to struggle with their human frailty, their earthliness. Isn’t this what St. Paul is trying to teach us in today’s first reading when he spoke of affliction, perplexity, and abandonment? Adhering to Christ by dying to ourselves, even if well short of physical martyrdom, is not for the faint of heart. Yet it is the only way to reflect and to manifest in this world of ours the glory of God shining on the face of Christ.


So on this day of your solemn profession and your consecration, let us ask St. James, who was consecrated by the shedding of his blood, to accompany us with his prayers from his place in heaven, even as we turn to Mary, the blessed ever-Virgin, the model of consecration, knowing that she will draw you ever closer to her Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori was installed as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore May 16, 2012.

Prior to his appointment to Baltimore, Archbishop Lori served as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., from 2001 to 2012 and as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington from 1995 to 2001.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Lori holds a bachelor's degree from the Seminary of St. Pius X in Erlanger, Ky., a master's degree from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg and a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1977.

In addition to his responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori serves as Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and is the former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.