Solemn Profession of Sister Jane Clement
The Society of All Saints Sisters of the Poor
Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
September 8, 2021
Death of Sister Elizabeth
Let me begin by offering my heartfelt condolences on the death of Sr. Elizabeth early this morning. Sr. Elizabeth gave her life to the Lord and the Church in consecrated love and lived her vocation faithfully and fruitfully for many years. You commend her to the Lord of life and love on the birthday of Mary and on the day when we celebration the solemn profession of Sr. Jane Clement. As Scripture says, ‘the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’
In Praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Your solemn profession, Sr. Jane Clement, takes place on this beautiful feast when the Church lifts her voice in praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary at her birth, this daughter of Abraham foreknown and chosen by the Triune God to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word of God, our Savior Jesus Christ. The genealogy proclaimed in the reading from St. Matthew’s Gospel reminds us that Mary embodied the God-given hopes of the people of Israel, and the excerpt from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans brings to our attention the divine foresight with which Mary was prepared to become the Mother of God. Thus, the one whose nativity we celebrate this day was set apart, consecrated by God for the unique and pivotal role she was to play in God’s mysterious and loving plan for the redemption of the world. Thus do we hail her as the dawn who ushered in a new beginning for the human race.
In his beautiful exhortation on consecrated life, Pope St. John Paul II spoke of Mary as the model par excellence of all forms of consecrated life. “Mary,” he wrote, “is the sublime example of perfect consecration, since she belongs completely to God and is totally devoted to him… Holy Mary, he said, reminds consecrated persons of the primacy of God’s initiative, [and] having given her assent to the divine Word, made flesh in her, [Mary stands] as the model of the acceptance of grace by human creatures.” So too, John Paul II praised Mary’s “unconditional discipleship” coupled with her spirit of loving and devoted service. The saintly pontiff added that, “Consecrated life looks to [Mary] as the sublime model of consecration to the Father, union with the Son, and openness to the Spirit, in the knowledge that acceptance of the ‘virginal and humble’ life of Christ also means imitation of Mary’s way of life” (Vita Consecrata, № 28).
While the Blessed Virgin Mary’s vocation will always remain utterly unique, nonetheless, Sr. Jane Clement, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, you are privileged to participate in Mary’s consecration and mission. Indeed, as you are solemnly professed as a sister of the All Saints Sisters of the Poor, your participation in the mystery of Mary’s unique calling and role deepens. This morning, therefore, let us reflect on Mary as the exemplar of the consecrated life upon which you have embarked anew.
First, Mary stands as the perfect exemplar of consecration, for ‘she belonged completely to God and was wholly devoted to him.’ All of us who are baptized believe that we belong to God, and in fact say of ourselves that ‘we are his people, the sheep of his flock.’ In the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we ask that we ourselves might become “an eternal offering” to God the Father, through Jesus Christ His Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, we find it difficult to belong completely to God and to be wholly devoted to him. We hold back. We prefer our will to God’s will. There are regions in our hearts that seemingly remain impervious to God’s grace. And many are the people who find themselves in this situation.
Consecrated life is a sign and beacon of hope for those ‘living in darkness and in the shadow of death.’ While no one can rival Mary’s consecration, Sr. Jane Clement, your wholehearted gift of self to God and your dedication to him, encourages all of us to entrust our lives to the Lord and his abundant mercies, indeed, to make of our lives an oblation pleasing unto the Lord.
Primacy of God’s Initiative
Indeed, one reason why so many find it difficult to entrust themselves to God is that they mistakenly think that they are doing so solely by their own efforts. Many good and prayerful people mistakenly imagine that they must pull themselves up to God “by their own bootstraps”, as it were. Mary showed us another way, a better way. She contemplated God’s Word. She opened her heart to the Lord, the God of Israel, in complete freedom. She allowed God to take the initiative and she simply “gave God permission”.
In a Pelagian world, Sr. Jane Clement, you have trusted God along life’s journey. Perhaps there were unexpected highways and byways, yet the Lord in his provident love led you here, to the All Saints Sisters. Throughout your formation you responded to God’s initiatives in your life, even if your response required and still requires of you sacrifice and struggle. For when the Lord takes the initiative, he always engages us, and engaging us, he transforms us from sin to grace and from grace to glory. Thus, you can find, endlessly, in Mary’s graced “yes” to God’s initiative abundant encouragement to say your own daily “yes” to God, to the Church, and to the All Saints Sisters – and your acceptance of God’s grace, I assure you, is an encouragement to all of us.
Having accepted God’s grace, Mary became the Lord’s first and greatest disciple, for in God’s grace she lived the Beatitudes even before her Divine Son preached them. Having brought the Savior into the world and nurtured him in the home at Nazareth, Mary followed Jesus unreservedly, throughout his earthly life, all the way to Calvary. Because she shared fully in Christ’s sufferings, now she shares fully in his glory.
Consecrated life is a most beautiful way of following Christ – reproducing his own style of life in evangelical poverty, chastity, and obedience – striving to live, even to embody the Beatitudes, Christ’s own self-portrait. Your embrace of consecrated life, patterned upon the Lord’s evangelical style of life, encourages all of us along the path of discipleship, encourages all of us to wholehearted discipleship, to be witnesses whose lives attract others to Christ.
Union with the Trinity
Finally, Mary lived her life in union with the Most Holy Trinity: the Father who spoke to her through the Angel; the Son to whom she gave birth; and the Holy Spirit who overshadowed her, just as he would overshadow the Church. How beautiful was Mary’s consecration to God for she reflected in her earthly life the beauty, the glorious splendor of God Thrice Holy, just as you are resolved to do.
In your life of intense prayer, in your life in community, and in living the evangelical counsels faithfully, you are witnessing to the presence of the Triune God in our midst – you are pulling back the veil, so to speak, of the Trinity’s everlasting beauty, right now, in this very provisional world, ephemeral and fleeting as it is, a world that often mistakes captivity for freedom and ugliness for beauty. Let the truth, beauty, and goodness of the Triune God overtakes your soul, so that you will reflect the One “who is God from God and light from light”, and thus help light the way for all of us who yearn in the depths of our spirits to share in the Mystery of God’s Triune life and love, now and for all eternity. May God bless you, Sr. Jane Clement, and keep you always in his love!