Saturday 17 September 2011

The Clothing of Novices

During evening prayer on the 16th September, four young men were received as novices into the Carmelite Order and clothed in the Carmelite habit. With Fr Wilfrid, the Prior Provincial away, Fr Damian was appointed as his delegate and presided over the ceremony.

After the Scripture reading each candidate was called forward and asked by Fr Damian

'Brother, what do you seek?'

The candidates responded -

Drawn by God's love, we have come here to live the Carmelite way of life.  I ask you to teach me to follow Jesus Christ:  obedient, chaste and poor.  Instruct me in the way of the Gospel so that observing your Rule and Constitutions I may live constantly in the presence of God.  Guided by the Holy Spirit to serve the Church, may we be one in mind and heart as Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel

Kurt, Severin, Roy & Jacek

Then Fr Damian gave a brief homily and the candidates prayed the following prayer and were clothed in the habit by representatives of their home provinces

Lord, grant that I may put on the garments of kindness, compassion, meekness, patience, Forgiveness and, above all, love; for love binds us as one and completes the clothing. May I do all things in the name of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, giving thanks and praise to the Father through him.  Amen.

Then after giving a sign of peace to all the friars present, the new novices took their place in choir.

Pictures: Aylesford Community.

Homily given by Fr Damian Cassidy, O.Carm at the clothing of Novices.

May I begin by welcoming you here to Aylesford. We are very happy that you are here and please be assured of the prayers of all the brothers here, and of those who cannot be present this evening. I also welcome, Sandro, Roman and Gunter who represent the provinces of Malta, Poland, and Upper Germany.

Our life of faith is begun with a set of questions that seem to follow us through some important moments in our life. At baptism, confirmation, those celebrations of commitment and covenant  we are asked three questions that can be paraphrased as - Who are you? What do you want? Where will that get you?

A moment ago each one of you was called forward by your name. You have come to us with a life already begun. With a story and a culture that is represented by your name, your unique personhood and experience. In this we have begun to know who you are.

Then I asked you ‘what do you seek?’  The response you gave was rooted in love and obedience,  ‘Drawn by God’s love, we have come to live the Carmelite way of life.’ The invitation of love has enkindled in each of you a desire to do God’s will and to grow in this love. So what does this response require of you.

 Last year and on this day in Bellahouston Park in Scotland Pope Benedict spoke to the young people of this island. He said,I urge you to lead lives worthy of our Lord (cf. Eph 4:1) and of yourselves.’ So how can we live authentically the call of Christ to be who we were created to be.

First, you will to come to know God more deeply. You will find that it is in prayer that you will find him. Our world needs men and women who are convinced of God’s love and who are prepared and courageous enough to proclaim that love that they know and believe in to a world that is often starved of an authentic experience of love. Like your Carmelite brothers and sisters, you are here to seek God, but we seek him in the knowledge that we have been found by this love that has called us here.

Secondly, you will learn about yourselves. You will come to identify and name your hungers, your poverty, your gifts, your talents, your prejudices, your potential, your beauty and worth. In this task, there is little chance of escaping. St Paul reminds us that we are a God’s works of art. Community, as you will discover, is the hammer and chisel, smoothing down the rough edges of our personalities. You will have to discover who you are, and you may find what you discover surprising and at time uncomfortable.

Thirdly, you will learn how to live in community. We will come to know one another well. You will learn that community demands patience, tolerance, generosity and respect. It would be unnatural if we all got on with one another, or always agreed with each other – I think that it would also be quite boring! So it would be a surprise if this year went by without anyone annoying us, upsetting us or getting on our nerves. Remember, that if someone is getting on your nerves you are almost certainly getting on theirs. Each one of us here is in someway wounded. We carry that scars and wounds of disappointment and some of these wounds are deep. You are not joining a community of saints. We are very human, but we desire God and we desire God’s will and in this we honour God and surrender ourselves to his love. You will discover amongst the brothers, as I have, deep affection and concern for each other.

 This growing knowledge of God, of yourself and of your neighbour is a lifelong journey and it will lead you to a deeper love of God, of yourselves and your brothers.

 Finally, I would like to quote Cardinal Basil Hume. Basil Hume was a Benedictine monk and abbot of his community in Ampleforth before becoming Archbishop of Westminster. When clothing some new novices for his community he concluded with these words.

Don’t take yourselves too seriously. Take life seriously, take God seriously. But don’t, please don’t, take yourselves too seriously!

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