Sermon for Solemn Profession

On October 6, 2001, Patrick Breen, a student for the Irish Province, made his Solemn Profession. In the context of Carmelite life, Solemn Profession marks the end of initial formation and the point of total commitment of the religious to God. Up to now, the religious has been discerning his vocation, but now he is ready to commit himself for life to the daily living out of the vows of poverty, obedience and chastity to the praise and glory of God and for the good of the Church. In the secular world, the nearest equivalent ceremony to Solemn Profession is marriage.

The following is the text of the sermon preached by the Prior Provincial, V. Rev. F. Burke, O.Carm., during the Solemn Profession liturgy.

Brother, today you make a life commitment to the Carmelite Order. Undoubtedly you may be experiencing some fear and apprehension. Anyone who would come to a ceremony like this without some fear and great soul-searching has not realised what a life commitment is about.
You have been with us for five years. We know you with your strengths and failings. You know us, with our strengths and failings. But put aside your fears. You are responding to God’s call which is his gift to you. We, the Carmelites, thank God for your vocation and for enriching the Order with the life commitment you make to us today. God has chosen you and called you to life in Carmel. Never doubt the sincerity of heart and soul you bring to the commitment you are about to make.
In our second reading today,[1] Paul reminded Timothy that he had been entrusted to look after something precious, he is to guard is with his life. The Carmelites have been entrusted to look after something special, namely, the charism of our Order. A charism is a gift from God to the church for the world. The Carmelite charism does not belong to us. We are stewards of our charism and we have a duty to pass it on to future generations and to share it with the people among whom we live.
This has been happening for almost 800 years and we confidently believe that it will continue to happen into the future, perhaps stronger elsewhere than in Northern Europe. The recent General Chapter of our Order observed with great joy the expansion of the Order in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.
The core value of the Carmelite charism is contemplation. Contemplation understood as an intimate relationship with God in Jesus Christ. A relationship which overflows into a prayerful and fraternal life in which we seek to serve our neighbour. Contemplation calls us to be intimate friends with God and to allow that friendship with God to influence and shape how we live our lives.
The great models we have for our Carmelite life are Mary, our Mother and Sister, and the Prophet Elijah. The example of the great Carmelite Saints, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Thérèse of Lisieux, Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), Titus Brandsma and many others also inspires us.
Like Mary pondering the word of God in her heart and inspired by Elijah’s example, Carmelites seek the presence of God within themselves and help others to discover the same presence in their own lives. We are children of this world; we share the joy and hope, grief and anguish of our times. In this world we walk humbly side by side with our brothers and sisters, attentively seeking to recognise the hidden signs of God’s presence and work.
As you know, we are officially known as “The Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.” We are not alone on our pilgrimage of life and faith. Mary, our Sister, walks with us and encourages us as Mother and Teacher. Mary, by her example, continually shows us how to ponder over everything that happens to us so that we can discern the presence of God in our individual and communal lives. She had the closest possible relationship with Jesus and encourages us to stay close to Him.
We stay close to Him in the daily celebration of the Eucharist, the sacrament of our brotherhood, in the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, where together with the whole church we praise God. And by our personal prayer.
The Prophet Elijah is also an inspiration to all Carmelites. Elijah speaks the motto of our Order in today’s reading[2] from the Book of Kings: “I am filled with jealous zeal for Yahweh.” Elijah, the fiery prophet, meets God in the silence of the gentle breeze but also in his prophetic activity. Elijah fearlessly denounces injustice and points out the emptiness and futility of false gods. Service of the Gospel of justice and peace is an integral part of our Carmelite charism.
The call to community is central to our way of life. While our Rule puts great emphasis on private space and each friar having his own cell, it also calls us to leave our personal space and to come to community. Fraternity involves companionship. Fraternity demands we must be attentive and caring towards those with whom we live. We must strive to achieve open and honest dialogue with each other. We must be genuinely concerned for the physical, psychological and spiritual well being of one another. We must be present to one another, sharing meals as well as prayers, recreation as well as work.
Today, brother, you say “Yes” to God as He calls you to a vowed and consecrated life. The Lord’s reassuring words addressed to the apostle Paul are addressed to you today: “My grace is enough for you, my power is at its best in weakness.” God is calling you to love and serve Him in a religious community, that is, together with others whose way of life, ideals and aspirations you will make your own.
Make the gift of yourself to God and to your Carmelite brothers freely and wholeheartedly. Throw in your lot with us. May your lifelong journey to Carmel be adventurous, fulfilling and enriching. May you hear God’s call afresh each day and respond with courage and generosity.

Notes:

[1] 2Timothy 1:6-9a, 13-14: “I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power and love, and self-control. You are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy.
Keep as your pattern the sound teaching you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. You have been trusted to look after something precious; guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”

[2] 1Kings 19:9b-15a: “There Elijah went into the cave and spent the night in it. Then the word of Yahweh came to him saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I am filled with jealous zeal for Yahweh Sabaoth, because the sons of Israel have deserted you, broken down your altars and put your prophets to the sword. I am the only one left, and they want to kill me.’ Then he was told, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before Yahweh.’ Then Yahweh himself went by. There came a mighty wind, so strong it tore the mountains and shattered the rocks before Yahweh. But Yahweh was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake. But Yahweh was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. But Yahweh was not in the fire. And after the fire there came the sound of a gentle breeze. And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then a voice came to him, which said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I am filled with jealous zeal for Yahweh Sabaoth, because the sons of Israel have deserted you, broken down your altars and put your prophets to the sword. I am the only one left and they want to kill me.’
‘Go,’ Yahweh said, ‘go back by the same way to the wilderness of Damascus.’”