Sunday, July 31, 2016 was a milestone for the Augustinians. It was the first day in many decades that the Augustinians had so many young men joining the Augustinian Order!
The professions were made at Saint Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel in Chicago. When men profess their vows as Augustinians (vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience), they are furthering their commitment to be a part of the Augustinian Order. They do so after a year of contemplative prayer at the Augustinian Novitiate in Racine, Wisconsin. As professed brothers, they will now study theological courses at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago to better prepare them to become solemnly professed friars and ordained priests.
Here is the Homily from the Very Reverend Bernard C. Scianna, O.S.A., Ph.D., Prior Provincial of the Midwest Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel
St. Augustine once said in his Sermon 169:
You see, we are on a journey, of mind and heart, on the way to God! Always be dissatisfied with where you are if you are to become what you are not yet. Evaluate yourselves constantly, without guile or flattery. Say it enough and you are lost ... Keep on moving forward, walk onward, make progress.
Today, ten of our brothers will take another important step on their journey, and Atsushi, who did the first reading, the eleventh will make his profession in Japan next week. I am privileged to be able to be there with him along with Fr. Tom McCarthy, Fr Michael DiGregorio, and our Japanese Brothers.
This is a very important, indeed an historic moment for us! The last time 11 Novices professed vows in one year was decades ago! Yes, it’s true, this is for three provinces, or better yet, for the Federation of Augustinians of North America, and this is the second year that we are doing these professions together! We also spent the last couple of days together as Augustinians, just spending time together and to deepen our bond of brotherhood whether we are a provincial or pre-novice . . . we are in this together! I hope that these moments are as important to you as they are for me . . . they give me hope!
In fact, it is these moments that are the best part of my job as Provincial . . . receiving or renewing vows, attending ordinations, or just moments to visit with you, our Brothers in Formation.
Our Deacon today Futoshi, was ordained last week, and one friar from each province, Fr. Richie, Fr. Joe and Fr. Carlos were ordained last month, and Brother Stephen and Brother Joe will make their solemn profession of vows next month. We have nearly 40 men in our formation programs and more on the way! The Lord has truly blessed us!
Yes, you will go on for advanced degree and experiences in ministries on the way to your solemn professions and ordinations, but nothing is more important than your Interior Life and your Community Life with Us!! It must continue to grow and change and deepen! It must be your priority!
When you make your first profession, it is not a practice run, it is the moment from which you begin to count your years of profession in vows as an Augustinian! It is the real deal!
And while we don’t have any celebrations of professions up here today for the significant anniversaries that we typically mark, there are two in Tulsa that we will mark at an event down there in October, Fr. Bill Perez, 60 years as and Augustinian and Fr. Philip Cook, 25 years as an Augustinian. However, there are two friars here that I would like to mention: Fr. Jim Wenzel from the Villanova Province who is celebrating 65 years as an Augustinian who at age 85 took on a new assignment last year and moved from Boston to Racine, Wisconsin to be part of the Novitiate Team! Thanks Jim . . . You are a Faithful Friar!
And Fr. John Flynn from the Midwest Province, who is celebrating 70 years of Profession as an Augustinian! He has the most assignments in our province. One might say, what’s wrong, couldn’t he hold a job? That’s not it . . . on the contrary, it is the fact that he was always willing and available and therefore the go-to person for provincials to ask to step in and step up whether in a parish or in formation house or as provincial. His roots and connections with the Augustinians go back his whole life and even before, as his father graduated from St. Rita High School in 1915 when the school was only 10 years old. He is an Augustinian thru and thru, a faithful friar, a friend, a mentor to many, and one who was in Flint who helped encourage the vocations of the two men from St. Matthew Parish to join us, and that is why, I would like to ask our Vicar General, Fr. Joe Farrell to present a small token of our appreciation to Fr. John Flynn, a silver plaque of our Patroness, Mary, our Mother of Good Counsel, from her shrine at Gennezano, Italy. Thank you John for all of your Good Counsel over these many year, and Congratulations! Ad Multos Annos!!!
Back to those who are about to begin year one of your profession . . . who hopefully some will be honored for 70 years of profession in 2086!!! After a faithful and fruitful life as a friar!
Your experience of the Novitiate has been a mirror, as St. Augustine suggests in his Rule – Thanks to your Directors, Spiritual Directors, Vocation Directors, Tom McCarthy and Tom Whelan, Formation Team, St. Rita Parish Community from Racine, and Libby, who will become an Augustinian Affiliate today! This time is like no other, you will never get such an experience in your life again. The challenge now is to put the principles of self-reflection and prayer into practice while busy with studies and ministry!
As St. Augustine said, "Let me know myself that I might You my God!" It is a life-long process. There may be dark nights of the soul or periods of spiritual dryness, but use your mirror to persevere!
You will also receive your black habit today, vested by those significant to your journey because you do not become who you are on our own. It will be blessed and given and put on and you will become a new self by your profession. The habit does not the friar make, but it is an important symbol of what is going on inside, and a public statement of who you are and your deeper commitment always and everywhere! As Fr. Ted Tack used to remind me . . . no matter if you are wearing your habit or not, and no matter where you are, and whether or not you think anybody knows you; they do! And by your profession, you are a public figure—a Professional Christian, and others will look at you and expect you to behave in a way that reflects faithfulness to the vows you make today!
Reflecting on the icon experience you had with Fr. Rich Cannuli – in drawing the face of Christ, you all were drawing the same face, The Face of God, yet in the writing, your own “face” emerged. You all make the same vows to God but will live them out as individuals within a community with your own personality, gift, talents, and shortcomings. We are not all the same, Thank God! St. Augustine once said regarding Unity in diversity, “Unity in essentials, diversity in non-essentials, and charity in all." So see the Face of God in Community, and add your authentic face to this process! Our Novices come from different countries, provinces, cultures, and yet we are one Augustinian Community!
In light of what is going on in our country and world, it is even more important to see the Face of God in others, even those that are different from ourselves. ALL God’s Children have a place in the choir! We do not need labels or hyphens before simply being a Child of God! Augustine speaks of community as a symphony, where we all bring our gifts and talents to live harmoniously on the way to God! We depend on God through each other.
From your commitment, you will be called to ministry and to spiritual leadership. And while faithfulness is expressed in service, there will always be more ministry to do—it will never done! So depend on your Community, and on your family and don’t be discouraged. We don’t take you away from your family, we bring your family into our Community!
In the Gospel parable of the day – the owner tried to contain life – but we cannot contain life – we think we can contain it when we forget Who made it. We think can control life, but we can’t control it! The fool says "There is no God, but God is in control!" So if we want to make God laugh, tell him your plans! So, be faithful to God’s Plan as revealed in Community.
The Gospel speaks of the foolishness of individualism, of self-centeredness, and greed. When we rely on God, we find we do not lose anything, but instead He gives of an abundance!
And when you have been given abundance, share it, give it away, for the Lord Loves a Cheerful Giver!
The Vow of Poverty does not mean you will not have anything,
The Vow of Chastity does not mean you will not love anyone,
The Vow of Obedience does not mean you will not have anything to say about your life
…indeed just the opposite...
As Free Men Living under God’s Grace, making your profession:
Your Poverty will give you all things in common,
Your Chastity will allow you to love all God’s children while not focusing on one significant other,
Your Obedience will lead to a healthy dialogue of your gifts and the needs of the Community and Church!
And when you give of yourself, joyfully and generously, you will receive 30 and 60 and 100 fold!
Where your heart is…..there lies your treasure!!!
Your treasure must be in being a Professed Christian in the Augustinian Tradition!
While you make your first profession today, you will need to reconfirm this profession each and every day by the choices and attitude you bring to continuing formation, to community life, to your studies, to your ministry, to your family, to the world! A challenge indeed, but it is worthwhile! And do so, in the Spirit of Pope Francis, staying close to the people, and by not being arrogant or thinking yourselves better than the sheep. Smell like the sheep and realize that your power is in service, in giving of yourself as humble and joyful spiritual leaders and to influence others for the good by being ministers and ambassadors and distributors of God’s Love, Mercy, Forgiveness, and Grace--All with Joy and Hope!
And so we ask God, Our Mother of Good Counsel, Our Holy Father St. Augustine, and St. Thomas of Villanova, to Bless our Brothers who are about to make their profession, and to bring to fulfilment the great work that He has begun in each one of them, always yearning to become what we are not yet!
You Have Made us for yourself O Lord . . . and Our Hearts are Restless until they Rest in You!