15 May 2011
Wasted life? A reflection on religious profession
“Wasted love?” Journey towards Perpetual Profession
“Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, the house was filled with the scent of the ointment” (John 12: 3)
The excitement within begins to build for myself, my religious sisters, family and friends as we draw nearer to the 19th of June 2011. On that day in my home parish of St. Peter and Paul’s Church in Athlone, I will profess my ‘yes’ forever as a religious sister! On my vocational journey, it closes one chapter which began back in 1998 when I came for a live-in discernment in the community in
whilst it opens another of a love which has been maturing, tried and tested and which peaks in Perpetual Profession and then continues to mature on life’s journey! Dublin
The particular Gospel passage which has accompanied me during this past year of preparation for this solemn moment and which also will be used for the liturgy of the rite of Profession is a passage from John’s Gospel where a woman anoints the feet of Jesus with precious ointment (John 12:1-8). The story of Jesus’ feet anointed with tears and perfume by a sinful woman is a love story, pure and simple. Not some cheap romance or TV soap love but one of complete and oblivious donation! When I look at my life at this moment and see this biblical woman’s gesture, I feel Jesus is saying to me: “Louise, are you ready to do the same? To be this self-emptying gift of prayer and joyful love, unafraid of stares or criticism from an often incomprehensive society? Are you willing to be balm for the brokenness and hurt of today’s humanity?” With his grace, I can answer with a heart-filled: “Yes!” With a public consecration, a sign of commitment to the whole Church, I will profess vows of chastity, poverty and obedience in community forever. I show my readiness to consecrate everything I am and have to God because He first consecrated me, firstly through the gift of baptism and then by bringing it to maturation in the call to religious life as a Disciple of the Divine Master. It is a call not to hold back what I can be and give but to continuously offer acts of selflessness in justice, creativity and compassion for my brothers and sisters.
For those around her, the gesture by the woman in the Gospel was a ‘waste’! The same echo often resounds when it comes to religious life: Is it not just a waste of a life? For me, it’s not! It is a life joyfully spent not on myself, but for others, a life dedicated out of love alone. For some, our prayer is a waste, for others going to Mass is foolishness, but for the ones who truly love Jesus it’s giving Him everything because He deserves it. Love knows no bounds.
My journey so far has brought me immense happiness and satisfaction alongside times of sadness and challenges. It has allowed me to live in four different countries in various communities with different apostolic services, live with sisters from all over the world, solidify bonds of communion and friendship through a common mission and spirituality at the service of the Eucharist, the Priesthood and the Liturgy. In accordance with our specific charism, in daily adoration before the Blessed Sacrament to represent the needs of the Church and humanity and pray in reparation for the sins committed by the media, this is also where I find my strength and in turn the mission I carry out assumes its meaning. I discerned that the best way for me to live out my vocation to love is by this life of continual prayer and union with God as a Disciple of the Divine Master. Having met the sisters, I was struck by their authenticity which was reflected in the deep joy and peace they exteriorly radiated with a mission which is shaped by prayer and liturgy, community, ministry and hospitality especially to priests. This was the magnet which attracted me to become part of this reality when I found it vibrantly resonating within my own heart as a teenager.
It’s not always easy to embrace the challenges which religious consecration presents but during these years I have come to understand that whilst it is possible to give without loving, I cannot love without giving. Drawing strength from a genuine relationship with Jesus nourished and reinforced with prayer, when my mind is still and alone with the beating of my heart. I can find a quiet assurance, an inner peace, in the core of my being that can face the doubts, the loneliness or the anxiety. It is there that He meets me where I am and as I am, making this concrete existence the place where He lives and dwells.
Coming into religious life was an act of faith and love, both on my part and God’s part. To be a religious, today more than ever, is a risk, a huge leap of faith and love but it is a risk worth taking but it also of love-given and received! People often ask me: “Are you sure?” One hundred percent surety doesn’t enter into the equation here but what I am sure of is that God has a unique plan for me. He is with me and He will not leave me. Without a deep sense of being held in this extravagant love, it would be hard to trust, face various decisions or let go of my safety nets which I had woven in order to keep God’s plans out and mine in! I am sure that, like the woman in the Gospel, that only when we stop measuring our relationship and response to God’s call in negative quantitative value, in what has to be ‘given up, that we truly start living qualitatively and receive the immensity of grace which He wants to pour onto our vulnerable love.
Sr. Mary Louise O’ Rourke, Disciples of the Divine Master (PDDM)