Here is the homily preached for the Profession of First Vows of Sister Mary Monica Augustine, IHM on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Scriptures of the Mass are Revelation 11:19;12:1-6,10; 1 Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56: click HERE for the readings at the USCCB website.
Jump below for the homily’s text…
First Profession of Sr. M. Monica Augustine, IHM
Revelation 11:19;12:1-6,10 + 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 + Luke 1:39-56
August 15, 2015 + Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
At the end of her earthly life, Mary was assumed both soul and body into Heaven, because from the moment of her conception, Mary was without sin. She was sinless throughout her earthly life: free from Original Sin and from any actual sins. Her sinlessness was due to her being “full of grace”, as St. Gabriel put it. Mary’s life fulfilled the “twin love of God and neighbor”: that is, her life was in complete focus with the life of her Son, Jesus Christ, and she bore Jesus in the Flesh to others: for example, to her cousin Elizabeth at the Visitation.
St. Monica, on the other hand, while not a grave sinner, freely admitted her sinfulness. Granted, Monica had neither a husband like Mary’s just Joseph, nor a son like Mary’s divine Jesus. Monica’s husband Patricius and her son Augustine inspired Monica to frequent and fervent prayer. It’s likely, Sister Mary Monica, that you will have students who drive you to frequent and fervent prayer, so may you also have the perseverance of your patron saint!
But throughout her earthly life, Monica imitated our Blessed Mother. Monica sought to focus her life on the Mystical Life of Jesus, and Monica sought to bear Jesus to others. So it was at the end of Monica’s earthly life, that she bore Jesus to her sons even from her deathbed. Monica had to correct another son—not Augustine—on the subject of where she ought to be buried. Augustine, towards the end of Book IX of his Confessions, describes how Monica brought Christ to bear on her death. So he writes:
On the day when her release was at hand she gave no thought to costly burial or the embalming of her body with spices, nor did she pine for a special monument or concern herself about a grave in her native land; no, that was not her command to us. She desired only to be remembered at your altar, where she had served you with never a day’s absence. From that altar, as she knew, the holy Victim is made available to us, He through whom the record of debt that stood against us was annulled. … In Him we win our victory.
— St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions IX, 36
So at the end of her earthly life, Monica demonstrated a poverty of spirit that we pray, Sister Mary Monica, will animate your every day with the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Wichita. But poverty is only one of the three vows that you will soon profess before all of us assembled here. How could a Christian unfamiliar with the life of religious Sisters understand what these three vows mean: what they concretely look like in the day-in and day-out life of a professed Sister? Our Blessed Mother suggests an answer.
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Every evening, the IHM Sisters join their hearts, minds and voices with other members of the Mystical Body of Christ in offering up Vespers to God. Towards the end of Vespers, the Magnificat is prayed. The Magnificat is the Marian hymn par excellence. The Magnificat is a summa of Mariology. (At some point, Sister Mary Monica, you will take a course in Mariology—whether in Wichita, or in St. Mark’s, or in Philadelphia—and I guarantee you that if you pray the Magnificat before and after each class of the course, you will earn an “A”. Mark my words.)
The Magnificat is a blueprint for sanctity, and even more specifically so, for the consecrated life. Although your profession today, Sister, is to a specific form of Christian life, that professed life—inasmuch as the IHM’s of Wichita live a “twin charism” that is both contemplative and active—serves the needs of many members of the Mystical Body of Christ. You will serve young children, and through them their parents. You will serve priests by your prayers for their sanctification, and seminarians for their discernment. Given all this, it’s good to recall the words of Monica’s son that the Church proclaimed in the Divine Office just this past Monday. So he preached:
I tell you again and again, my brethren, that in the Lord’s garden are to be found not only the roses of his martyrs. In [that garden] there are also the lilies of the virgins, the ivy of wedded couples, and the violets of widows. On no account may any class of people despair, thinking that God has not called them. Christ suffered for all. What the Scriptures say of him is true: He desires all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.
— St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 304
Mary professes knowledge of this truth in the Magnificat when she sings: “He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.” This is not servile fear, but the fear that blossoms from the honesty of humility, and who seeks God’s will through obedience. We see this in Mary, also. God had mercy on her when He preserved her soul from Original Sin at the moment of her own conception. This is why Mary calls God “my Savior” when she proclaims in the first sentence of the Magnificat that “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”. This is how Mary can proclaim that her soul magnifies the Lord: because her soul was chosen by the Lord to be a vessel of His mercy, and her womb as a temple of mercy.
Sister Mary Monica, much of this first year of your professed life will overlap with the Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by the Pope. Within this year of living the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience may His grace strengthen you to proclaim the Lord’s mercies towards you. These vows are not just a way to live on this earth. Living these vows faithfully are a foretaste of the joys of Heaven. It is not possible to live in God’s Presence in Heaven without being perfectly poor so as to accept the riches of His grace, perfectly chaste so as to accept the riches of His love, and perfectly obedient so as to accept the riches of His Providential Will.
Sister Mary Monica, the day of your conception, the day of your birth, the day of your baptism, and the day of your entrance into professed life all stand on one side of your life. The eternal life of Heaven for which you hope, pray and live stands on the other side. In between those two sides lies a moment in your future, that moment which we pray about so often when we offer up the “Hail Mary” and speak of “the hour of our death.” At that hour, may the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was assumed into Heaven at the end of her life, help you by means of her intercession. May Saint Monica, who at the end of her life brought Jesus to bear on the lives of her sons, pray for you. And may the words that St. Elizabeth spoke to Mary at the Visitation be said about you: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”