It was our tradition to take a new name when we entered the novitiate. It was a saint’s name – male or female, it did not matter. I’m told my sisters could request three names and then on the day they became “sisters,” the prioress would give them their new name. Even though they knew the three choices, it was still a surprise to see which name they would carry “in religion.” Then, from that day on, the community would celebrate the saint’s day as the sister’s feast day. On November 22nd, for example, – the feast of Saint Cecilia – we celebrated our prioress’ feast day.
This tradition changed after the Second Vatican Council when the Holy Father and his brother bishops urged religious to reclaim the spiritual roots of our founders/foundresses, and examine their commitment to the life in the light of their baptismal promises. Monastic Profession was thus viewed as the fulfillment of the promises made for us in the waters of baptism. Now, for many sisters, their feast day is the day of their baptism. Such good theology!
There are sisters who came to the Catholic faith as adults so their baptismal day in stored in the heart’s memory. For most of us – myself included – we have only the story of that day according to our parents and some curled-up black and white photos. Regardless of age, we believe that the grace of Christ is at work in us from that day forward. And, it is only by grace, that, as adult Christians, we give ourselves to the monastic life and persevere over a lifetime. I was baptized 45 years ago today at Our Lady of the Magnificat Chapel. My Aunt Winnie and Uncle Bud Hubner held me over the font and the immediate family prayed that the Christ-light would burn bright in my heart. I imagine it as a lovely moment until the reality of history nudges the sweetness aside. Forty-five years ago today, Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, in full view of a grieving nation. Needless to say, my cuteness was probably not the main topic of conversation after the rite. Yet, in the face of such a brutal act, to bring a baby to the water of life was, in and of itself, an act of great faith.
So, today is my feast day…my sisters here in Richmond have already fussed over me and my sisters at the monastery held me in prayer this morning. It is a lovely tradition in religious life and an opportunity for gratitude for the gift of living water and fragrant oil – the earthy symbols of the Love that will never abandon me on the journey.
Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki
- Sister Vicki