Sunday, 16 November 2008

Liturgical Interlude: Profession



Receiving the candle

Receiving the Habit

I hope to not wrest too much attention away from the serious matters facing the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and the Anglican Communion, but perhaps this might be a light interlude, especially for those with an interest in liturgical variations.

Two members of our fraternity made their permanent Professions at a Mass this evening. I attached a few pictures, and what follows is parts of the Rite of Profession, as this is not a ritual that very many people get to see very often. The “Rite of Profession” is taken from the Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order.

The Mass in which the Rite of Profession takes place goes, for the most part, as usual. I will insert the different bits.

After the Entrance, the Celebrant or fraternity Minister says:

We are assembled as a community to take part in the Eucharistic sacrifice. In this celebration of the Eucharist N.N. are going to make their profession of the gospel life in the Secular Franciscan Order. While giving thanks to the Father through Christ for all the gifts we have received from him, we have a special reason for gratitude today: the gift of his grace which he has given to those about to be professed to live in the world according to the spirit of the Beatitudes and also the gift of his grace which he has given to the whole community by adding new members to the fraternity. Especially today, after the example of Christ and in union with his own act of thanksgiving, we are invited to present ourselves before the Father as living sacrifices of praise for the life of the world.
The Liturgy of the Word continues as usual. After the Gospel is proclaimed, the Minister and the Candidates stand, and the Candidates make the Request:
We ask to be admitted to profession of the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order. The experience during our time of formation has strengthened us in our conviction that the Lord is calling us to observe the holy gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.

And the Minister receives the Request with these words:

The fraternity accepts your petition and is united with you in your prayer. May the Holy Spirit confirm in you the work he has begun.

All sit again while the Homily is given.

After the Homily, the Minister, Candidates, and Friar witness (if present) all stand for the Questioning. (I’m not going to give the text of the Questioning because it is forever long.) After the Questioning, the Celebrant prays the Prayer for Divine Grace:
Lord, watch over these your servants. May the Spirit of your love penetrate their hearts, so that your grace will strengthen them to keep their commitment to the gospel life. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Each Candidate now approaches the Minister and says the formula of Profession:

I, N.N., by the grace of God, renew my baptismal promises and consecrate myself to the service of his kingdom. Therefore, in my secular state (or: as a member of the diocesan clergy) I promise to live all the days of my life the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Secular Franciscan Order by observing its rule of life. May the grace of the Holy Spirit, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our holy father Saint Francis, and the fraternal bonds of community always be my help, so that I may reach the goal of perfect Christian love.

After the formula, the Minister adds:

Thanks be to God! As the Minister I receive you into this fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order. Your membership in the fraternity is a cause of and hope for the members of this community.
When all of the Candidates have made their Profession and the Minister has accepted it, the Celebrant addresses them thus:
I confirm your commitment in the name of the Church. Our Seraphic Father himself encourages you in the words of his Testament: “May whoever observes all this be filled in heaven with the blessing of the most high Father, and on earth with that of his beloved Son, together with the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, and all the powers of heaven and all the saints.
After this, each newly Professed receives a Profession candle (which is left burning on the Altar during the Mass), their new habit (Tau cross on a cord with three knots), a San Damiano cross, and a book of the Gospels.

After all of this the members of the fraternity come forward to congratulate the newly professed. Mass continues as usual, with extra petitions inserted in the Intercession for the newly professed, for the local fraternity, and for the entire Franciscan Order.

I will leave out my usual two cents worth as this post is long. I hope, however, that this was a nice introduction to some of the ways of the Secular Franciscan Order if you are not familiar with it.

Pax et bonum.