Celebrating commitment

It's been a weekend filled with vows and commitment and celebrations of God's steadfast love. On Friday we began with a golden jubilee: fifty years since first vows; fifty years of responding to God's call and discovering and making known the love of his Heart in a variety of places and ministries. The larger celebration with the other jubilarians was a few weeks ago (here), so Friday - the actual anniversary - was more low-key and gentle, a time for gratitude and quiet contentment and a chance for the 11NG family to show its affection as well as its awe at these five decades of vowed commitment.

Then, yesterday we had the joy of going back fifty years, so to speak, when one of our novices, now our newest RSCJ, made those same first vows, committing herself to the same Heart-centred charism and mission. As Siobhan's smile deepened and broadened the congregation - most of whom were RSCJ - responded with our own deep joy and gladness, for her, and for ourselves, in welcoming a new sister into our midst. As always, there is something powerful and profound in hearing someone say those same words I once said; a reminder of the overwhelming joy of making my own first vows, and God's steadfast, faithful love in enabling me to continue living that desire to follow Jesus with my whole heart in the Society.

At some point this weekend it occurred to me that I am somewhere at a midpoint between the two events. I'm now in my nineteenth year since first vows; those who were 'young religious' when I entered are now celebrating their silver jubilees, and in six years' time I too will be one of those middle-aged jubilarians I used to marvel at! And no, it doesn't make me feel old and past it, just glad and grateful to be how and where I am at this time, especially within the Year of Consecrated Life, when we are invited to celebrate and share our call and commitment with the world.

Then, this morning, I was invited to take a further step back: from golden jubilee to first vows to the original, primordial call and commitment without which vows and jubilees could never take place. At the chaplaincy Mass a baby was baptised, her mother's big beaming smile and evident joy reflecting the joy and smiles of yesterday, the promises made on her behalf the foundation for all future promises within the Church. A lovely reminder of the universal call and grace which underpins and precedes every vocation; a momentous event which so many of us slept or cried through, unheeding of the dignity being bestowed on us. A lovely reminder, too, of that original consecration to God's service, fidelity to which resulted in Siobhan yesterday uniting herself more closely in a way which is new for her, yet ancient for the Church.