What my lips have professed

Someone asked me recently why religious refer to vows ceremonies as 'professions', and those who have made vows as 'professed' - often with qualifiers such as 'temporary' or 'final'. Surely, she asked, we weren't equating our religious consecration with a profession, such as accountancy or engineering? Or did we mean one implying service, such as medicine or teaching? 

For a brief while, the question led me down an interesting path. Professionals, after all, are those who dedicate themselves, completely, to a sport or other activity; we also use the word as a complimentary shorthand for people who work to a conscientious high standard. And yes, we religious do dedicate ourselves completely, utterly, to something - or rather, Someone - though we would be the first to recognise our own weaknesses, and times we fall short of the grace and love freely poured out on us.

But, though the language is the same, our religious professions derive most closely from the Latin word meaning to declare something publicly. When we make our vows we profess, aloud and before witnesses, what we most desire our lives to proclaim: the primacy of God, and our response, in faith, to the transforming, unconditional Love which has called us. In our vows formula we openly profess our heart's desire to hand over all that we are and will be to God in our religious family; to put our liberty, gifts and potential at the service of God and our congregation's mission, and to love as freely, widely and whole-heartedly as we can. 

But of course, just as a wedding day alone does not make a marriage, our religious profession isn't only a one-day event. And so - upheld by copious amounts of grace - we set out to spend each day of our lives professing, through how we live and love, and grow into God, what we once professed and pledged in words.

Today marks one month until the twenty-fifth anniversary of the day when, suffused with joy and wonder, I professed my vows, and my heart's deepest desire. A few days ago I started my silver jubilee celebrations with a reunion with some friends from our inter-congregational novices' course. We rolled back the years with laughter, teasing and reminiscences, interspersed with more serious conversations, and wonder at the seeming rapidity with which we now found ourselves as silvery silver jubilarians. Where have all the years gone? 

But now, as I enter silver jubilee countdown mode it's good to reflect on just how and how much my life professes what my lips declared on 14th December 1996: vows made to the greater glory of the Heart of Jesus; a reminder of paragraph 179 of our Constitutions...

In all the circumstances of our life,
wherever our mission leads us
our sole purpose in living is to glorify the Heart of Jesus,
to discover and make known his Love. 

Something, certainly, to focus my prayer on, in this month of jubilee countdown.