First Profession of Br. Giles Hibbs
Dear Br Giles, you have just asked for God's merciful love and to share in the monastic way of life in our community. A sign of his merciful love is that you have been accepted by the Belmont Chapter to make your First Profession on this Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady, a wonderful feast on which to proclaim publicly your love for God and your desire to live by the traditional Benedictine vows of stability, conversatio morum and obedience. What better example for a monk than Our Lady herself, who exemplified in every moment of her life the vows we try to observe through God's grace.
By the vow of stability you promise to live as a monk of Belmont, being anchored to your choir stall and to your cell, devoting yourself principally to a life of prayer, both liturgical and personal. Benedictines are called to a life of contemplation, to be focussed on God and him alone. This you do in silence and humility, as you search for his presence in your heart and in the community to which you belong. Stability implies fidelity to the Gospel and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, founded by Christ himself. Without stability it would be impossible to keep the other vows. Just as Our Lady lived for God from the very moment of her Immaculate Conception to her Assumption and Coronation as Queen of Heaven and was always united to her Divine Son as mother and disciple, so you must never be separated from Christ, your Lord and Saviour. Stability will enable you to become totally integrated in our monastic community, which is part of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. Your love of the brethren will be the proof and touchstone of this union between Christ and yourself.
Conversatio morum is best translated by living the monastic life to the full. I emphasise "to the full" as we all have the tendency to pick and chose, but there is no choice other than to knuckle under and get on with it. Did Our Lady at any time say "No" to what the Lord was asking her to do? At the Annunciation, did she say, "Yes, but only if....?" Not at all; she said to the Angel, "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to thy word." In the cave of Bethlehem, as she gazed on the Child in the manger, as a refugee on the desert track to Egypt, at the wedding feast of Cana, at the foot of the Cross or in the Cenacle at Pentecost, was there ever the slightest hesitation in her acceptance of God's will? Throughout her life she continued to sing, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my Saviour." That will be your song, dear Br Giles, morning, noon and night, if you go about your monastic duties of prayer, lectio, study, work and fraternal living, in a spirit of unfeigned charity, genuine austerity and perfect chastity. It will not be easy, but with God's grace and Our Lady's prayers, nothing will be impossible.
Obedience is, of course, one of the key words in the Bible. "Jesus humbled himself and became obedient unto death, death on a cross." (Ph 2: 8) we read in the Letter to the Philippians, while in Hebrews we are told that, "though he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered." (Hb 5: 8) There is no other way for a Christian and a monk than the Way of the Cross, the Way of Jesus, to which he has called us, "Whoever wants to be my disciple, let him take up his cross every day and follow me." (Lk 9: 23) Dear Br Giles, there can be no shirking from obedience in the monastic life. In fact, you will be vowed to obedience, and in obeying the abbot and community without murmuring, and St Benedict insists that obedience should be immediate and without complaining, you will be obeying Christ himself, for our superiors have legitimate authority in his Church. But in order to obey, we have to dispose our hearts and minds to listen carefully to what is being asked of us. St Benedict invites us to listen always with the ears of the heart, with respect and humility. At times, you will be asked to do what appears impossible, so you must learn to live by faith, like all the saints, and in your monastic patron St Giles, you have a magnificent example. Nevertheless, it is Christ himself who is the supreme model of obedience, followed by his blessed Mother, whose obedience was such that God became Man in her virginal womb. Hence she could sing, "The Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him." (Lk 1: 49-50) Obedience is the only proof of love: "If you love me, keep my commandments." (Jn 14: 15)
Dear Br Giles, do not be put off by my words, but learn to keep your vows as a joyful response to God's love and mercy towards you. What a privilege to have been called to the monastic life and how wonderful to make your first vows today under the protection of Our Lady. May she, the Mother of monks, help you grow to perfection in the monastic life and may God's merciful love be with you always. Amen.