"I'll be Here"
On the morning of March 22, 2020, just a few hours before New York State went under lock down due to the coronavirus pandemic, I professed First Vows as a Franciscan Sister of the Renewal. As many young girls dream of their wedding day, this was a day I had dreamt of since I was 15 years old. I had imagined a packed church, myself clad in a CFR Sister habit, crowned with flowers. But I never could have imagined the beauty, intensity, and joy of what God had really prepared for that day!
The sudden onslaught of the pandemic in the first weeks of March brought about a radical stripping of the externals I had so often envisioned. Everything seemed uncertain. What if my parents couldn’t even come? Should I delay the vows? These questions weighed on my heart, and I was to profess vows in a week. Longing to know His will, I ran to the Lord in the chapel. Looking up at the tabernacle, I was suddenly deeply aware of His presence. “I’ll be here,” He said in the silence of my heart. As if to also say: “Sister, I will not leave this place. No matter what, even if there are only three other people present, I will be here the day of your vows. I will be here waiting for you.” With this promise, the questions in my heart silenced and a profound joy emerged. The Lord, like a true bridegroom, would be waiting for me at the altar! Feeling a deep freedom, this response arose in my heart as clear as day: I would not leave the Lord waiting. I would profess my vows to Him no matter what!
So, yes, the day was much different than I had imagined it would be … yet profoundly beautiful. Instead of a church filled with friars and sisters – many of whom have been spiritual fathers and mothers to me throughout my life (I met our parallel friar community at the age of 7 and the sisters at 15) – I professed my vows in our little novitiate chapel with only one CFR Priest, the 5 sisters I live with here at the Convent of San Damiano, and my beloved parents present. A social gathering of 9 – just in line with federal guidelines! Nothing was the way any of us had pictured; even the date was different! The vows were abruptly moved up from March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation, to March 23rd, Laetare (“Rejoice”) Sunday, to occur before the state’s lock down went into effect. Yet everything essential remained absolutely and unshakably the same: Christ was present in that small chapel, holding to His promise, waiting to receive my “Fiat.” I met Him there in front of the altar, ready to give myself totally to Him and to receive Him totally.
My vows, this gift of self, were for Christ alone and through Him for every soul. His children became my own children to spiritually mother. As a religious sister says in the film “For Love Alone” (a film on Women Religious put out by the CMSWR): “When I make my vows, I make them for my children too.” Professing vows in the midst of a worldwide crisis made this truth all the more palpable. I was laying down my life so that others may have life, loving Christ so as to make Him loved, by His grace becoming His light to bring Him out to the dark world.
My life is no longer my own. I am now totally His, my offering being completely joined to that of Christ’s out of love for the world. As our world struggles through immense suffering and pain, His light still shines, and I believe it shines all the brighter. It was His light, His love, which won the victory in my heart on the day of my vows – showing forth the truth that “the light shines forth in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” May His victory in my heart lead to the victory of His love in the hearts of others! Amen! Alleluia!
Sr. Rosa Ines, CFR