Sr. Rosa’s Vows: The Day the Lord Made!
The First Vows of Sr. Rosa had been set for March 25th, the beautiful Solemnity of the Annunciation when Our Lady gave her Fiat. We were busily planning for the joyful event—the special Holy Hour and Dinner the night before with her family (like a “rehearsal dinner” for a wedding) and all the details of the beautiful Vows Mass to be held in Our Lady Queen of Angels Church with Cardinal Dolan, the sisters and friars, and her devoted family. These were our plans…but God had other ones…we were soon to find out!
When the coronavirus pandemic suddenly exploded all around us in New York, we had to make some rapid decisions…and many were being made for us…by President Trump, Governor Cuomo…but ultimately all of them by Divine Providence. The Family Holy Hour and dinner had to be canceled. We couldn’t have the Vows in Harlem—the sisters there had already been too exposed to the virus. With the announcement of the impending stay-at-home order to begin at 8pm March 22nd in New York, we quickly moved the Vows to take place that day, Laetare Sunday, in the novitiate.
Everything was radically simplified due to the crisis. Regretfully unable to attend were Cardinal Dolan, Mother Clare and our sisters in Harlem, all the friars bar one, and Sr. Rosa’s family bar two. Yet…“This is the day the Lord has made…Let us rejoice and be glad!” These were Fr. Fidelis’ opening words in his homily, sharing how these were always Fr. Andrew’s opening words at every sister’s vows! And truly, it was a day the Lord had made… so amazingly unique and providential…and as Mother Lucille kept remarking, the day was anointed. Sr. Rosa said this day was the “best day of her life!” Only God could arrange this!
There were so many “signal graces” that were part of the day, it is truly hard to capture them all. But there are two in particular that really touched me.
The readings of the day for the Mass could not have been more perfectly selected for Sr. Rosa! The first reading spoke of how David was chosen, the youngest of all Jesse’s sons. In addition to the obvious connection with Sr. Rosa’s youth (she is only 23 and entered with us as a candidate at the exceptionally young age of 18), Sr. Rosa vividly remembers her first confession with Fr. Andrew, our founder, being on Laetare Sunday as well. In that confession he related that reading very personally to her. This being the first sisters’ vows since his passing in 2017, Fr. Andrew was definitely making his presence with us felt. The Gospel reading was about the healing of the man who was born blind. Sr. Rosa, too, received an instantaneous healing from our Lord in the Holy Eucharist in 2018. She had suffered from a deformity in her legs and knees from birth. Ever since the Lord healed her, this particular Gospel has had such a profound significance for Sr. Rosa that she even wrote a song inspired by it, “Everything is Grace”—which she played for us on her ukulele after the Mass!
Now, normally at our sisters’ first vows, they receive a crown of delicate, white tea roses. But, with the earlier date and all of the difficult circumstances, we had to “make-do,” creating a crown out of whatever was available here at our convent in the Bronx. We thankfully found some little white flowers from a plant that Sr. Rosa had nursed back to health very devotedly during her novitiate…this alone seemed like a signal grace. But then at the table for lunch after the vows, her parents shared that this particular flower is what bridal crowns are made of in their homeland of Colombia. Mrs. Montano had worn a similar one at her wedding, and there is even a serenading song that the bridegroom sings to his bride-to-be the night before the wedding (which Mr. Montano had done…and sang for us too!) that mentions the crown made of this particular flower! Wow! We were all in awe when they shared this with us. As Mrs. Montano said, we know Our Lady has had a hand in all this when the details are so lovingly arranged!
Yes, even in the midst of such darkness and confusion in the world, there is reason to “rejoice and be glad!” There is one more soul in the world consecrated to God…and in the midst of such darkness, the light of Christ shines even brighter. This was certainly so evident to the eight of us privileged to witness the sacred and unforgettable day of Sr. Rosa’s First Profession of Vows. May God be blessed in all His designs!
Sr. Francis, CFR