Monday, June 8, 2009
"I do, with the help of God and the prayers of my brothers and sisters in the Order..."
Left: Oblate Profession - 6/8/1997
Right: David Rice, ObJN & Me
Today is the 12th anniversary of my profession as an Oblate of the Order of Julian of Norwich. In place of then-Warden of Oblates, Mother Beth Oakes, ObJN, David Rice, ObJN, now deceased, received my vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and prayer at Vargas Park in Ukiah, CA, where that Sunday morning we had an outdoor regional Eucharist. Two of my dear friends, The Rev. Mary Fisher, then Vicar of St. Francis, Willits, and Fr. Leo M. Joseph, OSF, of Little Portion Hermitage, Kelseyville, concelebrated with me at the altar.
In her homily that day, Mary Fisher noted: "...Fr. Harry will today be accepted as an oblate of the Order of St. Julian of Norwich -- a community devoted to the same life of contemplative prayer that the lady herself led. An 'oblate' is one who offers himself or herself -- as an oblation, an offering, and who makes a commitment to persevere with his brothers and sisters in that life. And I recommend to him a little note card in Br. Paul's [a Franciscan and good friend and mentor of Mary's, from whom she first heard of Julian] hand, found after he died.
He entitled it 'Commitment' -- and it said:
'Not for the redemption of the world,
But for Unity and Charity
In this particular Franciscan family.
No matter what the cost.
As if there were no tomorrow.
As if this is the last job you have given me to do:
To create unity of mind and heart;
To love, and encourage love in my brothers.
...And in myself.'...
Fr. Harry has been on that same road for some time now. But now, as of today, Dame Julian is there with him in a very special way to lead him even deeper into the prayer life that is at the heart of anyone's journey to God..."
Five months later, in my first Oblate report to Mother Beth in October, 1997, I wrote: "...I believe firmly that God has called me to this way of life, even though I still puzzle over why and even though I still have misgivings at times and still struggle with many of the same things I struggled with during probation and before that. The sense of really being part of a religious community has been important to me, not to mention an incredible support. I often "know" in an experiential way that others in the Order are praying for me, because I see myself thinking and acting in ways that I know I would probably not do, left simply to myself. For this I am truly grateful...At the same time this awareness has helped me progressively over the past five months to appreciate the responsibility I have as a member of the Order to grow in holiness, not just for myself, but as support to the whole body..."
OJN is very clear in its aim, as a contemplative monastic order of monks and nuns in the Episcopal Church, viz., "to renew the spiritual life of the Church...to leaven the Church and incline it more to the Kingdom of God." In achieving this, the Order supports its Oblates and Affiliates. It considers each Oblate as essential to the Julian family, "...not merely a friend of the monastics, or someone interested in Blessed Julian or contemplative prayer or Anglo-Catholic liturgy. Rather Oblates are an integral and essential part of the mission of the Order in the Church..."
Oblates in the Order are called to "live contemplative spirituality at its deepest possible level, and then to share the riches of this loving encounter with God in the Church and world..." The Oblate Rule guides us to continually work at this through conversion of life in prayer, discipline, study, and loving service. The vocation to a monastically-inspired life in the world isn't easy. We're called in poverty to offer to God the world of things and finding our identity in them. In chastity we offer to God our bodies, sexual energy, and creativity, along with all our desires and hungers. Obedience enables us to offer to God our anxiety and presumption that we can do what God wants without the help of others; we seek in God the whole purpose and meaning of our lives. And in prayer we offer everything to God: our love, the complete gift of ourselves, in a day-by-day, intentional, lifelong fidelity.
Every Oblate, at initial profession and every year on the anniversary, as I did this morning, repeats the pledge, when asked if we willingly undertake, or recommit, to these vows of our Oblate Rule: "I do, with the help of God and the prayers of my brothers and sisters in the Order." We pledge this in the spirit of the prayer of St. Julian which we say so often:
"God, of Your goodness give me Yourself,
for You are enough to me,
And I can ask nothing less
that can be full honor to You.
And if I ask for anything that is less,
Ever shall I be in want,
For only in You have I all."