The sun shone on the morning of November 8, and overnight the trees round the monastery had changed into their autumn glory. The day was a golden one, in every sense.
A solemn profession is, among many other things, an expression of gratitude on the universal as well as on the personal level. Sister Lotte’s reply to the celebrant’s question: “My dear Sister, what do you ask of God and his holy Church?” expressed very neatly, in her own words, the deeply personal dedication that full entry into the religious life demands. She said: “I ask to make the total gift of myself to Jesus, wholeheartedly and for ever, and to persevere in apostolic prayer and loving service among my Carmelite Sisters for my whole life.”
It should perhaps be emphasised more often that the Carmelite way of life is essentially a life given for the world. We are very specifically committed to pray for those who cannot pray, for those who do not, and for those who have no inkling of the power of prayer and of its necessity. A Carmelite vocation is apostolic in the fullest sense.
The celebration of Mass for a solemn profession is always numinous, and all those who attended were well aware of this. In a strange way time seemed to be suspended during the ceremony. When the moment came for Sister Lotte to prostrate herself, always a dramatic occasion, we sang a long litany which, paradoxically, just carried us along with its own momentum and seemed to take no time at all.
The Church is realistic, and in the Preface of Religious Profession there are words of great solace: “He [Jesus Christ] consecrated more closely to your service those who leave all things for your sake and promised that they would find a heavenly treasure.” This acknowledgement that the religious life is not an easy one carries with it an awesome assurance that all desires will ultimately be overwhelmingly fulfilled.
A solemn profession is the culmination of years of training and is the first day of what one hopes will be many days of witness: that of living the Christian way of life to the full and for the entirety of an individual’s existence. Its aim is ever-deepening and self-emptying love, with the grace of God – not an easy prospect for anyone.
It was a joy for the monastery to welcome the Bishop, who has always been such a reassuring presence among us whenever he has visited. And we were grateful too for Fr Anthony Maggs CRL and for his apt and inspiring homily. Sister Lotte’s friends came in force, some from as far away as Wales, and the atmosphere at the party after the celebration of Mass was another celebration, of a different kind, but very much part of the joyful and happy festivity that took place.
At the end of the day Sister Lotte thanked us all for providing her with the happiest day of her life, for which we were all so glad.
Pictured above is Bishop Alan Hopes with Sr Stephanie Walters (left) and Sr Lotte (centre).