Rite of Entrance to the Novitiate

Rite of Entrance to the Novitiate

Rite of Entrance to the Novitiate
Kathleen McCarthy
January 27, 2018

There are three proclamations from readings in the past few weeks that I believe are very appropriate for this occasion: one is from the Gospel we just heard, the second is from the Rule of Benedict that we pondered in one of our recent morning readings and the third is from Cistercian Michael Casey’s book Stranger to the City.

Although our Gospel reading for this weekend was short, I think that the final sentence was loud and clear: “His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.” Is this not one of the reasons for our commitments, for our choices, for our faithfulness? We are dedicating our lives, by our works, our prayer and our example, to the spreading of the message of Jesus to everyone, everywhere, at all times, and in all places.

We believe that this message is for all people of faith and of good will; for all those who wish to live a life of purpose and of meaning—of selflessness and generosity, of self-sacrifice, and of a life centered on others. That is our commitment. That is the fame we choose to imitate.

At the very beginning of chapter 4 of the Rule, the one on the Tools of Good Works, we recently heard this, “Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way.” Choosing to spend a year in a novitiate is an immediate example of this, of course—but in a broader sense, Kathy, this year in the novitiate will certainly strengthen and solidify —as it did for all of us—that you choose to spend your life acting differently from the world’s way. We believe that choice will make the world better. For by acting differently than the whims and ways of the culture of a certain time and place, we give example and credence that there exist ways and values that are timeless and cross cultures—the ways of love, peace, inclusion, mercy, compassion, justice and reverence for life and for all creation.

Thirdly, in Michael Casey’s book, Stranger to the City, he expresses so well our wishes for you as you embark on this graced and blessed year, Kathy. He writes: “Monastic living is more than a question of location. Beyond prolonged residence in the place, commitment is demanded. This, in turn implies more than mere obedience of the laws and observation of local customs. It asks us to take on a new identity and to be reshaped according to a different culture.”

“From the very beginning the candidate to monastic life is asked to consent to a different world-view, where previous priorities are turned upside down…Benedict asks monastics to make themselves strangers to the actions of the age‒to become strangers to the city. This is done first by living somewhat apart, morally much more than physically.”

He also writes the phrase that perhaps sums up everything else we could ever say or wish for you: “The first and foremost call that comes to us today from Benedict’s Rule is to become what we are meant to be.”

May this blessed year be just that, Kathy‒a foundation and ever-present resource for you‒ to the “you” God has always meant you to be….now and for all time.

Sister Anne Wambach, OSB, the twenty-first prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania is a native of Philadelphia. She moved to Mount St. Benedict Monastery in 1992 to respond to a desire to experience the monastic way of life. Previously a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Chestnut Hill, Sister Anne began the formal transfer process to the Erie Benedictines in 1993 and made her monastic profession in 1997.

Sister Anne has served the people of the Diocese of Erie as a teacher at St. Gregory's School in North East, Pa., from 1992-1995, and at the Neighborhood Art House in Erie, beginning as program director in 1995 and as executive director since 2005. She served on the Monastic Council from 2006-2010.