Like the process of dating, engagement and marriage, the process of becoming a fully-professed member of a religious order takes on many stages. Last August, I professed for the first time my vow to live in poverty, chastity, and obedience in the way of St. Francis of Assisi. In a way, these vows were a test: I was testing the life to see if it was truly where I was called.
And wouldn’t you know it? Time’s up on that first year. In the Church’s great wisdom, however, the time has not come for me to make my lifetime commitment: for the next three years, all I have to do is profess vows for a period of one year as I continue to discern my place in the Order of Friars Minor.
In other words, it’s like a lease to an apartment: I either have to resign the contract or move out. For now, as is fairly obvious from the picture, I have discerned that this life if for me and will continue for another year. Last evening, kneeling before our Vicar Provincial (essentially the Vice President), I spoke these words once more:
To the Praise and Glory of the Most Holy Trinity, I, Brother Casey Cole, since the Lord inspired me to follow more closely the Gospel and the footprints of Our Lord Jesus Christ, before the Brothers here present and in your hands, Brother Dominic, with firm faith and will, vow to God, the Holy and Almighty Father, to live for the period of one year in obedience, without anything of my own and in chastity, and, at the same time, I profess the life and Rule of the Friars Minor, confirmed by Pope Honorius III, and promise to observe it faithfully in accordance with the Constitutions of the Order of Friars Minor. Therefore, I give myself to this fraternity with all my heart so that, through the efficacious action of the Holy Spirit, guided by the example of Mary Immaculate, through the intercession of our Father St. Francis and of all the Saints and supported by your fraternal help, I can constantly strive for perfect charity in the service of God, of the Church and of mankind.
This I promise.
It was a quick and simply ceremony within the context of Evening Prayer, but was the result of careful discernment and conscious action. Each year we must step back, look at our lives, and ask ourselves with great conviction: “Where has God called me to be?” For the next year, I believe that God is calling me to continue in the way of St. Francis in the Order of Friars Minor, taking one step closer to formally committing myself to God and his Church.