Sr. María Isabel Gómez professed her simple vows on April 29, 2016. Here she reflects on monastic profession.
I PROMISE BEFORE GOD FOR THREE YEARS
A day of joy! The joy of the Gospel, that is the giving one’s self over to God. I can hardly find words to express the day and the depth of meaning in the actions I took that day. The following is my feeble attempt to describe what the Holy Spirit has unfolded for me. This is not where I am, but rather what I discover is the hope and aim of monastic life.
The rite of profession first began as it always does, with a question, a question that not only recalled the name given to me on the day I became a novice, but also gave a glimpse into the future: “Sr. Maria Isabel you have responded to God’s call, what do you ask of him?” Isabel means House of God. I recalled Abraham, Peter, even Jesus himself, who received names “pronounced by the mouth of the Lord” (Isa 62:2). Names given by God in Scripture reveal God’s mission for the person. And I am called House of God, a daunting mission that only God’s mercy can fulfill in me. My first profession felt like a great step toward God’s mission. For what is a house? According to the Oxford English Dictionary it is “A building for human habitation, especially one that is lived in by a family or small group of people.” If it is God’s house, then it is his human habitation, where he lives with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. His house means his rules, his way, his manner, his design; it is owned by him! This is what Christian life is: letting God be God.
I was next shown the Rule of St. Benedict and asked: “Are you resolved to commit to its demands?” What are those demands for me? St. Paul says it in one sentence: “To walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph 4:1). To me this has meant, and will continue to mean, that I allow transformation to occur continually in me without hindering it. That is, to go from a city girl who would walk around exploring the streets of the Bronx and Manhattan to a cloistered nun walking up and down our driveway, keeping within the enclosure. From being spinned and twirled by my cousins on the dance floor to a life of silence and chanting God’s praises. From being present and active to my family at every birthday, baptism, wedding, gatherings of cousins to being fully present to them through prayer. From being a teacher in charge of a classroom of twenty-five or more little ones to giving up control and turning everything over to God. As I responded “I am” to the question, I was keenly aware that there is a long journey ahead.
The momentous point of the ceremony then arrived. I uttered the words, “I, Sr. Maria Isabel, promise for three years before God and his saints stability, conversion of life, and obedience.” I turned everything over to God, in the presence of witnesses, entering “the mystery of transformation, the mystery which is at the heart of all the vows”(Path of Life by Br. Cyprian Smith). Stability: the transformation from my rootedness in other things or people to a rootedness in God alone. Conversion of life: the transformation of my old life to monastic life. Obedience: the transformation of my mind and will to God’s mind and will. Overall, it is a promise to work towards “a transformation of the will from the pursuit of self to the love of God”(Smith, 55). This is the task of every Christian. If we remain stable, not running from the transformation this life in Christ is offering us, but instead remaining faithful to the life, then conversion can occur. And in so doing, we enable our souls to be in constant openness to the transforming power of the Trinity. It is quite a journey I embarked upon that day!
Love of God, that is what everything always boils down to. This life, the Christian life, is all about a journey, a struggle to learn to love, love like Christ. That is the transformation that must take place in each of us. I ask that you continue to pray for me that I may live all this this life offers, that I may persevere in this journey of love. I pray for all of you, all of the world, that you too may remain in this journey and that we together may come to the perfect love of God.