Sr. María Isabel Gómez received her monastic consecration and professed her solemn vows on June 13, 2020. Here she reflects on monastic profession.
What do you seek? This is the question that is asked at every step of formation. When the postulant first receives the habit to become a novice, when she makes her simple profession, and finally the profession of solemn (final) vows. What do you seek? The answer to this question is St. Benedict’s first and main qualification for receiving a sister, “Let her examine whether the novice is truly seeking God” (RB 58).
What do we seek? The novice and the simply professed sister answer “the mercy of God.” By the time the nun reaches solemn profession the question provides the concrete ways of this search. During the examination the nun is asked by the prioress, “Are you now resolved to unite yourself more closely to God by the bond of monastic profession?” She answers “I am” and the heart echoes her voice saying, “It is your face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not your face from me” (Psalm 27:9).
Far from being an end to the journey, solemn profession is only the beginning of a lifetime commitment to God, which necessitates a never-ending search for God alone. Fittingly, the Mass for my monastic consecration and profession of solemn vows began with the exhortation of Psalmist, “Let the hearts that seek the LORD rejoice. Turn to the Lord and his strength; constantly seek his face” (Psalm 105, 3-4).
As I pondered this gigantic step of giving myself totally to God and to the Church, my grandfather Papá Pedro came to my aid. My paternal grandparents were married for over 75 years. Similar to profession of final vows, a wedding is only final in the sense of an eternal unbreakable commitment. Nevertheless, it is really a launching into the long arduous journey toward total union with God. It takes a lifetime of sufferings, joys, falls, fidelity for any true lasting union to develop between husband and wife.
So it is with us religious consecrated to God. Union with God takes a lifetime of suffering, joys, and fidelity. It means looking into the heart and asking it every moment of every day, what do you seek? Whom do you seek? Jesus himself tells us, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt. 6:21). We fall, we turn our gaze away, our fervor dampens, we lose track of our purpose. The vow of conversatio morum—fidelity to monastic life—helps us to reorient our gaze back to God, get back up, and ask the heart over and over again, “Whom do you seek?” I live in hope of one day reaching that blessed union that Papá and Mamá lived. At 108 years of age Papá turned his face continually to Mamá, recited sonnets to her, and if she was not within sight, he loudly called out her name until he could see her. That is where I hope my journey will end—to not be able to endure life without him whom my heart loves (Song of Songs 4:3). It is my hope for all of you too!