Sr. Lily's first profession at Mount Saint Mary's Abbey

Mount Saint Mary’s Abbey:  Sr. Lily made her first profession on August 15, the Solemnity of  the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, the patronal feast of the Cistercian Order.  The following talk was given by Mother Sofia, the Abbess of Mount St. Mary’s on the happy occasion:

Sr. lily smiling

Cistercian monastic life is centered on Christ. Our Constitutions express this in words that we treasure:  “Only if the sisters prefer nothing whatever to Christ will they be happy to persevere in a life that is ordinary, obscure and laborious” (C.3.5).
It is equally true that our consecrated lives pass through the hands of Mary:
“Each community of the Order and all the monks are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Symbol of the Church in the order of faith, love and perfect union with Christ” (C.3.4).
Today’s feast and the day for your profession of vows, Sr Lily, gives us a chance to ponder how Mary shows us the way in faith, love, and perfect union with Christ.

As you put it in your petition, you desire to be poor and empty so as to become all space for God to fill. Guerric of Igny helps us to understand the dynamic of emptiness and fullness using words from the prophet Isaiah:
“‘O Mary,’ the Lord says, ‘you will no longer be called Forsaken, and your land will no longer be called Desolate, for although a virgin you will not be unfruitful. No. You will be called My Delight (that is, my beloved Son) is in her, because the Lord has been well pleased with you and your land will be inhabited.’” (Guerric of Igny, Sermon 47.1)
Making space for what is most important requires emptying out what is less important. With this, there comes an experience of fearful lack, a feeling of forsakenness and desolation, which is navigated by faith in the promise of being filled. Your vows will bring you into this space of total reliance on the God who will never fail you. Just as Elizabeth cried out to Mary: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45), so each of us is called to believe in God’s promises.

You ask in your petition that your offering be made fruitful for your community, your family, your Church and all your poor people. Guerric points out that true chastity gives rise to the “inexhaustible tenderness” of charity:
“Within the locked garden of your chastity he makes the sealed wellspring of charity always abundant in its supply: that well-spring though sealed is yet channeled to the outer world and its waters are at our disposal in courtyard and street.” (Guerric of Igny, Sermon 47.3)
You have already recognized that the final end of your vocation in not your own fullness but the gift of yourself for others. Just as Mary sings of God lifting up the lowly and filling the hungry with good things, so each of us is called to pour out the gift of our hearts upon the world.

You speak of a desire to be the bride, the answer to your longing for infinite love. Guerric takes us into the mystery of union, using imagery from the Song of Songs:
“You implored the kiss of my mouth; rather the whole of you will be kissed by the whole of me. I will not press my lips to your lips, but my spirit to your spirit in an everlasting an indissoluble kiss. Because I have desired your beauty with greater longing that you have desired mine, I shall not regard myself as sufficiently glorified until you are glorified with me” (Guerric of Igny, Sermon 48.6).
On this day, Mary’s joy echoes throughout heaven and earth:
“Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord….
So tenderly has he looked upon his servant, humble as she is….
So wonderfully has he dealt with me, the Lord the Mighty One, holy is his name.
(Lk 1:46-49 – NEB)
Let us rejoice with Mary in the Lord’s tenderness and fervent longing to draw all people to himself eternally.

Sr Lily, may your vowed life of chastity, poverty and obedience, lived in stability and in fidelity to the monastic way of life, create the conditions for the Lord to make his home in you, to inhabit your land. If you let him, he will transform your life, your mind, your will, and your affections, to the likeness of his own. This will take place in a hidden way, as in the obscure intimacy of the womb, or the secrecy of a walled garden. Change will not always be obvious; your progress will be intermittent and slow, according to the measured pace of Providence. There will be challenges and setbacks, seasons of uncertainty and of sorrow along the way, as was the case in Mary’s life, as is the case in any human life. This will be a time to cling tenaciously to your belief in God’s power to transform, in his fidelity to his promises, his tenderness in doing so in the best possible way, even if it is a way you do not understand, and most of all his intense longing for you. If you persevere in faith and love toward union, your life will become like the sealed fountain at the center of the garden, whose waters are directed out into the world as living water for your poor people to drink. In this, with Mary, may your cup of joy overflow.”


Please pray for Sr. Lily and all of our Order’s monks and nuns in formation.

For those interested in exploring joining our way of life, we invite you to visit our page Becoming a Trappist