From the time a friend announced on Facebook that she would be taking her Final Promises as a Lay Dominican, I was inspired to be there to witness it.
Kevin and I went to St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish in Charlottesville for the final profession of lifelong promises that Pam Pilch and a number of other men and women took on the Feast day (January 28) of St. Thomas Aquinas to become lay Dominicans (formerly known as the third order).
That night I felt was a coming together of past, present, and future. Last August, Kevin and I went to St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish for the funeral of Monsignor Chester P. Michael, the man who developed the program for laity that is known as the Spiritual Direction Institute (SDI). Kevin and I are currently taking the two year course in spiritual direction which he created.
The first time since the funeral in August that we returned to St. Thomas Aquinas was on the Wednesday evening towards the end of January to support Pam living out her vocation to prayer, contemplation, preaching, teaching, and service as a lay Dominican.
I actually don’t know Pam all that well personally. What I do know and have witnessed is that she is a prayerful, faith-filled woman who is actively seeking, discerning, and doing her best to live out God’s will for her life. God comes first, then her husband and their three sons. Another thing that inspired me to learn more about Pam is that her ongoing vocational and career discernment has by no means ended, and I can totally relate to that. (One of my favorite poems/ prayers for discernment St. Teresa of Avila’s "In Your Hands," which you can read here).
Each person, whether taking temporary promises for three years, one year, or final promises for life, chooses a formal name by which they’ll officially be known in the community. Pam chose Sister Catherine Scholastica as her name.
This is the profession that each candidate made kneeling before the altar: “To the honor of Almighty God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and of Blessed Mary, the Virgin, and St. Dominic, I ___________, in your presence, Marta, the Presider of this Fraternity, and Fr. Scordo, in the place of the Master of the Order of Friars Preachers, promise that I will live according to the Rule of the Laity of Saint Dominic for life.”
After the blessing of the Large Scapulars, this was prayed: “O God, the author and perfecter of all holiness, you call all who are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit to the fullness of the Christian life and the perfection of charity. With the aid of Mary, the Mother of Mercy, look with kindness on your servants, who devoutly receive this scapular of our Order. Let them become sharers in the image of Christ your Son, and after they have fulfilled their mission on earth, with the help of the Virgin Mother of God and the Patron of the Order, may they be worthy to enter into the joy of Your house. We ask this through Christ our Lord.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Presider says to the newly promised: “Having been clothed with this scapular of our Order, you have been accepted into the Lay Fraternity of Saint Dominic for life, that you may continue to eagerly serve Christ and His Church in the spirit and charism of this Order; and by the power vested in me, I affirm your participation in all the spiritual goods of the entire Dominican Family.”
Pam’s husband and three sons were in attendance for the Mass. We saw them across the church, but we didn't get a chance to say hi in person. They weren’t up for staying through Evening Prayer and the reception afterwards, so Kevin and I got to be Pam’s guests.
It was great to be there with Kevin for the Mass and reception, see people I recognized from other activities such as 40 Days for Life, and support a God-centered friend. Again, past, present, and future collided, and I could see a glimpse of brighter light, hope, and opportunity than I had before.
Lord, thank you for the gift and blessing of faith-filled friends who inspire us to draw ever closer to You. Amen.