Come, Bride of Christ
A Closer Look at the Ceremony of Profession of Vows
It takes a long time to make a nun…about eight years for a Handmaid of the Precious Blood. Much longer than your pre-Cana course for couples wanting to wed in the Catholic Church. In that time, the candidate is tested in many ways as to the authenticity of her calling and her ability to live the communal, religious life. As her openness to the grace of God deepens her generosity and love for God and neighbor, she reaches the point of concretely and publicly making her vows to God. After approximately three years, a Handmaid Novice makes First Vows, renewed each year for a minimum of five years. A photo gallery below contains images of our signs of consecration and the ceremony itself.
First Profession of Vows and the Receipt of the Scapular Emblem:
Upon making her First Profession of Vows, a Handmaid receives and wears a triangular Trinitarian emblem over her heart on her scapular showing the Holy Spirit descending over a golden Chalice .
Final Profession of Vows and the Ring, the Rosary Crucifix, and the Crown of Thorns:
Upon making her Final Profession of Vows, a Handmaid receives and wears a simple, silver wedding ring on the right hand. The hearts symbolize the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The hearts are on either side of a Chalice of the Precious Blood. Our founder referred to priests as “living Chalices of the Precious Blood” and the symbolism in the ring not only reminds us of the Precious Blood of Jesus poured out for us on the Cross but His priests, to whom the Handmaids of the Precious Blood are dedicated.
“Oh God, the preserver of the human race and giver of all spiritual grace,
send forth Thy blessings upon this ring,
that she who will wear it may be protected with heavenly strength
and keep a perfect faith and sincere will
to persevere in her promise of holy virginity, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”
At Final Profession of Vows, a Handmaid changes her side Rosary crucifix to an all pewter one.
“Holy Lord, Almighty Father, everlasting God,
be pleased to bless this crucifix,
that it may be a saving help to she who will wear it.
Let it be a support of her faith,
an encouragement to good works,
and the redemption of souls;
her consolation, protection, and a shield
against the cruel darts of the enemy;
through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”
A special symbol of Consecration, worn only on the day of Solemn Profession of Vows, Silver and Golden Jubilees, and finally in death; is the real crown of thorns. This is because a Bride of Christ must resemble her Spouse and welcome the sufferings Our Lord will ask her to bear, especially for the sake of priests in spiritual need. The thorn pricks received on the Joyful day of Solemn Profession are but a foretaste of the sacrifices to be asked of her by The Beloved in the years to come. As our chaplain remarks, “When you finally knock all the thorns off…you get a halo.”
“Oh Lord, bless this Crown of Thorns
and grant unto she who will wear it most faithfully,
to serve Thee and to be found worthy to receive
that heavenly crown which this wreath symbolizes.
Who lives and reigns in perfect unity, one God world without end. Amen.”
Profession of Vows Ceremony
The ceremony itself at Solemn Profession comes nearly 8 years after having begun the first tentative steps into living the religious life. The following are some highlights of a typical Profession Mass.
Solemn Consecration at Solemn Profession of Vows
Prior the Mass of Solemn Profession the Rev. Mother Prioress takes the Sister to the high altar where they place small lit oil lamps. Kneeling beneath the Blessed Sacrament, Mother consecrates the Sister to Our Lord.
“Lord, send the gift of your Holy Spirit upon your servant who has left all things for your sake.
Father, may her life reveal the face of Christ your Son, so that all who see her may come to know that He is always present in your Church…”
-excerpts from Rite of Religious Profession
Hymn to the Holy Spirit
The Community and assembled guests sing a hymn invoking an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on this special day. All the Sisters celebrate and give thanks to the Holy Spirit remembering their own day of profession. During the Mass, all the Handmaids renew their vows together.
Rev. Mother Prioress: My dear Sister, having completed the period of first profession required by our Rule, what is your desire?
Sister: With the help of God, I have come to know in your religious community the difficulty and the joy of a life completely dedicated to Him. Rev. Mother, I now ask to be allowed to make perpetual profession in this community of the Handmaids of the Precious Blood for the glory of God and the service of the Church.
Rev. Mother Prioress: May God Who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment before the day of Christ Jesus.
Litany of the Saints
Mindful that no vocation happens in a vacuum, the Litany of the Saints is sung as the Sister prostrates herself in the form of a Cross on the chapel floor. Singing the Litany is no mere hymn but a powerful reminder of the family in Heaven willing to assist us in fully living out our vocations. We are not alone. The form of a Cross is a fitting reminder to what is actually taking place on this day. The Sister is to follow her Beloved, her Spouse right to the Cross with Joy.
“Our religious consecration represents the everlasting union between Christ and his bride, the Church. This covenant of spousal love made with God in response to His personal call is a pledge of mutual love and fidelity, deeply rooted in our baptismal consecration. It commits us to imitate Christ’s totality of love and self-emptying…joyful fidelity in living the gift of ourselves and placing the kingdom of God above all earthly considerations is an eloquent witness to heavenly values, and enriches the life of the entire Mystical Body.”
– excerpts from Rule of Life, #9, #14
When a Handmaid of the Precious Blood, or any nun, makes her profession of the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience it is, in reality, a wedding. But it is not your average wedding ceremony. In this marriage, it is not ‘till death do us part’ but rather, ‘till death do us unite’ because the Sister is espoused to Christ Himself forever. While the ceremony has overtones similar to that of a wedding, such as a ring being placed on the finger as a symbol of consecration to Our Lord, it is much more focused joyfully on imitating Christ.
“Lord, grant the prayers of your people.
Prepare the heart of Your servant
for consecration to Your service.
By the grace of the Holy Spirit purify her from all sin
and set her on fire with Your love.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Making Solemn Profession of Final Vows
The Sister lights her candle from the baptismal candle, kneels before the Rev. Mother Prioress, places her hands on the Gospels, and makes her vow to keep forever the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience.
“In response to the gift of vocation to the religious life, and following the inspirations of grace drawing me to the sublime apostolate of the sanctification of priests, especially those in spiritual need, to which the Handmaids of the Precious Blood are dedicated…I, unworthy though I am, but nevertheless relying on the Divine Mercy, and earnestly desiring to give myself in total dedication to the worship of God through Eucharistic Adoration and prayer and sacrifice for His priests, make forever to the Adorable Trinity the vows of Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience according to the Rule of Life of the Handmaids of the Precious Blood, in your hands, Reverend Mother Prioress and in the Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of her worthy spouse, St. Joseph, and all the Heavenly Court. So help me God, and these His Holy Gospels, which I touch with my hands.”
Receiving the Signs of Consecration
“Receive this ring, for you are betrothed to the eternal King; keep faith with your Bridegroom so that you may come to the wedding feast of eternal joy. Amen.”
“Receive the crown of virginal excellence, that as you are crowned by us on earth, so may you merit to be crowned by Christ with glory and honor. Amen”
“In order that your life may be one act of perfect love, accept this crucifix as a symbol of your offering of yourself as a victim to the Merciful Love of Jesus. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Acceptance of Perpetual Profession of Vows
“By the authority entrusted to me, and in the name of the Church, I receive the vows you have taken. I earnestly commend you to God, that your gift of self made one with the sacrifice of the Eucharist, may be brought to perfection. By this perpetual profession, dear Sister, you are now fully and definitively a Handmaid of the Precious Blood and incorporated into our Congregation with all its rights, favors and privileges. Amen.”
Like a good marriage, it is not over once you say, “I do.”
Making perpetual vows is not the end of our spiritual formation…
…it is only the beginning.
Profession of Vows Photo Gallery