“But you, who do you say I am?” This question that the Lord Jesus addressed to his disciples at Caesarea Philippi, he addresses to you, dear Br Patrick, in a very particular and personal way today. When, just now, you listened to my question, “What do you ask of God and of his holy Church?’ you replied by saying, “I ask for God’s merciful love and to share in the monastic way of life in your community.” In fact, you were really replying to the question of Jesus by saying with St Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Perhaps you’re already thinking, “That’s a bit far fetched,” and no doubt the congregation thinks that too. But is it? After all, did not Jesus come to show us God’s merciful love and to teach us how to live in community as God’s beloved children? What brings a man to a monastery and what makes him persevere in the life? What leads him to ask to be professed and to take vows? Surely it must be because the Lord has called you and you have heeded his call, that you have been given the precious gift of a vocation and have not refused it? Surely it can only be because you truly believe without doubting that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God?
When, in a few moments’ time, you pronounce the vows of your First Profession as a Benedictine monk in this community of St Michael and All Angels at Belmont, the vows of Obedience, Conversatio Morum and Stability, what you will really be doing is proclaiming your faith in God, in the Holy Trinity and in the Incarnation, that Jesus is most surely the Son of the living God. Although today is a Solemnity, we priests and people will not be saying the Creed, because your Monastic Profession is a proclamation of belief, a confession of faith. As St Peter spoke on behalf of the Twelve, you will be saying on our behalf, “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour, the Son of the living God.”
Writing to Timothy, St Paul said, “ The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear.” When the Lord called you to the monastic life, he promised to stand by you and give you power so that your fidelity to Christ, to the Gospel, to the Church and to the Rule of St Benedict might bear witness to the whole world that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Please God, when you come to die, you will be able to say with St Paul, “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith.”
Think of this too: a Benedictine monastery with its community of monks living out the Gospel life in obedience to the tradition of the Catholic Church is, like St Peter, that rock on which the Church is built, against which the gates of the underworld can never hold out. That is why, unless your faith is rock solid, you will not persevere in the monastic life. Hence the importance of personal prayer and lectio divina, of our daily Mass and Communion, of regular Confession, of living the common life to the full, of work and study, of being totally disposed to do the will of God according to the mind of the Church and the traditions of this monastery. It is essential that your faith be strengthened daily by obedience, self-discipline and penance. And in moments of difficulty, trial and temptation, for surely they will come, remember that the Lord will send his angel to save you as he did when St Peter was cast into prison for being a follower of Christ.
Dear Br Patrick, may Our Lady pray for you so that, like her, every day of your life you may always say yes to God, “Fiat. Let it be done unto me according to thy word.” May St Peter and St Paul intercede for you and St Benedict be your guide. May St Francis Xavier and St Patrick support and encourage you in your endeavour. I assure you that the community, your brethren, will always be here to help you and to pray for you, so “Look towards him and be radiant. Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Amen.