"Have but one soul and one heart in God."
PART II of the clothing ceremony
After the reception of the habit and greetings by the Prioress General & the Community:
Having come this far I commit you now to the care of your novice mistress Sister Angela Mary who will assist you in adapting to our Dominican way of life by studying and observing the Rule and Constitutions.
However, I cannot let the saint of the day go unmentioned because St Vincent de Paul has a timely message for novices and all of us, especially as regards the priority of charity.
You will have read today’s excerpt from his writings in the Breviary:
“…when you leave prayer to help some poor man, remember this - that the work has been done for God. Charity takes precedence over any rules, everything ought to tend to it above all…” (cf. Reading from the Writings of St Vincent de Paul as found in Breviary Vol. III, p.284*)
As you know, Dominican Life, or rather, all religious life, is aimed at the perfection of charity and that this is not just a question of contemplation and study but also of practical application. Given tasks and jobs are to be carried out first of all in and for the community, exercising charity for the common good and then to others whom we meet. St Augustine begins the Rule saying:
“Before all else my dearest Sisters let God be loved and after Him your neighbour for these are the chief commandments which have been given to us…The first purpose for which you have been brought together is that you dwell in unity in the house, and that you have but one soul and one heart in God.”
[van Bavel’s translation: “Live together in harmony being of one mind and one heart on the way to God”]
During the first part of your Novitiate you will be limited as regards outside contacts in order to enable you to adjust to your new way of life. You should therefore experience ‘a less stressful time’ than in your previous existence, although Novitiate life will have its own ups and downs. The Novice Mistress will guide you and the immediate community, as well as the extended community at Blackfriars, will support you.
And with all our sisters I will continue to pray for you and wish you dear Sisters Maria Christina, Chiara Mary and Mary Magdalene,1 a truly fruitful Novitiate.
1. The sisters, if they wish, andwith consultation, are given a new name at clothing