“Like a marriage; like a funeral; this ceremony celebrates both a new life and a death.” With these words, Fr. Asher explained the ceremonies of the habit and vows of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) Brothers to the Faithful of St. Mary’s.
The ceremony on September 29th, the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, was the highlight and culmination of a privileged visit to which the St. Mary’s community was treated. The 25 Brothers stationed throughout the United States District came to Kansas for their yearly retreat, this time hosted at St. Mary’s and preached by Fr. Asher. For a wee,k the Brothers recollected, prayed, and prepared at a nearby retreat center where the Academy students go every year for their own retreats. Then they came to the campus for the life-defining ceremony on Sunday morning, the "ceremony of life and death."
The Brothers of the Society take the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Their life is a support of the priestly work of the Society; theirs is the unique role of being a consecrated soul augmenting a community. Consecration, as Fr. Asher explained throughout his sermon, is firstly a certain "dying." It is to willfully remove oneself from the goods bestowed by God to men: personal possessions, a family life, our very will, is indeed a type of death to an individual. To see the vows only negatively though would be to miss the whole idea and goodness of the them, it indeed would be to miss the greater reality: that the vows are a new life. Consecration certainly entails separation, like a chalice being removed from any other use than to hold the precious blood. But that separation is the very ennobling and life-giving aspect of the consecration, for who would consider it a loss to the chalice that it can henceforth only contain the Blood of Christ? Such is the consecration of a soul: to be separated from possessions is to free one’s hands to grasp something much more precious; to be separated from the love and joys of having one’s own family is to open the heart without any restriction to be filled with the love of God; to deny one’s own will definitively is to allow the Will of the eternal and loving Father to become one’s own, and thereby perfecting his life by that same perfection of love that is the life of God. Taken in those terms, the simple ceremonies become rather striking.
Two young men left behind the ways of the world and donned their funeral shroud, the cassock, as the external mark of the new life of consecration they are undertaking. A final seal in accepting this new life is a new name, “You, Dominic Kunkel, shall henceforth bear the name of Brother Charles. You, David Szemborski, shall henceforth bear the name of Brother Jude.”
Minutes later, another young man, having completed the pursuit of the consecrated life for the last nine years to the day, put his first foot into eternity with the pronunciation of his final vows. “I Christopher Tomazsicki, in Religion Brother Dominic Savio, take the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in perpetuity.”
After the postulant and novitiate years, Brothers take three sets of one-year vows, then two sets of three-year vows before making their final vows. Seven other Brothers renewed their vows in the ceremony and two took first vows.
In a world where both and life and death are treated so superficially and where definitive and serious decisions are an extreme rarity, it was a great blessing and grace for the families of St. Mary’s to be able to share with the Brothers and their families the great joy and grace of Religious professions. The Brothers were happily received by the faithful in the celebratory weekend and finished their visit by a local trip to Pilsen, KS, the birthplace of the venerable Chaplain Emil Kapaun.