As the Church celebrates the canonization of two of the children of Fatima today, we have an extra reason to celebrate! Clothing, vestition, investiture, all these terms describe the beautiful day when our monastery welcomes a new member and gives her both the holy habit of the Order and a new name. Postulants aren't, properly speaking, members of the community. They are admitted into the enclosure and undertake a period of 'asking' (postulare=to ask), but their blue jumper (or any lay clothes!) is a visual symbol that they are still apart not yet a part. They are asking to become members of the community (at vestition), and eventually members of the Order (at profession).
Today Sr. Clare was welcomed as a member of our community and was given the habit and the religious name Sr. Mary Dominic of the Divine Will. Today also marks the beginning of her novitiate. One year of novitiate, called the canonical novitiate, is required by Church law, but our monastery (along with most others) adds a second year after it before first profession. This is a time of probation where the sister is free to leave at any time and the community is also free to send her away if either determines that this is not God's plan for her.
The clothing ceremony takes place in our Chapter Hall in place of Terce. The sisters gather and sing a hymn chosen by the novice-to-be. The novice mistress then leads the postulant to the prioress where the postulant prostrates. The prioress asks her, "What do you seek?" and the postulant responds, "God's mercy and yours."
The postulant returns to her place and reads the reading, after which the chantresses intone the responsorial antiphon "Taste and see that the Lord is good." The alleluia and gospel follow, and then all are seated while the prioress gives her sermon.
Finally the Veni Creator is intoned and the postulant is brought to the prie-dieu to be clothed in the habit. The Veni Creator is always a little shaky as sisters try to watch the clothing without losing their place amidst the verses.
The intercessions follow and then Ubi Caritas is sung while the new novice gives the sign of peace to each sister.
And then the moment we've all been waiting for! Up until this point in the ceremony we still don't know the new novice's name, as it is kept a secret from the professed community. The new novice kneels before the prioress and receives the name she will bear in the Order.
"Your baptismal name is Clare Therese Wong...
In the Order you will be called
Sr. Mary Dominic of the Divine Will"
The ceremony concludes with the Salve. Everyone then files out to the community room for a more informal greeting of the new novice. As usual we find that the new name fits Sister perfectly and she looks as though she was born to wear the habit! Then the question comes...what will her feast day be? You'll have to stay tuned for that, as it hadn't been decided yet!
And last comes the new novitiate pictures, this time appropriately posed with Our Lady of Fatima in the refectory!
Please keep our sister in your prayers as she begins her novitiate!