Photo: Felix Carroll
'Joy and Relief'
By Dan Valenti (Aug 16, 2012)
You know it's an out-of-the-ordinary occasion when they sing the "Gloria," "Lamb of God" and other liturgical prayers in Latin. It's the Church's equivalent of bringing out the finest China, and the Marian Fathers did that on Aug. 16, 2012, for the perpetual profession of vows of Br. Matthew Holladay, MIC. Brother Matthew professed his vows during mid-morning Holy Mass at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, Eden Hill, in Stockbridge, Mass.
Father Joe Roesch, MIC, Marian vicar general, accepted his vows for the Congregation and for the Church. Marian Provincial Superior Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, presided at Mass as principal celebrant.
View a photo gallery from the day.
Perpetual Vows: A 'Fail Safe' Point
Graced by the company of a large number of his Marian brothers, his parents and siblings, and many friends and loved ones, Br. Matt took that momentous step, that of giving his life forever to Christ and the Church. Making vows for perpetuity is a decision one makes only after years of the deepest soul-searching, as Br. Matt, 35, reflected upon after the service:
"I just went on a six-day retreat [before the profession of vows], to meditate upon the years leading up to today," he said. "The priest who led the retreat told me that professing perpetual vows is like graduation. It's not a canonization. You still have plenty of hard work ahead if you want to achieve holiness. I realize that I'm at the beginning of the process, and I owe so much to the Marians for bringing me this far."
Brother Matt said he first got the inkling for religious life while in high school. He visited many congregations, and he settled upon the Marians because of his love of Our Lady. He also said that the Marians had the right combination of apostolic work and a meditative or prayerful aspect that appealed to his calling.
'Joy and Relief'
"Last night, I was going over the prayers, the Gospel readings, [and the other aspects of today's liturgy] and thinking about the meaning," Br. Matt said, adding with a laugh,"It's a lot of work to select the right ones, the ones that speak to your heart, and I think I have a little taste of what a bride goes through in planning a wedding."
Asked how he felt now that the long process toward what he hopes will be the priesthood has reached this definitive step, Br. Matt said he experienced "joy and relief." Asked what advice he would share his Marian brothers who are working toward their perpetual vows, he said he would encourage them to practice "fidelity and prayer, especially when you're not feeling the consolations. When your prayer life dries up, keep praying. You need to look at the reasons for that 'dark night,' because sometimes it's something that you're doing in your life that's not right. When the dryness comes from God, though, try to see it as a blessing, because when you pray in spite of the lack of consolation, you're doing it solely for God. It's God's way of purifying you and bringing you closer to Him."
Judy and Steve: Proud Parents
Brother Matt's parents, Judy and Steve from Louisville, Ky., attended the celebration, as did Matt's siblings — sister Beth and brother Mark.
"We are honored to be here, and this is really a big day in Matt's life," says his dad, who is a convert from the Methodist Church. "Since 10th grade, he has wanted to be in some religious community. He visited several before deciding upon the Marians. The Marian Fathers have been so nice and gracious. Judy and I appreciate this so much. Matt's a great kid. He has a deep love of Our Lady, and he wanted a congregation that combined active ministry with prayer. That describes the Marians."
Matt's Mom, Judy, said, "I just thank God and the Blessed Mother for the gift of Matthew's vocation. He calls me 'the second best mom in the world, after Mary.' That's one time I don't mind coming in second place!'"
Father Kaz expressed his joy on behalf of the Congregation: "To see this young man now dedicate himself to Christ for the rest of his life is profound. It is inspiring to see someone dedicate himself to us [the Marians] for life for service to our community. We are grateful for each vocation but especially for those who have committed themselves in support of our mission, without any conditions."
An Eternal Dedication
In his homily, Fr. Joe said it's always a "very special day" when someone promises fidelity for the rest of his life to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience: "He will dedicate himself to God forever and for all eternity."
A skeptic of the world might look at this young man of 35 and shake his head with puzzlement for the choice made today by Br. Matt, said Fr. Joe: "What's the point? Why are you throwing your life away?" that person would ask. For the answer, Fr. Joe pointed to the reading Br. Matt selected from the holy Gospel of John, 12: 24-26:
Jesus said to His disciples: "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me, and where I am, there also will My servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves Me."
The "death" to which Jesus refers, Fr. Joe says, occurs when one takes God for his spouse. Brother Matt "will experience suffering, hardship, and difficulties [in the religious life]," Fr. Joe said, but he will have the consolations of God, and the prayers of his Congregation and loved ones to help him persevere.
A Challenge to All of Us
At the same time, Fr. Joe said, "Br. Matt's vows represent a challenge to all of us: Are we willing" to do the same in our own situations in life, whatever they may be? Are we willing to forego "an inordinate attachment to the world" and to use that detachment to latch on to Christ? One thing is certain, he said, for those who choose to follow Christ yet who may fear what God might ask of them: "There is nothing to be afraid of. God wants all of us to begin living 'the heavenly life.'" God will give us no trial that is too much for us to bear, Fr. Joe said, for He will always provide a commensurate amount of grace for even the greatest ordeals.
"What Matt is doing here today is saying: 'I am putting everything else aside. God will be the center of my life … God will be my everything.'" Addressing Br. Matt directly, Fr. Joe said, "You have heard the call of God in your life, you have answered that call, and you will not regret this choice."
Marian priests attending the profession of vows and celebrating Holy Mass were Fr. Mark Baron, MIC; Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC; Fr. Matt Lamoureux, MIC; Fr. Joe; Fr. Ken Dos Santos, MIC; Fr. Bob Vennetti, MIC; Fr. Jim McCormack, MIC; Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC; Fr. Larry Dunn; MIC; and Fr. Dante Aguero, MIC.