“To the praise of His glory”
FIRST PROFESSION of SISTER ELIZABETH OF THE TRINITY
July 23, the Solemnity of Our Lady, Mother of Grace, has always been very special to us because it is the titular of our Monastery. This year the feast was even more joyous because it was the day our Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity made her First Profession of Vows.
This blessed day was the culmination of a long journey, from Vietnam to the United States. Anna Le was the second of four children, all of whom still live in Vietnam with their parents. She first felt the call to religious life after receiving her First Communion and that desire never left her. After completing high school, her spiritual advisor, Father Joseph Mary Nguyen Binh, OCD, directed her to the Carmel of Lafayette, where her aunt, our Sister Camille, had preceded her. Although Sister’s parents were hesitant at first to accept her vocation, they finally gave their faith-filled permission for her to enter our Carmel, even though the United States must have seemed a whole world away from them.
Sister arrived in Lafayette on October 7, 2013, bringing with her not only an exceptionally generous and joyous spirit but a wonderful musical ability – she was (and still is) a gifted pianist – a gift which she quickly learned to transfer to the organ. (Now she is our permanent organist, providing support for the singing and beauty for the liturgy.) Even though there were cultural and language differences, these were not a hindrance, and Sister fit easily into our community from the very first. She began her postulancy a few days after her arrival. A year later she was clothed in the Carmelite habit on October 1, the feast of St. Therese, and received the name Elizabeth of the Trinity.
Her Profession was preceded by a two year Novitiate, during which Sister learned about the Carmelite Rule and Constitutions and studied the teachings of our Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus, our Holy Father, St. John of the Cross and, of course, the writings of her namesake, Blessed (soon to be Saint) Elizabeth of the Trinity, to whom she is particularly attracted. She experienced first hand the joys and challenges of daily Carmelite life, the struggles and joys of prayer, the charity, support and example of Sisters living together in the love of the Lord for the benefit of the Church.
Because her twelve day retreat for Profession would have fallen during the days of the Mt. Carmel Novena, Sister made her retreat earlier but was given the three days previous to her Profession to complete her preparations for her self-gift to Jesus.
The ceremony of exchange of love and vows began as we processed to choir, singing the hymn beloved of our Carmel, in praise of our Mother of Grace, Ave Mater Gratiae : Hail, Mother of Grace, hail Virgin of Virgins, humanity’s hope of salvation, Virgin Mother of Grace! Father Joseph, who had preached our Mount Carmel Novena, was in attendance, accompanied by Father Vincent Pham, also a Carmelite, who was ordained just last year. We began Morning Prayer of the feast, continuing it until the short reading. Father Joseph then gave a short exhortation about the meaning and beauty of the three vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience Sister would pronounce.
Following Father Joseph’s exhortation, Sister Elizabeth knelt before Mother Regina and pronounced her vows, making of herself a total gift of love to Jesus. He, through Mother Regina, crowned her gift with blossoms of beauty and fragrance, thereby designating her as His true Spouse and Queen.
We continued praising our Mother with Morning Prayer and afterward took a community picture and some other photos to perpetuate the beautiful experience. We remained in prayer until time for Mass.
The proper Mass in honor of Mater Gratiae was offered for Sister Elizabeth, with a special mention of her Profession and her family in the General Intercessions. In his homily Father Joseph spoke of his experience in meeting Sister Elizabeth for the first time. He was attracted to her because of her obvious joy; she was always smiling. Father asked her why. She answered that she didn’t know why but as Father persisted in his questions, she told him she always smiled because she was aware of God’s Presence within her and this made her happy. Father immediately thought of the similar experience of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity. This was also an incentive for her name in Carmel.
As our newly professed begins her new life of union with Jesus we pray that Blessed Elizabeth will be a “big sister” to her, leading her along the ways of adoration, sacrifice and prayer, to “the praise of His glory.”