At the service of the mission for one’s whole life:
Perpetual Profession of Frt. Philip Abilio Lenço, C.M.M.
Salamanca, January 6, 2017
On the evening of January 6, 2017, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, another young missionary of Mariannhill, Frt. Philip made his perpetual profession.
The celebration took place in the parish church of the patron of the city of Salamanca, Saint John of Sahagún.
Already five years ago, after his novitiate, Frt. Philip was transferred to Spain in order to begin the formative process for becoming a priest of Christ.
Wishing to move a step further in his religious and missionary commitment, Frt. Philip, on the evening of that solemn and missionary feast, consecrated himself to God for life, making public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Together with the missionary community of Mariannhill in Spain some other priests close to Mariannhill, as well as a large assembly of faithful, all friends of Mariannhill, were present at the celebration.
A choir composed of young people from the parish of Saint John of Sahagún and some Mariannhill missionaries in formation animated the whole celebration with song. The varied repertoire of songs performed in Spanish, Portuguese and Makua helped to make the celebration lively and meaningful.
Faithful to the liturgy of the day, the celebration had as a backdrop the story of those Wise Men coming from the East who, guided by a star, left their land and embarked on a risky journey in search of an unknown king. In their search they found the famous King Herod and the star disappeared. The star appeared again when they found Jesus, whom they recognized as the King they were looking for.
After the reading of the Gospel, Fr. Lino Herrero Prieto, C.M.M., regional superior of the Missionaries of Mariannhill in Spain, who presided over the celebration, gave the homily. In the first part of the homily he pointed out that the simplicity and charm of the event of the wise men of the East should not distract our attention from what lies behind it. This simple and charming event reveals to us, under the image of the star, that God wants all men to be saved; that Jesus was sent as a light to enlighten all nations; and that Mary is the Mother who has presented this light to all peoples. The light of God shone even in those distant regions, beyond the visible borders of Israel, and in this way revealed itself to all the peoples, represented in those mysterious persons coming from the East and guided by a star. Meanwhile and ever since, the great caravan of mankind is still on the move seeking the God-Man Savior. They are led by a guiding star, i.e. the intuition that only in Jesus will they find the desired salvation. Mankind loses its orientation and the star hides when Jesus is mixed up with any other of those who claim to be saviors. The star always tells us where the real and authentic things are and where the substitutes are.
Once the homily was finished, in accord with the ritual of perpetual profession, Frt. Philip, after being called by the deacon, was questioned about his willingness to assume the commitments connected with the step he was about to take.
As such a step can only be sustained and guaranteed by the help that comes from above, all of us, with the singing of the litany of the Saints, asked for the blessing of God on Frt. Philip while he remained prostrate before the altar.
At the end of this part of the ritual Frt. Philip, with a candle burning in his hand and kneeling before his superior, read the formula of profession which he himself had hand written.
Particularly significant and touching was the moment when, after finishing the reading of the formula and before signing it, Frt. Philip was approached by the other confreres, dressed in showy African clothes, who engaged him in a sung dialogue which expressed the generous surrender to God of Frt. Philip as a missionary of Mariannhill in the service of the mission of the Church.
Then followed the long and beautiful prayer over Frt. Philip who, in order to live in a radical way the consecration of his Baptism, had just consecrated himself to God for his whole life.
The rite of perpetual profession ended with the reception of Frt. Philip into the Congregation of Mariannhill as a full member. Then the celebration of the Eucharist continued.
Let us now turn to the words the regional superior addressed to Frt. Philip in the second part of the homily.
Dear Frt. Philip, the following words are specially meant for you this evening, as you consecrate yourself to God for life by making public vows of the three evangelical counsels in this missionary family of Mariannhill.
The undisputed protagonist of this day is the star. This special luminous body began to disturb the peaceful life of those wise studiers of the firmament. Once they discovered it in the sky, they understood that they had to complicate life and embark on a journey to find someone special, of whom the star was a sign. The star was for them the safe guide on the road.
Through human reasoning those sages got off track, for they came to believe that the capital, where the king lived, was the ultimate goal of their adventurous journey. Proof of their mistake is that the star disappeared. When they were again pointed in the right direction the star reappeared, filling their heart with joy. The star stood still at the place where the object of their quest was. After reaching their goal they no longer needed the guidance of the star in the sky, for the star was now shining in their inner sky. Therefore they returned to their land by another road.
Dear Frt. Philip, is not this perhaps the best parable of the journey that your vocation has taken and which is to continue in the future? Is not your vocation a path marked by stages, always new and unpublished?
We all need a star to live by. There are those stars that are fleeting: they shine brightly and are beautiful but they do not last. Then there are the authentic stars: they do not always shine; they are demanding; and they do not make life easy for us. Sometimes they hide themselves, but they lend us the great service of warning us of the falsehood of idols.
Dear Frt. Philip, who is supposed to be your guiding star? In the light of which star should you walk?
The star which has to shine in the firmament of your life is God Himself, is Christ, and is Mary. God tells you where the truth is and where the lie, where the true values and where the fleeting ones, where the idols and where He is who is the true God. Christ illuminates your conscience with his light. He guides you towards the goal to which you have been called, admonishing you against everything that impoverishes and degrades your human and Christian dignity.
Mary is the star of the morning whose mission is to warn you of the imminent appearance of that Sun who is born from on high, her Son and Lord. Mary makes you uneasy, inviting you to always look up so you do not settle for what is given to you on the ground level. Mary is the one who introduces you to the house of the Church, showing you Jesus so that you may adore him and offer him the best of your life without stinginess or pettiness. Mary is the one who urges you to share the joy of discovery as you return by that other path that is called conversion and new life to the normality of daily existence.
After congratulating the newly professed, all of us left that celebration with the determination to walk in the light of the star and, with missionary passion, to invite all to join the great caravan of the seekers of God.
Fr. Lino Herrero Prieto CMM