Last Saturday we concluded Jesuit Heritage Week when Fr. Greg Schenden professed final vows in Dahlgren Chapel. When I look back and reflect on that day, I am surprised to find that what strikes me most is the idea of “home.”
When I first heard the news of his final vows, I was impressed that Greg decided to take his vows at home in Georgetown, as my previous experience of vows was with big groups that required a central location. On the day of the vows, this idea of home was even more evident as he made his profession in Dahlgren Chapel, where he says mass for us almost every day. More importantly, he celebrated this important day in his life not only with his family and life-long friends, but also with his “friends in the Lord”: the Jesuit and Georgetown communities who walk alongside Greg every day in his ongoing journey of faith.
Fr. Howard Gray preached the homily and anchored the celebration in a human understanding of the vows, which also made me think of home, though in a much broader sense of the word. Often the vows can seem rather otherworldly – meant for the perfect instead of ordinary people like us. They can seem quite exotic or mysterious, making one wonder if people are crazy for wanting to give up so much in the pursuit of poverty, chastity, and obedience. So instead of focusing on the daunting and seemingly impossible “sacrifices” of the vows, Fr. Gray preached about the vows in terms of what makes each of us truly human:
- Poverty orients us to the other – people are more important than things.
- Chastity is living out a love that can be trusted.
- Obedience reminds us of the transcendent – it points to something bigger and beyond us.
Understood this way, the vows are something in which we can all find our true home. Jesuits have a specific way of living the vows; but the vows are also in a sense for everyone in that they remind us of how we would like to live our lives with meaning and purpose.
Lastly, because I hope to take my own first vows this summer, I can’t help reflecting on this vow day and what it means for me. Before the ceremony, I was interested to see how I would be affected watching a brother Jesuit take this final step in his formation. Would I feel excited, overjoyed, nervous, or overwhelmed? Would I feel affirmed or not? In the end, I felt very much at home where I am on this particular path towards professing vows myself. I feel at home at Georgetown, working in Campus Ministry and walking my own journey of faith along with so many people of varied perspectives and faith traditions. I feel at home in the supportive and loving community of Jesuits assembled for Greg on his vow day. Finally, I felt assured in the way Greg seemed so at ease and himself in taking vows – surrounded by a loving community, walking with others as pilgrims, and living out his life committed to something beyond himself.
Written by Justin Grosnick, n.S.J.