Solemn Vows in Norcia

Even though health and wellness professionals are making daily discoveries that claim to improve and extend life, a vague “fear of missing out” seems to be affecting more and more people. Fear of “missing out” feeds an unwillingness to commit to marriage, to family, or even to work for more than a few years at one job.

But when Br. Augustine Wilmeth of South Carolina made his Solemn Vows on the feast of the Sacred Heart this last Friday, promising to live as a monk until the day of his death, he gave us not only reason to rejoice for his decision, but hope that all of us — married or monks — can make the sacrifices necessary to live this short time we have on earth entirely for God.

Joined by family and friends from the United States and Italy and his brother monks, our little wooden chapel sheltered those present from the thundering storm outside, providing a dramatic contrast to the ancient chants and exhortations of the ritual:

May he be “far from the pomps of the secular world, distant from the web of life’s dangers, may he not fear adversity, may he bare injury willingly, love and care for friends and enemies alike, his deeds and heart filled with chastity, may his heart and mouth be surrounded and filled with the love of the Omnipotent God.”

One of the ways a monk must grow in humility, despite the profound call of his vocation, is to not take himself too seriously. This was made easier by the show of song and juggling our friends, the students of St. Gregory the Great Academy (https://gregorythegreatacademy.org/) , performed in the rain after the ceremony. These fine young men had once again made Norcia a restful stop on their foot pilgrimage to Rome.

Without their realizing it, the juggling was an icon of the monastic life, which is simply the Christian life, lived apart. Our Savior Jesus Christ came to save the world, not to condemn it. Yet each one of us still has to live in the world, with fear and trembling, working out his own salvation. We must try to bring order out of the disorder of our world and of our soul, and all the while not lose hope since it is God’s action not ours that matters most.

In Christ,
Prior Benedict Nivakoff, O.S.B.