"Receive this veil, that you may admit no lover but Him"
I had the splendid occasion yesterday to open up my mail and discover a card from my good friend Jesse, who entered the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration last summer on the feast of the Assumption (The PCPA is Mother Angelica's order, of EWTN fame).
As a postulant, Jesse is unable to write to us very often. We did get a letter for Christmas, and when a few of us sent her some Easter treats she was able to write us then too. And then I get this card, an invitation to "The Clothing Ceremony of Sister Jessica" on the Solemnity of the Assumption, Monday August 15th, 2005!!
Unfortunately, I will not be able to travel to Alabama to see her, as I will be leaving for Italy on August 7th for a year of study... :( But I will be in Assisi on the feast of St. Clare, August 11th, and will be in Turin for the Assumption, so I will be in good places to pray for her from afar! I hope everyone else who reads this will also keep Jesse, and all who are entering religious life, in their prayers, as they continue to discern God's call for their lives.
Inside the card was a fascinating slip of paper with an explanation of what happens at a Poor Clare of Perpetual Adoration Clothing ("Investiture") ceremony -- I reprint it here:
After this year of discernment, she is admitted into the novitiate. This ceremony is known as an in investiture. At the investiturre ceremony (which immediately follows the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass), many exciting things take place! It begins with a Scripture reading from Genesis that the nun is asked again what her heart desires. To this she responds, "Reverend Mother, I desire to spend my life at the Feet of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament."
A reading from Philippians follows this dialogue between the abbess and the nun. Then, after the holy habit is blessed by the priest, the abbess proceeds to cut the nun's hair. This symbolizes her total renunciation of the vanities of the world.
After the abbess does this, she then clothes the nun in the holy habit of our Order. The habit is an exterior sign of our commitment and total consecration to Jesus Christ. Each part of the holy habit, even its colors, has deep spiritual meaning.
Underneath the white veil, the nun wears a white head covering. This is a symbol that her mind is not on "the world" but on the Kingdom that is to come. No part of her mind, intellect, memory, or will is to be part of the world, part of darkness, or part of anything that is contrary to Jesus Christ.
The white collar is a symbol that the nun is surrounded with "community", the religious life lived in common. She wishes to live in goodness, in love, and in poverty of mind and heart. She puts at the very top of her body, which is consecrated to God, something white as a constant reminder that she is a temple of the Holy Spirit. That temple must be ever clean and pure. All the white parts of her habit are a symbol of her desire to exemplify the awesome purity of God Himself in the Most Holy Eucharist.
The earthly colors of the brown Franciscan habit reminds the nun of the Scripture passage used on Ash Wednesday: "Remember thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return." It also is a remembrance for her that - without Him - she is absolutely nothing.
The white Franciscan cord, with three knots in it, symbolizes the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience that this new novice hopes to make at her first holy profession. Over the habit is placed a brown mantle, which is worn at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is a symbol of the nun's love for Our Lady and also of the Blessed Virgin Mary's maternal protection.
After the nun receives the holy habit, she chants Psalm 40 - Here I am, Lord, I come to do Your Will. Then after the Holy Gospel is proclaimed, she receives a new name. Each nun is privileged to have the Holy Name of Mary as part of her own religious name. in addition to this, she is given a title (example: Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation).
The ceremony concludes as the Community greets its newest novice. Of course, we know, that this is no an ending, but actually a beginning. The novice will spend two years in the novitiate learing about the religious life and being formed in the spirit of the Order. After this blessed time of formation, the nun will profess her first holy vows.
+Sts. Francis & Clare, pray for us!