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Mar 22nd
Home Columns A Cup O' Kapeng Barako Sister Grace Marie Takes her "Final Vows," Becomes a "Bride" of Christ Jesus
Sister Grace Marie Takes her "Final Vows," Becomes a "Bride" of Christ Jesus PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - A Cup O' Kapeng Barako
Friday, 22 October 2010 11:08


By Jesse Jose

A Cup O' Kapeng Barako 

It was a wedding.


A wedding of my sister-in-law, Sister Grace Marie, a former accountant and now a Nun of the St. Joseph's Carmelite Monastery in Seattle, Washington, to the One Above – the son of Our Father – whom we all call, Christ Jesus. This wedding is called the "Solemn Profession of Vows."  To us, ordinary folks, it's called the "Final Vows" of a Carmelite Sister. The day that she became a "bride" of Jesus. 


There are four stages – five to six years of praying, meditating and contemplating – for a Carmelite nun to attain this sacred marriage with the Lord. 


The first step is as a "postulant," wherein someone aspiring (or postulating) to become a nun, gets accepted and enters the monastery.  After several months, she's "clothed," where she then gets to wear the brown and white habit of a Carmelite Sister. This is the "novice" stage and she can now be addressed as a "sister." After two years of meditation and contemplation and intense study of the "Charism of the Order," and of making sure that the cloistered life is for the sister, she can then take the "First Vows or Temporary Vows."  And this is called the simple-professed stage. Three more years of praying to the Lord and self-reflection and "continuous discernment" to meditation and contemplation ... and in believing that she really has the "calling," she then takes the "Final Vows." This stage is called the solemnly-professed stage, or simply the "wedding" with Christ Jesus. 


Though it takes five to six years of prayers, contemplation and meditation to become a "bride" of Jesus, the praying and the meditating continues on until death.


A BEAUTIFUL WEDDING: Sister Grace Marie's wedding was a beautiful thing to behold. It was full of awe and splendor, and of pomp and circumstance. It was glorious. It was full of symbolisms, the Catholic faith in full display. It was a joyful, blessed day. 


It was heavenly ... And watching all these and being a part of it, strengthened my belief in my faith.


I don't really have the command of words to describe the whole thing. So I am just going to tell this story, Dear Readers, the way it actually happened, the way I saw it and felt it, through my own limited perspective, limited words and limited understanding on what transpired before my eyes.


I had a little part in this celebration. I was the lector of the Second Reading of the Liturgy. 


So I was dressed to kill: black suit, blue tie with a little blue silk hanky peeking from my breast pocket. I also wore my fancy cowboy boots that I polished and shined the night before. I was "dude up," in other words.


This story really began when I was shepherded into a little dressing room, just outside the door of the little, quaint chapel of the St. Joseph's Monastery, where Sister Grace Marie is cloistered. Like monks, I suppose.


In this little room where I was guided into, I met in person The Most Reverend Alexander J. Brunett, the Archbishop of Seattle. Several young men in white robes gathered around him. They were all tall and big and good looking, like college football players. I am 5'11, but these young men were all taller than me. One held the Archbishop's scepter, another, his hat, called the "miter" and another, his ceremonial robe. The Archbishop was almost as tall as them. And though he's in his late seventies, he looked lean and vibrant and vital, and his fair skin, clear and smooth and unblemished. I learned later that these young men were handpicked altar servers. 


An elderly-looking man in a white robe, the deacon I learned later, was also in the room with us ... and a woman who would be the lector of the First Reading of the Liturgy. 


I probably looked lost and strange in that room that the Archbishop approached me, extended his hand in friendship and in a kind voice, asked: "And, who are you?"


"I am the brother-in-law of Sister Grace Marie ..." I stammered. I've never spoken with an Archbishop before and didn't know how to address him, whether it was "Your Holiness," "Reverend" ... or "Sir."


"The brother-in-law, huh?" he said. I nodded several times in answer.  I should have said, "Yes, your Reverend, I am." But in my ignorance, I didn't how to address him. My wife told me later how.


T hen, the singing of the church hymn, "The Summons," led by the church's vocalists, came on: 


Will you come and follow me, if I but call your name?

Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?

Will you let my love be shown ...

Will you let my name be known ...

Will you let my life be grown ...

In you and you in me?...


The procession in the middle aisle of the church begun.  The altar servers first and the deacon, then the other lector and ahem, me.  Then, the Archbishop.  On the front pew, I took my seat next to Maribel.  Soon as the altar servers and the Archbishop reached the altar, the opening prayers were recited.  Seated in the far right of the altar were four priests who would "concelebrate" with the Archbishop in the consecration of the Holy Eucharist.


After the first lector came on and read the 2 Kings 5:14-7, the church cantors sung the Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 98): The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power....


A SECOND READING OF THE LITURGY: Then, I came on for the Second Reading.  I stood up, ambled my way to the altar, bowed and looked at Him, who was nailed on the Cross, uttered a prayer and asked Him to help me proclaimed His Words as flawlessly as possible.  I reached the lectern.  I scanned the congregation.  The church was crowded.  Even the side aisles were occupied.  I looked to my left, at the group of nuns sitting in an enclosure, separated from the congregation.


I looked at the "bride," sitting between Sister Sean and Sister Maria Valla, the mother superior of the monastery.  She looked radiant and beatific.


Then ... I begun to read (I prayed it really) 2 Timothy 5:8-13, which was one of the readings from the Second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy.  The first word was "Beloved."  When I uttered that word, I looked again at the "bride."  She was smiling.  I believed that THAT ONE who is nailed on the Cross, heard my prayers, because my voice, despite of my nervousness to be reading in front of several people, came out strong and confident. 


With reverence, I enunciated each word, especially in this portion that reads:


If we have died with him

   we shall also live with him;

If we persevere

   we shall also reign with him.

But if we deny him

   he will deny us.

If we are unfaithful,

   he remains faithful

   for he can NOT deny himself ...

The Word of the Lord.


THE WEDDING CEREMONY: The "formator" of the ceremony called Sister Grace Marie by name.  She answered: "Lord, you have called me; here I am."  Then, a dialogue with the Archbishop followed:


Archbishop Brunett: "My dear Sister, what do you ask of the Triune God and of His Holy Church?"


Sister Grace Marie: "I ask for perseverance in following Christ, my Bridegroom, in this Teresian community of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel all the days of my life."


Then, the Archbishop rendered his homily.  After that, the dialogue continued, questioning Sister Grace Marie on her readiness to dedicate herself to God and to seek perfect charity, according to the Rule and Constitutions of the Order.  The dialogue concluded with the Archbishop saying: "May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment before the day of Christ Jesus."


The congregation in unison said, "Amen."


Then ... the Archbishop prayed and recited the "Litany for the Rite of Religious Profession," invoking the names of Christ Jesus and the Holy Mother, and Mary, the Queen of Carmel and St. Michael and the Holy Angels and Elijah, the Holy prophet of God, to be merciful and to hear the congregation's prayers  The names of St. John, the Baptist and St. Joseph and several other saints were also invoked.


While this Litany was being prayed, Sister Grace Marie prostrated herself in front of the altar.  She remained prostrated throughout the length of the Litany and during the closing prayer of the Archbishop.


Then ... the Mother Superior came forward and Sister Grace Marie came to her and the "Profession of Vows" was read to my sister-in-law.  Then they both went up to the altar and Sister Grace Marie signed the "Document of Profession," signifying her marriage to Lord Jesus.


THE MAGNIFICAT: Then ... standing at side of the altar, my sister-in-law sung the Magnificat (My Soul Rejoices).  It's also known as the "Song of Mary."  The words of this canticle is taken directly from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:46-55), where it is believed to have been spoken by the "pregnant" Virgin Mary when she visited her cousin, Elizabeth.  In the narrative, after Mary greeted Elizabeth, who was also pregnant with the future John the Baptist, the child moved within Elizabeth's womb.  When Elizabeth praised Mary for her faith, Mary sung the Magnificat in response. 


This song is a beautiful thanksgiving prayer for praising and glorifying the Lord. When Sister Grace Marie sung this prayer in her sweet and melodious voice, I listened intently and felt her naked devotion and love for God. I was touched. Here are the lyrics of this song, as my sister-in-law sung it.  Share and enjoy.


My soul rejoices in my God, my spirit proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

Holy is His name.


He has looked upon His servant in her lowliness.

Every age to come shall call me blest.

God who is mighty has done great things.

His mercy is from age to age.


He has shown to those who fear the Lord His mighty arm.

He confused the proud within their thoughts.

He has set down the mighty from their thrones,

and raised the lowly ones on high.


He has given every good thing to the hungry ones,

While He leaves the rich with empty hands.

He has been mindful of His mercy,

As He once promised Abraham.


My soul rejoices in my God, my spirit proclaims the greatness

of the Lord, Holy is His name.

Holy is His name.

Holy is His name.


FROM WHITE VEIL TO BLACK VEIL: After Archbishop Brunett prayed the solemn blessing over Sister Grace Marie, the Mother Superior presented the Black Veil to the Archbishop, who blessed it and then presented it to the new "bride."


Then a hymn from Psalm 139 (Englert) was sung by the cantors:


Lord, you've searched me and you know me,

       you know the secrets of my heart.

Even before a word is on my lips, O Lord,

       behold, you knew it in my heart.


Mother Superior Maria Valla then escorted Sister Grace Marie to the enclosure, and with Sister Sean, removed the WHITE VEIL from the head of the new bride and placed the BLACK VEIL on her, marking the fact that the newly-professed "bride of Jesus" has been admitted as a lifelong member of the religious and cloistered family of nuns of St. Joseph's Carmelite Monastery of Seattle, Washington. And forever and ever, Sister Grace Marie has become a "bride" of Christ Jesus, serving the Lord for the rest of her life. 


So on that blessed Sunday, the Tenth of October, Two-Thousand and Ten: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done according to your word."  And indeed, it is done, according to the Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God, Sister Grace Marie is fulfilled.  JJ


PS: To be continued ... After this wedding ceremony, a sumptuous dinner was held inside the monastery and all the immediate relatives of Sister Grace were invited. It's a blessing, a privilege and an honor to be invited in the inner sanctum of a monastery and to dine with nuns. It was also a lot of fun for me. I'll tell you all about it in my next story. Till then, God bless and y'all take care.


Editor’s Note: To read Jesse Jose’s Oct. 18, 2007, article about Sister Grace Marie, please click on this link, A Blessed Day, A Special Day: "Dining in Carmel... ites"




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Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 November 2010 13:34
Comments (6)
1 Saturday, 23 October 2010 08:55
Nice insight, Pareng Jesse.

Romy Marquez
Superb writing as usual JJ. I feel so small compared to what Sister Grace Marie has done. Please ask her to include us in her prayers.

3 Saturday, 23 October 2010 15:50
What a wonderful way with words you have! As I read this, I could picture the ceremony. I especially appreciate that you have expressed the beautiful words from the readings, the hymns and the psalm in this article. I have great admiration for Sister Grace Marie and her all-encompassing commitment to our Lord, Jesus. I join with Ed's petition that she include us in her prayer.


Kathy Bennett
4 Sunday, 24 October 2010 14:32

What a beautiful rendition of what happened during this ceremony. As you know, I was a member of the congregation. This is the first time I had ever attended a ceremony like this. Tara and I were so happy that you invited us. The ceremony was trully wonderful, and our Heavenly Father has certainly blessed Sister Marie Grace.

Your view point has given me more insight as to what went on, as it was difficult to see all that transpired from where we sat. Tara and I were truly blessed just to be there. I was also impressed by your reading from 2nd Timothy. There was passion in your presentation, and I could tell there was love for what you were doing. Your message conveyed to one and all what this ceremony meant to you. This column just confirms it.

I also wanted to thank you for being my friend. It has meant a lot to me, especially with our ties to the Navy and the Brotherhood of Navy Chief Petty Officers. I have enjoyed our conversations and the times we have gotten together with our wives. Our discussions on numerous topics have been delightful. Tara and I are very happy to call you both our friends.

God Bless you. May He always keep you safe and give you the guidance necessary to continue this good work.

Vivat Jesus,

Gerry Garrison
Auburn, WA

Life is short. Forgive quickly. Kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile.
5 Monday, 25 October 2010 07:39
Dear Jesse,

Thank you for sharing the blessing you personally experienced on the occasion of my solemn profession of vows as a Discalced Carmelite nun. Indeed great blessings has the Lord God Amighty poured out on all of us and the whole Church, because His will is done. All of us are called to be a witness and give witness to our Christian faith.

I invite you and your readers to check out website to know something about the Carmelite spirituality, the origin and background of our small community here in Seattle and have a glimpse of our daily life.

God reward you my dear brother.

Sr. Grace Marie
Hi Jesse,

So now, I have finally read your story. I think it will be a great account for those who have not had the privilege of sharing in such a precious moment. The ceremony was such a special uniting. The parts that were most poingnant to me that day were when Sister Grace Marie prostrated herself before the Lord, when she sang those final words of the Magnificat, and when she received her veil. Your account does a beautiful job of showing Sister Grace Marie's joy in the Lord and how special a life dedicated to prayer can be. I think everyone who reads Sister Grace's story will be touched and will be drawn to turn their faces to the Lord to pray for His same loving touch for them - isn't it what we all hope for? To be able to rest in the love of our Lord?

Thank you for sharing your story with me. I know your publisher will be very pleased with such a special account.

Also, thank you again for this evening - it was a lot of fun. It's always great to spend time with you folks.

Thank you,

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