(Sister Natalie Sayde will take First Vows as a Maronite Servant of Christ the Light on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, 2018, at St. Anthony of the Desert Church in Fall River, MA. Please keep Sister in your prayers.)
by Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh
As a consecrated religious sister, I will profess three vows – obedience, chastity and poverty. I would like to share on what these vows mean to me. When lived to the utmost, the vows are a radical gift of ourselves to God and His Church. He is the One who makes the living of these vows, not only a possibility, but a deep joy, for He is the One who lived them first. We strive to follow the example of the obedient, chaste and poor Christ – a very counter-cultural message in today’s age, as Jesus was in His.
Present in all of us since the sin of Adam and Eve, is the need to dominate and have our own way; to gratify our senses and pleasures in whatever way we wish; and to possess and amass as much as we can of the goods of this world. The three vows of obedience, chastity and poverty, when lived, counter these strong inclinations.
Obedience was the hallmark of our Maronite saints, and is the crowning jewel of all the vows. Why? Because the greatest gift that God gave to mankind is our freedom to choose, He gave us our will. In the vow of obedience, we say, “I give this gift back Lord, because I love You, and I want only what You will”. For a consecrated religious, the will of the Lord is expressed through the directives of the lawful superior. We strive to conform to that will in every way (in all things but sin of course). This is the ultimate gift of self that we could possibly give God, “it’s no longer what I will, but You will, O Lord”. Jesus was the obedient One, par excellence, consumed with the will of His Father, and not His own will.
Christ the Bridegroom has such an unconditional, exclusive love for His Bride, the Church. The Church will always be His radiant lily, His Bride without spot or blemish, His earthly Kingdom. In the vow of chastity, we are responding to this unconditional, exclusive love of Christ, by saying, “Yes, Lord, I will love You exclusively as well, You alone will claim the affections of my heart, so that I can love with Your love, Your Bride, the Church and her children, my brothers and sisters”. Married couples are called to a unifying love that is open to life, for the procreation of children. As a chaste religious, often called a spiritual mother, I am called to reproduce the image of Christ in the souls of my spiritual children. This can only be done by living out the grace of chastity, which God bestows, then empowers and sustains with His infinite love.
“Jesus is the pearl of infinite price!” These were the words Bishop Gregory said to me when I first met him while discerning religious life. In the vow of poverty, I am publicly professing that Jesus is indeed the only treasure that life affords. He alone is my wealth, my possession, my portion, I lack nothing. In Jesus, I am complete. In the vow of poverty, I give Jesus the supreme pleasure of His heart, that of looking after me and seeing to all my spiritual and temporal needs as He sees fit. I am free!
I am very happy to be taking this important step in my vocation journey, and more than happy to lay down my life in the service of our Maronite Church and our people.