By Fr Phuong Vu SVD
This month, the SVD Australia province had three young men take their final vows. A week after that, nine young SVD temporary professed renewed their vows. And the SVD final professed are continuing with their vows in their ministries. These vows highlight our spiritual love and commitment for God during the coronavirus crisis around the world. The SVD constitution says, “By taking the public vows of consecrated chastity, evangelical poverty and apostolic obedience, we respond to his call and follow him along the way of evangelical counsel”. (Cons 201)
The power of love is making us free to worship God and exercise our mission. Our founder Fr Arnold Janssen desired for God’s love, and the love of God consumed him, making him able to respond to God’s will. In his mission, his love for God’s will grew and flourished, starting from the distribution of a small prayer book “Apostleship prayer” and leading to the establishment of three religious congregations in which Fr Arnold discovered the joy of his mission. This joy lifted his spiritual life and the Word became the centre of his life. The power of God’s love will moves us to go beyond our vows and commitments, when we respond to God’s call with a desire of loving heart. The joyful spirit will lift up our spiritual life. That is why Jesus minimised all of the commandments down to two commandments, which are to love God with all your heart and soul, and love your neighbour as yourself.
Each time I attend a final vows ceremony, diaconate or ordination, I listen to the Litany prayer, and I am moved to tears. It reminds me of my own final vows profession and the ordinations. When I was prostrated on the floor and I listened to the Litany prayer song, I wondered ‘Who am I that these saints prayed for me?’. A pebble of the sand in the beach was amongst the millions and that was me. These saints were holy, committed and desired for God, but they were in the presence of God and they prayed for me. My humility was not good enough.
Our SVD vows are embedded in us and allow us to be free to love God’s mission. In its freedom, it springs to a new horizon of spiritual life making us free to love and free to commit to our mission. Our first SVD missionary Fr Joseph Freinademetz, who missioned in China, desired to become a Chinese and he experienced the language of love in his mission. The mission led him to experience the Divine’s love and the presence of God. The Divine’s love empowered him to go beyond himself, letting go of his own family, so that he never went back to visit his family, instead embracing the Chinese as his family. The vows allowed him to be free so he could love his mission and the Chinese in whom he discovered Christ in his mission. The mission transformed him to become like a Chinese.
Our SVD vows have power to give us freedom to love and exercise our ministry. We are called to follow Christ and the vows move us to be in union with Christ. It gives us a providence to experience St Paul’s word, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”. (Ga. 2:20)