Joy and emotion transpired from their faces as they entered the church. A smile and a withheld tear accompanied Br. Clovis and Br. Eduardo at the beginning of an important celebration: that of their solemn professions. The two young friars of the Custody made them on October 7 in the Basilica of the Agony in Gethsemane. In front of the brotherhood and their families, they joyfully embraced the call to consecrated Franciscan life forever.
The Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, presided over the celebration in the crowded church filled with relatives, family and friends from different parts of the world, since the two men are from Mexico and Brazil.
In his homily, Fr. Patton first spoke about about the place where the friars were about to prostrate themselves: “It is a privilege to prostrate yourselves on the rock where Jesus himself bowed down and prayed with the same words that he taught us: ‘your will be done.’”
He then focused on the definitive promises to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, to observe the Gospel in obedience, with nothing of one’s own and in chastity, as suggested by the beginning of the Bollata Rule. The Custos reviewed each point: “To observe the Gospel of Jesus means to remain firm with him, to be committed to his Word, so as to change our mindsets;” “Living in obedience is at the heart of observing the Gospel;” “Living without anything of our own makes us free not to take ownership of things and places, points of view, and acquired positions;” “Chastity is a great gift because it teaches [us] to love with our whole souls, with our whole mind, with our whole intelligence, our whole strength, our whole momentum, our whole affection, all of our deepest feelings.”
Br. Clovis and Br. Eduardo made their vows with faith, and with a pinch of emotion, each in their mother tongues, Portuguese and Spanish, respectively. “Yes, I want it,” they said amidst everyone’s emotions. The saints were then invoked in the litanies and the two friars prostrated themselves on the ground on the rock of Gethsemane. A fraternal embrace from every friar sealed the event: in this way, the fraternity of the Custody of the Holy Land officially welcomed the new solemnly professed friars. On the altar, one by one, congratulations were offered by religious, lifelong friends, fellow travelers, the friars’ new brothers in the faith.
“I would like to thank God who called us quite young and being from very far away,” said Br. Eduardo on behalf of both of the young men before the blessing. “Being so far away, we sometimes wondered if we would ever come to the Holy Land. But nothing is impossible and God is proof of this and of this defining event in our lives.” After thanking all of the teachers and formators that they met along the way, the Custos, Fr. Francesco Patton, expressed words of gratitude for the brotherhood, for the friends and family [friends], and for the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who has been their brother in Christ for several years.
The party then moved to the garden of Gethsemane, animated by their proverbial South American cheer, with music, food and joy. The two friars will continue to study theology to become deacons and priests, God willing. Meanwhile, however, they have reached the most important milestone for Franciscan friars.
Br. Clovis commented incredulously: “This day seemed almost unattainable to me at certain moments of my vocational journey. It has gradually become reality in the stages of formation, in the presence of God in our lives. Seeing it happen is a surprise after eight years of formation. It is beautiful and it is for my whole life.”
For Br. Eduardo, the vocational journey was also long, nine years to be precise. “I have been waiting my whole life for this day,” said the friar. “As I made the profession, I remembered everything I had been through, everything I suffered, everything I left. I remembered when my father told me, ‘My son, I will give you over to your true father.’” When he was 11 years old, Br. Eduardo felt the call and at 17, he entered the Custody of the Holy Land. “For me there is nothing more beautiful than this fullness of religious life,” he said with a smile. “We are now friars for our whole lives.”