On Saturday, August 28, 2010, the Feast Day of Saint Augustine, Brothers Mark Christopher Zittle and Joseph Phuong Ngo, O.Carm. professed solemn vows of obedience, poverty and chastity in the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel in the presence of their Carmelite brothers and sisters, as well as family and friends.
The day was picture perfect with a cloudless, blue sky and bright sunshine, as about 180 people began to fill the chapel of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Middletown, New York for the 11:00AM Mass. Very Reverend Mario Esposito, O.Carm., Prior Provincial of the St. Elias Province was the main celebrant. Very Reverend Quinn Conners, O.Carm. (PCM), Formation Director at Whitefriars Hall in Washington, DC concelebrated and Brother David Genders, O.Carm. (PCM) served as Deacon. The attentions of Master of Ceremonies, Brother Robert Chiulli, O.Carm. ensured that all proceeded smoothly.
As the brothers came to stand side by side in front of the altar, Father Mario smiled and joked that they had been selected according to height – an obvious reference to the way in which Brother Mark towered above Brother Joseph.
In his homily, Father Mario said “By, as today‟s gospel states, remaining in God‟s love, may your joy be complete, and may you know the constant friendship and presence of Christ, staying always close to Him, and remembering His words, “without me, you can do nothing.” Jesus said, “it was not you who chose me, but I who chose you” and your life must bear fruit. Your lives, Brothers, as consecrated religious will not bear fruit, unless you remain in the deepest possible union with Christ – with Him whom St. Augustine called, “the Beauty ever ancient, ever new.”
Father Mario compared the day of Solemn Profession to that of a marriage ceremony, in which everything is arranged so beautifully; everyone is dressed magnificently and family and friends come together in prayer and celebration. “We need the grace that comes, in our case, from our profession, not necessarily on the day of profession when everything is so beautiful, so symbolically rich, and we are surrounded by our loved ones and brothers and sisters, but on all the following days when we realize that living the Carmelite life means living the Christian life and living the Christian life means living the paschal mystery, the continuous and trans-formative dying and rising of and with Christ. This is the mystery “ever ancient, ever new” which repeats itself in the lives of each of the baptized.
“As religious, we promise publically, by vow,
– to live our baptismal lives with a greater intensity,
– to see ourselves as and to live as witnesses to God‟s kingdom, and
– to pursue a closer and more intimate walk with Christ which shapes our every relationship with another person, our every decision we make, and our every attitude that we have towards created things.”
“Mark and Joseph – as descendents of the prophets Elias and Eliseus and as sons of Mary, our Mother in Carmel – in this Mass which renews for us the dying and rising of Christ sacramentally, you will in a few minutes profess your solemn vows. We recog-nize that as you continue on your own journey in the Order, hopefully with a spirit of zeal for God, you will have to embrace the paschal mystery over and over again. Enjoy the glory and beauty of today. Treasure it in your heart and memory, so that it will sustain you as you struggle with the noonday devils that will visit you from within and from without. In every moment, Christ, who said “without me you can do nothing” is with you, for He also said, “I am with you always until the end of time.”
“May Mary our Mother and the Queen and Splendor of Carmel, wrap you in her loving arms today and every day. Mark and Joseph, we are very happy for you and we are behind you and with you as you make your religious consecration today. May Jesus, the Beauty ever ancient, ever new, fill you with His love, His mercy, and His own strength. Amen.”
The beautiful program of music was arranged by Music Director, Ms. Maxine Martin and sung by a mixed choir from the National Shrine and Washington, DC and also included various Carmelite sisters and brothers. Maxine played the keyboard and was joined on violin by Kaitlyn Mesic. Song selections included: There is a Longing, Many and Great, Tinh Chúa Cao Vời (Boundless Love), and Love Has Come.
When the Mass was over, everyone gathered outside to enjoy the glorious weather and stroll through the beautiful grounds of St. Albert‟s as pictures of the newly professed brothers were being taken. Later, everyone gathered in Pilgrims Hall for a luncheon reception and a wonderful time was had by all!
Sunny, clear skies, a holy and meaningful ceremony, beautiful music, the gathering of family and friends and, to complete the day, a wonderful meal! It was the perfect ending to a perfect day!
Our heartiest congratulations to Brothers Mark and Joseph Phuong as they continue their journey in Carmel. May God bless them always.