July 28, 2008

Reflections on Taking a New Religious Name

Sarah's Reflection
Reception is fast approaching for us postulants. Among the numerous other changes that will occur on that day such as dress, hairstyle, occupation, and status in the Community, what we are called will be different. The changing of names may seem like a rather mysterious part of the ceremony. After all, the name Sarah has served me well for the past twenty-four years. Someone says it, I answer. Simple, right? Isn’t identification a name’s main purpose? Well, yes and no.

The custom for a religious to take a new name is an ancient custom. Take a look at the book of Genesis. God calls Abram from his homeland to be “the father of a host of nations”, and gives him the name Abraham. God changes his name first to identify his calling. A name reveals the essence of a thing and the essence of a thing determines its mission or purpose, being what it is and doing that which is in accordance with its nature. In short, our name gives us an insight into who we are and who we are determines how we act. As future religious, we have spent the last several months discerning what God wants to call us so that He can determine who we are to be in His sight and what we are to do in His person for His people. So also, our name change signifies our desire to open ourselves to His will for our lives.

I have chosen the name Sister Mary Benedict after St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. The biggest reason that I felt called to adopt her patronage is that I relate to her spirituality. St. Teresa Benedicta had a great devotion to the cross of Christ and understood that the life of a religious especially is a marriage to the crucified Lord. The religious life is a life spent on the cross with Him. Now, at first glance, this prospect seems bleak if not down right terrifying. St. Teresa, however, doesn’t dwell on the discomfort associated with suffering with Christ. Rather, she focuses on the love required to offer oneself completely to God and His children. St. Teresa was a woman madly in love with God, not just on an emotional level, but on an intellectual and volition level as well. She offered herself to God a holocaust for the salvation of souls, a sacrificial lamb burning with the fire of divine love. She loved God so deeply that she desired suffering not because she was sadistic, but rather because she knew it is the only way for human beings to express the love that swells within their souls making them ready to burst. This reason is why I chose St. Teresa as a patron. I want her to teach me to love God as she loved Him, to embrace the cross as she embraced it, and to live out my vocation to the religious life as she lived out hers.

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