by Sister Eva-Maria Ackerman
Profession day is to a consecrated woman what a wedding day is for a young couple setting out to begin their new life together. It is a day of deepening commitment to the beloved and a day filled with love, joy and gratitude.
I wanted everything to be perfect as I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ on the day of my first profession. But as we novices processed into our convent chapel, I became so nervous I thought I would pass out right then and there.
The faces of my fellow Sisters, family members and friends were a big blur. Keeping in step with the entrance song, I tried to hold my lighted candle and program booklet in hands which would not stop shaking.
I suppose that many, if not all, brides experience the customary jitters and even more serious manifestations of intense stress on their wedding day.
My anxiety was brought on by the awareness of the awesomeness of the consecration I was about to make to God. He had called me, a sinner, to belong totally to him, king of heaven and earth. It didn’t help that I was especially focused on my weaknesses and utter worthiness in the face of making such a radical commitment.
After the homily, we novices were called to the sanctuary to be questioned by the bishop before pronouncing our vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. My heart started to pound again.
Then something unexpected began to take place as I awaited my turn. Egged on by anxiety, the big toe on my right foot began to twitch. The twitch became so intense that I feared my foot was going to jump out of control, in front of the bishop, concelebrating priests and those gathered in the congregation. For a moment, I panicked.
Then I began to laugh within. The thought of my foot and leg dancing wildly around the sanctuary was so hilarious that I almost burst out laughing. Suddenly, my heart stopped its pounding and my anxiety level decreased dramatically.
It was my turn to kneel down and surrender my entire life — body, soul, mind, will, heart, emotions (and foot!) — to God, who loved me and took me where I was at, imperfect and weak but in love with him.
As I pronounced my vows, I was completely calm, and the words came out clearly, without any hint of my previous fright.
Four decades later, moments of anxiety return from time to time, especially when I take my eyes off the Lord and get caught up with myself. But his grace anoints every aspect of my consecrated life and never ceases to calm a pounding heart — or a twitching toe.