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Friday, September 11, 2009


THESE DAYS at Maryknoll, a tradition is something we've done five years in a row. At two years an action is a habit, at three years it's a routine and doing it for four years makes it a custom. That being said, Maryknoll really has precious few traditions and fewer symbols, unlike in ages past and we are the poorer for it.

No longer do candidates look forward to receiving their cassock, rope or cincture and later the embroidered Chi-Rho. The departure bell may or may not be rung at the departure ceremony. Mary may or may not be crowned in May. The relic of St. Michael is no longer carried in solemn procession. Even the Maryknoll logo—embroidered on everything from polo shirts to caps to sweatshirts and "hoodies"—underwent several incarnations before settling on the block-lettered MARYKNOLL with a white Chi-Rho in the M.

One "modern" tradition is the reading of the permanent oath at a Maryknoller's funeral while the people sing, "Jesus, Remember me when you come into your kingdom." This started at the funeral of Fr. Charles Bureaus who died in 1992 at age 40. But whether for a young Maryknoller or for an older one, the reading of the oath at a funeral is not just a sentimental custom, it's a very moving testimony to a man's fulfilling his oath to give his "whole life in service to the mission." It's also a link to Maryknoll history as the names of the superior general at the time and the witnesses to the oath are also read. Our other tradition is the chanting of the "Salve Regina" as our last tribute at the graveside service.

But if Maryknoll is to have a future, shouldn't future traditions and symbols begin NOW?

Some years back the Development department crafted a lapel pin of the Maryknoll coat-of-arms for our benefactors! Eventually we permanent members got our own lapel pins but then another red Chi-Rho pin surfaced, and then still another style appeared in silver, with no significance except a man's desire to be identified as a Maryknoller. For awhile men in Formation got "pinned" when they took first oath; later it happened at the welcoming ceremony. One time a permanent member thought he was doing a favor by giving pins to vocation prospects.

Why not get a handle on all these lapel pins and give them significance other than as an accessory? Maybe the Mission Rosary could be given vocations prospects and the simple Chi-Rho pin reserved for a man when he begins Formation. He could then receive the coat-of arms pin when he takes first oath. Maybe a messenger bag embroidered with our Chi-Rho "M" could be given a man as he gets ministries.

Some Maryknoll Brothers have begun wearing a silver Chi-Rho ring. Why not reserve this just for Brothers to be given—God willing sometime soon—when a new Brother candidate takes final oath?

Symbols are important, and as Catholics we should appreciate this. As for traditions, as Tevye says "Without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as, as... as a fiddler on the roof!"

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