Oblate Profession Cross
Oblates receive their profession cross at their first profession. The cross is modeled upon the profession cross of the Visitation of Holy Mary, which in turn was a replica of the pectoral cross of St. Francis de Sales, Doctor and Bishop. The cross is not a crucifix; each Oblate is to be the “corpus” so he may “fill up those things which are wanting in the Passion of Christ” as St. Paul says. Nothing is wanting in the Passion of Christ but our cooperation, our generous oblation of self. It is made of sterling silver and is precious both in its essence and its quality of heritage.
IHS – The monogram of Jesus in Greek reminds us that He is our Savior and that we are called to be “other Christs”, to reproduce His life on earth and to manifest God’s love for all; we do this through suffering and dying to ourselves.
THE DOUBLE CROSS ENGRAVED ABOVE THE “H” is not a Latin cross, but rather an Eastern one. Like the Greek letters, this deliberate choice of form manifests that Church unity which was so desired by St. Francis de Sales and symbolized in the concept of the union of Christ with His Church, our life of union with God through the Directory. The empty cross in the Eastern Rite is a symbol of Christ’s victory over sin and death; thus, it also tells us that it is the Risen Christ whom we follow.
THE DROPS OF BLOOD symbolize the ardor of charity which animates our lives; they recall the tongues of fire which descended upon the Church at Pentecost. The whole Trinity is represented on the front side of the cross: the Holy Spirit’s great work of love manifested at Pentecost; the Son’s work of Redemption symbolized by the cross, and the Father’s work of creation and His dominance in the Old Testament symbolized by the mountain and the olive branch.
THE THREE NAILS DRIPPING WITH BLOOD symbolize the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience which bind us to Christ just as the nails bound Him to the cross. The drops of blood tell us that our religious life is one of continual mortification, sacrifice and acquiescence to the will of God, and also that we must be ready to die for Christ, being faithful “even to the shedding of our blood.”
THE MOUNTAIN AT THE BOTTOM OF THE CROSS represents Mount Sinai, the mountain of the Covenant of the Old Law. Being at the base of the cross, it represents two things: (l) with creation began all of salvation history which culminated in Christ’s resurrection (the empty cross of the Greek design) and which is perpetuated and applied to all in the Church through the work of the Spirit (the two flames in the transepts show God’s all embracing love), and (2) our vows which are our covenant with God and which form the basis of our religious life. The mountain being in three parts graphically recalls the three vows.
THE OLIVE BRANCH, symbol of peace and of God’s mercy in the Old Law, is above the mountain to tell us that from fidelity to our vows we draw peace.
There are two explanations for the meaning of “M – A”
- The letters “MRA” were engraved on St. Francis’ pectoral cross (an abbreviation for Maria). On the Oblate profession cross (and the Visitation cross as well), the “R” is removed and the Heart is substituted in its place. Thus the “M – A” is an abbreviation of the name of Mary, Mother of God.
- The letters M – A are an abbreviation for Mons Amoris, the mount of love, which is on Calvary. On this Mons Amoris, Jesus’ Heart was opened by the lance and His love was poured out upon the world, thus the heart is flanked by the letters M and A.
THE THREE FLAMES symbolize the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity that bind us directly to God
THE MOUNTAIN AT THE BOTTOM OF THE CROSS, again the symbol on the front, with the added Marian emphasis that Mary as the “New Eve” responded with a fidelity that brought us peace in the person of her Son. The symbols for Mary on the hidden side of the cross remind us that by imitation of and recourse to her, we are to manifest the life of her Son in our lives.
THE HEART SURMOUNTED BY TWO CROSSES – There is a dispute over the symbolism here. One source denies that it is neither the heart of Mary, nor the Sacred Heart, but is clearly one that love and has suffered. The most likely but not definitive interpretation is that it is the heart of Mary. Speaking to St. Jane, De Sales says: “I thought, my dear Mother, if you agree, that we should take for our arms a single heart pierced with two arrows and encircled by a crown of thorns; this poor heart serving as an enclosure for a cross which will surmount it and will be engraved with the holy names of Jesus and Mary.” According to this opinion the heart, which is that of Mary, is surmounted with two crosses, instead of the arrows used in the Visitation coat of arms.
Inner Contents of the Profession Cross
The cross is hinged at the top and opens. Inside are placed the following relics:
- First class relic of Blessed Louis Brisson, OSFS
Paper containing a small section of the Gospel of John
Linen which has touched the precious bones of:
- The holy Roman martyrs (red)
- St. Francis De Sales (white
- St. Jane Frances de Chantal (pink)
- St. Margaret Mary (blue)
- Ven. Mother Mary De Sales Chappuis (green)
- Agnus Dei wax (yellow)
The shield of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales captures several elements of Oblate identity.
- Each Oblate is to be the Body of Christ on the cross at the center of the shield. The cross recalls the wearing of the Profession Cross which every Oblate receives on the day of First Profession.
- Jesus offered himself on the cross as the perfect oblation to the Father. Through obedience he died and became the source of our salvation, our shield and our resurrection. He is the Rising Sun which appears over the cross on the shield.
- VJ, meaning Vive Jesus or Live Jesus, is the Oblate motto. It was the guiding principle in the life of St. Francis de Sales and appeared on his own coat of arms. The motto is situated in the center of the Rising Sun, which symbolizes the Risen Christ. Living Jesus is what the Oblate way of life is all about.
- The branch to the right of the shield and cross is an olive branch. It is the symbol of peace which for the Oblates is achieved through gentleness and an inner strength which comes only through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
- The branch to the left of the shield and cross is the branch of an orange tree. It symbolizes the first Oblate mission outside of France in South Africa along the Orange River in Pella. It is the symbol of Oblate apostolate in every age and in every corner of the world.
- The Latin sentence at the bottom of the shield is another motto of the Oblates: Tenui nec Dimittam. It means “I have taken hold and I will not let go.” It is from the biblical Songs of Songs, a favorite book of St. Francis de Sales. The actual rendition of the verse is “We have found the Lord, our Beloved and we will never let go.”