On Oct. 5, following first Friday Mass at Old St. Mary Church, Milwaukee Region members, auxiliary, and guests gathered to witness and participate in the Blessing of Church Capes and Robes for those being invested this year.
The prayer service, written by one of our members, was inspired by her reading of the texts of the Investiture Vigil of the Western Association and the opening Mass and the Blessing of Capes and Robes of the American Association. Their ceremonies, which are held the evening before the actual Investiture, are beautiful but quite long and include Reconciliation, Mass, Adoration and other liturgical elements. Due to our time limitations (we meet for 7:00 a.m. Mass, followed by a meeting with most of our members leaving directly for work) a short prayer service seemed the best way to rework these ceremonies for our own use. Our investees, Joseph Miotke and Anne Marie Finley, were present; Andrew McDonough was not able to join us as he presently lives out of state.
The service, led by the Rev. John Baumgardner, reminds us that not only are we members of a lay religious order, but that the Order of Malta is to be our spiritual home. It also tangibly demonstrates that we are a community of believers who joyfully celebrate milestones together. Taking nothing away from the Investiture Mass itself, the service supplements it by providing an opportunity to honor our newest members in a special way here at home while building community. As many in our region are unable, for various reasons, to attend the Investiture weekend, the goal was to provide a meaningful, prayerful, and communal liturgical experience for all. Our desire was to solidify the bond between the candidates and their sponsors, strengthen the relationship between the candidates and the entire membership in Milwaukee, and begin a yearly tradition as we grow as a region.
The Blessing of the Capes and Robes consists of many elements. Among these are: several prayers; an explanation of the meaning and symbolism of the Order of Malta Cross; the context of its white color; the importance of the location of the cross on the garments; an overview of the four virtues represented by the four arms of the cross; and the significance of the Beatitudes symbolized by the eight points of the cross. The service also includes a short reflection on what it means, and does not mean, to be a member of the Order of Malta in all facet of one’s life – personal, corporate, in the workplace, defending the faith, and serving the poor and the sick.
After the Prayer of the Faithful, the capes and robes are blessed and sprinkled with holy water. Following the daily prayer of the Order of Malta and the closing prayer, there is an invocation to Our Lady of Philermos, St. John the Baptist, and Blessed Fra’ Gerard.
We look forward to using this ceremony to acknowledge and celebrate the successful period of formation of our candidates for years to come.