Harri Williams commends the Life Profession of Br Michael Jacob SSF


The prophet Micah challenged the people of Israel to consider what God required of them. The traditional offerings of calves, rams, oil, even one’s own firstborn were no longer seen as sufficient. Micah made it clear: one thing, and one thing alone will be necessary – God requires you to give of your very self, to give your life to him. And what was true of the people of God some two and half thousand years ago is true for us today. To be a Christian is a demanding call, it requires your body, heart, and soul, it demands the whole of your life. The exercising of that call, of that vocation, varies as each one of us as a son or daughter of God, plays our part in the Body of Christ; and for some, like Brother Michael Jacob, God has placed upon their heart a vocation to the religious life. A vocation which at its heart is about sacrifice and surrender. For through the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Br Michael Jacob, like all those called to religious life, is embracing his identity in Christ in a distinct manner, giving himself wholly and utterly to God and His Church. 

To have the courage to embrace such a calling is something which should be recognised and affirmed. Because as St Paul reminds us in his second letter to the Church in Corinth, for all those who are servants of God the road will not be easy. For Br Michael Jacob there is unlikely to be beatings, imprisonments, or riots, but there will have been and will continue to be sleepless nights, hardships, calamities. Embracing this vocation to the religious life is demanding, particularly within the context of a Church which doesn’t always understand the purpose and nature of the religious life. So we must also commit ourselves in the months and years ahead to uphold this brother in prayer, to strengthen him with our love and support.

Because by embracing that calling to the religious life, Br Michael Jacob will become a visible sign amongst God’s people and the world needs signs of God’s love and power in their midst. That is why Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. He didn’t do it for his own sake, to give it a go and see if it worked. The purpose of that first miracle was very clear, to reveal his glory in order that the disciples might believe in him. Br Michael Jacob’s life and work will reveal something of the glory of God to those around him. His life and ministry will be about pointing people to Jesus. Of sharing the pearl of great price which he has found through his own life of faith with all people, in word and in action. Prioritising the untouched and those seen as unimportant, healing wounds, and uniting what has fallen apart. Searching out and restoring those who have lost their way. Br Michael Jacob will witness that as Fr Timothy Radcliffe wrote in ‘What is the point of the being a Christian?’ (2005):   


The Church should be a community in which the beauty of ordinariness is disclosed, because in our God, whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere, then no one should feel on the edge. 


In order to give himself fully to God, and to be that sign of God’s love and power in the world, Br Michael Jacob has discovered that the best place in which he can fulfil his vocation is within the House of God. He has come like the Psalmist to rejoice in the dwelling place of the Lord of Hosts; to live a life constituted in the atmosphere of praise and prayer, enabling the God who loves him and knows him by name to draw ever closer to him. Living in houses of prayer, such as this, where the summit of worship, the Mass, is offered daily; where opportunities for prayer and contemplation are created enabling him to see the world through the eyes of Christ. Because there cannot be action without prayer. Br Michael Jacob knows that through living a disciplined life of prayer in a religious house he, together with his fellow Franciscans, fills the reservoirs of grace and prayer, which flow into their lives and into the life of the whole Church. The reservoirs which enable the love of God to be shared so generously with all who need it in our broken world. 

Br Michael Jacob, in this undertaking you are displaying to the world that you can preach the Gospel not through words or meaningless gimmicks or endless strategies, but through the sacrificial offering of your life in the service of God and his Church. Your willingness to embrace that vocation will enable something of the glory of God to be revealed to our world. Your dedication and rule of life will enable powerhouses of prayer such as these to be a resource and a blessing to the Church and to all who strive under the banner of Christ. St Francis wrote: ‘remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received, only what you have given’. For the gift of what you are giving to Christ, His Church, and to us your brothers and sisters, may you be richly blessed.  


The Revd Dr Harri Williams SSC is the Vicar of Walsingham. These words are adapted from his sermon on 5 November at Alnmouth Friary for the Profession of Life Vows of Brother Michael Jacob in the presence of Bishop Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark and SSF Bishop Protector.