We are asked today to pray in solidarity with Catholic Christians throughout the world on this World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life. We recognize and give thanks for those who have consecrated their lives to God and the Church through the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Some join a religious congregation or a secular institute. Others remain single and make profession to God through the local bishop and are known as consecrated virgins. The consecrated life is one way that men and women live out their baptismal commitment as followers of Jesus. At a time when people lack a clear understanding of what “consecrated life” is all about, we need to turn to our scripture readings to rediscover the meaning and purpose of this life; a life in which “the characteristic features of Jesus – the chaste, poor and obedient one – are made constantly ‘visible’ in the midst of the world.” (Vita Consecrata)
Amidst his busy days of ministering to the lame, the blind and the sick, Jesus often took time for prayer: “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.” A deep sense of prayer and being connected with the Father was a characteristic feature of Jesus – an essential aspect of the consecrated life.
Jesus’ desire was also to do the will of his Father: “I have not come to do my will but rather the will of him who sent me.” God the Father willed that Jesus enter this world to show others the way to the Kingdom through his ministry, service, and love for them. The passion for doing God’s will in ministry – through the sacraments, education, social service, nursing, and the contemplative experience of the monastic life – is yet another essential aspect of the consecrated life.
“Through the many charisms of spiritual and apostolic life bestowed on them by the Holy Spirit, they [consecrated men and women] have helped to make the mystery and mission of the Church shine forth, and in doing so have contributed to the renewal of society.” (Vita Consecrata)
For those men and women who have committed themselves to the consecrated life, the desire for having a deeply prayerful and spiritual life rooted in Jesus Christ, a passionate love for ministry and a thirst for the support of a caring and nurturing community are essential aspects of their chosen vocation.
The Church continues to need consecrated individuals as part of the fabric of its faith community. There are several reasons for this – first, the consecrated person stands as a visible witness to the Gospel message of Jesus by their professing the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. Secondly, consecrated men and women work at making “real” the Kingdom of God here on earth through the charism of their founders and foundresses – they stand in relationship with the people of God and oftentimes become the face of God to the poor, disenfranchised, the abandoned, the weak, the sinner, and those who have lost a sense of hopefulness in their broken and fragmented world. Thirdly, consecrated persons serve as beacons of hope in an increasingly secular world, one in which doubt and confusion cloud over the light that comes from Jesus Christ Himself.
On this World Day for Consecrated Life, consider ways that you can pray for those who has embraced the consecrated life – like the nuns of the Holy Family of Nazareth who has been working with dedication in our parish and school for over 115 years!!! Meet the Sisters. Ask them why they have chosen this lifestyle and hear their story – how they have met Christ along the way and how they have been Christ to others…perhaps you may want to join them on their journey.
(Based on the Homily Notes provided through the kindness of Joseph Jozwiak, FSC, Lincroft, New Jersey)
Prayer for Vocations:
Loving God, we rejoice in your gift of life to us. You created us out of your abundant love. Empower us to nurture this gift with the grace of gospel living. You sent us your son Jesus to show us the way to fullness of life. Open us, through your Spirit, and guide us on our journey to holiness. Grace our Church with women and men who respond wholeheartedly to your call to the consecrated life for the sake of the gospel. We praise you now and always in union with Jesus through the power of the Spirit. Amen.