Happy Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, the World Day of Consecrated Life! It is the great event in Jesus Christ’s life in which His mother, the Virgin Mary, consecrates Him to God. To be consecrated means “to be set apart for God”, to be totally dedicated to God. It is “the state of life which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 914). The evangelical counsels are the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience which free the consecrated person to give him or herself completely to God. Consecrated persons are religious men and women (Brothers, Sisters and Religious Order Priests), united to Christ by chastity, poverty and obedience in a state apart from the lay state.
As we celebrate this Feast Day of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple by the Mary and Joseph, we reflect on Pope Francis’ homily from the Holy Mass today:
Pope Francis is calling those in the consecrated life to commit themselves to obedience, following the footsteps of Our Lady and Simeon, who carried the Christ Child in the Temple, but were actually led and guided by Him.
The Pope said this today in St. Peter’s Basilica as he celebrated Mass for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which is also the World Day of Consecrated Life.
Reflecting on the scene of the Presentation, the Holy Father said that Mary “carries [the Christ Child], but it is He who carries her in this way of God, who comes to us so that we can go to Him.”
“He has also opened a way for us, the consecrated. The Gospel emphasizes a good five times Mary’s and Joseph’s obedience to the Law of the Lord (Cf. Luke 2: 184.108.40.206.39),” the Pontiff continued.
Pope Francis said that anyone who follows Jesus places himself in the path of obedience, “as if imitating the ‘condescension of the Lord, who humbled himself and made the Father’s will his own, even to the annihilation and humiliation of himself.’”
To progress in religious life is to lower oneself in service, he explained, and this is made concrete in the Rule established by the founders’ charisms.
“The irreplaceable Rule for all is always the Gospel,” Francis said, “this abasement of Christ, but in his infinite creativity, the Holy Spirit expresses it also in different rules of consecrated life; however, they are all born of the following of Christ, of this way of abasing oneself to serve.”
The Holy Father said joy is the sign of the wisdom that comes from following this “law.”
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraphs 917-930:
Various Forms of Religious Life
Different religious families and charisms have come into existence in which spiritual resources are multiplied for the progress in holiness of their members and for the good of the entire Church. From the very beginning of the Church there were men and women who set out to follow Christ with greater liberty, and to imitate him more closely, by practicing the evangelical counsels, living lives dedicated to God. (Third Order lay members of Religious Communities, although they make promises and participate in the spirituality of a Religious Order, are in the lay state and therefore are not living a form of Consecrated Life). The following are forms of Consecrated Life:
The Eremitic Life
Hermits live a life devoted to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricture separation from the world, the silence and solitude and assiduous prayer and penance. Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of a hermit is a silent preaching of the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life simply because he is everything to him. Here is a particular call to find in the desert, in the thick of spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One.
Consecrated Virgins and Widows
Like Anna in the Presentation, Christian virgins and widows, called by the Lord to cling only to him with greater freedom of heart, body, and spirit, have decided with the Church’s approval to live in the respective states of virginity or perpetual chastity “for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.” Virgins who, committed to following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop, are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.
Religious life is distinguished from other forms of consecrated life by its liturgical character, public profession of the evangelical counsels, fraternal life led in common, and witness given to the union of Christ within the Church. Religious life in its various forms is called to signify the very charity of God; it offers stability and outstanding services in the propagation of the faith and in the formation of new Churches.
A secular institute is an institute of consecrated life in which the Christian faithful living in the world strive for the perfection of charity and work for the sanctification of the world especially from within. They share in the Church’s task of evangelization witnessing to the Christian life, aiming to order temporal things according to God and to inform the world the power of the Gospel. They commit themselves to the evangelical counsels by sacred bonds and observe among themselves the communion and fellowship appropriate to their state of life.
Societies of Apostolic Life
Alongside the various forms of consecrated life are Societies of Apostolic Life whose members without religious vows pursue the particular apostolic purpose of their society, and lead a life as brothers or sisters in common according to a particular manner of life, strive for the perfection of charity through the observance of the constitutions. Among these there are societies in which the members embrace the evangelical counsels.
If you have any questions about Consecrated Life, please feel free to ask me, and I will be happy to reply. My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
God bless you.
Your Sister in Christ,
Sister Anthony Mary Diago, RSM