“Once more encounter what originally set our hearts afire,” is the message of Pope Francis on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. Sunday, February 2 is the 24th World Day of Consecrated Life. On this day, the Church celebrates and prays for those who have consecrated their lives to God by the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. The World Day for Consecrated Life was established in 1997 by Pope St. John Paul II.
This celebration is a special time for individual parishes and communities to celebrate the beauty of the consecrated vocation, and to appreciate the charisms of different religious orders and congregations. It invites the Church to reflect on the unique Christ-centred witness that consecrated men and women bring to it and the surrounding community.
The liturgical feast chosen for the commemoration celebrates the presentation of the newborn Jesus in the Temple by Joseph and Mary 40 days after his birth, in accordance with the law of the Old Testament. In many dioceses around the world, there is a tradition of blessing the candles prior to the Mass and the celebrant, together with the ministers, make the solemn entry in procession with lighted candles. Hence, the feast is also known as Candlemas.
The candles blessed during the Liturgy thus symbolise both Christ, who is the light of the world, and the lives of consecrated women and men who are called to reflect the light of Christ for all peoples.
While appreciating the lives of consecrated people, the day is a special reminder for the Church of its vital responsibility to promote vocations to religious and consecrated life. Families, parishes and Church-run institutions are invited to discern and draw up plans to promote vocations to consecrated life. Oft-discussed plans of action for vocation promotion are prayer, adorations, bible reading and finding a spiritual director who can help in discerning vocations. Yet, spiritual preparations alone may be insufficient in fostering love for the religious life among the youngsters.
Families and parishes must draw up practical guidelines for youth and vocation ministry in their respective environment. Healthy friendships between parishioners, priests and religious is an essential ingredient for good vocations. Whether it be sharing a meal, taking a walk, or simply having a conversation after Mass, faithful need to be encouraged to make an effort to share friendships with priests and religious. Healthy friendships will foster awareness, communication and respect for the lifestyle and needs of each person.
Family is the cradle of good vocations to consecrated life. Speaking well of the Church, priests and religious is an inevitable step for promoting vocations in the family. Fostering love for the consecrated life among children is also the responsibility of parents and elders in the family. Parents are the first preachers of the faith to their children and the home is the domestic Church! Parents must decide to avoid all gossip and ill-speaking about consecrated people when at home.
Presenting the religious and priestly vocations as a desirable option to our children at home is an important part of the mission of Catholic parents. Young parents are deeply concerned about giving the best of everything to their children and in the process, but sometimes fail to create the best faith formation and religious awareness in their home. The holy spouses Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guerin, parents of St. Therese of Lisieux remind Catholic parents of the consecration they must make in their lives. jose