By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Pope Francis celebrates the liturgy in St Peter’s Basilica on Friday with thousands of religious and members of Societies of Apostolic life. The announcement for this event contained the following reflection from the Holy Father: “A vocation is a gift we have received from the Lord, who fixed his gaze on us and called us, calling us to follow him in the consecrated life.”
Origins and Meaning of the World Day of Consecrated Life
This celebration coincides with the liturgical feast of the Presentation of the Lord. In 1997, it was Pope Saint John Paul II who instituted this feast as a universal day of prayer for consecrated men and women. For pastoral purposes, the celebration in local churches is often moved to the following Sunday.
The liturgy naturally provides a concrete symbol of the mystery lived by those who consecrate themselves to the service of God and their brothers and sisters. The liturgy opens with the blessing and procession with candles. This reminds us of the first Baptismal consecration experienced by all Christians. It is the living out of this consecration in religious communities or other forms of consecration that provides the basis for all consecrated life in the church.
The world needs a “vocational meaning in life.”
Cardinal Joᾶo Braz de Aviz, Prefect for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, affirmed that “the present human history is in need of a vocational meaning in life. We need to have a project, a source of an existential meaning, full of joy and hope. As consecrated persons through our Baptism, and being part of God’s life and that of his Family, the Church, we are heirs of the vocational and charismatic legacy of the Church, and we are happy and duty bound to safeguard and promote it.”
Event unites women religious around the world
The International Union of Superiors General in Rome has characterized the day as “a festive occasion, as well as one of commitment to pray to the Lord for the gift of new vocations, who will renew the face of the Church and the world, by announcing the joy of the Gospel and the love of God which gives meaning to our existence.” Before participating in the liturgy with the Pope, hundreds of women religious will participate in a new initiative at their headquarters – a live presentation and simultaneous webinar for worldwide participation. Father Anthony Gittins, a Spiritan Father, will respond to previously solicited questions regarding the challenge of Living Mission Interculturally.