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On the First Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis inaugurated the Year of Consecrated Life in the Church.

The following extracts are taken from Pope Francis’ message for the Year of Consecrated Life, delivered on 21st November 2014 and from “Rejoice”, a letter written by Pope Francis and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in preparation for the year.

(These extracts are courtesy of the Fraternity of Mary Immaculate Queen – Ireland, Hampton, Gracepark Road, Dublin 9. www.fratmiq.com)

Consecrated life is a gift to the Church, it is born of the Church, it grows in the Church, and it is entirely directed to the Church. For this reason, precisely as a gift to the Church, it is not an isolated or marginal reality, but deeply a part of her. It is at the heart of the Church, a decisive element of her mission, in as much as it expresses the deepest nature of the Christian vocation and the yearning of the Church as the Bride for union with her sole Spouse. Thus, “it belongs…absolutely to the life and holiness” of the Church (Lumen Gentium, 44).

In this letter, I wish to speak not only to consecrated persons, but also to the laity, who share with them the same ideals, spirit and mission… I urge you, as laity, to live this Year for Consecrated Life as a grace which can make you more aware of the gift you yourselves have received. […] Celebrate it with your entire “family”, so that you can grow and respond together to the promptings of the Spirit in society today.

The Year for Consecrated Life concerns not only consecrated persons, but the entire Church. Consequently, I ask the whole Christian people to be increasingly aware of the gift which is the presence of our many consecrated men and women, heirs of the great saints who have written the history of Christianity. What would the Church be without Saint Benedict and Saint Basil, without Saint Augustine and Saint Bernard, without Saint Francis and Saint Dominic?[…].  The list could go on and on…

As Blessed Paul VI pointed out:  “Without this concrete sign there would be a danger that the charity which animates the entire Church would grow cold, that the salvific paradox of the Gospel would be blunted, and that the “salt” of faith would lose its savour in a world undergoing secularization” (Evangelica Testificatio, 3).

The Pope identifies prayer as the source of the fruitfulness of the mission. “Let us cultivate the contemplative dimension, even amid the whirlwind of more urgent and heavy duties. And the more the mission calls you to go out to the margins of existence, let your heart be the more closely united to Christ’s heart, full of mercy and love”. (Rejoice)

Being with Jesus shapes a contemplative approach to history which knows how to see and hear the presence of the Spirit everywhere and, in a special way, how to discern the Spirit’s presence in order to live in time as God’s time. When the insight of faithis lacking, “life itself loses meaning, the faces of brothers and sisters are obscured and it becomes impossible to recognize the face of God in them, historical events remain ambiguous and deprived of hope”. (Rejoice)

Contemplation expands into prophetic aptitude. The prophet is one “whose eye is opened, and who hears and speaks the words of God; […], a person of three times: the promise of the past, the contemplation of the present, the courage to point out the path toward the future.

“Rejoice”, A Letter to Consecrated Men and Women in Preparation for the Year Dedicated to Consecrated Life.

May this Year of Consecrated Life also be an occasion for confessing humbly, with immense confidence in the God who is Love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8), our own weakness and, in it, to experience the Lord’s merciful love.

May this Year likewise be an occasion for bearing vigorous and joyful witness before the world to the holiness and vitality present in so many of those called to follow Jesus in the consecrated life.

I entrust this Year of Consecrated Life to Mary, the Virgin of listening and contemplation, the first disciple of her beloved Son.

Let us look to her, the highly beloved daughter of the Father, endowed with every gift of grace, as the unsurpassed model for all those who follow Christ in love of God and service to their neighbour.

Pope Francis, 21 November 2014, Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Click on the link below for the full text of Pope Francis’ letter.

Year of Consecrated Life

Servite Friar Fr. Bill Mcloughlin, osm writes: 

“If the new motherhood conferred on Mary at Calvary is a gift for all Christians, it has a specific value for those who have completely consecrated their lives to Christ.…They, like John, are called to take the Blessed Virgin Mary to themselves (cf. Jn 19:27), loving her and imitating her in the  radical manner which befits their vocation, and experiencing in return her special motherly love.” (Vita Consecrata 28)

 The Friar Servants of Mary [Servites], founded as one of the five mendicant orders in 1233 by Florentines later called the Seven Holy Founders, retired from the world to live poverty and penance, focussing on preaching the Gospel and honouring Our Lady, with special reference to her Sorrows. 

Pope Francis says “Where there are religious, there is joy!” As the Blessed Virgin, bearer of the Word of God, brings joy when she meets others, her Servants strive to do the same in a range of ministries that have adapted and varied down the centuries. In apostolates ranging from defence of the rainforests to university chaplaincy, we strive to make the“spirituality of communion” present in the Church and the world.

Our care of the sick has a particular focus on those suffering from cancer, for whom Saint Peregrine o.s.m. is a patron and comforter. All these expressions of service remind us that it is not enough to read and preach the Gospel: Jesus is asking us to put it into practice and to live out his words.

 The Pope urges that this year should be an occasion humbly to confess our weakness with confidence in God’s mercy. It is not vocations campaigns which attract others to the religious life, but encountering religious who are happy, living a life which displays the joy and beauty of living the Gospel and following Christ.

(Father Bill, o.s.m. is a Parish Priest, Chaplain to two universities and hospitals in Bath, and Hon. General Secretary of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary (www.esbvm.org.uk).