WORLD DAY FOR CONSECRATED LIFE – February 2nd, 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul declaring the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple as World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life.
St. John Paul II established the World Day for Consecrated Life in 1997 to be celebrated in conjunction with the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas Day, which highlights the fact that Christ is the light of the world through the symbolic lighting of candles. “Similarly, consecrated men and women are called to spread the light and love of Jesus Christ through their unique witness of selfless service, such as caring for the poor, the contemplative work of prayer, or through their professional careers.”
Pope Francis declared 2015 as a year dedicated to the celebration and promotion of consecrated life in the Church. This ‘Year of Consecrated Life’ began on 30th November 2014 and ended on February 2nd 2016, the annual World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life. During this time the Pope asked the Church’s religious sisters, brothers and priests, together with other forms of consecrated life, to “wake up the Church” with their testimony of faith, holiness and hope. See Rejoice! – A letter to consecrated men and women (2 February 2014) (vatican.va)
Similarly each year the World Day for Consecrated Life offers an opportunity for religious congregations and all the faithful to reflect on their particular charisms, the challenges they face today and on their continuing contribution to the mission of the Church.
As Pope Francis said at the conclusion of his homily on the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord (on the 24th World Day for Consecrated Life) 2 Feb 2020:
Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank God for the gift of the consecrated life and ask of him a new way of looking, that knows how to see grace, how to look for one’s neighbour, how to hope. Then our eyes too will see salvation.
Let us remember to pray for all those who have made commitments in the consecrated life, and to be sure to thank them on their special day.
Brothers and Sisters …
Go Forth! Remember the beauty of your first call.
Jesus continues to call you today
With the same full love and untamed grace.
Go Forth! There is always more time to do, to encounter,
To be grateful for, to be astonished by.
Begin and end with the joy of prayer –
The marrow of consecrated life.
Go Forth! Each of us has a role to play in the Church.
Witness and sow well each day,
And look to tomorrow with hope.
Go Forth! Grow in love for God
So that others will be attracted by the divine light in you.
Welcome the new vocations the lord sends
To continue the work of consecration.
~ Pope Francis
(Prayer adapted from the concluding message of Pope Francis for the XX World Day of Consecrated Life – Source: https://pasquiacatholic.com/ )
Catholics often use the term ‘religious’ to describe those who have taken vows of poverty, chastity (or more precisely: lifelong celibacy) and obedience. This ‘consecrated life’ is embraced by all those who dedicate themselves to the Lord by making these lifelong vows when they are recognised and accepted by the Church. These vows are sometimes called the ‘evangelical counsels’.
Every Christian, of course, is dedicated to the Lord, and has promised through baptism to give his or her life to him. Every Christian is called to live a life of holiness. But those who consecrate themselves in this way are responding to a call to live as Christ lived, and to model their lives more directly on his own way of life – poor, chaste, and obedient – making their hearts more free for prayer and service. The consecrated life includes monks and nuns in enclosed communities, religious brothers and sisters in active communities, and also many others who live alone or who live and work ‘in the world’ who have taken the three vows.