Pope Francis has called us to celebrate our religious brothers and sisters in 2015
2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Perfectae Caritatis, the decree of the Second Vatican Council on the adaptation and renewal of religious life. Pope Francis has called us to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life. A year devoted to those who have answered to the call of God to consecrate themselves in the religious life, so they rediscover and renew their vocation. At the same time, it is a year for all the church to reflect on the value of consecrated life in our times.
As a starting point, Pope Francis has encouraged religious to live in joy. In the letter “Rejoice!”, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life underscores the Joy of the Gospel explained by the pope in his first apostolic exhortation, and recalls how the personal encounter with Jesus provokes joy. Joy that, according to St. Paul, is a fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22) and flourishes from the springs of prayer, charity and the constant act of thanksgiving. Joy that is strengthened by trials and tribulations.
To Francis, joy is the beauty of consecration. Hence, it is absurd to think of a bitter nun, a cold and distant consecrated man or a bad-tempered brother. Such attitudes would nullify the beauty of their personal consecration. The pope wants all religious men and women in the world to remember always that, in essence, their personal vocation to consecrated life is a calling to the joy that comes from the Lord. A joy that is contagious, so the religious can share the values of the Gospel with the world.
During a recent trip to Mexico — surely in accordance to God’s will — I ran into a large number of nuns: after Mass, outside their convent, at a hospital, in the street and even in a coffee shop. Even when I didn’t know them, I approached each nun and wished her a blessed and happy Year of Consecrated Life. All of them were grateful and looked at me with surprise and, of course, with joy — no one else had greeted them with a good wish on this special year dedicated to them!
Throughout this year, I invite you to pray, to offer your communion and even to offer your sorrows in sacrifice for the consecrated and the religious: the ones in convents, the ones in schools, the ones in missions, the ones in hospitals, the ones in parishes. And every time you see a religious, approach him or her and offer a wish for a happy Year of Consecrated Life. Your words will surely help them to keep the flame of joy alive and to rediscover how their personal renunciation to the secular world was worth it. You can’t know if perhaps the nun you greet is considering hanging up her habit in the closet and quitting, and your words might rekindle the ardent flame in her heart to keep following the Lord in the consecrated life. The Holy Spirit works in so many unknown ways.
And you, religious friend reading these words, please know that you can count on my prayers throughout this year: for your vocation, for your perseverance, for your courage, for your unconditional self-giving, and most of all, that you may share with us the overwhelming joy you felt in your heart that instant when the Lord unexpectedly approached you and whispered in your ear: “Come and follow me.”
Be passionate about our faith!
This is the English translation of the “Semillas de la Palabra” column that appeared in the March 2015 issue of NORTHWEST CATHOLIC.