By Katie Yoder
Consecrated women and men — together with Catholics in general — were invited to celebrate the World Day for Consecrated Life last week. Established by St. John Paul II, the day recognizes the beauty and impact of a life dedicated to poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Here are five things Catholics should know about it.
When is it celebrated?
The Catholic Church celebrates the World Day for Consecrated Life Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas or the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Just as candles are blessed on this day to symbolize Christ as the light of the world, “So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to all peoples,” the USCCB says.
The USCCB added that parishes will celebrate the day the following weekend, Feb. 5-6.
When did it begin?
Pope Saint John Paul II established this day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life in 1997. In his message for the first World Day of Consecrated Life, the late pontiff stressed the importance of the day.
“The mission of the consecrated life in the present and in the future of the Church,” he said, “concerns not merely those who have received this special charism, but the entire Christian community.
The consecrated life, he added, “is at the very heart of the Church as a decisive element for her mission, since it ‘manifests the inner nature of the Christian calling’ and the striving of the whole Church as Bride towards union with her one Spouse,” citing his apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata.
Why is there a World Day for Consecrated Life?
In his 1997 address, Pope Saint John Paul II listed three reasons, beginning with thanking God for this “stupendous gift!”
The day “answers the intimate need to praise the Lord more solemnly and to thank him for the great gift of consecrated life,” he said. Next, “this day is intended to promote a knowledge of and esteem for the consecrated life by the entire People of God.”
The last reason, he said, concerned consecrated persons.
“They are invited to celebrate together solemnly the marvels which the Lord has accomplished in them,” he said, “to discover by a more illumined faith the rays of divine beauty spread by the Spirit in their way of life, and to acquire a more vivid consciousness of their irreplaceable mission in the Church and in the world.”
How should Catholics respond?
Catholics should recognize the day with prayer and gratitude.
“Please pray for all those who have made commitments in the consecrated life, and be sure to thank them on their special day,” the USCCB encourages. “May they continue to be inspired by Jesus Christ and respond generously to God’s gift of their vocation.”
What is special about this year?
In recognition of the day in 2022, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life issued a letter to the world’s consecrated men and women. The prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, together with the secretary, Archbishop Jose Rogriguez Carballo, said that this year’s message centers on ‘participation.’”
During his homily at Mass for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Pope Francis exclaimed: “Dear friends, today let us joyfully renew our consecration! Let us ask ourselves what ‘moves our hearts and actions, what renewed vision we are being called to cultivate, and above all else, let us take Jesus into our arms.”
“Even if at times we experience fatigue and weariness, let us do as Simeon and Anna did,” he added. “They awaited with patience the fidelity of the Lord and did not allow themselves to be robbed of the joy of the encounter with him.”
He concluded: “Let us put the Lord back in the centre, and press forward with joy.”
(SOURCE: CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY)