Sunday, February 7, 2010

Consecrated Life Sunday


The Catholic Church celebrates the women and men consecrated in religious life on the Feast of the Presentation; however, the USCCB moves this to the first Sunday in February...So, Happy Feast Day Sisters (and Brothers)! I searched around and found Pope Benedict XVI's homily on the Feast of the Presentation about the reading from Paul's Letter to the Hebrews.

"In reality, it is properly and only from this faith, from this profession of faith in Jesus Christ, the only and definitive Mediator, that consecrated life has meaning in the Church, a life consecrated to God through Christ. It has meaning only if he is truly Mediator between God and us, otherwise it would only be a form of sublimation or evasion. "

I agree, you cannot evade life by joining an order. I've met folk that thought I had escaped to the Monastery. I wonder if they knew how far wrong they were? Escaping? The Monastery has been one of the places I cannot escape from life! Daily I face my life and the lives of my sisters...have I treated them and myself as Christ?...have I sought that Benedictine Balance of Ora et Labora today?...have I looked beyond my needs to those of my community both inside and outside the Monastery? Escape, yeah right. The only way to live the consecrated life well is through Christ's assitance in learning to live well!

"If Christ was not truly God, and was not, at the same time, fully man, the foundation of Christian life as such would come to naught, and in an altogether particular way, the foundation of every Christian consecration of man and woman would come to naught. Consecrated life, in fact, witnesses and expresses in a "powerful" way the reciprocal seeking of God and man, the love that attracts them to one another. The consecrated person, by the very fact of his or her being, represents something like a "bridge" to God for all those he or she meets -- a call, a return. And all this by virtue of the mediation of Jesus Christ, the Father's Consecrated One. He is the foundation! He who shared our frailty so that we could participate in his divine nature.

Our text (Hebrews 4:14) insists on more than on faith, but rather on "trust" with which we can approach the "throne of grace," from the moment that our high priest was himself "put to the test in everything like us." We can approach to "receive mercy," "find grace," and "to be helped in the opportune moment." It seems to me that these words contain a great truth and also a great comfort for us who have received the gift and commitment of a special consecration in the Church."

These paragraphs reminded me of the Rule's call for us to Seek God as the Benedictine call. While here in Milwaukee, I've met more than a few folk that ask what our community does, as if we have one work to do. So, I try to explain the charism of "Seeking" as our calling and how we try to find ministries in our local area that connect to that seekng. Seems to be a bit of a contrast to the Apostolic Orders in the area. I do think that our Benedictine commitment to Community Life (Stability) and Prayer Life speak loudly in our quickly changing world. Everything else is moving so fast, trying to get ahead; but we hold together. Thats what I love about us.

"I am thinking in particular of you, dear sisters and brothers. You approached with full trust the "throne of grace" that is Christ, his Cross, his Heart, to his divine presence in the Eucharist. Each one of you has approached him as the source of pure and faithful love, a love so great and beautiful as to merit all, in fact, more than our all, because a whole life is not enough to return what Christ is and what he has done for us. But you approached him, and every day you approach him, also to be helped in the opportune moment and in the hour of trial.

Consecrated persons are called in a particular way to be witnesses of this mercy of the Lord, in which man finds his salvation. They have the vivid experience of God's forgiveness, because they have the awareness of being saved persons, of being great when they recognize themselves to be small, of feeling renewed and enveloped by the holiness of God when they recognize their own sin. Because of this, also for the man of today, consecrated life remains a privileged school of "compunction of heart," of the humble recognition of one's misery but, likewise, it remains a school of trust in the mercy of God, in his love that never abandons. In reality, the closer we come to God, and the closer one is to him, the more useful one is to others. Consecrated persons experience the grace, mercy and forgiveness of God not only for themselves, but also for their brothers, being called to carry in their heart and prayer the anxieties and expectations of men, especially of those who are far from God."

These last two paragraphs also called me back to the Rule. Benedict calls the Monatery a "School for the Lord's service" and he reminds us to be humble and mutually aware of each others needs...sounds like mercy to me. Maybe I'm just thinking of our own Feast of Scholastica quickly approaching, but I could hear our life in the Holy Father's homily.

Happy Celebration of Consecrated Life!

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