01 December 2014

Year of Consecrated Life Has Begun!

Year of Consecrated Life begins; Pope issues apostolic letter

The Year of Consecrated Life began on November 30 with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz in St. Peter’s Basilica. The prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life took the place of Pope Francis, who was in Istanbul on the final day of his apostolic journey to Turkey.

The Mass was preceded by a November 29 prayer vigil at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and by the November 28 release of an apostolic letter by the Pontiff to all consecrated persons-- that is, those who have made vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. The year will conclude on February 2, 2016.

In his apostolic letter, Pope Francis said that the year’s aims are “to look to the past with gratitude,” “to live the present with passion,” and “to embrace the future with hope.” He stated:
The question we have to ask ourselves during this Year is if and how we too are open to being challenged by the Gospel; whether the Gospel is truly the “manual” for our daily living and the decisions we are called to make. The Gospel is demanding: it demands to be lived radically and sincerely. It is not enough to read it (even though the reading and study of Scripture is essential), nor is it enough to meditate on it (which we do joyfully each day). Jesus asks us to practice it, to put his words into effect in our lives.

Once again, we have to ask ourselves: Is Jesus really our first and only love, as we promised he would be when we professed our vows? Only if he is, will we be empowered to love, in truth and mercy, every person who crosses our path. For we will have learned from Jesus the meaning and practice of love. We will be able to love because we have his own heart.

Our founders and foundresses shared in Jesus’ own compassion when he saw the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd. Like Jesus, who compassionately spoke his gracious word, healed the sick, gave bread to the hungry and offered his own life in sacrifice, so our founders and foundresses sought in different ways to be the service of all those to whom the Spirit sent them. They did so by their prayers of intercession, their preaching of the Gospel, their works of catechesis, education, their service to the poor and the infirm… The creativity of charity is boundless; it is able to find countless new ways of bringing the newness of the Gospel to every culture and every corner of society.

The Year of Consecrated Life challenges us to examine our fidelity to the mission entrusted to us. Are our ministries, our works and our presence consonant with what the Spirit asked of our founders and foundresses? Are they suitable for carrying out today, in society and the Church, those same ministries and works? Do we have the same passion for our people, are we close to them to the point of sharing in their joys and sorrows, thus truly understanding their needs and helping to respond to them?

The Pontiff also called upon the consecrated to be joyful and prophetic witnesses and “experts in communion.”

“I also expect from you what I have asked all the members of the Church: to come out of yourselves and go forth to the existential peripheries,” he added. “‘Go into all the world’; these were the last words which Jesus spoke to his followers and which he continues to address to us (cf. Mk 16:15). A whole world awaits us: men and women who have lost all hope, families in difficulty, abandoned children, young people without a future, the elderly, sick and abandoned, those who are rich in the world’s goods but impoverished within, men and women looking for a purpose in life, thirsting for the divine.”

“Don’t be closed in on yourselves, don’t be stifled by petty squabbles, don’t remain a hostage to your own problems,” he continued. “These will be resolved if you go forth and help others to resolve their own problems, and proclaim the Good News. You will find life by giving life, hope by giving hope, love by giving love.”

For a printable copy of the letter, please go to: Francis' Apostolic Letter to Consecrated Persons on the Occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life