Consecrated Life

Feb 2, 2012

Today, February 2 the Church celebrates a Day for Consecrated Life.

There was a time when Catholic parents prayed that at least one of their children would become a priest or religious sister or brother.  

My sense is that those days have passed. 

Perhaps there are some healthy reasons for this. There were situations when a parent pressured their daughter or son towards religious life (or priesthood). The young person (in childish obedience rather than adult discernment) simply gave into the pressure, instead of themselves listening for the voice of God. There were (and are) many other pressures and fears that could lead people to make a vocational choice that God had not intended for them.

But I have no doubt that parental (and community) prayer for vocations to the religious life and priesthood will return when we awake again to the fact that (as Newman prayed) God has created every person for some specific purpose. We will return to earnest prayer for vocations when we know again that human health and happiness is found most easily and deeply when we live in harmony with God’s personal and inner call to each of us.

The one who is called by God to marry, will struggle more in their search for happiness in life if they choose religious life. The one called to be a religious sister or brother or priest will have more difficulties if they instead opt for marriage. The person who is called by God to serve Him as a single person will find most happiness, peace and meaning in their life when they follow this divine call.

However if I choose to ignore the voice of God, and even for unhealthy reasons make another choice, God will then work with me and use me as His instrument in the path I have chosen.  Life in my chosen path will have more hurdles for me, but this is not a problem for God.

In fact this is what God is having to do with us most of the time: find ways of co-operating with the awkward decisions we have made!

It is significant that the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple is the day chosen by the Church to especially remember the Consecrated Life. The reason is that every year on this feast we remember that Mary and Joseph made the ritual visit to the temple with their 40-day old child to ‘present him to the Lord’.

This simple ceremony was a clear reminder to the parents that their child was not their property or possession. Human life belongs only to God.  There is a wonderful freedom in this awareness. We are released from making any decision regarding life and death. 

I accept that I cannot make any decision about my neighbours possessions. I cannot paint her fence or spray his roses without receiving their approval. This is because the fence and the roses belong to her, not to me.

The same is true of human life. The healthy human will acknowledge that it is not the full truth to speak about “my” human life. While God has given me the gift of life, the full beauty of a human life is realised and released when I present my life to the Lord in every moment.

Human life always belongs to God. Thankfully from the moment of conception until natural death, we are the possession of the loving and merciful God.

This reality is beautifully expressed in the prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola: ‘Take Lord, receive….you have given all to me, now I return it….give me only your love and your grace. That’s enough for me’.

And the beauty of this reality is powerfully and visibly expressed in the lives of those who publically and perpetually ‘present their lives to the Lord’.


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