Pope Francis has announced a Year of Consecrated Life beginning on the First Sunday of Advent (November 30). This afternoon Bishop Barry Jones opened this Year for our diocese celebrating Mass at Our Lady of Victories Church in Christchurch.
Earlier this year a letter to Consecrated persons was issued based on the teachings of St. Francis. In that letter (available at this link) we hear:
The Pope asks us to re-read our own personal story and to scrutinise it in the light of God’s loving gaze, because if a vocation is always his initiative, it is up to us freely to accept the divine-human economy as a relationship of life in agape, the path of discipleship, the “beacon on the Church’s journey”.(21)Life in the spirit is never completed, but is always open to mystery, as we discern in order to know the Lord and to perceive reality beginning with him. When God calls us he lets us enter into his rest and invites us to repose in him, in a continuous process of loving understanding. We hear the Word you are worried and upset about many things (Lk 10:41). On the path of love we go forward through rebirth: the old creation is born anew. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation (2Cor5:17). (par.5)
I found today’s gathering very moving. I have had the privilege of working alongside many of those who had gathered, in a variety of situations. A significant number have been parishioners in the parishes in which I have served. Today many of them look older, and some are very elderly and frail. Many of these men and women have born the heat of years of discipleship through difficult decades of change.
A key word in today’s celebration was “joy.” This word is central in the letter quoted above. This joy is the fruit of discipleship.
In an age when so many people are worried and upset about many things, it is clear that a rebirth is happening, especially among young people. I am taking heart in the fact that those who live on the path of love move forward through rebirth, and creatures who feel old and tired are born anew.
May the many consecrated men and women of our diocese who gathered this afternoon be born anew in the service of Christ, and experience anew the joy of this rebirth, knowing again (to quote Bishop Barry’s homily) something of the original passion of their initial call to follow Christ in a life of consecration to Him.