Celebrating Consecrated Life in the Year of Consecrated Life

This post is the first of two posts on the Consecrated Life this week, when the World Day for Consecrated Life and Bishop Loverde’s Mass for Consecrated Life fall, during this Year of Consecrated Life.

“When you only want one thing and you get it, you cannot help but be filled with Joy.”

By: Fr. J.D. Jaffe, Director of Vocations

Today, February 2, is the World Day for Consecrated Life, which is even more special in this year, which is dedicated as the Year of Consecrated Life by Pope Francis. This begs the question:

What is consecrated life?

1606-111863When we hear the term consecrated life, we most often think of nuns and priests who belong to religious orders, but there are, in fact, many types of consecrated persons: consecrated hermits, consecrated virgins, and other men and women consecrated who are a part of secular institutes, in addition to consecrated men and women religious.

Jesus lived his life perfectly exemplifying three Gospel virtues: Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, which we now call the “Evangelical Counsels” (the word Gospel comes from Latin, Evangelium). All Christians should live these virtues, but the consecrated man or woman is someone Christ calls to leave aside all possessions, human marriage, and even their own will to be totally dedicated (or consecrated) to loving and serving Him.

In Poverty, the consecrated person lives a radical dependence on Christ for their material needs. I remember watching brothers from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal interact with kids in the elementary school at my first parish assignment. The kids treated them like rock stars, as their joy inspired everyone to want to know more about them and what made them so happy. Upon hearing that these brothers slept on the floor and did not even have video games, one boy wondered aloud: “Then why in the world are they so happy?” One of the brothers responded: “When you only want one thing and you get it, you cannot help but be filled with Joy!” This is Gospel poverty, giving up all in order to truly possess and be possessed by Christ, and Christ alone.

In Chastity, the consecrated person gives witness to their special and unique bond with Jesus Christ. A consecrated woman becomes a Bride of Christ, entering into a marriage covenant with Jesus which enables her to become a spiritual mother to all. Don’t most young girls dream about being a bride? Normally, they only get to be a bride for one day, but the consecrated woman is called to be that bride again and again and again, becoming a witness of the invitation to all to the wedding feast of the Lamb for all eternity in Heaven. The consecrated man is called to the exact same spousal witness with his bride the Church, becoming a spiritual father or brother to all the faithful and giving witness to us on earth the relationship with God and others that awaits them in eternity. As one of the religious sisters I know is fond of saying:

“Lord, you created my heart, You know how to fulfill it.”

In Obedience, the consecrated person becomes the instrument of Christ Jesus for the accomplishment of His will. This is truly one of the hardest Gospel virtues to live out, but the one that can reap the greatest good. To become an instrument or tool that is used to carry out the divine plan, to know that you have cooperated with God’s grace in His work in the world, unites the consecrated person to Christ in His paschal sacrifice in a way like no other. Christ was obedient in everything, at tremendous cost to himself: He learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb 5:8); He became obedient even unto death (Phil 2:8); and He united His will to the Father’s for the good of others, praying during His Agony in the Garden: “Not my will but Yours be done” (Lk 22:42). Consecrated men and women unite themselves to Him who was perfectly obedient unto death and became an instrument for the salvation of all.

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Consecrated men and women have been and continue to be powerful, awe-inspiring witnesses in our Church and in our world, and we as members of the Church are so grateful to them. May they continue to be faithful witnesses to the life of heaven here on earth, and may their example of Poverty, Chasity and Obedience lead us closer to Christ.

Let us unite in praying for an increase in vocations to the Consecrated Life, especially today and throughout this year dedicated to them.

Please join Bishop Loverde for a Holy Mass celebrating all the Consecrated Men and Women in the diocese on Feb. 7 at 5:30 p.m. in the Cathedral of St. Thomas More, in Arlington.

Do you ever think about helping others get to heaven? Do you feel called to be a part of this systematic care of souls in the Diocese of Arlington?

Contact Fr. Jaffe at vocations@arlingtondiocese.org or (703) 841-2514.

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