A Reflection on Consecrated Life and the Spirit of Unity

By Zara Tai OCV, 2 February 2020
Zara Tai outside St Peter's Basilica. Image: Supplied.

 

The 24th World Day for Consecrated Life will be celebrated on 2 February 2020.

World Day for Consecrated Life is celebrated on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the temple (2 February). The Feast Day was chosen by Pope John Paul II because it reflects how consecrated people offer their lives to God, in the same way as Mary presented Jesus in total service of God.[1] This is expressed through the lived experience of the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity and obedience) as a reflection and witness of the Kingdom of God.

The Diocese of Parramatta is uniquely blessed. There are all forms of consecrated life in the Diocese – that being secular institutes, societies of apostolic life, consecrated virgins, hermits and religious orders. Each form is a different expression of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Together and united as consecrated life, it is a reflection of communion in the Holy Spirit where each form offers something that the Church needs. Each form should ideally be reciprocally accepted by other forms.[2] No form is better or more preferred in the Church than the other.[3]

For the person called to a form of consecrated life, that form of life reflects all who they are in Christ. It is in their blood. That form of consecrated life makes them the best person they can possibly be. It gives them untold happiness and peace. It is a love affair with Christ who they desire to serve and love in the different ways they are called. In prayerful space, habits, titles, prefixes and suffixes to their name do not matter – only Christ matters.

Consecrated life is not about doing a specific job within the Church. The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church states that except for holy orders, there is no job or ministry that can be done by un-ordained consecrated people that the laity cannot also do.[4] However, consecrated people are called to be “people of encounter.”

Pope Francis said “our vocation originates from a grace of the Lord which touches us, through a life-changing encounter.” Those who experience this encounter, share their encounter of Christ with others, in humility and without any reference to themselves.[5]  It is also an encounter of gratitude of the gift of the vocation to the individual form of consecrated life in which they are called. It is a life of joy and peace, even with all the ups and downs of ordinary life.

Consecrated life is about being prophets. This is not like telling the future. This is about telling people what makes you truly happy – happiness in Jesus.[6]

Pope Francis says prophecy is a gift. How do you express that relationship that you have with Christ as a way of bringing others to Christ?[7]

Pope Francis also calls consecrated people to be with the people to smell like the sheep they work with. Even in monastic life, being with people in your monastic community is about being with the sheep and to smell like them.

And finally, Pope Francis asks consecrated people to be people of hope as expressed in the Beatitudes.[8] Pope Francis was also speaking about some religious orders dying out. However, hope is seen in the growth of some forms of consecrated life, particularly consecrated virgins and other forms of consecrated life in different parts of the world. It is seen of a reflection of the Holy Spirit giving what the Church needs and not necessarily what it wants.

My hope and prayer for consecrated life in the Diocese of Parramatta is that there is a better understanding of what consecrated life is. We must try to “think” consecrated as a collective unity rather than “think” one familiar form. Pope Francis has given us his vision of this. My hope is also that we use language and structures in the Diocese of Parramatta to reflect this understanding.

May we always welcome, pray for and recognise all forms of consecrated life in our liturgies, church documents, social media, in every part of Church life as they all continue to pray, work and live in our Diocese.

Zara Tai OCV is a Consecrated Virgin of the Diocese of Parramatta.

 


Sources

[1] John Paul II “Message of the Holy Father John Paul II for the First World Day of Consecrated Life – 6 January 1997”. Accessed on 15 January 1997

[2]  “Listening to the Spirit of Unity” in Sequela Christi Volume 2, 2016, 550.

[3]  “Listening to the Spirit of Unity” in Sequela Christi Volume 2, 2016, 550.

[4]  Lumen gentium 30-31.  https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html Accessed on 16 January 2020.

[5] Pope Francis “Feast of the Presentation of the Lord XX World Day of Consecrated Life – St Peter’s Basilica” 2 February 2016.

[6] Pope Francis “Jubilee for Consecrated Life” 1 February 2016.  http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2016/february/documents/papa-francesco_20160201_giubileo-vita-consacrata.html Accessed on 16 January 2016.

[7]Pope Francis “Jubilee for Consecrated Life” 1 February 2016.

[8] Pope Francis “Jubilee for Consecrated Life” 1 February 2016.

 

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