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Sunday, 2 February 2014

Has the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord anything to do with Religious Congregations? - 5 things you need to know.

Has the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord anything to do with Religious Congregations? - 5 things you need to know.      
 By: Uwakwe Chibuike
1. In 1997, Pope John Paul II called for the promotion of Consecrated Life throughout the universal Church by declaring February 2 which is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, World Day for Consecrated Life (WDCL). The observance of the World Day for Consecrated Life thus becomes an opportunity to thank God for the gift of the Consecrated Life, to reflect on the role of Consecrated persons within the Church and to pray for an increase in vocation to the Consecrated Life.

2. The Code of Canon Law in Canon 573 § 1 describes the Consecrated Life as a stable form of Christian living by those faithful who feel called to follow Jesus in a more exacting way recognized by the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in No 944 describes this state of life as characterized by the public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, in a stable state of life recognized by the Church. By the provisions of Canon 588 § 1, the consecrated life may be lived either in institutes or individually. Institutes of Consecrated life are either religious institutes or secular institutes. According to Canon 607, Religious Institutes take public vows and live in communities and examples are the male and female religious congregations we have around.

3.  Today, these religious congregations and other members of the Consecrated Life are being remembered and celebrated in a special way. They include the religious brothers and sisters, nuns, priests, seminarians, consecrated virgins, etc who became followers of Jesus, making the impact of Christ felt in the specific areas of their apostolates. Today’s observance of the WDCL is therefore to recognize and encourage them in their vocation.

    4. The choice of the feast of the Presentation of the Lord for the observance of the WDCL is highly significant. In the persons of Simeon and Anna, we see the prototypes of the Consecrated Life. Simeon and Anna were devoted to the temple service always worshipping God, praying and fasting. They represent all institutes of Consecrated life who are devoted to the service of the Church in various ways and through various charismas. In the Virgin Mary who presented her only son to the Father, we also find a prototype of Consecrated Persons who present all they have to God by professing the evangelical councils of poverty, obedience and chastity. In Jesus who also offered himself to the Father and made this offering visible in the sacrifice of the cross, we also find a prototype of Consecrated persons who offer themselves whole and entire to God and this offering is made visible in the sacrifices they make in their communities.

55.    The prayer, words and actions of Simeon and Anna brought home to us the impact of Christ’s dedication at the temple. In a special way too, the prayers, words and actions of these consecrated persons in their various apostolates bring home to us, the impact of God’s care and love made visible in the services they render. Today, we rejoice and thank God with them for the gift of their vocation, we pray for more graces to enable them continue the good work they are doing and we encourage them to continue to offer their best to the Church. The Church needs them not only as missionaries but as perfect witnesses to the Gospel. The Pope has the tradition of celebrating with members of the Consecrated Life on this day. In his homily for today (the 18th edition of this event), Pope Francis described the Consecrated Life as an encounter with Christ where the Consecrated person encounters Christ and shares the fruits of this encounter with others. Therefore, I rejoice with all my friends and colleagues who belong to Institutes of Consecrated Life. May God bless you all.

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