For obvious reasons, it’s very different from the kinds of things I usually write. (There’s nothing quite like trying basically to summarize your Master’s thesis topic into a five-minute presentation aimed at grade-school children and their parents!) Still, I think it was about as well-received as I could have hoped—at the very least, I think it might have helped to clarify things for those parishioners who’ve been trying to figure out whether or not I’m a nun! ;-)
Good morning. I know many of you already know me…my name is Jenna Cooper, and I am the Director of Religious Education here at _________ parish. I am also a consecrated virgin of the Archdiocese of New York. I would like to thank Fr. ________ for inviting me to give a short talk on World Day of Consecrated Life, which parishes across the country are celebrating today. (N.b.: In the United States, there is the option of moving parish commemorations of World Day for Consecrated Life to the Sunday after the feast of the Presentation.)
World Day of Consecrated Life was instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1997 as a day to celebrate and prayerfully remember all those men and women who have offered their lives entirely to God in one of the many forms of consecrated life.
To be more specific, when we speak of the “consecrated life,” we are talking about the vocation of those who give their lives to Christ in an especially radical way. Of course, all baptized Catholics are called by God to be followers of Christ, to become holy (and even to become saints!), but consecrated men and women are called to be so focused on Jesus that they freely and joyfully sacrifice some of the best things of this life—like marriage and a family of their own—in order to give God their whole and undivided heart, mind, and attention.
Consecrated life has existed from the very beginning of the Church, and many different kinds of consecrated life have developed over the course of the past two-thousand years of our history.
For example, in the Church today we have cloistered monks and nuns, as well as individual hermits, who spend the majority of their time in silence and solitude praying for the needs of the Church and the salvation of the whole world. We have consecrated virgins (which is what I am), who are women that are called to live as brides of Christ and who dedicate their lives to prayer for, and service to, a particular diocese.
Probably the most familiar form of consecrated life to many of us here are the “active” religious Brothers and religious Sisters. Religious Brothers and religious Sisters make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, while living in communities founded to provide specific kinds of charitable work for the Church, such as teaching, nursing, or working with the poor. Another, perhaps less familiar, form of consecrated life involves groups of priests who join together for a common apostolic purpose, like foreign missionary work, in what is called a “Society of Apostolic Life.” And these are just a few of the ways that someone might be called to serve God as a consecrated person!
At this point, you might be asking yourself, “If we’re all called to be holy, then why does the Church need consecrated life in the first place?”
Some people answer this question by pointing all the good works that consecrated men and women do for the Church. And this is certainly something we can all appreciate—consecrated persons are responsible for a lot of the schools, parishes, hospitals, soup kitchens, and other great organizations that still help a lot of people today. However, as good as these things are, they’re actually not the main reason why the Church needs consecrated life.
A better answer might be that the Church needs consecrated life because the Church always needs people dedicated to praying. This is an important point as well, since prayer is like the powerhouse of the Church—it’s what keeps all of us going, even when times are tough.
However, the best answer of all would be that the Church needs consecrated men and women, because the consecrated life is a sign and reminder of God’s love for all of us, His people.
Consecrated men and women don’t give up the chance of being married, the chance for having children, the opportunity for having nice things, and in most cases the the majority of their time and personal freedom, because they just happen to be naturally strange people who never wanted these things in the first place. No! Consecrated persons give up some of the most worthwhile things this world has to offer because they’ve fallen in love with God, and God alone is enough to fill up their heart.
This shows the whole Church that, since all of us have the love of God, we can always be filled with peace, joy, and hope, no matter what kind of challenges we face. The vocation of consecrated people is to prove with their lives that this kind of love and trust in God is not only possible, but is readily available to everyone who seeks God with a sincere heart.
To finish this talk, I would just like to point out a few things we all can do to help support consecrated life in the Church:
The first is to…
- Pray. Consecrated people spend their lives praying for you, but we’re always grateful for your prayers, too!
- You could also think about taking the time to learn more about the different ways that consecrated life is lived in the Church today.
- Parents: be open if your child is considering a vocation. Remember that if God is calling your child, He is calling them to a life of great joy.
- Young people: prayerfully consider if you might be called!
- Finally, live out your own vocation as best you can. The Church is a family, and when one of us does our best to be holy, it helps the rest of the people of God, in all vocations.