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2 February, World Day of Consecrated Life

For 27 years, the Church has celebrated the World Day of Consecrated Life on 2 February. It was St John Paul II who wanted this celebration, as a time of reflection and thanksgiving to the Lord for the gift of consecrated lives to God

World Day of Consecrated Life, the mass will be held in the basilica of St. Mary Major

Pope Francis, as is well known, is on a pastoral journey to the African continent, and so it will be Card. João Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, will preside over the Eucharistic celebration to be held at 6pm in Rome.

The Day – reads a note – “will be an occasion to give thanks to the Lord for the gift of consecrated life and to pray for the Holy Father Francis who, in those very days, will be in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in South Sudan where so many consecrated men and women carry out their mission in contexts of poverty and social marginality”.

“In every part of the world,” the communiqué goes on to say, “consecrated life responds to the call to bear witness to the Gospel by taking care of the most fragile, of those who are victims of injustice and social inequality, by making gestures of solidarity, by committing itself to building a future of peace and a world in which all can recognise themselves as brothers and sisters.

St John Paul II and the institution of the World Day of Consecrated Life

“I trust that this “Day” of prayer and reflection will help the particular Churches to value more and more the gift of consecrated life and to measure themselves against its message, in order to find the right and fruitful balance between action and contemplation, between prayer and charity, between commitment in history and eschatological tension.

May the Virgin Mary, who had the highest privilege of presenting to the Father Jesus Christ, her Only-Begotten Son, as a pure and holy oblation, obtain for us to be constantly open and welcoming to the great works that He never ceases to accomplish for the good of the Church and of all humanity”.

With these words the then Pope John Paul II, now a saint, announced the institution of this day.

St John Paul II saw in this feast day at least a threefold objective

1)  To praise and give thanks

“First, it responds to the intimate need to praise the Lord more solemnly and to thank Him for the great gift of consecrated life,” he wrote in his Message.

Jesus, in His obedience and consecration to the Father, tells us how much God is with us.

Consecrated persons do the same, because through their full belonging to the Lord, their way of living and working, and their dedication to mankind, they are an eloquent sign and a strong proclamation of God’s presence in the world today.

“This is the first service that consecrated life renders to the Church and to the world. Within the People of God they are like sentinels who discern and proclaim the new life already present in our history,” Benedict XVI emphasised on 2 February 2006.

2) Promoting and appreciating consecrated life

“Secondly, this Day is intended to promote knowledge of and appreciation for consecrated life on the part of the entire People of God,” wrote John Paul II for the First Day of Consecrated Life.

He also explained this to consecrated persons on 2 February 2000:

“Eschatological witness belongs to the essence of your vocation. The vows of poverty, obedience and chastity for the Kingdom of God constitute a message you give to the world about man’s definitive destiny.

It is a precious message: ‘those who vigilantly await the fulfilment of Christ’s promises are also able to instil hope in their brothers and sisters, who are often discouraged and pessimistic about the future’.

He added:

“[The consecrated life] is, therefore, a special and living remembrance of his being as a Son who makes the Father his only Love – here is his virginity -, who finds in him his exclusive wealth – here is his poverty – and has in the will of the Father the “food” on which he feeds himself – here is his obedience.

This form of life, embraced by Christ and made present particularly by consecrated persons, is of great importance for the Church, called in each of its members to live the same tension towards the All of God, following Christ in the light and power of the Holy Spirit.

The life of special consecration, in its many expressions, is thus at the service of the baptismal consecration of all the faithful. In contemplating the gift of the consecrated life, the Church contemplates her intimate vocation to belong to her Lord alone, desiring to be in his eyes “without spot or wrinkle or anything similar, but holy and spotless” (Eph 5:27).

One can well understand, therefore, the appropriateness of a special Day to ensure that the doctrine on consecrated life is more widely and deeply meditated upon and assimilated by all members of the People of God”.

3) Celebrating consecrated life

The third reason, as St John Paul II explained on the First Day of Consecrated Life, concerned persons already consecrated, “invited to celebrate jointly and solemnly the wonders which the Lord has worked in them, in order to discover with a clearer gaze of faith the rays of divine beauty spread by the Spirit in their kind of life and to become more vividly aware of their irreplaceable mission in the Church and in the world”.

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