Religious celebrate the joy of consecrated life
In ushering in a Year of Consecrated Life for women and men religious last November, Pope Francis urged the people who have offered their lives in vowed service to the church to “wake up the world” with their joyful lives.
Saying their ministry to Archdiocese of New Orleans was vital to Christ’s mission, Archbishop Gregory Aymond echoed the pope’s sentiments in his homily Feb. 21 at a Mass honoring the World Day for Consecrated Life at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor on State Street.
“We are blessed in this archdiocese to have almost 500 women and men religious who serve in this local church,” Archbishop Aymond told the hundreds of religious sisters, brothers and priests who attended the Mass. “I can assure you, this local church would not be what it is today if it were not for the influence, ministry and mission of women and men religious.”
Year will conclude in February 2016
The Year of Consecrated Life began last November and will conclude on Feb. 2, 2016.
Sister of Mount Carmel Beth Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Department of Religious, said the season of Lent was an appropriate time to reflect on religious life because it provides built-in encouragement for deeper prayer and spiritual reflection.
“The Holy Father tells us that he is counting on us to be prophets,” Sister Beth said in a reflection before the final blessing. “Nobody really wants to be a prophet, and I think if they do, they’re probably a false prophet. But prophets are those who can look with love at our world, see its goodness but also see its sinfulness and call all of God’s people to live more authentically.”
Sister Beth said in order to be prophetic voices, individual religious women and men need to examine themselves and discover areas where God is calling them to repent.
“We want to be authentic, and authentic people look at our lives of prayer,” she said. “Are we giving of ourselves wholeheartedly and generously in service of God’s people? Are we really following the poor, the chaste and the obedient Jesus?
Using Lent to reflect
“These next six weeks offer us that opportunity to look at our lives and our commitment to note those places where we need to repent and do it out of love for this God who has given us such a treasure. Where we see our frailties and our weakness, let us give our hearts to the one who loved us first and who continues to uphold and challenge and lead us to embrace a future full of hope.”
The Gospel reading was taken from the 5th chapter of St. Luke, who chronicled Jesus’ calling of Levi, the tax collector. Even though Levi was an
outcast for his business practices, he responded quickly to Jesus’ call to follow him.
“Levi could have said, ‘Lord, you don’t know what you’re asking for; I’m a dishonest tax collector, and other people hate me. I am on the fringe of society. You must be asking the wrong person,’” Archbishop Aymond said.
But once Levi took “the leap of faith,” he never turned back, Archbishop Aymond said.
“Jesus makes it clear as he is criticized for asking a tax collector to be in his company and to go to his home that he has not come for the righteous,” Archbishop Aymond said. “But that begs the question – who are the righteous? Because, all of us, in some way, need God’s healing, God’s forgiveness and God’s mercy.”
Archbishop Aymond asked the religious to reflect on their own special call from God, “another calling that came out of that baptismal call to serve in consecrated life.”
“I would ask you to ponder in your mind today, ‘How did that call happen? Who was it that God used to awaken that call in you?’” the archbishop said. “You could have said, ‘You have the wrong person,’ but you didn’t.”
“How did God know your name? God did, and we are grateful that he spoke your name and called you to follow him,” the archbishop said.
Sister Beth said the Department of Religious is preparing a brief video on religious life that will be available on a new website in the coming months.