By Stella Envulu, SHCJ
Pope Francis in his wisdom has designated 2015 as the “World Year of Consecrated Life”. He echoes very strongly to consecrated men and women; Wake Up the World! In these simple but captivating words, Pope Francis significantly express to the world the theme for the World Year of Consecrated Life.
The theme: “Wake up the World” seems to suggest that the world has been locked in sleep and needs to wake up. It may also imply that religious men and women are awake. But, are we really awake? Interestingly, the words are exceptionally implicating. They are because they carry a great weight of responsibility. The world has gone to sleep and suddenly there comes the cry to wake it up from sleep. Hummm… But how do you wake a world as big as ours from sleep? This is the great task that the Pope calls consecrated persons to do in the ways possible as they celebrate their lives this year.
The year began on 29th November 2014 with a vigil Mass. It has a very important call that has got three parts.
- First, the year is devoted to the renewal of Religious Life in all possible ways. Please our dear friends, keep us in your prayers as we re-examine and renew our commitment to our vowed life.
- Second, it is the celebration of the witness of members of different religious orders; what these orders have offered the church in the past, what they still offer and what they will offer in the future. These men and women; by the Evangelical Counsels of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience have given up everything to follow Christ and devoted their lives to the establishment of God’s reign through unceasing prayer, unwavering courage and irrefutable hope that all things are possible with God even in the face of so much doubt and difficulties.
- The third is an invitation to young people to consider a vocation in the religious life. The present and next generations of Catholics are called to be courageous to discern and embrace Religious Life.
Now, why bring in focus Consecrated Life? One of the reasons is the fact that modernity (materialism, technology) by the day continues to pose serious threats and challenges to our Religious Life today that it seems almost impossible to embrace and live. So, for us (religious men and women), this is also a time to stay close to Jesus most especially because of all that surround us. He will help us.
Hence, the embedded call of the Pope is the expectation that we (consecrated persons) re-examine and renew our resolve and commitment to Religious Life; waking up to the commitments. Can we strengthen them in any way? He further admonishes us to be witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living… Can I begin to do something extra instead of just doing that which I am used to? Can I do that which I do more passionately, more authentically? What small thing can I do to bring about the smallest required change? I do not need to do big things. Our ministry of witness is a continuous one. No wonder saint Francis of Assisi reminds us of the ardent need to preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words. Saint Catherine of Siena also adds “if we are what we should be, we will set the world on fire”. And if we are doing what we ought to do, then the world will not be asleep. So, we can actually wake up the world!
Further, Pope Francis in a meeting with Union of Superiors General in Nov. 2013 expressed in these words; “Religious Life ought to promote growth in the Church by way of attraction. The Church must be attractive. So, wake up the world…”
It is of great importance that we remain attractive to all people especially young people in simple ways possible, if not we are likely to lose them. Young people want to see us act. They want to be convinced of the lives we live, feel secured, loved and encouraged. Consequently, I think we ought to pay attention to the events and people that enter our lives for God speaks to them through us and to us through them.
The Pope adds again in the Joy of the Gospel No 2: “whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of His love is no longer felt and the desires to do good fades”. For this, I fear the great task of a serious realization to Wake up the world.
Our dear young people, this is also a time for you to consider Religious Life as a vocation you may want to embrace. God may be calling you to take the bold step to knock at the doors of Religious orders. Lumen Gentium Chapter 5 on “The Universal Call to Holiness” puts it rightly: “All Christian faithful regardless of their particular vocation in life, are called to that same “perfection” and holiness of life that Christ speaks of in the Gospels…”
For those who want to do more, I encourage you, consider Religious Life. Most important, do what you think God is asking you to do and be happy to do it. Religious Life has been a gift in our lives that we want to reach out and help you whom it might also be a great gift.
We thank God for the contribution and witness of consecrated persons worldwide through words, prayer, commitment, presence, exemplary lives, justice, Faith, Prophetic teaching, role, service, love, mission and many others. We ask God to support us in our journey of renewal and re-commitment this year that we remain true and radical witnesses of the Gospel by our different ways of doing, of acting and of living; meeting the wants of our time – reaching the world in remarkable ways – awakening people in the nooks and crannies of our world. AMEN!