February 2 celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple 40 days after His birth in Bethlehem. On that occasion, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to be presented in accord with the Jewish ritual law, making the usual offering. This feast is associated with the symbolism of light which reflects the prophet Simeon's words upon seeing the Christ child in the Temple, "My own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations” (Lk 2:30 - 32). Hence, we bless candles on this day which are then used for the blessing of throats on the following day of the Feast of St. Blaise. This year the option of the general blessing for throats will be used due to safety restrictions.
In Rome, the Feast of the Presentation also commemorates World Day for Consecrated Life. This day is celebrated in the United States on the following Sunday which will be February 7. World Day for Consecrated Life, initiated by Pope John Paul II, is intended to help the entire Church treasure even more greatly the witness and lives of those women and men who have given themselves totally to Christ by embracing the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. I will be privileged to celebrate Vespers on this day with those in consecrated life of our Diocese during a virtual gathering at 5:00 pm.
Among us, we have sisters and priests, following their congregations’ charisms, who build up our Diocese and the entire Church in varied manners. This includes parish ministry, contemplative life, religious education, healthcare, ministry to the elderly, youth ministry, advocacy for the poor and the immigrant, cultural ministry and the list goes on and on. In our Diocese we have six parishes entrusted to religious congregations where priests give outstanding witness to the charisms of their communities. Through all faithful and dedicated consecrated men and women, the light of Christ is reflected as through a prism in multiple ways so that He can be visibly seen, and His love known in a personal manner. We are truly blessed by our religious and by all those in consecrated life who make us know that God is real and loving. We look forward to celebrating a special form of consecrated life, that of the Order of Virgins, as we formally consecrate a virgin for our Diocese at our Cathedral on February 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Consecrated life reminds us that the Church is a family of which we are all a vital part.
In the context of family, this year in a letter of January 18 to all consecrated persons, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, referring to Pope Francis’ invitation to dream in his recent Encyclical, Fratelli tutti, urges, “Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his her own voice, brothers and sisters all” (FT n.8). The dream is one to which we are all called, whether as members of a family of consecrated life or in our own personal families.
Family life is at the center of the life of the Church because family life is a reflection of God's very being. Pope Francis has called for a special year of reflection upon the family this year to begin on March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary. As the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God is a communion of love who continually gives Himself away in this Trinity. The evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience truly reflect the eternally sacrificing love of God and exemplify the love that is essential to family life. Family life and consecrated life are not separate vocations but part of a total communion. It is from the family that vocations to the priesthood, religious life and all forms of consecrated life are fostered and encouraged. It is consecrated life, with its particular form of union with God, that reflects the union that should exist in a family, as well as the union which we are all called to have with God. Consecrated life is part of the very fabric of the mission of the Church which calls all people to follow Christ, so that His light might shine in the world. Consecrated life reminds families of what their meaning is all about.
Last year, when celebrating the World Day for Consecrated Life, Pope Francis expressed, “You too, dear consecrated brothers and sisters, are simple men and women who caught sight of the treasure worth more than any worldly good. And so you left behind precious things, such as possessions, such as making a family for yourselves. Why did you do this? Because you fell in love with Jesus, you saw everything in Him, and enraptured by His gaze, you left the rest behind. Religious life is this vision. It means seeing what really matters in life.” The Holy Father certainly sees religious life in the context of a vision or dream that captures the meaning of life.
Our world today needs the witness of consecrated life. In a world that can be too occupied with material concerns, consecrated life is a witness to where true meaning is found. We need to support our religious as they support us. We must encourage our young people to consider this joyful form of life which is a special call from God. God does indeed call women and men to live in this radical way. A call that needs to be heard as it has been heard by those men and women who have responded to it.
I express our gratitude to all who reflect the light of Christ for us through every form of consecrated life. I also express gratitude for the wonderful ministry of Sister Vivian Gonzalez, RMI, and Father Michael Driscoll, O.Carm., who assist as Episcopal Delegates in service to our fine men and women in consecrated life. We are blessed in our Diocese with an extraordinary witness. May that witness continue to shine the light of Christ before all of us.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
February 5, 2021