59th Annual St. Nicholas Celebration

Family: the Foundation of Consecrated Life’
What Laity can learn  from Consecrated Lives

(Part 4 of 4)

The theme for this year’s St. Nicholas Event is “Family: The Foundation of Consecrated Life.”  This theme highlights two major overlapping events: the Year of Consecrated Life (celebrated from the First Sunday of Advent – the weekend of November 29, 2014 – until February 2, 2016, the World Day of Consecrated Life) and the World Meeting of Families, which took place this past September in Philadelphia and included an historic visit from Pope Francis. The following fourth and final column of this four-part series reflects upon what laity can learn from those living consecrated lives.

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.” (John 17:15-16)

In this final reflection, we’ll consider how, more than anyone else, consecrated persons show us how to be in the world while not also being of the world.  We’ll also meet our keynote speaker for this year’s banquet, Sister Kathleen Hutsko, Provincial Superior of the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate.

Those who have consecrated their lives, and lay Christians who follow their example, live by a standard the majority of our society does not fully grasp. Examples are numerous: we believe that only marriage between a man and a woman is sacred, we believe that every life is sacred from the moment of conception, and we even believe in something as simple as forgiveness.

Perhaps even more misunderstood than those beliefs are ideas such as setting aside one’s own will to do the will of God – “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30) – or the belief that we cannot truly live our lives without Eucharist.

And why do we believe these things?  Because when we call upon God or follow the values of the Gospels, they enter into our lives and suddenly we are no longer facing the world alone.  Not only is this the type of healthy witness our larger society needs, it’s also what made Christianity so appealing to so many people.  After all, who wouldn’t be attracted to a life that exemplifies charity, forgiveness, life after death, Eucharist, sacraments, just to name a few. The same group of men and women who made up the early church lived by these principles, going against the typical mindset of their culture, and simply put: they changed the world for the better.

One of Pope Francis’ expectations for the Year of Consecrated Life was that the joy of those living consecrated lives would become a healthy witness to the larger society. In his Apostolic Letter on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life, the Holy Father wrote that he hopes, “That the old saying will always be true: “Where there are religious, there is joy”. We are called to know and show that God is able to fill our hearts to the brim with happiness; that we need not seek our happiness elsewhere; that the authentic fraternity found in our communities increases our joy; and that our total self-giving in service to the Church, to families and young people, to the elderly and the poor, brings us life-long personal fulfillment.”

We especially thank the entire religious community of the Byzantine Catholic Church for being witnesses that all laity can learn from, witnesses that exemplify what Pope Francis called them to do, “to follow Christ more closely, to translate the Gospel into a particular way of life.”