by Father John Cush
Last weekend, on the feast of the Presentation, the Church celebrated the gift of consecrated life. It is a true gift that those who live the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience in religious communities and other forms of vows (like those who have committed to be consecrated virgins or within secular institutes or societies of apostolic life) give to the world.
The theme for this year’s World Day for Consecrated Life is “Blessed!” Indeed, the Church is blessed by the religious sisters and brothers, monks and nuns, and those living the Gospel in the world by professing publically the evangelical counsels. I am grateful to the Lord for the example, guidance, friendship and love that I have experienced throughout my priesthood from the religious and consecrated, in particular the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Nashville Dominicans, Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist of Ann Arbor, Sisters of Life, Apostolic Oblates and Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood, L.I. I consider myself “Blessed!” to have the witness of these women in my life, and I’m grateful to the Vincentians, Jesuits and Dominicans for teaching me in college and graduate school and for clearly communicating the truths of the faith to me.
What I admire most about those in consecrated life is the fact that they are truly living out in the world today poverty, chastity and obedience. They are called to give prophetic witness in our midst. By living out the evangelical counsels, these women and men remind us, diocesan clergy and laity, of what lies before us – not the things of this world but the things of the world to come. They are called to be eschatological witnesses to the world to come.
In living the charism of their founders, the religious remind us that we are part of a great tradition, one that dates back to the Lord Jesus Himself and those courageous witnesses who have given up all to follow Him. Whether it be Ignatius Loyola or Jeanne Jugan, whether it be Dominic Guzman or Catherine McAuley, the religious life should remind us of the timelessness of our Church’s tradition.
In living the evangelical counsel of poverty, those in consecrated life remind us that, ultimately, we are called, each in our own state of life, to live in complete dependence on the Lord. True, we have to live in the world; true, we have to be practical – but ultimately, we are not of the world. It’s not about what we own in the end.
In living the evangelical counsel of chastity, those in consecrated life remind us that these bodies of ours are meant for immortality. Living in the state of “original innocence,” they stand as examples of purity and being refined like the sons of Levi whom we hear about in the selection from the Old Testament given to us today for our reflection.
In living the evangelical counsel of obedience, they show themselves to be the successors of Anna, the prophetess in the Temple, and Simeon, the righteous elderly man who awaits the Christ of the Lord whom we hear about in the Gospel of Luke. Consistency, patient endurance, detachment and openness to the plan of God in our lives are some of the virtues we can learn from those in consecrated life.