Pope Francis recently issued a letter for the Year of Consecrated Life, which began Nov. 30. In his message, the Pope detailed the mission of this special year to honor the men and women of the faith who have dedicated their lives to serving the Lord. He is speaking to the men and women living the consecrated life, and to the Catholic faithful of the world. His words are summarized below.
Namely, the Pope outlined the aims of the special year to look to the past with gratitude, to live in the present with passion, and to embrace the future with hope. He spoke to the consecrated as one among them who shares in their mission to "follow Jesus by fully embracing the Gospel and serving the Church..."
In looking to the past with gratitude
, he stated in his letter, "Recounting our history is essential for preserving our identity, for strengthening our unity as a family and our common sense of belonging. More than an exercise in archaeology or the cultivation of more nostalgia, it calls for following in the footsteps of past generations in order to grasp the high ideals, and the vision and values which inspired them, beginning with the founders and foundresses and the first communities."
In calling us to live in the present with passion
he writes, "Grateful remembrance of the past leads us, as we listen attentively to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today, to implement ever more fully the essential aspects of our consecrated life."
Pope Francis calls upon the men and women living in consecrated life whether the Gospel serves to challenge them, whether it is a "manual" for our daily living and the decisions. It's not enough to simply read or meditate upon the Gospel; we are called upon to practice it.
In calling the faithful to embrace the future with hope
, the Holy Father acknowledges the challenges facing those living the consecrated life such as decreasing vocations and aging members; economic problems from the global financial crisis; issues of internationalization and globalization; and a sense of isolation and social irrelevance. But he goes on to say that these very challenges and uncertainties unite those living the consecrated life to remain faithful and hopeful in God's promises to sustain them.
He reminds those living this life to not give in to the "doom and gloom" attitude that proclaims the end of our meaninglessness of the consecrated life in the Church. "Let us constantly set out anew, with trust in the Lord," he proclaims.
Pope Francis especially wanted his words to reach the young, our future leaders in the life, formation, service and mission of your communities. He specifically calls upon them to engage with the older generations to both learn from the past and pass along inspiration for the future in return. Such encounters "become a regular means of fostering communion, mutual support, and unity," he writes.
In his letter, the Pope also outlined five expectations for the Year of Consecrated Life. The first is to find, not just plain old joy, but to discover "perfect joy." He goes on to explain, "For it is here that we learn to recognize the face of Christ, who became like us in all things, and to rejoice in the knowledge that we are being conformed to him who, out of love of us, did not refuse the sufferings of the cross."
Another expectation is for the faithful to "wake up the world." Find alternate places, where it might not be expected, where the Gospel can proclaim the truth and power of Jesus' words.
The third was all for consecrated persons to become "experts in communion." This means to bring people together by relating to and engaging people of different cultures, with different ideals. By inviting others out of isolation, opens the true communion constantly open to encounter, listen and dialogue with and to each other thus discouraging a tendency toward self-absorption.
In the fourth expectation of this year, the Pope is calling upon religious men and women to go into the world and reach out to the lost and forsaken. He explains, "You will find life by giving life, hope by giving hope, love by giving love.
Lastly, in his fifth expectation for the year, he asks each form of consecrated life to ask themselves what God and the people of the world are asking of them. Through this questioning, the Year of Consecrated Life can become a year of transformation.
Next, the Pope outlines five points on the horizons of the designated year. Here, he speaks to not only the consecrated, but to the laity who, in many ways, shares the same spirit and mission. Here he asks the entire Church to recognize the importance of consecrated men and women. He encourages open dialogue among those with different ideals and across different beliefs.
Lastly in his letter, Pope Francis addresses his fellow bishops to appreciate religious men and women as "a gift to the Church." He writes that these church leaders pay special attention to the needs of the consecrated. "Above all, do this by instructing the People of God in the value of consecrated life, so that its beauty and holiness may shine forth in the Church," he explains.
Be sure to watch for more details as this special year of the Church continues. Please click on this link to read the Pope’s letter in its entirety: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-issues-letter-for-year-of-consecrated-life