As a kid, I cringed at being the last one chosen for a team or not being invited to a birthday party. I didn’t like being left out.
So Pope Francis’ declaration that 2015 would be the Year of Consecrated Life brought back some memories. While I write this partially in jest, the truth is I can’t imagine that I was the only one thinking, “What’s this got to do with me?”
Then again, it might be that I was still spiritually hungover from all of the excitement of the Year of Faith. After all, my parish alone offered jewels like talks with Drs. Scott Hahn and Ted Sri, Father Barron’s “Catholicism” series, a family confession night, and a series on the natural law by Gregory LaPoint, just to name a few. It seemed like everyone was being well-fed, and I was often the first one at the table.
So coming off the heels of a year that was so inclusive, the announcement of the Year of Consecrated Life struck me as only applying to a select group.
Little did I know that I was just one “rejoice” away from finding out how wrong I was.
The consecrated—those living in monastic life, institutes devoted to contemplation, apostolic religious life, secular religious life, secular institutes, societies of apostolic life, the orders of virgins, and hermits—seem way outside of my reach on the holiness meter. By their call they are meant to be a picture of heaven here on earth. Many of them commit to poverty, chastity and obedience.
I, on the other hand, am a wife and a mother of three who fed my family cereal for dinner last night for reasons that are too complex to detail here, but include a high school retreat, a rap artist and a stress fracture.
But like I tell my kids, rather than giving up on something that seemingly doesn’t relate to you, ask yourself how you might be able to relate to it. Knowing how inclusive our Church is, I knew there had to be more to this declaration. So I did some reading.
“Rejoice!” is how Cardinal João Braz de Aviz opens his letter to the consecrated men and women on the occasion of the pope’s declaration. There’s no mistaking that the overriding theme throughout the letter is joy. We read about the profound joy in vocation, and that anyone who has encountered Christ and continues to follow him faithfully is a “messenger of the joy of the Spirit.”
And with that, it hit me. The consecrated are messengers of joy. And I, among so many others, have been the beneficiary. The occasions in which they serve as messengers of joy bridge the gap between us because they provide junctures for us to encounter Christ together. So most certainly, the Year of Consecrated Life has everything to do with me.
The consecrated have prayed with me. They have prayed for me. They have said Mass for me. They have offered Communion for me. They have taught me. They have anointed me. They have walked in friendship with me. They haven’t just been a conduit of joy in my life; they have been a source of joy in my life.
As it so often happens when our heart is tapped, I felt a call. Am I serving as a messenger of “joy of the Spirit” for the consecrated? Am I specifically and diligently praying for the consecrated? Am I praying for new vocations to the consecrated life? What kind of friend am I being to the consecrated?
In exploring the pope’s proclamation, I was reminded that while the consecrated may be in a special state that is distinct, we all share the common call in baptism to follow Christ. This is the bedrock of what unites us.
So to the Year of Consecrated Life, I too proclaim, “Rejoice!”