(Vatican Radio) The World Day for Consecrated Life invites all Catholics to recognize the valuable contribution of consecrated men and women and to pray that “this gift may flourish in the Church,” said a Carmelite prior in an interview with Vatican Radio.
The day of prayer is observed each year on 2 February, which is also the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. But parishes and religious communities worldwide have organized diverse activities, masses and prayer events throughout the weekend.
The World Day for Consecrated Life, instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1997, is a time of prayer for those in the Church who have committed to witness to their love for God through the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Father Míċaél O’Neill, prior of the Carmelite Centre in Rome, explained the significance of marking the day of prayer on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
He referred to Mary’s offering of Jesus to God in the Temple. In the same way, consecrated men and women are called to offer their whole selves to God, he said. In addition, the presence of Simeon and Anna at the Temple indicate how consecrated people are also called to be sentinels by celebrating the ways in which God is present in the world. Finally, the feast day’s association with light is a reminder to consecrated people of how they should be “light of the world”.
Fr. O’Neill noted how the World Day for Consecrated Life is intended to engage all Catholic faithful, and not just consecrated men and women as a select group in the Church.
Consecrated life is a gift of God and this day is “a time when all the members of the Church can recognize the presence of this gift (and)… the practical implications and contributions of consecrated life over the centuries,” he said.
While the Church encourages all the faithful to pray for consecrated men and women and to thank them for their witness and service, the day is also intended to encourage consecrated people in their lifelong commitment.
“It’s great to have a day like this,” he said. “Whatever helps us to renew our spirit, to renew our commitment is always of tremendous importance.”
“Certainly here in the western world there may be many reasons for discouragement, but all the more so to have this day to recognize that things are not too bad at all and that our contribution to the Church is still very valuable,” he said.
Pope Benedict XVI presided the mass held in St. Peter’s Basilica Saturday evening to celebrate the liturgical feast and to mark the World Day for Consecrated Life.