Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog
This Sunday’s Gospel highlights for us the radical, beautiful, life-encompassing vocation of following Our Lord Jesus Christ. The young man comes to Jesus looking for the fullness of life and holiness and to follow Him. He is already a good man following the commandments, but Jesus demands even more, in fact – he demands all he has!
We know that all Christians are called by their Baptism to the way of holiness but some individuals, however, we know are called in a particular way to take the ‘narrow road’, ‘the road less travelled’ of the religious life – espousing their lives entirely to Christ by a radical observance of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.
As we know, Pope Francis has dedicated 2015 a special Year of Consecrated Life – a year to celebrate this beautuful charism in the life of the Church – a charism lived by Jesus and given by Him to certain followers in every age of the Church’s life.
In this Year of Consecrated Life the Church invites us religious and consecrated persons, among others, to do three things: 1) to recall with gratitude our past, 2) and the specific charism which inspires our way of life, 3) to reflect on the present, and to look to the future.
Speaking to assembled US religious and clergy this last month in Philadelphia, Pope Francis asked them in a homily to remember when they first heard the call of Jesus, to treasure that call and not to forget it!
The Holy Father urges us religious to recall your own vocational beginning, and be joyful and even confident in our way of life! This year is also a call to reflect on the present, and on how we are to live out our particular consecration amid the complexities and ever fresh challenges of the twenty-first century, the modern world, a world so vastly different to the one so many of our founders knew.
It’s true that the witness of the consecrated life can represent to people of every generation a powerful and reassuring sign of Christ’s power and presence in a fast moving but often confusing world. Our constancy, our stability, our fidelity, our creativity and flexibility and the profession of the evangelical counsels have a greater impact that you can ever imagine.
In this Diocese, contrary to the impression given by a rather extraordinary news report last week, we are blessed with so many religious communities coming to join the Diocese. These are gifts to us from the Lord, gifts which enrich so many people you as well as building up the Church, the body of Christ.
Even in Preston alone four new young communities have arrived in the last two years!! – with more female religious congregations establishing houses around the wider Diocese. These new communities – among other New Evangelisation initiatives – I hope, will be seed-beds of new life for our Local Church meeting the varied needs of the Church today – particularly younger people – going forward.
Nonetheless we are filled with gratitude to God and to them for all their apostolates and achievements among us and wish them our well with our prayers. May others now build on their good works and help make the grow.
As Bishop and a fellow-religious, I, too, give thanks for all our religious communities – both the new ones and the cherished more established ones – both for what they are and for what they do for the Church. As we look to the future and whatever shape and size we have as a Diocese, we need to remember and be convinced, as individuals and as communities, that we have the guarantee of Christ’s love and power always with us.
Foretelling the future is so often a precarious and uncertain undertaking, and while we may have to plan and make provision, the future ultimately rests in the Lord’s hands.
And so it is that Jesus continues to look into the hearts of young women and men today with love, a love that takes possession of them entirely, every fibre of their being and calls them to profess the counsels out of love for Him. He continues to say to them: If you would wish to follow me give up all that you posses.
What is amazing is that even in today’s individualistic and fragmented culture young women and men continue to respond to this radical call. We need to all we can to encourage them and offer them the support of our prayers.
The simple fact of the renunciation and sacrificial service inherent in professing the evangelical counsels is indeed a powerful sign to all that there is a higher good than what we can see in this world. Indeed, the gift of the religious life that the Lord Jesus gives to His Church is one of the greatest and most life-giving of all.
Until next week – May God bless you all,
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster