Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog for this week!
A week on Tuesday, 2nd February, Candlemas Day, Pope Francis will offer Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, in the presence of many religious men and women and those belonging to the consecrated life.
This solemn celebration will mark the close of the Year of Consecrated Life which the Church worldwide has been observing for the past twelve months. It is therefore timely and appropriate to acknowledge and give thanks for the wonderful gift and often outstanding witness that religious and those consecrated bring to the life of the Church.
St. Augustine of Hippo remarked a very long time ago that ‘religious life is a great mystery.’ By that he presumably means the profound act of faith by which a person feels called to follow Christ exclusively through the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
As we know from the history of the Church, this unique manner of discipleship has taken many forms, all of which are intended to show the face of the Son of God to the world. We are familiar with religious who care for the sick, or who teach the young, offer places of prayer and retreat, and so much else. Those who consecrate themselves to Christ continue, in a particular way, his incarnation in the world.
The charism of religious or consecrated life does not denote superiority with the family of the Church, but in common with every other gift of the Holy Spirit has its roots in the sacrament of baptism.
Christian life and discipleship begin for everyone at the baptismal font, hence each baptised person is graced with a lifelong vocation in Christ.
Religious and consecrated life represents one way, albeit more intensive, of living out that baptismal call. Those in the consecrated life are a reminder to the wider Church of the imperative to witness to Christ in whatever state in life we may find ourselves.
The present Holy Father lays great emphasis on our need to reach out to the poor and marginalised of our day, to offer the hand of friendship and practical help to them. The founders and foundresses of religious orders, such as St. Jeanne Jugan and St. John of God, have left us inspiring examples of such care for the needy and outcast.
Their fidelity to their charism has been the source of untold blessings to countless people down to this day. The same could be said for so many men and women whose work and witness ‘has made the path smoother by their passing feet.’
As this Year of Consecrated life draws to a close, let us join with the universal Church in giving thanks to God for the inspiring lives and service of our sisters and brothers in consecrated life. We also add a prayer for an increase of vocations that this sign of the charity of Christ may ever shine brightly among God’s people.
Until next week – may God bless you all,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster