Pope Francis will mark the World Day for Consecrated Life on Wednesday with a Eucharistic celebration in Rome’s St. Peter's Basilica.
Pope Saint John Paul II instituted the annual observance of the Catholic Church, marking it for the first time in 1997. He designated its celebration on February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
For the 26th edition of the celebration this year, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has addressed a letter to the world’s consecrated men and women inviting them to walk together as a community in the synodal spirit of participation, where members exercise responsibility for one another through mutual listening, excluding no one.
The joy of ‘we’
The Prefect of the Congregation, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz and Secretary, Archbishop Jose Rogriguez Carballo, who signed the letter, explain that this year’s message focuses on ‘participation”, the second word of the theme of the 2023 Synod: Communion, Participation and Mission.
Recalling the exhortation of Pope Francis, the message says, “no one, no one, should be excluded or feel excluded from this journey; no one, no one, should think ‘it doesn't concern me’.”
The message recalls that, by going back to their vocational call, consecrated persons will rediscover the enthusiasm, amazement and joy of feeling and being part of a project of love, for which others like them have also made their lives available for the good of humanity. The Vatican Congregation thus invites consecrated persons to revive this memory, warning that “over time it risks losing its strength, especially when we replace the attractiveness of ‘we’ with the strength of ‘I’”.
Participation of all
The first proof of participation is belonging, the message says, adding, “I cannot participate if I conceive of myself as the whole and do not recognize myself as part of a shared project.” Hence the importance of asking ourselves what this listening in the community consists of: “Who are the brothers and sisters we listen to and, before that, why do we listen to them?”
“We cannot call ourselves a vocational community, and even less a community of life, if the participation of some or others is missing.”
The Congregation invites consecrated men and women to the synodal journey of participation “strong in the conviction that we can only receive and give Good” because, as Pope Francis says, consecrated life is born, grows and can give evangelical fruits only in the Church, the living communion of the faithful People of God.
Participation thus becomes responsibility, whereby “we cannot but be among others and with others”. And even before that, synodality begins within us from a "change of mentality, from a personal conversion, in the community or fraternity, in our homes, workplaces and structures structures to expand into ministries and mission".
Thus, nourishing the synodal journey together that begins with listening, means making room for the other in our lives, taking seriously what is important to him or her.
Participation also means co-responsibility, especially in the missionary dream of reaching out to all, of caring for all, of feeling that we are all brothers and sisters, together in life and in history, which is the history of salvation.
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