Year of Consecrated Life-2015
Do you value your Consecrated life as a Gift of God given to the Church?
Every human venture is ultimately in the pursuit of happiness. As a joyful religious once remarked, “If the world knows what truly awaits in consecrated life, there would be crowds knocking at its door”. Myriads of saintly men and women and experienced consecrated persons testify that theirs is one of the most fulfilling forms of life. But it calls for breaking open the transcendent horizon of life. Paradoxically we also come across examples of unhappy religious who wobble like eagles with cropped wings. Pope Francis has pointed out the contradiction of a religious with a vinegary face (Italian aceto-vinegar) or sisters living as unhappy spinsters rather than joyful mothers. One can be a miserable religious when he/she lives it at a lower mindset and with mundane values. The actual struggle of many religious is about digging deep to find the hidden treasure in the field which one has bought after selling all that he/she had (Mt. 13.44). How can a religious retrieve the true joy of being a consecrated person?
How do look at your own life of consecration? Do you value it as a precious gift? It is helpful survey what Church teaches about religious life.
Lumen Gentium presents consecrated life as a precious gift of divine grace given by the Father to certain souls whereby they may devote themselves to God alone the more easily, due to an undivided heart . “Finding within her bosom men and women who very closely follow their Saviour”, the Mother church “rejoices” , “receives” and “safe guards” the gift given by the Lord . The authority of the church with regard to various forms of religious life is of interpreting these evangelical counsels, regulating their practice and finally to build on them stable forms of living.
In Vita Consecrata Pope John Paul II speaks of consecrated life as “deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord, is a gift of God the Father to his Church through the Holy Spirit. All along the history of the Church we find this gift continuously being received and responded generously in the life of great saints and founders of religious orders and bearing great fruits in the life and mission of the Church. As Pope Francis once said, “Imagine the Church without the sisters, it is inconceivable!”.
The Council of Vatican II, after an enriching debate on whether consecrated life belongs to the structure of the church, has deepened the understanding of religious life and opened up further reflections which would mature in the post conciliar era. The council stated that this state of life constituted by the profession of evangelical counsels undeniably belong to the life and holiness of the Church without being part of the hierarchical structure. Consecrated life, therefore, is not the fruit of human initiative or ecclesiastical promotion. It is a precious gift from God received with joy and preserved and protected for its fruitfulness in the Church.
Points to ponder
There are important consequences for this fact in your lived life as a consecrated person. The consecrated life makes no sense for those who have not received this gift. The role of the Church and the religious Institute is in facilitating the reception and flowering of this gift. As it is a gift from God, mere human interests and initiatives cannot produce nor promote it. It is important for the religious to embrace consecrated life as a gift received from the Lord for the good of the Church. It cannot be an escape from the struggles of life, nor a way of self promotion.
Sadly we come across situations when some religious easily relinquish this gift when there are difficulties in community life or when better opportunities are found outside in an urban context or in the first world. A gift is always a gift. Reception of it and making the best out of it depends on the maturity of the receiver and the receiver’s relationship to the giver of the gift.
For your reflection
When and how did you realize that consecrated life is not your choice of life, but a gift received?
What difference does it make in your life to come to understand that vocation to consecrated life is a free gift to you from God for the good of the Church?
How do you value and cherish this gift?
A visualization exercise:
Take a comfortable posture and observe your breathing which you do in a relaxed way. Become aware of the presence the Lord in whom you live move and have your being. Breath in his love, connect with your bodily self, allowing your whole being to saturate in His love.
As you breath in and breath out slowly, count down from 10 to 1 according to each breath. Allow yourself to enter into deeper relaxation as you count down with each breath. 10…9…8…7…6…5…. 4…3…2..
When you reach the count 1, imagine a very beautiful door before you and you slowly turn the knob to open it to the most beautiful place which you can think of. Visualize this dream place as your heart designs it… may be a mountain, a seashore, waterfall or a lake.. or whatever your heart longs for as your secret dream land.
Visualize the place in details.. may be with plenty of flowers, tall tress, meadow, rocks, chirping birds… wind.. etc.
Imagine yourself in your preferred posture… may be leaning to a tree, lying down on the grass, squatting on a rock etc. relax… observe your feelings and thoughts that arise in you as you visualize alone in your dream place.
Become aware of the presence of the Lord, the beloved of your soul, in any of your preferred images of Jesus and take your preferred posture before him.. sitting face to face, standing facing each other or whatever you feel comfortable in relation to Him.
Keep your gaze in the Lord.. and he has his gaze deep into you.. Allow yourself to be loved by him as you truly are, warts and all.
You want to revisit your vocational story with the Lord. Visualize the first inklings of wanting to be a consecrated person. Perhaps, you did not know much about it except the fee of attraction to some familiar religious or priests. Slowly in course of your formation you came to know this form of life, its meaning and challenges better. The Lord was there in your story, though, perhaps, you did not recognize him on the way. Recall before the Lord your vocational journey with its ups and downs, your seeking and learning, your failures and conquests.. Take your own time.. stopping and reliving important cross roads on your journey until you reach your present time.
Once again come back to the dream land and be present to the Lord. Tell him how it was for you to heed his call and venture to follow him…. Listen to what the Lord tells.. if any biblical passage comes alive, be present to it. Let your heart pour out what it has stored within… gratitude, petition for help, complaints..
Discuss with the Lord how he and you want to do with the gift in the context of your life today
If you want, you may bring into the scene the presence of Mother Mary, your founder/foundress, and any favorite saint or patron whom you consider to have accompanied you on your journey… Share your feelings and thoughts with them.
Before you conclude stay some moments in silent enjoyment of the presence of the Lord deep in your heart…and let the joy of being a consecrated person fill your being…
As you move towards conclusion, observe your breathing for about 5 counts…. And open your eyes with a smile. …
(you may write down the whole exercise as a colloquy. You may repeat he exercise for a few days to consolidate the experience. It may be helpful to do the exercise once in a while, if you find it helpful.
– Mathew Vattamattam