Consecrated religious respond to God, who says ‘come closer’
Each year at this time, we celebrate the jubilee anniversaries of religious women and men who serve the Archdiocese of Seattle. Each anniversary is the story of a family, a call, a response, a mission and a lifelong gift of self.
Each is a story of love for the Lord Jesus, and each is unique. Each proves that God knows us well and calls us to that vocation in which we will joyfully find fulfillment while serving him and those for whom his Son gave his life.
Consecrated religious come from families of every nationality and language, from every corner of the world. Some are from families of affluence, others from families of poverty. Some are from families of strong religious faith and observance, others from families in which religion was rarely a topic of conversation or concern.
Yet in each family, God was quietly at work, sowing the seed of a vocation.
Some religious women and men sensed at an early age that God was calling them to a life of consecration. Others perhaps shared the same sense but fought against it while God relentlessly pursued them! Others were caught off guard by God’s call at a later age, in the midst of successful careers.
Some would never have suspected that God would call them to a life of consecration in the Catholic Church, since they were raised in another faith. But according to his plan, and respecting each person’s freedom and gifts, God said to them in so many words, “Come closer.”
Love planted in their hearts
Come closer they did, responding as they could, hesitating at times at their unworthiness and worrying that they were ill-equipped for such a vocation. At a certain point they left family and friends, entering a life that held strong attraction even as it revealed to them that it is not always easy to “leave all things” for the Lord, not always easy to surrender everything, not always easy to learn how to live the life of sacrificial love for which they were being formed.
They had to struggle with personal frailties, with homesickness, with their need to grow and mature. But hearing the Lord’s words over and over — “Come closer” — they kept responding.
Coming even closer, they discovered that God had a mission for them. At times this mission came in the form of an assignment from a superior for a specific apostolate (a hospital, perhaps, or a school), and at times it sprang from a deeply personal, interior sense that their talents and their longings tugged them to a particular place, a particular people, a particular hunger.
What distinguished their mission from any humanitarian effort, however, was that it sprang from the call God had issued to them — in other words, it sprang from God himself, in the love he himself had planted in their hearts.
In accepting many missions in response to God’s call, they learned something crucial about their vocation to religious life: that surrendering themselves to God as his instruments, allowing themselves to be sent by God, learning to truly give themselves in and through God, their closeness to God increased.
Radiating the presence of Christ
And “putting on Christ” more and more, they realized that their vocations are at the very heart of the Church and the living out of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So clear did this truth reveal itself to them that they realized it is always the Lord Jesus, the Son sent by the Father, with whom they must be in communion through prayer and the Eucharist.
“Without me, you can do nothing,” Jesus told his disciples.
In his 1983 Easter letter to the bishops of the United States, St. John Paul II wrote, “By their very vocation, religious are intimately linked to the Redemption. In their consecration to Jesus Christ they are a sign of the Redemption that he accomplished. In the sacramental economy of the Church they are instruments for bringing this Redemption to the People of God. They do so by the vitality that radiates from the lives they live in union with Jesus.”
God continues to call women and men to lives of consecration in Jesus, and through their generous gift of self they are his instruments for bringing his gift of redemption to all whose lives they touch. None of us knows fully the depth and breadth of the ways God uses us as his instruments when we place ourselves at his disposal, but all of us can be sure that he uses us in ways far more numerous and much more surprising than we could possibly imagine.
Congratulations to all religious women and men in the Archdiocese of Seattle who celebrate jubilee anniversaries this year! We thank God for the families who reared you, his call that attracted you, your response that formed you, his mission that sent you, and your sacrificial love that radiates the very presence of Christ.
Send your prayer intentions to Archbishop Sartain’s Prayer List, Archdiocese of Seattle, 710 Ninth Ave., Seattle, WA 98104.
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