Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (30 January 2016)
In the last few days of this year of consecrated life, I felt it apt to reflect a little on what consecrated life actually means to me. The Holy Father wrote about waking the world with the joy of the Lord and I do wonder if I’ve done enough of that over the past year. Furthermore, what exactly does it mean to wake the world up anyway?
I feel it starts with an awareness of ourselves within the world. To wake something or someone up, we have to be aware of who it is that needs the waking and from there, to lead this person or persons to the joy of the Lord. We’re all called to be joyful witnesses of God’s mercy. We’re called to show this joy in our lives, especially so in the face of what the world tells us and expects. I see three points about religious and consecrated life that strike me – incongruity, gratitude and joy itself.
Religious life is incongruous, strange, awkward and can be disturbing to some. We’re called to be poor in our materialistic world, chaste in a world of sensual pleasures and obedient in a narcissistic and individualistic world. Many struggle to understand why people would want to voluntarily submit to such a life and give up all that the world has to offer. My question in reply is ‘Does the world have that much to offer over what the Lord does?’ I believe we’re not called to give anything up more than take on a call to express our most authentic way of following the call of the Lord. I don’t try to fully understand why I’m here but I do trust that the Lord does indeed lead me where I should and that is enough for me.
Gratitude lies at the heart of religious life. I’m often asked why I’m a religious and my simple reply is that God called. I’ve often prayed why God called me to be religious and I know it’s not because I’m particularly talented or holy. In fact, I think the call came because I’m not particularly talented nor holy so that the Lord can work through me, holes and imperfections and all. I’m very grateful for that and the Magnificat of our Blessed Mother where she says ‘The Lord has done great things for me, Holy is His name!’ says it very well. Just as she gives thanks for her life, we give thanks for the wonder of our own being.
Joy, at the heart of the Year of Consecrated Life, is all about spreading the seed of the Lord’s presence. Joy is the surest sign of the Lord being present and it’s a sure sign of a religious who is authentically being who he or she is supposed to be. Our Blessed Mother says ‘My soul rejoices in God my saviour’ and this indicates not a fleeting happiness but abiding joy. This is a constant reminder to myself to show joy more so that people may be reminded of the joy of the Lord. That, perhaps, is the best vocation promotion that anyone can do.
Being grateful, joyful witnesses in the face of our fractured world is not easy but then again, what is? Our Blessed Mother was the same and remains a model for me on how to face the world that is at once contradictory and confusing. Most religious (apart from the monks and nuns) are not set apart but live alongside everyone. We are to be signs on how to live more grateful and joyful lives, disturbing where we need to, giving comfort at other times. And that’s how we can indeed ‘magnify’ the Lord in all that we do, in all of our lives.