The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and Consecrated Life

On Friday 2 February, we celebrated the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord. In the presentation of Jesus at the temple to the Father the Church also saw the role and mission of consecrated persons who give their lives to God.

In his message for the first world Day for Consecrated Life, Pope Saint John Paul II wrote: The World Day for Consecrated Life will be celebrated on the feast which commemorates the presentation which Mary and Joseph made of Jesus in the temple “to present him to the Lord” (Lk 2:22). This Gospel scene reveals the mystery of Jesus, the One consecrated by the Father, come into the world to carry out his will faithfully (cf. Heb 10:5-7). Simeon points to Jesus as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Lk 2:32) and by a prophetic word foretells the supreme offering of Jesus to the Father and his final victory (Lk 2:32-35). In this way the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is an eloquent icon of the total offering of one’s life for all those who are called to show forth in the Church and in the world, by means of the evangelical counsels “the characteristic features of Jesus — the chaste, poor and obedient one” (VC 1) (no.5).

In that beautiful as well as powerful message the Polish Pope gave three reasons why it was felt the need throughout the Church to celebrate consecrated life. He wrote: The purpose of such a day is threefold: in the first place, it answers the intimate need to praise the Lord more solemnly and to thank him for the great gift of consecrated life, which enriches and gladdens the Christian community by the multiplicity of its charisms and by the edifying fruits of so many lives totally given to the cause of the Kingdom (no. 2)…  (no. 2)… In the second place, this day is intended to promote a knowledge of and esteem for the consecrated life by the entire People of God (no. 3)… The third reason regards consecrated persons directly. They are invited to celebrate together solemnly the marvels which the Lord has accomplished in them, to discover by a more illumined faith the rays of divine beauty spread by the Spirit in their way of life, and to acquire a more vivid consciousness of their irreplaceable mission in the Church and in the world (no. 4).

The celebration of such a day is aimed at appreciating consecrated life and also helps the consecrate people themselves to grow in the vigour to offer themselves to the Father on the example of Christ more and more. Pope Saint John Paul II said: The celebration of the World Day for Consecrated Life, which will be observed for the first time on 2 February, is intended to help the entire Church to esteem ever more greatly the witness of those persons who have chosen to follow Christ by means of the practice of the evangelical counsels and, at the same time, is intended to be a suitable occasion for consecrated persons to renew their commitment and rekindle the fervor which should inspire their offering of themselves to the Lord (no. 1).

Pope Wojtyła left us some rich theological and spiritual reflection on consecrated life in his post-synodal exhortation on consecrated life and its mission in the Church and in the world. First, he started by giving us an excellent description of what consecrated life is all about. He said: By the profession of the evangelical counsels the characteristic features of Jesus — the chaste, poor and obedient one — are made constantly “visible” in the midst of the world and the eyes of the faithful are directed towards the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven (no. 1). The consecrated life truly constitutes a living memorial of Jesus’ way of living and acting as the Incarnate Word in relation to the Father and in relation to the brethren. It is a living tradition of the Saviour’s life and message (no.22).

Second, consecrated life, in fact, utterly countercultural. The Holy Father wrote: The evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity, obedience) should not be considered as a denial of the values inherent in sexuality, in the legitimate desire to possess material goods or to make decisions for oneself… The profession of chastity, poverty and obedience is a warning not to underestimate the wound of original sin and, while affirming the value of created goods, it relativizes them by pointing to God as the absolute good (no.87).

The vow of chastity is a healthy response to a world which is dominated by hedonism that divides sexuality and objective moral standards. The Pope said: The first challenge is that of a hedonistic culture which separates sexuality from all objective moral norms, often treating it as a mere diversion and a consumer good and, with the complicity of the means of social communication, justifying a kind of idolatry of the sexual instinct. The consequences of this are before everyone’s eyes: transgressions of every kind, with resulting psychic and moral suffering on the part of individuals and families. The reply of the consecrated life is above all in the joyful living of perfect chastity, as a witness to the power of God’s love manifested in the weakness of the human condition (no.88).

Regarding the vow of poverty Saint John Paul II reminds us that for consecrated people the poor Christ is the authentic wealth of the human heart. He states: Another challenge today is that of a materialism which craves possessions, heedless of the needs and sufferings of the weakest, and lacking any concern for the balance of natural resources. The reply of the consecrated life is found in the profession of evangelical poverty, which (no.89) … recalls the first of the Beatitudes in the imitation of the poor Christ. Its primary meaning, in fact, is to attest that God is the true wealth of the human heart… This witness will of course be accompanied by a preferential love for the poor and will be shown especially by sharing the conditions of life of the most neglected (no.90).

Pope Saint John Paul II also talks about the vow of obedience in his 1995 encyclical Vita Consecrata. He said:

The third challenge comes from those notions of freedom which separate this fundamental human good from its essential relationship to the truth and to moral norms. In effect, the promotion of freedom is a genuine value, closely connected with respect for the human person. But who does not see the aberrant consequences of injustice and even violence, in the life of individuals and of peoples, to which the distorted use of freedom leads?

An effective response to this situation is the obedience which marks the consecrated life. In an especially vigorous way this obedience reproposes the obedience of Christ to the Father and, taking this mystery as its point of departure, testifies that there is no contradiction between obedience and freedom. Indeed, the Son’s attitude discloses the mystery of human freedom as the path of obedience to the Father’s will, and the mystery of obedience as the path to the gradual conquest of true freedom. It is precisely this mystery which consecrated persons wish to acknowledge by this particular vow. By obedience they intend to show their awareness of being children of the Father, as a result of which they wish to take the Father’s will as their daily bread (cf. Jn 4:34), as their rock, their joy, their shield and their fortress (cf. Ps 18:2). Thus they show that they are growing in the full truth about themselves, remaining in touch with the source of their existence and therefore offering this most consoling message: “The lovers of your law have great peace; they never stumble” (Ps 118:165) (no. 91).

Let us not forget that joyful obedience, done out of choice in love, incarnates Jesus’ own promise: If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8: 31-32).

God our Father, we thank you for calling men and women to serve in your Son’s Kingdom as sisters, brothers, religious priests, consecrated virgins, and hermits, as well as members of Secular Institutes. Renew their knowledge and love of you, and send your Holy Spirit to help them respond generously and courageously to your will. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. From November 2007 till March 2020 Fr Mario was one of the six chaplains who worked at Mater Dei Hospital., Malta's national hospital. Presently he is a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ, as well as doing radio programmes on Radio Mario about the spiritual care of the sick.