Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Happy Candlemas... Merry Nunmas

For the 15th time, this Presentation Day -- the 40th day after Christmas and traditional end to the Yuletide season -- marks the global church's yearly Day for Consecrated Life, a tribute and call to the nearly million of us worldwide who've given their all for the Kingdom in states of life ranging from religious communities to third-orders, consecrated virgins to hermits.

The World Day was instituted in 1997 by Blessed-to-Be John Paul II with the aim of focusing more intently on "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.

"We should never forget that consecrated life, before being a commitment of men and women, is a gift which comes from on high," the late pontiff wrote, "an initiative of the Father 'who draws his creatures to himself with a special love and for a special mission.'"

Today, John Paul added, "truly there is great urgency that the consecrated life show itself ever more 'full of joy and of the Holy Spirit,' that it forge ahead dynamically in the paths of mission, [and] that it be backed up by the strength of lived witness, because," quoting the memorable exhortation of Paul VI, "modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."

Along those lines, Masses and prayer services to mark the Day are being held in the local churches, with the Pope leading Vespers for the occasion tonight in St Peter's. Back in the States, meanwhile, the day saw the release of a survey of the US' latest Profession Class of women religious, which -- among other things -- revealed yet again the outsize contribution of Asian-American Catholics to the next generation of the nation's priestly and religious vocations.

Comprising some three or four percent of the Stateside church's 68 million faithful, American sisters of Asian roots now number a fifth of its newly-vowed nuns. The survey also relayed that a full quarter of the Profession Class entered their communities with a graduate degree or higher.

Above all, though, just as St Teresa of Avila once famously asked "what would become of the world if there were no religious in it?" whether they're young or old, male or female, whatever their charism, it's worth taking an extra moment today to say a word of thanks to the religious around us, so many of whom take on this church's most thankless (yet likewise most important) tasks, but who rarely get the full measure of the appreciation they so richly deserve.

PHOTO: Stephen Siewert/Sydney Morning Herald