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Dear brothers and sisters, hello!
Today we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. Today is also the Day of Consecrated Life, which recalls the importance for the Church of those who have received the vocation to follow Jesus closely along the path of the evangelical counsels. Today’s Gospel gives an account of how Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple 40 days after his birth to offer and consecrate him to God according to the prescription of the Jewish Law. This Gospel episode also constitutes an icon of the gift of their life made by those who, by a gift of God, assume the traits of Jesus as virgin, poor and obedient.
This gift of ourselves to God regards every Christian because we are all consecrated to him through our baptism. We are all called to offer ourselves to the Father with Jesus and like Jesus, making a generous gift of our lives, in the family, at work, in service to the Church, in works of mercy. Nevertheless, such a consecration is lived in a special way by religious, by monks and by consecrated laypersons, who, with the profession of their vows, belong to God in a total and exclusive way. This belonging to the Lord permits those who live it in an authentic way to offer a special witness of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Totally consecrated to God, they are totally given to their brothers, to bring the light of Christ where the darkness is the most impenetrable and spread hope to discouraged hearts.
Consecrated persons are a sign of God in the different spheres of life, they are the leaven for the growth a just and fraternal society, they are a prophecy of sharing with the little ones and the poor. Thus understood and lived, the consecrated life appears to us as it really is: a gift of God, a gift of God to the Church, a gift of God to his People! Every consecrated person is a gift a gift for the People of God on its journey. There is great need of these presences that reinforce and renew the commitment to spread the Gospel, Christian education, charity toward the neediest, contemplative prayer; the commitment to human formation, the spiritual formation of young people and of families; the commitment to justice and peace in the human family. But think about what would happen if there were no sisters in the hospitals, sisters in the missions, sisters in the schools. Think of a Church without sisters! You can’t. They are this gift, this leaven that moves the People of God forward. These are great women who consecrate their life to God, who advance the message of Jesus.
The Church and the world need this witness of God’s love and mercy. The consecrated and religious are that God is good and merciful. So, it is necessary to appreciate with gratitude the experiences of consecrated life and deepen our knowledge of the different charisms and spiritualities. We must pray that many young people answer “yes” to the Lord’s call to consecrate themselves totally to him in view of a disinterested service to their brothers, of consecrating their life to serve God and their brothers.
For all these reasons, as it was just announced, next year will be dedicated in a special way to consecrated life. From this moment let us entrust this initiative to the intercession of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, who, as the parents of Jesus, were the first to be consecrated to him and to consecrate their life to him.[Following the Angelus, the Holy Father spoke further to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square:]
I greet the families, the parishes, the associations and all the pilgrims who have come to Rome from Italy and from many parts of the world. In particular I greet the Spanish students from Villafranca de los Barros e Zafra; the devotees of Bl. Stefano Bellesini, who have come from Verona, the faithful from Taranto, the choirs from Turriaco, Modena and the province of Taranto.
Today in Italy we celebrate the Day for Life, whose theme this year is “Generating the Future.” I offer my greeting and encouragement to the associations, movements and cultural centers engaged in the defense and the promotion of life. I join the Italian bishops in repeating that “every child is the countenance of the Lord the lover of life, a gift to the family and to society” (Message for the 36th National Day for Life). Everyone, in his proper role and in his proper sphere, should feel called to love and serve life, to welcome it, to respect it and to promote it, especially when it is fragile and in need of attention and care, from the maternal womb to its end on this earth.
I greet the Cardinal Vicar and those working in the Diocese of Rome to organize the Day for Life. I express my appreciation for the university instructors who, on this occasion, have conducted conferences on the contemporary problems linked to the birthrate. Thank you so much.
My thoughts turn to the dear people of Rome and Tuscany who have been affected by the rain that has caused flooding. May these brothers of ours who are suffering not lack our concrete solidarity and our prayer. Dear brothers and sisters, I am very close to you!
I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch. Goodbye![Translation by Joseph Trabbic]