VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The first service that consecrated persons offer is to show a life totally committed to God, said Benedict XVI on World Day of Consecrated Life.
This celebration, held today on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, was for the Pope “an appropriate occasion to praise the Lord and thank him for the inestimable gift that consecrated life represents in its different forms.”
In his homily during an evening Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Holy Father said that this World Day is “at the same time a stimulus to promote in the whole People of God knowledge and esteem for those totally consecrated to God.”
“Just as the life of Jesus, in his obedience and dedication to the Father, is a living parable of the ‘God with us,’ in the same way the concrete commitment of consecrated persons to God and brothers becomes an eloquent sign of the presence of the Kingdom of God for the world of today,” Benedict XVI added.
“Their way of living and acting is capable of manifesting without mitigating circumstances the full belonging to the one Lord,” he indicated.
“Their complete surrender in the hands of Christ and of his Church is a strong and clear proclamation of the presence of God in a language that is comprehensible also for our contemporaries,” the Pontiff added.
The Bishop of Rome emphasized that “this is the first service that consecrated life makes to the Church and the world.”
“Within the People of God,” he added, consecrated persons are “like watchmen who glimpse and proclaim the new life already present in history.”
The Mass in St. Peter’s was preceded by the liturgy of light, in which candles were lit and blessed, followed by a procession.
Worldwide, men and women religious number 1,045,364, according to the statistics of the Holy See.
Among them are 137,409 religious priests; 524 permanent deacons; 54,620 professed men religious; 776,269 professed women religious; 47,626 contemplative nuns; and 28,916 members of secular institutes.