By Linda Andrade Rodrigues
TAUNTON, Mass. — Preaching to the world and walking among the masses in Washington, New York and Philadelphia, Pope Francis is a prophet in our midst.
In his apostolic letter on the Year of Consecrated Life, the pontiff said: “Prophets receive from God the ability to scrutinize the times in which they live and to interpret events. Prophets know God, and they know the men and women who are their brothers and sisters. They are able to discern and denounce the evil of sin and injustice. Because they are free, they are beholden to no one but God, and they have no interest other than God. Prophets tend to be on the side of the poor and the powerless, for they know that God Himself is on their side.”
Pope Francis declared a Year of Consecrated Life from Nov. 30, 2014, the First Sunday of Advent, to the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Feb. 2, 2016.
“I am counting on you ‘to wake up the world’ since the distinctive sign of consecrated life is prophecy,” instructed the pope to all those with vocations. “Religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way. This is the priority that is needed right now: to be prophets who witness to how Jesus lived on this earth.”
Seventy-five consecrated Sisters, Brothers and priests from throughout the Diocese of Fall River recently gathered to celebrate World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life at St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Taunton. Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., presided at the event.
“Father Timothy P. Reis gave a special welcome to us, and we were joined by St. Andrew’s parishioners for celebration of the Eucharist,” said Sister Paulina Hurtado, O.P., Episcopal Representative for Religious and associate director of Vocations for the Diocese of Fall River.
The Holy Hour for Vocations included Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, as well as readings and reflections on the prophetic mission of the Church.
“At the very beginning of Christianity, religious life highlighted the aspects of living a regular daily life like Jesus did — poor, chaste and obedient,” said Sister Hurtado. “Humbled in His way of living, He was liberated from the cares of poverty; chaste, He dedicated His love to humanity and God; and obedient, He lived by the will of His Father. So from the very beginning of the Church, men and women somehow were inspired and followed religious life. The human being is made for God, and nothing else is as important as the love of God.”
The prophetic element of the vocational calling is to stay awake, keep watch and mediate.
“Watchfulness for what is God’s Will doesn’t mean to be cautious, but observant,” explained Sister Hurtado. “We look for signs that may reveal God. We are vigilant, always focused on what the goal is. We are mediators between God and society, working for the poor and intervening for those persons and for the planet as well. We pray for the strength to carry this out, not to deviate or give up.”
She also pointed out that one of the most important missions of consecrated life is to keep the world awake to the afterlife.
“We are in the world but not of the world,” she said.
The gathering sang “Wake the World with Dawning Joy”:
“Wake the word with dawning joy!
Wake it with your gladness!
Work for justice, live in peace,
Claim the Word courageous!"
The composer is Steven C. Warner, and the lyricist “Bergoglio.”
“The song was created for the celebration,” said Sister Hurtado. “The composer used the thoughts of the Holy Father in his apostolic letter, who invites us to celebrate joyfully.”
In his homily Bishop da Cunha cited the work of Kahlil Gibran’s, “The Prophet.”
“The contemplative servant calls people by his example to look into one’s conscience and follow it to the best of one’s ability,” Sister Hurtado said. “There is a time for gentleness and a time for strength.”
Pope Francis said that “only by such concern for the needs of the world, and by docility to the promptings of the Spirit, will this Year of Consecrated Life become an authentic ‘kairos,’ a time rich in God’s grace, a time of transformation.”
“This year Pope Francis has brought to religious a lot of joy and hope,” said Sister Hurtado. “We feel appreciated, and we feel that God has loved us much more than we have given Him. Therefore, this year has given us a promise of a future that will not end, not only in Heaven but religious life is here to stay. The Church is for the whole world.”