Why we should advertise the Consecrated Life

credit: pkeleher

LK 2:22-32

Today close to 100 million people will watch the Super Bowl. Though many do watch because they enjoy football, I think that a good number secretly watch it only for the commercials. Super Bowl ads are among the most creative and pricey around. Like all advertising, however, it tries to convince you that if you purchase a product your life will be changed for the better. Today I would like to do a little advertising of my own. I do not want to advertise a product, but a way of life.  In addition to being the day of the Super Bowl, today is also the World Day for Consecrated Life. Today we pray in a special way for all those who living a consecrated life: religious sisters, brother and priests. We also pray that many young people will choose to enter this way of life.

We do not advertise Consecrated Life enough in the Church because it doesn't seem like a normal way to spend one’s life. We don’t do enough to encourage young people to consider becoming a religious priest, brother or sister. I do not want to play favorites here and suggest that one vocation is better than another. All vocations are good and beautiful: married life, religious life, priesthood and single life. The best vocation for you personally is the one that God is calling you to. That said, for various reasons, everyone considers getting married. Young people, however, will rarely consider becoming a religious sister or brother or priest unless they are encouraged to do so. This, unfortunately, is rarely done. I recently heard a priest describing an experience he had while speaking with a large group in a parish. During their conversation, some parishioners complained about the fact that the number of Masses in their parish had recently been reduced because there were not enough priests. Others remarked that they were sad because when they were growing up they used to see many religious sisters, in school, for example, and now there seemed to be so few. In response to these concerns, the priests asked the people to put up their hands if they had a son or daughter who was between the age of 18 - 25. Many hands went up. Next he asked them if they had ever encouraged their son or daughter to become a priest or religious sister or brother. Hardly a hand went up. The priest said, “so you see want more priests and religious, but you will not encourage your children to become one? Why not? After a time of silence, one woman in the front yelled out, “because, Father, my children are normal!” We do not do enough in the Church to encourage young people to become religious sister, brother or priest because it does not seem like a normal way to live.

Perhaps we need to redefine what we think a normal life is. Who shows us what it means to live a good, fulfilling life as a human being? Because He is truly God and truly man, Jesus shows us what it means to live a good life as a human being.

Jesus reveals that normal and fulfilling life is one in which we offer ourselves as completely to God as possible. In fact, in the Gospel we have heard describing the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, we learn just that. During Jesus’ time, when a first born son was presented in the Temple he would have to be redeemed. In order to do this, an animal was offered to God. The child could then be redeemed and handed over to his parents. Interestingly something different happens for Jesus. An offering is made but, instead of Jesus being redeemed and handed over to His parents quite the opposite occurs: Jesus is presented or offered entirely to His heavenly Father. Because of this total offering to God the Father, Jesus’ life will be indescribably fruitful for others. As Simeon predicts, Jesus will be the one to bring God’s salvation to the world. To accomplice this, Jesus will have to suffer and sacrifice much. He will be contradicted by many. In this short scene of Jesus’ presentation in the Temple we learn that to live a good and normal human life, we need to offer our life to God.
Though it requires sacrifice, the more generous we are in giving ourselves to God, the greater He can work in our life and the lives of others. The amount of good that God can work through our life is proportional to our generosity to Him. This principle is illustrated by the following story. In India there was a beggar sitting by the side of the road. Every so often a traveller would pass by and place a little rice in the bowl the beggar was holding. One day the beggar heard the king approaching with his entourage. This was the moment the beggar was waiting for. Surely the king would give him plenty of rice! The king did indeed stop before the beggar. But when he bent over towards him, this great king said something unexpected. The king said to the beggar, “give me some of your rice”. The beggar was taken aback! He reached into his bowl and gave the king one grain of rice. The great king calmly replied “is that all”? Furious, the beggar took out a second grain from his bowl and tossed it at the king. With this the king gathered up his entourage and was off. The beggar, filled with rage, greedily fingered the remaining rice grains in his bowl. It was then that he noticed that one grain felt different to the touch. When he brought it out of the bowl he noticed that it was a grain of pure gold! The beggar quickly checked the rest of his bowl. To his delight he found a second grain of gold. He had one grain of gold for each grain of rice he gave the king. As the king walked away, the beggar couldn't help thinking “why on earth did I not give the king everything?!”  We should ask ourselves the same question. Why do we not give God our King everything? The more we give of ourselves to God, the more wonderful things He can work in our life and the lives of others.

Consecrated Life is an incredible satisfying and fruitful way of life because it involves trying to offer your entire life to Jesus. Consecrated persons strive to give all their rice to the King. Just as Jesus was offered to God the Father in the Temple,  through their three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, religious men and women seek to make of themselves a total gift to God and through God they become a gift to other people, especially those most in need. Far from being an abnormal way to live, it is in fact something every normal Catholic young person should consider. Since Consecrated Life involved making your whole existence a gift to God, it is an incredibly fruitful and satisfying way of life.
Now, since any good commercial requires a testimonial from a satisfied customer, here is mine. Speaking as a priest who has had some experience also in religious life, I can testify that it is an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding way to live. It is not easy. The life is full of sacrifices and challenges. At the same time it is a wonderful and exciting way of life. It has brought me much joy and happiness. For those who are called, I think there can be no better way to spend your life. I would love it if in the Church it became a normal thing that when people are considering what to do with their life, they think about becoming a religious sister, brother or priest. Everyone should at least have the opportunity to consider if this wonderful life is for them. Let us try to make this a reality by doing a little advertising for Consecrated Life.