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'To See Anew with the Eyes of Faith'
By Chris Sparks (Feb 19, 2015)
The following first appears in the spring 2015 issue of Marian Helper magazine. Order a free copy.
A Jesuit is Pope. Even nearly two years after Francis's election, that statement sounds unlikely. The Jesuits swear a special fourth vow of obedience to the Holy Father — a Jesuit hadn't ever become the Holy Father.
Yet here we are — and under the first-ever Jesuit Pope, the Catholic Church is celebrating a special Year of Consecrated Life, which commenced on Nov. 30, 2014, the First Sunday of Advent, and will conclude on Feb. 2, 2016, the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.
"Pope Francis has a special place in his heart for the consecrated life," said Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, vocation director for the Marians' American province. "He has to know what it's like to live in community, to pray together, to recreate together. There's a certain fraternity that you feel. I don't think it should be overlooked that he himself is a Jesuit."
Indeed, Pope Francis opens his message for the Year of Consecrated Life by saying, "I am writing to you as the Successor of Peter, to whom the Lord entrusted the task of confirming his brothers and sisters in faith (see Lk 22:32). But I am also writing to you as a brother who, like yourselves, is consecrated to God."
Deeper Awareness of Call
The purpose of the special year, said Deacon Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC (pictured above), is "to deepen the awareness of consecrated life among vowed religious, as well as the whole Church. Any time there is a year with a theme, it is an invitation to rediscover, to go more deeply into the mystery presented in the theme, to see anew with the eyes of faith what God is doing and has done in this area. Consecrated life does not exist only for itself, but to give God glory, be leaven in the Church and the world, and be an eschatological sign of the life to come for the rest of the Church."
What does this consecration mean to those who have accepted it?
"At the heart of consecration is giving yourself completely to God," explained the Very Rev. Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, provincial superior of the Marians in the United States and Argentina. "You want the Lord to be at the heart of who you are.
"During this year especially for religious communities, we desire to live this religious consecration. We want to reaffirm again the call with gratitude in our hearts. We've got to do this work, and the Lord provides — that's the wonderful thing. God's providence is so great. God knows what we need."
Springtime of Vocations
One of the ways in which God provides for the Church and the world is through the many and varied charisms, or particular calls of the Holy Spirit, given to the religious communities. The Marians have one charism in three aspects: to spread devotion to Mary Immaculate; offer their lives, prayers, and good works for the Holy Souls in Purgatory; and serve the Church where the need is greatest in parishes, shrines, missions, and publishing apostolates. Especially in the U.S., the Marians also promote the Divine Mercy message and devotion as an apostolic work.
Many men are finding the Marians' charism and their apostolic work immensely attractive today. The Marian Fathers in the U.S. and Argentina have 29 men in formation, and other men are flocking to the monthly vocation retreats led by Fr. Calloway. Why? Because the Marians' mission is more essential than ever.
"The world needs mercy," said Br. Gabriel Cillo, MIC. "It needs to be reminded that it is loved by God, that His children are loved unconditionally by Him.
"Our charism is needed to remind people that Mary is the perfect human person and model for every human being," continued Br. Gabriel. "We need to be like her in order to be like Jesus, because she always said yes to God. She is a true hero for us, one of us who really did it, who really attained holiness the way God had always planned for her."
Why a Special Year of Consecrated Life?
"Religious life is a supernatural gift which must be continually renewed," said Deacon Thaddaeus. "Religious life is not natural — it is supernatural. Hence, we can't rely upon ourselves to be good religious; rather, we must constantly turn to the Lord, begging Him to fill us, to give us to drink of the living water from Christ, so as to fulfill our vocation by His grace and give water to others" (see Jn 7:38).
That vocation demands some unique sacrifices. The vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience undergird the consecrated life, presenting unusual challenges, but also unusual opportunities to serve Jesus, His Church, and the world. "I didn't find the happiness that I was looking for in the world," said Fr. Calloway. "Obviously, the mystery of the relationship between men and women, masculinity and femininity, and the vocation of marriage is wonderful. But I felt I needed to be available to His Church entirely. That's where I found peace."
The Holy Father has invited religious communities to celebrate the year in a variety of ways: by opening their doors to the public for open houses; to meet and collaborate with other orders in order to serve both their charisms; and of course, following the express teaching of Vatican II, always to revisit their founder's charism, writings, and witness of how to live the Christian life.
Deacon Thaddaeus said he is trying to read either some portion of the writings of Marian Founder Blessed Stanislaus Papcyzynski (1631-1701) or Marian Renovator Blessed George Matulaitis (1871-1927) each day.
"It is easy to be complacent and get used to the rhythm of life," Deacon Thaddaeus concluded. "This Year of Consecrated Life provides opportunities for us and the whole Church to allow God's light into our hearts to search our consciences. That searching light allows God to heal up and bind those areas where we have fallen into complacency or darkness, so that we can shine again with the supernatural light of God's grace and love to a world falling into darkness."