Pope Francis on Thursday celebrated Mass for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and of Societies of Apostolic Life participated in the Liturgy.
The Mass also commemorates the World Day for Consecrated Life. On this day, the Church celebrates and prays for those who have consecrated their lives to God by the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. The World Day for Consecrated Life was established in 1997 by Pope Saint John Paul II; 2017 marks the twenty-first annual observance of the Day.
The liturgical feast chosen for the commemoration celebrates the presentation of the newborn Jesus in the Temple by Joseph and Mary forty days after His birth, in accordance with the law of the Old Testament. The feast is also known as “Candlemas” on account of the blessing of candles and the procession that takes place at the beginning of the Mass.
The candles blessed during the Liturgy thus symbolize both Christ, who is the Light of the World; and the lives of consecrated women and men who are called to reflect the light of Christ for all peoples.
In his homily for during the Mass, Pope Francis spoke of the “hymn of hope” pronounced by Simeon and Anna when they saw the Saviour appearing in the Temple. We, too, the Pope said, “have inherited this hymn of hope from our elders… We would do well to take up the dreams of our elders, so that we can prophesy in our day, and once more encounter what originally set our hearts on fire.”
But he also warned of a “temptation” that can make the consecrated life barren: the temptation of “survival”, which urges us to protect ourselves at the expense of our dreams. “The temptation of survival,” Pope Francis said, “makes us forget grace.”
The Holy Father reminded consecrated women and men, that they are called to put themselves “with Jesus in the midst of His people.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily with the exhortation: “Let us accompany Jesus as He goes forth to meet His people, to be in the midst of His people.”
This year’s celebration of the World Day for Consecrated Life has a particular significance, being devoted to thanksgiving and prayer for the give of vocations, especially in view of the upcoming Synod of Bishops, which will be dedicated to the theme: “Youth, faith and vocational discernment.” The Synod is expected to meet in October 2018.