Following is a homily given by Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn at a Sept. 6 Mass in honor of Religious celebrating jubilees. It is also a very fine reflection on religious life:
Dear brother priests,
Dear Jubilarians in Consecrated Life,
Dear friends in Christ all,
Today is a day of Jubilee, a day of thanksgiving to God. With those who have reached special anniversaries, we give thanks for the grace of perseverance in the Religious vocation. With the whole people of God we render our sacrifice of gratitude – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – for the prayerful apostolate and mission you continue to represent in the Church. As Bishop of the Diocese, I also wish to express the thanks of us all for your charity and faith, the contribution of your holiness and your service in this local Church. May God sustain you in His peace and give you strength for the work remaining.
The Jubilarians we honor today throughout our Diocese have cumulatively offered to God more than 1000 years of prayer and service. They have taught in our schools; worked in hospitals and homes caring for the sick and dying; advocated for the poor – bringing the Gospel message of hope to us all.
Day after day, our consecrated brothers and sisters have prayed the Liturgy of the Hours for the sake of the whole world. They have spent countless hours in prayer before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and offered themselves as a living oblation for the salvation of souls. The supernatural chronicle of your self-offering – known fully only by God - surpasses infinitely even the amazing tally of your years of service. Thanks be to God, dear Jubilarians! May He bless you with the grace of more years and, one day, life on high with Him for all eternity.
The 1996 Apostolic Exhortation on the Consecrated Life, Pope John Paul II’s Vita Consecrata, reminds us that you are chosen and called “to put your life at the service of the Kingdom of God, leaving everything behind and closely imitating Christ’s own way of life.” (no. 14)
Jesus, in His invitation to discipleship and His proclamation of the Gospel, bears witness to the lasting values of simplicity and poverty even in the midst of a world that regards them with cynicism. The life our Religious have chosen is a joyful embrace of service and holiness that helps them see, not only God, but God in their brothers and sisters. The lasting rewards for us all are in heaven. Dear Religious, the focus of your lives continues to help us look beyond passing satisfactions that so often entangle and confuse us. You continue to help us hear the Eternal Father calling us to seek Him out through love of our neighbor.
Your vocation, with its participation in the Cross, calls you upward to the hope of eternal life. Even now, by the faithful living out of your call, you proclaim all that God had done for you. His call resonates in you and beyond you, and we have been the beneficiaries of your witness.
Daily you are called to contemplate the face of Christ. (Novo Millenio Ineunte, no. 15). He is the source of holiness and a fountain of life that gives meaning to everything you do. Never allow yourself to be discouraged in this commitment to prayer so that all your actions may flow from a true supernatural intimacy with God.
This holiness is learned and fostered in a communion of your sisters or brothers, the life of community. The Church teaches us that this living communion is to be “the first thing that appears in consecrated life in every age.” (Pope John Paul II, 2001 address to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, par. 169) The community is the place where each member learns to pray, and each member is educated in the radical gift of self for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
Throughout history your orders, societies, congregations, have served the particular and most urgent needs of the Church. Indeed, when you remain in faithful continuity with the spirit of your founders, you have the strongest assurance that the Providence of God will effectively connect the vocation of each Religious and the legitimate needs of the Church.
Your commitment to your authentic identity is a sacred trust which everyone must see. Your lifestyle, the way you dress, even the manner of your speech, must indicate to us all your trust in God, your communion with each other and with the bishop, and your identity as men and women fully consecrated in purity of body, mind, and heart, to God in the Church. Perhaps the clearest sign of this consecration is the joy and hope which characterizes the freedom of the sons and daughters of God. I wish you that joy and hope. I thank you and I thank God for the joy and hope you continue to bring to our Diocese.
As you unite yourself to the joys and hopes of all mankind; when you open yourself to share also the grief and anxieties of the followers of Christ, (cf. GS, no. 1) you accept your call to be heralds of the Gospel who hand on the prophetic promise that we have heard in our first reading today from Isaiah: “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God. He comes to save you.” (Is 35:4)
The Blessed Virgin Mary is a significant part of the identity of so many of our Orders of Consecrated life. In my own life, I have learned much about the meaning of the love of Mary from consecrated Religious. Now may she pray for you our Jubilarians who have sought to follow her Son for all your lives. May Mary intercede with her Son, Jesus, so that no vocation may be lost, so that the Church will be enriched with the full measure of those God invites.
For our sake, dear Jubilarians, and for the sake of your salvation, the Father of Mercies, has called you and made you a sign of selfless and tender love. May He who is your light and your spouse, sustain you in His joy and hope forever.
Picture Courtesy of Sister Connie Boulch. Some of the Religious celebrating jubilees are pictured with Bishop Finn - (l-r) Sr Vickie Perkins, SCL, Sr Janette Munsterman, OSF, Sr Theresa Svehla, RSM, Sr Raphael Speichinger, OSF, Sr Olive Louise Dallavis, CSJ, Sr Theresa Michel de la Visitation, lsp, Sr Celine Engeman, OSF, Sr Justa Izaguirre, MMB, Sr Loretta Luse, OSF, Sr Anna Schlett, CSJ