Mass at cathedral celebrates consecrated life

BOSTON -- Members of more than 35 religious communities renewed their vows at the World Day for Consecrated Life Mass celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross Feb. 3.

The Mass opened the archdiocese’s month-long focus on consecrated life during its bicentennial year, said Sister Marian Batho, CSJ, who is the archdiocese’s delegate for religious. She began planning the Mass with her committee in August 2007.

Throughout the month religious communities around the archdiocese will be hosting open houses and other events for those discerning their own vocation to consecrated life, she said.

Sister Marian said the annual Mass has been held since 1997 when Pope John Paul II called for it to be celebrated with the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in a special message to his bishops.

In that message, Pope John Paul wrote that the celebration of the World Day for Consecrated Life is intended to help the entire Church to esteem those in consecrated life and provide the opportunity to renew their offering of themselves to the Lord.

“In effect, the consecrated life is at the very heart of the Church as a decisive element for her mission, since it ‘manifests the inner nature of the Christian calling’ and the striving of the whole Church as Bride towards union with her one Spouse,” the pope wrote in the message.

In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley thanked all religious for their commitment and example for others.

The cardinal said World Day for Consecrated Life is an occasion to call upon Catholics to take on the challenges of their own personal vocations and the demands of the communal mission that Christ has entrusted to us.

In today’s culture there is a fear of commitment, he said. “Young people are afraid of a life of radical discipleship.”

Cardinal O’Malley also shared with the congregants the moment of his own calling to consecrated life.

He said that his father asked him to ride in the car with him and his brother Ted, who was being dropped off for a weekend retreat at a seminary. When they arrived they saw an old friar hoeing in a nearby field. “While Ted ran off to be with the others at the retreat, my father and I spoke for hours with this old German friar.”

On the way home, the cardinal said his father told him, “You know? That old friar is the happiest man in the world.”

Although he knew his father was right, the cardinal said he was struck by the contrast between what society tells us will make us happy and true happiness.

“He did not have a beautiful wife. He did not have a nice home. He didn’t even have a good job!” the cardinal said.

Yet, on that day, the cardinal began a journey that led to his joining that same seminary and working beside that same friar.

“After 45 years, I have no regrets for that decision,” he said.

The Mass is also an occasion for members of religious communities, including the archdiocese’s consecrated virgins and hermits, to share fellowship, said Sister Marian. “Even though we work in different apostolates, we get together as one this day.”