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Consecrated Life: 
A witness to the gospel

February 2 is World Day of Consecrated Life in the universal Church, a day on which people are encouraged to pray for people in religious life.

Members of both male and female congregations have chosen to live the evangelical virtues of chastity, poverty and obedience by making a lifelong response to God’s call to their vocation. This is a special gift offered by God the Father through the Holy Spirit to some people in the Church.

In 1996, Pope John Paul II released a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, The Consecrated Life (Vita Consecrata), commending and encouraging all religious. On 2 February 1997, he celebrated the first World Day of Consecrated Life.

It falls on the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2: 22-40). It is also known as Candlemas, a day on which a blessed candle is lit as a sign of Jesus as the light of the world and the late pope presents religious as the light of Christ.

He adds that through this configuration to Christ by those who lead the consecrated life, they become a mark of the Christian life (16, Vita Consecrata). Chastity is a sign of serving God with loyalty. This is a witness to ethical values of fidelity and good faith, and a challenge to the culture of hedonism.

The spirit of poverty is a witness in faith to a simple life and a challenge to serve people, with special concern for the disadvantaged and dedication to helping the needy to become self-reliant

Obedience is a witness to being open to God’s will and a reliving of Jesus’ obedience to the Father in making God more visible in the secular world: “Your life must witness personal encounter with Christ.”

The late pope calls religious life God’s gift to the Church (3, Vita Consecrata). In this Year of the Laity, it is an important witness to freedom from attachment in witnessing to the gospel in everyday life.

The prayer for the Year of the Laity says that “personal sanctification (and) sanctification of others, contribute to a better world.” It is not something out of reach, but something that can come true in real life.

Currently, Hong Kong has more than 300 priests, over 500 sisters and brothers, as well as a number of laypeople living a consecrated life. The Pontifical Yearbook 2011 says that at the end of 2009, there were 1,181 million Catholics, over 410,000 priests and nearly 730,000 sisters worldwide. In recent years, the sisters have seen a slight drop, while priests have increased slightly.

Sadly, a number have been killed. One was Father Fausto Tentorio, an Italian priest who was shot in The Philippines on October 17 last year. However, they all worked hard for their people.

The Fides news agency in Rome says that in 2011, a total of 26 pastoral workers were killed, including 18 priests, four sisters and four laypeople. Between 1980 and 2010, the number of missionaries killed in the world totalled 974.

On this special feast, may we all pray for religious vocations and mission, giving our support to religious so they may “live to the full your dedication to God, so that this world may never be without a ray of divine beauty to lighten the path of human existence” (109, Vita Consecrata). SE