A gift wrapped in grace

I rather feel as though I have celebrated today's World Day for Consecrated Life a whole week early. Last Saturday I was part of the team at a diocesan vocation discernment retreat day for young adults. I shared my own vocation - my story, but also the joy, challenges and graces in living my call and our charism - heard inspiring words from others, and engaged in some lovely, lively conversations. Then, on Sunday, while the worldwide Society prayed and rejoiced with the nine probanists making their perpetual professions in Rome, my own community celebrated with a sister on the fiftieth anniversary of her own profession.

We began with a time of thanksgiving, taking it in turns to name the blessings of our life as RSCJ: God's faithful love, often mediated through people and events, through mission and prayer, community - local and international - and opportunities for growth and for service. With gratitude I repeated what I had said to the young adults, when I spoke to them of God's abundant hundredfold, of his fidelity, and his amazing, undeserved grace. I'm not sure, though, what I would have made of such words, almost thirty years ago, had someone spoken to my younger, searching self of gifts and grace and fidelity. I do remember that the hundredfold looked vague, and undefined (unlike the very real things I was considering giving up!)... and as for grace and fidelity... I imagine that at one level I'd have understood, instinctively, experientally; but at another I couldn't possibly - not properly, not yet.

I was already in religious life when Candlemas, the Feast of Light, was declared the World Day for Consecrated Life; already beginning to know and to understand something of that fidelity and grace. More than two decades later, I can read Pope Francis' homily for the Day, with understanding built upon knowledge upon experience - that all is grace, and everything is a gift of love. If I'd had today's homily with me last week, I might well have quoted from it...

You too, dear consecrated brothers and sisters, you are simple men and women who caught sight of the treasure worth more than any worldly good. And so you left behind precious things, such as possessions, such as making a family for yourselves. Why did you do this? Because you fell in love with Jesus, you saw everything in him and enraptured by his gaze, you left the rest behind. Religious life is this vision. It means seeing what really matters in life. It means welcoming the Lord’s gift with open arms, as Simeon did. This is what the eyes of consecrated men and women behold: the grace of God poured into their hands. The consecrated person is one who every day looks at himself or herself and says: “Everything is gift, all is grace”. Dear brothers and sisters, we did not deserve religious life; it is a gift of love that we have received.

Please pray for me, and for all religious women and men, and those discerning with us, that we may always treasure and live fully this gift of love, and the grace in which it is wrapped...