Pope Francis spoke emphatically about the importance of religious life during his Sunday Angelus message.
“Every consecrated person is a gift for the People of God on a journey. There is much need of their presence, that strengthens and renews the commitment to spread the gospel, to Christian education, to charity for the most needy, to contemplative prayer; the commitment to a human and spiritual formation of young people, of families; the commitment to justice and peace in the human family,” he said on Feb. 2 to the crowds who braved the rain to gather in St. Peter’s Square.
Noting that Feb. 2 is the World Day for Consecrated Life, the Pope continued, “consecrated persons are signs of God in diverse environments of life, they are leaven for the growth of a more just and fraternal society, prophecy of sharing with the little and the poor. As such understanding and experience, the consecrated life appears to us just as it really is: a gift of God!”
Departing from his prepared remarks, Pope Francis exclaimed, “What would happen if there were no sisters? Sisters in the hospitals, sisters in the missions, sisters in the schools… one can’t imagine it! They are the leaven that carry the people of God forward!”
“The Church and the world have need of this testimony of the love and mercy of God,” he stressed.
Those who live a religious life in imitation of Christ’s own poverty, chastity, and obedience, offer “a special witness to the gospel of the Kingdom of God.”
Although all Christians are consecrated to God in baptism and all are called to make “a generous gift of our lives, in the family, at work, in service to the Church, (and) in works of mercy,” those in religious life experience this consecration “in a particular way.”
“Totally consecrated to God, they are totally given over to their brethren, to carry the light of Christ there where the darkness is thickest and to spread his hope to hearts who are discouraged,” emphasized the pontiff.
The Church will benefit from a greater knowledge and presence of consecrated men and women, urged Pope Francis. The year 2015 will be dedicated in a special way to religious life.
“It is necessary to value with gratitude the experience of consecrated life and deepen the knowledge of different charisms and spiritualities. We must pray, so that many young people respond ‘yes’ to the Lord who calls them to consecrate themselves wholly to Him for disinterested service to their brethren.”
The Pope then led the crowds in the Angelus prayer, followed by greetings for different pilgrim groups present.
Pope Francis made special mention of the “Day for Life” celebrated in Italy today, thanking everyone who works to defend life, “to accept, respect and promote it, especially when it is fragile and in need of attention and care, from the womb of a mother until its end on this earth.”
The Pope also called for prayers and “concrete solidarity” with those in Rome and Tuscany who have been affected by flooding recently due to heavy rains in the regions.
He then closed by wishing everyone a good Sunday and good lunch.