.- Vowed religious in Thailand gathered to celebrate the World Day for Consecrated Life this weekend, fostering and encouraging religious life in the southeast Asian country.
Community and obedience make for a fruitful religious life, Bishop Joseph Sirisut of Nakhon Ratchasima preached in his homily at the Feb. 1 Mass, held at the city's Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes.
More than 500 religious gathered at the city, 160 miles northeast of Bangkok, to renew their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience with lighted candles at the Mass.
Bishop Sirisut encouraged the religious to follow the example of birds which fly in V-formations. He reflected that the V-formation helps the birds to conserve energy, and maintain communication, factors also important in living in community.
He urged them to be “keen, vigilant observers,” modeling themselves in humility on the Virgin Mary. He also warned against the temptation to pride, encouraging them to discern and to draw strength from the Gospel.
The day's celebrations were also coupled with an anticipation of the cathedral's feast day, which is observed Feb. 11.
The World Day for Consecrated Life is held each year on the Feast of the Purification of Mary, and was instituted in 1997 by Bl. John Paul II, acknowledging the centrality of consecrated life in the Church's mission.
His 1996 apostolic exhortation “Vita Consecrata” compared the varied forms of religious life to the “many branches, which sinks its roots into the Gospel and brings forth abundant fruit in every season of the Church’s life.”
At his Angelus address Feb. 2, Pope Francis said, “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 added that “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.”
“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.”