Matthew 9:9-13 … “As Jesus passed by, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the custom post. He said to him Follow me! And he got up and followed him.”
Pope Francis has designated 2015 as a year devoted to Consecrated Life; a year in which Religious priests (that is priests who are members of Religious communities), Sisters and Brothers are asked to reflect on their vocation and re-commit themselves to Consecrated life. It is also a year in which laity are asked to inform themselves about Religious life and to pray for vocations to Religious life.
Pope Francis said in his letter announcing this year: “Jesus, at the last supper, turns to the apostles with these words: You did not choose me, but I chose you. They remind us that vocation is always an initiative of God.” We heard this in Matthew’s Gospel: Follow me! Pope Francis continues, “It is Christ who called you to follow Him in the Consecrated Life and this means continuously making an ‘Exodus’ from yourselves in order to center your life on Christ and His Gospel, on the Will of God, laying aside your own plans, in order to say with St. Paul: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The Vowed Religious belongs not to himself or herself but to God and to God’s people.” In other words, Religious life is meant to be a life of worship of God and service to others.
I want to focus in on Brothers for a few moments. Most of us know a little bit about Religious priests. There are some men who are called to be Diocesan priests, that is to serve in a given diocese. There are some men who are called to be priests in Religious communities like my own, the Passionists, or other communities such as the Jesuits. We know about Religious Sisters but few know about Religious Brothers and much of what is known is shrouded in a misunderstanding of Religious life.
Example: During the summer, the two following incidences occurred to me:
1 – I was talking to a woman. She addressed me as ‘Father’ and then with some embarrassment corrected herself and said “Sorry that I elevated you!”
2 – A man came up to me and said to me, “I looked you up on the internet. You are an educated man. Why didn’t you go all the way?”
Both showed a lack of understanding about Religious life and specifically about Brothers. Brothers have gone all the way. Like Religious priests, and Religious Sisters, they have accepted Jesus’ call to follow Him, to make a total life- commitment by Vow to give themselves to Him and to serve God’s people. They do this by becoming men of prayer and developing a deep personal relationship with God. This relationship with Jesus compels them to go beyond themselves and share this Good News with others in a life of service. Many Brothers teach, e.g., the Christian Brothers; other Brothers are in health care or social ministries. Some, like myself, are involved in preaching; some in administration. Brothers take the three Vows of Religion: Poverty, Chastity and Obedience and live in community. They are men of God, men of the Church and brothers to all people.
During this year of Consecrated Life, I ask all of you to remember Consecrated Religious: Religious priests and Religious Sisters and Religious Brothers and to pray that more young men and women will hear the call of Jesus as given to St. Matthew : FOLLOW ME!