This month we celebrate the World Day for Consecrated Life (February 2nd). It was instituted by Saint John Paul the Great as a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. So it is a good opportunity to pray for those religious sisters and brothers who have been instrumental in helping to form us. I’m grateful for my first grade teacher, Sister Lea, who was a Sister of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. She taught us some of the very basics of the faith, like how to do the Sign of the Cross, how to receive Holy Communion, how to genuflect, etc. And without me even realizing it at the time, she taught us how to live a simple life as a vowed religious, working, praying, and living with other sisters in a convent near the church.
Now I’m trying to imitate that holy life in how I live in community with my brothers in the Congregation. That can be difficult to do at times when ministry takes us away from community -- my work in the vocations office requires a lot of travel. Thanks be to God just about everywhere I go there’s a Holy Cross community, where I instantly feel at home among them. And the travel can provide wonderful opportunities to help those who are discerning God’s call in their lives.
Recently I took a trip to San Antonio with Father Jarrod and some seminarians. It was for the SEEK conference, run by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). At conferences our work involves providing material on the Congregation of Holy Cross, talking with people about discernment, prayer, and the possibility of joining a formation program with Holy Cross. These are very large gatherings with interesting displays of things for sale, for reflection, or just for information. It’s kind of like a trade show, except everything there is (or at least should be!) geared toward God and the Catholic Church.
At the SEEK conference I wasn’t expecting much of an impact on me personally, because I was there to work “behind the table.” That means there isn’t a chance to go to talks, or spend much time away from our booth. We are there to talk to folks about how to discern God’s will, and pass out information (including stickers and temporary tattoos!). Well, something was different this time, and I was blown away! Having 13,000 students all seeking to strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ was powerful, and seeing many of them waiting for Confession every day of the conference was inspiring. The Masses were amazingly prayerful. One evening there was adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for all 13,000 participants, and they had the opportunity to go to Confession with one of the 400 or so priests that were there. They estimated that about 4,000 confessions were heard that night! And I’m sure there were at least 1,000 more the rest of the time.
A similar theme throughout those confessions was sinning against the first commandment. They had put other things before the Lord, and felt He wasn’t the center of their lives. And so, in all humility, they asked for forgiveness, and stated their desire to put their priorities back in order, and to know, love, and serve the Lord above everything else. That was an important reminder for me to look at my own priorities, to confess my sins, and to love God more deeply, especially through His people. As we celebrate the World Day for Consecrated Life, and as we look forward to Lent, let us look at the ways we can put God first in what we say, think and do. If we keep our heads up for opportunities to experience God in our daily lives, He will be there, and we will be surprised by the joy and the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that no tempests may disturb us,
for you have set us fast
on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Collect from the Feast of the Chair of Peter, Roman Missal