9/30/2017 Homily from the Convocation for Consecrated Life
Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M.
A homily by Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., Sept. 30, 2017 St. Ann Church, Lawrenceville
Consecrated life is a call to perfection ... but not a call to the perfect. I responded to that call 48 years ago. I wasn’t perfect then and I’m not perfect now ... there’s a lot of water under that bridge. But I found in St. Vincent de Paul almost a half-century ago and in those many who followed in his footsteps these past 400 years, a path to perfection, a purpose, a direction and a goal, an opportunity to consecrate my imperfect life to something perfect or, better, to Someone perfect: the Lord Jesus Christ.
All of us gathered here today heard a call at one point in our lives — it may have come in ways as varied and different as each of us — but that call came from the Lord, developed and grew in the Lord, led and consecrated us to the Lord, motivated us in the Lord. Whatever our age, whatever our experience, whatever our ministries, our imperfect yet consecrated lives took shape in the communities and congregations in which we find ourselves.
The Lord consecrated us in those communities and congregations, through the joys we celebrated and through the crosses we carried. Religious life is not either/or — it is both/and. No resurrection without crucifixion. No living for others without dying to self. No being full without poverty. No being free without obedience. No true love without chaste sacrifice.
The Second Vatican Council encouraged religious orders and societies of apostolic life to reconnect and rediscover the primitive charisms of our founders. We were invited to connect the dots between our founders and their charisms then and our communities and vocations now, today, to reintroduce our primitive spirit. Did it happen?
We don’t need to be reminded of the reality of consecrated life today. Our founder’s charisms are as rich and relevant now as they ever were but the world is a different place than it was at our professions. Whether there are many or few today, the call to perfection still sounds ... it still reaches ears that are willing and eager to hear. Our responsibility as imperfect consecrated religious is still to strive for perfection, to witness our consecration to others, to follow the Lord Jesus wherever he leads.
Our first reading today from the Book of Zechariah presents the prophet reminding the people that the Lord “will come and dwell in your midst.” Our imperfect consecrated life is truly one way that happens in all its forms, in all its works, in all its members. Pope Benedict reminded us a few years ago how much poorer the world would be without religious life. Please God, the world will never be without it.
We must be ever grateful for religious life, Pope Benedict urged, for our founders and their many charisms. We must witness that gratitude to the world. We must be the invitation to follow Christ.
Most Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M., J.C.D. Bishop of Trenton