By Archbishop JOSÉ H. GOMEZ of Los Angeles

Over the past two weekends, I’ve been privileged to celebrate Masses in honor of our great Archdiocese’s religious brothers and sisters.

These consecrated men and women inspire me by their fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church. I am humbled by their witness — their ministries of prayer, education and charity; their closeness to the poor and sick. I met one saintly sister who has been a religious for 80 years!

And earlier this week, on Feb. 2, on the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord, we joined the universal Church in celebrating the World Day for Consecrated Life.

We need to pray that more men and women will hear this special call of Jesus Christ — to leave their families and occupations to follow him in a life of total dedication to prayer and apostolic service.

Consecrated men and women are a treasure that our Church offers to our world today. They are a sign of the radical pathways to new life that are opened by Jesus.

As we know, many people today find it difficult to make commitments. We see this disturbing tendency growing especially in young people.

The problem is that people’s lives are made inconsistent and fragmentary by the relativism and excess individualism of our culture. Our culture in many ways tells people that they should live for their own self-interest and that there is no true path to follow in life.

So people have grown uncertain about how to live and what life means. This causes them to be afraid to commit themselves in relationships — especially in relationships that are permanent and last a lifetime.

We see this in marriage trends in our society — people waiting longer to get married or not getting married at all. We see similar patterns in vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life.

The Church’s consecrated men and women are a light in a world that is too often darkened by selfishness and the decline of religious values. They are a “sign of contradiction” to many of the priorities we see in our secular culture.

They witness to the courage it takes to give one’s life completely to someone else — to say, “I belong to you, forever.” And they witness to the joy that results from making this commitment to Jesus Christ.

By choosing poverty, obedience and chastity, consecrated men and women show us a truly alternative lifestyle — one not guided by motives of money, possessions or power. They show us instead the beautiful possibilities of a life spent pursuing holiness, communion with God and service to our neighbors.

Our Catholic tradition of the consecrated life is rooted in the example of Jesus. With deep passion and desire for God, these men and women give up everything to follow in his footsteps. They live as he did — for God alone and for his Kingdom.
Their lives touch me because I see in them the radical freedom that comes from living in the truth.

I am reminded of St. Augustine’s beautiful words: “Love and do what you will.” Consecrated men and women show us that when we love Jesus, when we give ourselves to him in all simplicity and love, then we are truly free — living in friendship with the God who is love.

And in their witness of love, consecrated women and men remind all of us that we have a vocation to imitate Jesus Christ and live by the values of his Gospel.

As Catholics, we are one family of God. As brothers and sisters in God’s family, each of us has a duty to support and encourage vocations to the consecrated life.

We need to pray for these vocations every day. We need to join our prayers to actions and attitudes that help foster a Catholic culture in which vocations will thrive. We need to renew our own sense of what it means to have a calling from Christ.

So as we pray for one another this week, let’s give thanks to God for all those religious men and women in Los Angeles and everywhere in our country and world.

Let’s pray that their witness will inspire others to follow them in dedicating their lives to God.

And let us ask our Blessed Mother, Queen of Apostles, to help all of us to live our vocations — to follow Jesus more closely — with greater love, greater trust, and with more sacrifices and more devotion. VN

Follow Archbishop Gomez at: www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez