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Homilies - Bishop Brendan Leahy

Year of Consecrated Life - Lourdes 2015

Last week, Limerick City and County Council accorded a civic reception for the religious orders and congregations in Limerick in recognition of their significant contribution to education, healthcare and many other spiritual and social projects in Limerick. It is one of the highest honours that the council can bestow. It was very moving to hear the councillors, one after another, starting with he Mayor of Limerick City and County Council Kevin Sheahan speak from the heart of their own personal stories of indebtedness to orders and congregations. Sr. Eileen Lenihan, a Josephite Sister, recently appointed Vicar for Consecrated Life in the diocese, accepted the Scroll on behalf of the religious women and men of the orders and congregations.  Receiving the Scroll, she recalled Pope Francis’ words that the Year of Consecrated life (which he called for this year) is an occasion to look back with gratitude for the past, live the present with passion and look to the future with hope.

It is wonderful that we have over 30 women and men from religious orders with us here, representing the consecrated life. It is good to celebrate it.

What is consecrated life? On the one hand, everyone who is baptised becomes a consecrated person, that is someone made called to live the radicality of the Gospel. That’s true of all of us. In a sense, therefore, each one of us is called live out our consecration. We have been “anointed” at baptism and confirmation to be missionaries. I am always struck by how much I see of that here in Lourdes. And today I want to recall with gratitude one of those who died this year and who lived out her baptismal consecration through her commitment especially to the Lourdes pilgrimage. I’m thinking of Marian White who many here knew and loved greatly. She touched many people and in that way helped to consecrate our world to God, through Mary.

It is true, as well, that some men and women are called to live a special form of consecrated life in becoming members of religious orders and congregations. As I say we have 30 of those women and men with us here. It is good to recognise and celebrate their lives because they are members of great orders that have marked the history of Christianity.

The Church is like a garden made up of many beautiful flowers – and that is the many orders, congregations. Each is like a unique flower. We need to admire each and every one of these flowers as gifts for the whole Church. As Pope Francis put it – what would the Church be like with St. Benedict and Francis, St. Dominic, St. Ignatius, St. Teresa of Avila, Saint Vincent de Paul… Blessed mother Teresa? We could add: where would the Diocese of Limerick be without the contribution of religious to our schools, hospitals, spiritual and social projects.

In particular, I am happy that we are remembering them here in Lourdes. Because here we are close to Mary. And Mary is at the heart of the Church. It’s so easy to think the Church is just the Pope, Bishops, priests, sacraments. In a way we could say that all that side of the Church is linked to Peter the Apostles. But the Church is much more. Mary was before the apostles. Mary brought Jesus into the world. Mary was alongside Jesus as he was dying. Mary was in the Upper Room as the Church came to life at Pentecost.

There is a Marian aspect of the Church that we forget. But it is fundamental. It is the dimension of the Church that brings Jesus to life out in the world, in relationships, in society, in our world. Pope Francis has often said this is the side of the Church that must emerge much more.

The consecrated women and men we are remembering today have given their lives to be like Mary, people who “generate” Jesus spiritually in our world through their life of prayer, love, service, prophecy, holiness and hope.

Pope Francis asks us this year to make sure we make the women and men religious feel the affection and warmth of the whole Christian people for them. It’s not hard to do so when we think of how central they are to our lives and the life of the Church. So let’s join them in looking back with gratitude for the past, living the present with passion and looking to the future with hope. To our representative of the men’s religious orders (Fr. Adrian) and to the many women here present – we say thank you from the depths of our heart.