The path taken by the Church, despite some contrary currents, is by its nature a path of hope which proceeds irreversible toward Jesus Christ. That is why the logo chosen for this year repeats these words: Gospel, Prophecy, and Hope.
With this conviction, men and women religious, consecrated men and women, and men and women touched by the charisms – which throughout the centuries have beautified the Church – were given an appointment for a Prayer Vigil and a Eucharistic Celebration for the opening of the Year of Consecrated Life.
On Saturday evening the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome gradually filled up with men and women with habits of different colors for the Vigil Prayer Service. “Fifty consecrated men and women preceded Bishop Jose Rodriguez Carbello in the entrance procession to Saint Mary Major, with a lighted lamp, a symbol of the different charisms but most of all a symbol of the Spirit who re-ignites souls and hearts,” recount Fr. Theo Jansen and Fr. Mariano Steffan of the International Center of Religious of the Work of Mary, who were present as representatives of those religious scattered throughout the world who are linked to the spirituality of the Focolare.
“Commenting on the selection of the Gospel about the miracle worked by Jesus at Cana in Galilee, about the changing of the water into wine, Bishop Carballo who was presiding at the Prayer Vigil reminded everyone, among other things, how in order to have the ‘new wine’ we should go to Jesus, know how to meet him and listen to him, and know how to ‘live’ him.”
“We were all struck by the fact that he wanted us to begin by placing ourselves under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. From that moment on, in fact, listening to the Bible readings, to some thoughts taken from the writings of founders, and to the prayers – it seemed to me – we were all enveloped by Mary’s mantle,” recounts Fr. Mariano. “Pope Francis too, in his videotaped message prepared for the occasion and listened to before concluding the Vigil, entrusted us to Mary. And the prayer concluded with an invocation to the Virgin Mary,” added Fr. Theo Jansen.
“The Eucharistic Celebration which took place on Sunday, November 30, in St. Peter’s Basilica gave the official start to the Year of Consecrated Life. Pope Francis’s inaugural greeting, read at the beginning of the concelebration presided by the Prefect of the Congregation Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, returned to the exhortation: ‘Reawaken the world!”
Fr. Mariano commented, “It made everyone smile and reflect when the Prefect of the Congregation – during the homily given in St. Peter’s Basilica – said: “It is a repulsive sight to see sad faces, always serious, without a smile among men and women religious .. . Joy needs to be manifested and shared . . . .”
“After these two events there was truly a new atmosphere in the plaza of St. Peter’s. One could see on the face of everyone the certainty that with such a beautiful beginning, we have every reason to hope. We returned home,” concluded Fr. Theo, “keeping everything in our heart as Mary did, with the conviction that we have already been given the premise for a step forward in religious life, and it is our wish for one another that in so doing we may ‘Reawaken the world!’ which is Pope Francis’s wish for us.”