Fr. Melvin Avilla, CRM

What Consecrated Life Is

 Consecrated Life “is a gift of God the Father to his Church through the Holy Spirit. By the profession of the evangelical counsels the characteristic features of Jesus – the chaste, poor and obedient one – are made constantly “visible” in the midst of the world and the eyes of the faithful are directed towards the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven.”

This precise definition makes me think of the gravity and seriousness of the life of all religious, clergy, and the laity who consecrated their lives to the service of the Church. For many people, consecrated life can appear to be a brutal way of treating life, a deprivation of the goods of the world, a senseless waste of life and almost an injustice to the gifts of God, the Creator. I tell you, it is not like that. Rather, it is the fulfillment of one’s being.

God works in mysterious ways, calls unlikely people, and puts His trust on them as His instrument of salvation. This encounter between humanity and sanctity provoked me to really think about the life that I am gearing onto, its meaning, its origin, its demands, and the good that it can bring out not just for me but for the people of God. Is it worth taking or should I just forget everything about consecrated life and move on with my own simple life?

The call of God is true and definite. This life demands more than one can imagine. It is almost impossible and inhuman but the fact still remains, a life dedicated to God bears with it the full reward and benefit of heaven. But we respond to this call not because we just want to reap the reward but because we are loved. If we are to look at the words of the Fathers on the meaning of consecrated life, we will realize that it is not as bad as it seems. In fact it is not bad at all, not by any means. The view of the few about this life is a little bit clouded with the life that the world is trying to project. Some people get confused because they are comparing the secular life that they have with the life that a nun, a brother or a priest have. By doing so, a conflict of standard rises from it and confusion gets murkier. But if we try to look at these lives independently, we will see that each one has its own good, mission and dignity.

A consecrated person manifests Jesus in the midst of the world, His chastity, poverty, and obedience as we have read from the definition. Here we can have an idea of what truly a consecrated life consists of. It is about living out the life of Christ, the life requires self giving, gentleness, humility, purity, sanctity and of sacrifices. It may seem for some to be the hardest thing to do and I must agree. However, with the grace of God, every sacrifice we make turns into a path wherein others can safely walk on. 

To pattern one’s life according to the life of Jesus is not an easy task yet the most fulfilling of all. We all have models in this world: it could be a fictional superhero or a particular person who did something really great to the society or it could be your own parents or anybody. It is our tendency to pattern our life according to our model but it is not easy; we struggle through it. I used to look up to a famous balladeer and tried to imitate his vocal style and diction. But the process of imitating him was really hard and tiring. I had to rehearse almost everyday, drink lots of hot ginger tea and no ice cream and cold drinks to keep my throat warm and active. But the surprising thing was that no matter how hard I tried, I did not even get close to his standard. However, my voice got better and developed its own identity, style and soul. In addition it gave me the opportunity to share my talents and make people happy. Patterning one’s life to our personal model is something that is not new to us. We always look up to someone so we can make ourselves better. We are not copying them or stealing their identities. We are only making them as our silent guide until the time we established our own masterpiece in us.

Can we lose our own identity by patterning our life to Christ? My answer is definitely not. Consecrating our life to God does not mean that we are also going to lose our own identity. Rather, we will actually find our true identity which is that of being created in the image and likeness of God. God will be manifested in us and by so doing we are also manifesting our own identity as God’s children. To manifest our identity away from the design of God for us as His children is an act of selfishness, a rejection of God, an act of unfounded rebellion, a denial of our essential and existential truth. But so what if I lose my identity for God? In the beginning I am God’s and it will never change no matter how much I try to turn away from Him. It is for me to take that identity as God’s greatest creation and manifest it for His glory and not for my self.

There is no reason for me to say no to God if He wants me to give up everything for Him. I wrote in my petition to be admitted to the solemn profession: “God, the Father Almighty, gave our existence greater dignity by creating us in His own image and likeness, loved us so much to the point of sending His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to show us the way to salvation; a manner no other created life can replicate. He called the Saints, the old and the new, to continuously show us His love that is so real and perfect through their loving concern for others and by their selfless and holy death. God can only give and I can only receive but, it is in the spirit of gratitude that I would like to respond to His love, to respond to God’s call to be one of His servants though unworthy and fragile I am. Everything I have is God-given and I claim none for my own. My talents and strength, my present and future, everything comes from God and to God I will offer all. They are not for me to keep but for me to share. By responding to God’s call and by consecrating my life to God, I will be able to give my self to the service of His people with undivided love and attention. My efforts will not add anything to God’s perfection but it would add to the glory of all His creation, ‘for the building of God’s Kingdom here on earth.'”

You see, everything good that we have (and I really mean everything), even that which we have worked for, is given by God. There is nothing in this world that we can claim for our own although they are for our consumption, survival, comfort, satisfaction and happiness. God sent His only Son, Jesus, to show us how important we are in His eyes. He loves us so much that instead of saving Jesus on the cross, He watched and witnessed His agony and painful death for our sake and for His love for us. No father would want his son to be beaten by others. A good father will protect his son as much as he can even if it can cost him his life. But God, the Father, willingly gave up His Son for us, for us.

If God gave up everything for me, and if everything is His even my own existence, it is just fitting for me to dedicate everything to Him who is the author of my being. I am willing to give up the things of this world for the love of the One who created me in love. The God of Love committed himself to me, a commitment that will stand the test of time. It is every consecrated person’s desire to commit one’s self to his author like a son to his father, a daughter to her mother, or a couple to their children.

Post- Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata of the Holy Father, John Paul II to the Bishops and Clergy, Religious Orders and Congregations, Societies of Apostolic Life, Secular Institutes and All the Faithful, on the Consecrated Life and Its Mission in the Church and in the World §1.