Message of Most Rev. Francis Leo, Archbishop of Toronto
World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life
2 February 2024
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Consecrated Life,
May Jesus and Mary be in your hearts.
With the liturgical feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, also known as Candlemas Day, on 2 February, we celebrate in a most special way the gift of Consecrated Life in the Church. It is an ecclesial event, a special time and a grace-filled opportunity to consider and give thanks for such a beautiful gift which the Lord continues to bestow upon his Mystical Body. Instituted, as we may recall, by St. Pope John Paul II in 1997, the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life is celebrated in many ways throughout our own archdiocese by so many women and men who devoted their entire lives in the Church to follow the Lord Jesus in an all-encompassing manner and, just as the commemoration of Presentation of the Lord, they reflect the saving light of Jesus Christ to all peoples. It is an occasion which we joyfully welcome so that our archdiocesan community of faith will lift up to the Lord of all vocations a hymn of praise and thanksgiving for his faithfulness and benevolence in calling even today and from our midst so many men and women to set all things aside and follow Him in a vowed life, community living, inspired by their charism and bringing forth the Church’s prophetic voice to all corners of our society. In and through their powerful witnessing, all of us are indeed encouraged to pursue the call to greater holiness of life and generous service to Holy Mother Church. In that complete commitment of self to the Kingdom and to the pursuit of that way of life that Our Divine Lord himself chose and modelled perfectly, our consecrated brothers and sisters remind us of the universal call to sanctity and the serene urgency to live out our baptismal promises more intensely and with open, giving hearts.
We think of the many men and women who have laboured in the Lord’s vineyard for decades accomplishing even at times most humble tasks, but with immense life-giving energy and apostolic zeal. We remember and are grateful for the self-giving initiatives and apostolates which they have put into place, administered, nurtured and which today still bear fruit. We recall the self-sacrifice and the dedicated ways in which they have and continue to reflect the face of Christ to those most vulnerable and in need. We celebrate these selfless women and men of deep contemplative prayer, strong Kingdom-driven ministries and powerful witnessing of faith and devotion, social outreach and pastoral care.
What a gift these communities are for us today. In choosing to follow Christ by means of the practice of the evangelical counsels and in response to the transforming promptings of the Holy Spirit, they are to be supported and encouraged to continue the journey, to renew their commitment and rekindle the fervour which once inspired the offering of themselves to the Lord of life and love. Older communities are facing the need to take a serious and at times difficult look at their future, all the while being guided by the virtue of Christian hope and the Lord’s enduring promises. Newer communities try to find their place in the life of the Church of today and tomorrow and look at embodying new God-given charisms in the Church and in the midst of evolving societal challenges.
I believe that we can always find profound solace, new energy, renewed hope and deep meaning when we are focused on the person of Christ Jesus as the Lord of our lives and of our communities; when we strive to dwell in and further communion with Holy Mother Church, his Bride, and when we endeavour to respond with an authentic humble attitude to all situations, in all instances and at all times. Needless to say, there remains a powerful witnessing of Christian discipleship to be given to our contemporaries along with a wounded and confused world to be transformed by the grace of Christ mediated by our own personal fidelity and authentic Gospel witnessing.
Let us not forget the manifest need and call to pray for and promote vocations to consecrated life in our own diverse milieu and ecclesial settings. The Lord will send us vocations when we ask for them earnestly, when we are open to receiving them, and in his way and in his time. Let us live our charism and call wholeheartedly and offer up prayers and personal sacrifices so that those who are called will generously respond with that incomparable Fiat of the Blessed Mother which has changed the course of humanity. How vital it is for us all to be united in encouraging men and women to live for Jesus, to listen to Jesus, to encounter Jesus in prayer, sacraments and service, and to want to embrace Jesus’ plan for their lives: a plan which is always full of grace and truth, meaning and purpose, joy and fulfilment.
Dear Consecrated men and women in religious, monastic and contemplative institutes, in secular institutes and new institutes, members of the order of virgins, hermits and members of societies of apostolic life – you are a true gift to the entire Family of God. In these several months of my own ministry among you, in meeting so many communities around the Greater Toronto Area, I have been edified in taking stock of the vibrancy and dedication of so many of you who have left everything to follow the divine call of the Lord Jesus and who, despite everything, continue to love, serve and witness even in at times challenging circumstances. I thank each and every one of you and I look forward to journeying with you, together building the Kingdom of God here and now, in our archdiocese.
I conclude my Message to you with a heartfelt invitation to look to the future with great trust in the Lord, relying on the enduring faithfulness of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit who alone can renew all persons and all communities, all institutions and all apostolic works. In setting our hearts on fire with renewed fervour and zeal, we will travel together along new paths of spiritual and ecclesial renewal which the Spirit will provide for us. In the blessed words of St. Pope John Paul II: "You have not only a glorious history to remember and to recount, but also a great history still to be accomplished! Look to the future, where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things" (Vita Consecrata, 110).
Sincerely yours in Our Lord and Our Lady,
Most Rev. Francis Leo
Metropolitan Archbishop of Toronto