“Everybody sleeps. And God, so watchful, so magnanimous, so worthy of praise is forgotten! Nobody thinks of Him! Behold, nature praises Him; heaven, stars, trees, grasses – everything praises Him, while man, who acknowledges His benevolence, who should praise Him, sleeps! Let us wake up the universe!”
This poem from our recently canonized Saint Mariam of Jesus Crucified resounds with Pope Francis’ message to religious during this “Year for Consecrated Life.” “Wake up the World!” Pope Francis certainly has a way with words! His now-famous rallying call for the Year of Consecrated Life has reverberated around the globe since he announced that 2015 would be a year of prayer and thanksgiving for women and men who live a vocation to the religious life. ‘I am counting on you to “wake up the world”, he told them.
The question we can ask is how can religious “Wake Up the World?” In the little manual of Christian formation, written by Don Bosco, we read:
“There are two main deceits with which the devil usually distances young people from virtue. The first is to make come to their mind that to serve the Lord consists in a melancholic life far from any amusement and pleasure. It’s not so, dear youths. I want to teach you a Christian method of life, which is at the same time joyful and happy, pointing you to what are the true amusements and the true pleasures. Such, in fact, is the purpose of this booklet, to serve the Lord and to be always joyful.”
This is the answer that Pope Francis is exhorting us to live in joy. Pope Francis states, “Wherever consecrated people are, there is always joy!” The beauty of giving one’s life to the Lord in consecration is joy: the joy of bringing God’s consolation to all. To live a life of holiness is not a melancholic life; far from it, it brings hope and joy. St. Paul said, “Do not grieve like others who have no hope” (1Thess 4:13).
For us as Discalced Carmelites, we pursue a manner of living in which the faith we profess and celebrate gradually becomes life itself. In this way, we strive to heal the terrible schizophrenia that happens to Christians when faith is separated from life. This manner of living is held together by some important forces, such as the wisdom of the liturgical year, offered by the Church as a way of re-living the great events of our salvation. The liturgy invites the contemplatives to immerse our lives in the life of Christ, so that He might transform us to ever more resemble Him. In union with the entire People of God, the community drinks each day from the fountain of the liturgy, as the members continue their pilgrimage towards the “promised land” that is the glorified body of their Risen Lord.
Another source of daily nourishment is the Word of God. In a certain sense, the contemplatives do not read the Word; rather, they permit the Word to “read” their lives by revealing the real meaning of existence. This Word is shared among the members of the community, so that the fragmentation of life is transformed into ways that conduct the members to a more intimate knowledge of the Source of life itself. Hence the Word, together with the Eucharist, provide daily instruction in the ways of faith, helping the monks and sisters to see and believe by recognizing in even the most ordinary moments the presence of the Lord and His saving power.
The Letter to the Hebrews describes how Moses by faith left Egypt, not fearing the king’s fury, for he persevered as if seeing the one who is invisible (Heb 11:27). Such is the prophetic vocation of a contemplative community that finds in a world that has lost its vision, a world in which everything is extremely fragile and too often undependable, the solidity of the rock that is Christ Himself, who accompanies them through the desert (cf. 1 Cor 10:4). This rock gives our friars the eyes of faith that become accustomed to perceive the mysterious and invisible presence of the One who is actually very close to them and is nothing less that the foundation of their hope and the certain promise of its fulfillment.
Religious life is a life that has its struggles; but like all life that has struggles, we wait in faith and in confidence, as the wise virgins waited in faith for the Lord to come. We continue to pray and praise the Lord and to “Wake up the World” to the reality of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection.