Often times the term "Consecrated Religious Life" is used interchangeably with "Vowed Religious Life." I have been praying this week with the idea of consecration and vows and thought here might be a good place to share some of those reflections.
Consecration is the giving of my whole life, my whole being, in response to the seizing love of God. Many people have felt that seizing love of God. As Sisters of St. Joseph we use the term, "acatamiento," to describe it. My CSJ sister Linda, likens it to being grabbed by the shirt collar; it is a startling love that one can't not notice. While I am sure that I knew the love of God through my parents, family, teachers, etc., my first acatamiento moment, the first time I felt the seizing love of God and had the awareness of what that love was, occurred when I was sixteen on my first Teens Encounter Christ retreat. Maybe I was old enough at that point to offer a response, maybe it was the awareness I had on a new level, but that was the first moment of my consecration, the first moment where I knew that I would give my entire life in relation to that love.
Consecration is an on-going, yes commitment. Responding to love in love is not a one-time deal. Consecration is not limited to women and men who take formal religious vows as sisters, brothers, priests, etc. Married people, single people, young people, any person can live a consecrated life. The vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience lived through the charism and in the community of the Sisters of St. Joseph is the context through which I choose to live my consecration. The vows provide the context, the obligation, the particular life form, the container for my consecration.
As I sit to pray this week, I have used my "consecration point" as the place where I meet God/Jesus to talk and to listen. I will say that five weeks into my "month" of vow prep. I am very certain that it is apostolic religious life and not monastic religious life to which I am called. People who know me know that I don't sit still well, especially not for extended periods of time. While I plan to take full advantage of this time and prayer, I will also be very excited to get home, work in my classroom, see my family, and play and pray with my community. I return home a week from tomorrow, but until then, back to the origin.