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The concept of consecrated life in the Church has evolved over time. From the days of the desert fathers in which consecration to God was viewed as running away from the world and seeking God in the solitude of the desert, to the medieval monasticism, to the missionary times. The Church fathers were experts in ascetic life and were spiritual masters to many who sought God and a deeper encounter with him while living an extremely austere life. They
abandoned the glories of the world and all its riches to seek God in a life of ardent prayer and fasting, living in absolute simplicity.

Later in the medieval years, monasticism started to develop. Rather than seeking God individually, communities with a common religious cause and ideal started to develop. With the emergence of monasteries, the world still needed people who would go out to evangelize and so missionary religious congregations came up following the mandate of Jesus Christ to “go out into the whole world and proclaim the good news.” (Mark 16:15) Consecrated life is nothing, but a life of seeking God, making oneself apart of God. In the consecrated persons, everything rotates around God and the imitation of Christ. God is the reason of their being, the reason of who they and what they are. They are consecrated to God and set a part for this purpose through the evangelical counsels of poverty, Chastity and obedience.

The catechism of the Catholic Church 944 defines consecrated life as a life characterized by the public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience in a stable state of life recognized by the Church. With the emergence of numerous religious orders and distinctive charisms, the evangelical counsels remain as the basis of religious life, imitating Christ who was poor, chaste and obedient. The consecrated person then is called to an imitation of Christ with the specification of the congregational Charism.

With reference to the modern time canon law, 607, consecrated life is a manifestation to the whole Church of a marriage brought about by God and a sign of the future age through the consecration of the whole person. Its finality is the holiness of the individual united to God. As a sign of the future, consecrated life has an eschatological basis as well as a fore taste of the life after.

Consecrated life is characterized by the public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience in a stable state of life recognized by the Church.

In his message for this year’s world day of consecrated life, the Holy Father mentions the mission of consecrated men and women, which is enriched by the unique charisms of their communities in addition to the fundamental gift they have each received. A vital element of consecrated life mentioned by the pope is of community life. The individuals consecrated to God live their life in the context of a community and thus it is a life that leads the entire community to the joy of witnessing to the mission of Christ collectively with a common cause. Each consecrated person then becomes a support to the other consecrated persons and thus they collectively realize their Charism.

Looking up always to Christ the master, religious life is a desire for perfection. To all who were willing to follow him, Christ urged them to leave everything behind and follow him (Mathew 19:21). It is about radicality of choice, detachment from the world and attachment to Christ the master. Consecrated life never gets outdated. It is a call to witness to Christ at all times and in all circumstances

Fr. Nicholas Onyait MCCJ

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