Faith & Life


By JOAN PATTEN, AO     1/30/2024

All vocations begin with discipleship. A disciple has encountered Jesus, experienced His love and call to conversion, and reorients their life to follow Him and imitate His life. In the Gospels, Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, and they spent most of their time simply being with Him (cf. Mk. 3:14). They watched Jesus pray and learned how to love the Lord God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love their neighbor as themselves (cf. Mt. 22:37).

Most people are called to the vocation of marriage and to pursue Heaven with their spouse. The Lord calls some to follow Him through the vocation of the priesthood. These men lay down their lives and pursue Heaven with Christ’s Bride, the Church. Others are called to totally consecrate their lives to God by professing vows in an institute of consecrated life or in a way recognized by the Church, pursuing Heaven with Jesus, their Divine Spouse and with the members of their religious institute.

Those who remain in the single state are called to deepen their baptismal vocation by generously giving themselves in service for God’s kingdom, pursuing Heaven with the community with whom they abide.

Jesus invites all His disciples to live as He lived and allow Him to live through them. The most striking characteristics of Jesus are His chastity, poverty and obedience. These are the evangelical counsels revealed in the Gospel as the necessary conduct that perfects our lives and how we love. All the baptized are called to follow the chaste, poor and obedient Christ according to their vocational state in life.

The evangelical counsel of chastity guides all people to live with integrity by controlling and correctly ordering their passions so as not to be ruled by emotions or inclinations. For those who are married, chastity leads the couple to be faithful to one another in mind and heart, seeking the good of their spouse and the fruitfulness of their marital union. Those who are not married are called to practice chastity by living in continence, which is avoiding all sexual activity. Chastity allows us to live with dignity and internal order.

The evangelical counsel of poverty encourages all Christ’s disciples to live simply, guarding against seeking fulfillment in material possessions and being generous to the poor. A current practice trending in the culture is “minimalistic living,” which aims to downsize one’s possessions intentionally. The wisdom of this counsel continues to provide a path of joy and freedom. The evangelical counsel of obedience teaches Christ’s disciples to submit their will to God and all legitimate
authority. All disciples are called to follow God’s commandments, the laws of the Church and the morally good laws of society. Obedience ensures that we act according to God’s will and gives us the certainty that we are doing what is right.

Consecrated Life is radical disciple-ship because, through the profession of the evangelical counsel, consecrated persons vow to renounce earthly marriage, sacrifice the security of material possessions and surrender the right to do their own will “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 19:12). The evangelical counsels serve as a prophetic witness of the life to come and as an icon of how God’s grace can perfect people. The vow of chastity witnesses God’s total love for His people by making consecrated men and women available to love God and others with an undivided heart, proving that a life of celibacy and continence is not only possible but fruitful. Through the vow of poverty, consecrated persons witness the radical trust that Jesus had in His Father’s care and prove the ideal of giving up everything for the “pearl of great price” (Mt. 13:46). Through the vow of obedience, they witness Jesus’ unwavering surrender to His Father’s will, proving the that God can be trusted as His will is revealed through the Church and their institutes’ authority and rules.

Every year, on the weekend closest to the feast day of the Presentation of the Lord (Feb. 2), the Church gives thanks for the gift of consecrated life and its prophetic witness. Let us pray for the faithful perseverance of those who have responded to the call to consecrate their lives to God and ask Him to call more to willingly and freely follow Him in love and joy.