Father Lacey, Father Bowen, Father McGovern, priests, deacons, Sr. Maria Luz, women and men religious, members of Karen’s family, her friends and co-workers, all dear friends in Christ:
Today the Church consecrates Karen Bartos to a life of virginity. As we heard in the reading from the prophet Hosea, God has called Karen to a deep and special relationship of love. While living in the world, she has been called to a life of total dedication to God, a life in which God espouses himself to Karen and she to God. And like all vocations in the life of the Church, her special consecration to a life of virginity is a manifestation of God’s love and a sign of hope for all of us who look forward to that day when the cares and worries of this world will be behind us and we will be completely espoused to God in the joy of heaven. So let us pray for Karen on this special day knowing that her prayers, her good works, and her consecrated life will help us on our pilgrim way to towards the fullness of God’s Kingdom.
II. Jesus’ Own Style of Life
Karen, allow me to offer you words of encouragement rooted in the Gospel as today you take this important step of being consecrated in the Lord for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. With us today are a number of priests, religious, and laity who have shared your journey of faith that has led you to this point. Among us today are those who had a hand in helping your discern this call and also in helping you undertake the necessary formation so as to answer it. In this moment of joy, touched by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I join you, Karen, in giving thanks to God for their ministry to you. These wonderful friends exemplify St. Paul’s message in today’s reading from Romans when he spoke of how all the members of the Church in their diverse callings are to work together to encourage one another in faith and so to build up the Church, the Body of Christ.
Today you are publicly embracing a special vocation that will also build up the Body of Christ. For those called to a life of consecration, to a life of single-hearted love, do so not only for their own sake but for the sake of every member of Christ’s Body. Like every vocation, yours originates in the pure and inexpressibly beautiful love of the inner life of the Most Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Poor creatures though we are, we are called with the help of God’s grace to make manifest in our Church and in the world the God who is love. Some do so by accepting the vocation of marriage and family, others by becoming priests and deacons.
You have been called to forego the joys of marriage so that you can be for all of us a special image of the God whose love is pure, beautiful, merciful, and endless. Indeed, you are called to another kind of a marriage, a spiritual marriage, a spousal love that is deeply rooted in Jesus’ own life and ministry.
In these days of Advent we are preparing to celebrate that moment in time when God’s Eternal Son took flesh in the chaste womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit… thus did the Word become flesh and dwell among us. In the mystery of the Incarnation God’s own divine nature & our human nature were brought together in a loving union; one might say that in Christ the divine and human were married. Thus the stage was set for the Covenant of Love between Christ and the Church.
Jesus established that Covenant by a life of prayer & total consecration to the Father. At one with the Father’s will, he went about preaching the Gospel and curing the sick. He began to gather to himself followers, who would be core of the Church, the Holy People of God, for whom he would lay down his life on the Cross. He desired his Church to be a Virgin in the purity of her love and teaching and a Mother in the love she would should to this family of faith. In your consecrated Virginity you are called to epitomize the Church’s response of single-hearted love to Jesus our Redeemer. And though you will never be married, you are called to personify the maternal love of the Church for her children and indeed for all humanity.
III. The Mystery of Consecrated Love
As we speak, the Year of Consecrated Life established by Pope Francis is ending. What a wonderful way to conclude this year-long celebration! Pope Francis famously said that those in consecrated life are to wake up the world to the truth, the wonder, the beauty and the imperatives of God’s love. So too St. John Paul II spoke of your vocation as “a transfigured way of life capable of amazing the world!”
As you know, Karen, such a vocation is possible only because the Holy Spirit has first transformed your soul in Baptism and made you a temple of God’s glory. Today, through my ministry, he anoints you with a new grace and consecrates you to God by a new title. He gives you the dignity of being a bride of Christ and binds you to the Son of God in a covenant of love that will last forever. For that reason, you stand among us as a sign of the world to come ‘where there is no marrying or giving in marriage,’ where we are all in all enraptured in the love of God Thrice Holy.
You know so well that today marks not an end but a beginning of a life of prayer that is to grow only more pure, beautiful, and intense; a life of steadfast, single-hearted love to be safeguarded so that your love of God and your love of the Church may continue to grow through your reception of the Eucharist, your study of the Scriptures, and by your works of mercy… aiming for that day when every fiber of your being is dedicated to the love of God and to the advancement of the Church’s mission. Indeed, for many, including those who are sophisticated in the ways of the world, your way of life will seem impossible to understand but with that simplicity of heart that is common to all the saints, please allow the Lord to reveal to you in ever greater measure the depth of his love for you, for His Church, and for the world torn as it is by violence and suffering.
IV. Apostolic Way of Life
As the depth and beauty of the Father’s love dawns upon you, as your relationship of love continues to grow, you also become more and more equipped to bear witness to God’s love to those in the life of the Church whose faith has perhaps grown cold, to those who have forsaken their faith for the ways of the world, and for those who are searching for some sort of a spiritual home. Help them to exchange the heavy yoke of sin and hopelessness for the easy burden and light yoke of Christ’s love.
May your love extend to the poor, the sick, and the vulnerable, to young and old alike, to those who rejoice and to those in sorrow. In this way will your light shine before all peoples and the God of love be glorified!
And may Mary, the model for all times of total consecration to God pray with you and for you, Karen, today and all the days of your life that you may rejoice and be glad that a love like no other love has found you. May God bless you and keep you always in that love!