In 1997, Pope John Paul II instituted a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. This celebration is attached to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2nd. This Feast is also known as Candlemas Day; the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ who is the light of the world. So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect light of Jesus Christ to all peoples.
In the first place, it answers the intimate need to praise the Lord more solemnly and to thank him for the great gift of consecrated life, which enriches and gladdens the Christian community by the multiplicity of its charisms and by the edifying fruits of so many lives totally given to the cause of the Kingdom …
In the second place, this day is intended to promote a knowledge of and esteem for the consecrated life by the entire People of God … The third reason regards consecrated persons directly. They are invited to celebrate together solemnly the marvels which the Lord has accomplished in them, to discover by a more illumined faith the rays of divine beauty spread by the Spirit in their way of life, and to acquire a more vivid consciousness of their irreplaceable mission in the Church and in the world.
Immersed in a world which is often agitated and distracted, taken up sometimes by the press of responsibilities, consecrated persons also will be helped by the celebration of this annual World Day to return to the sources of their vocation, to take stock of their own lives, to confirm the commitment of their own consecration.
Pope John Paul II's full message for the first Day for Consecrated Life.
Vatican radio's report from Pope Benedict XVI's general audience today where he spoke of the Day for Consecrated Life is here.
Pope Benedict XVI proposed three thoughts for reflection. Firstly, the biblical icon of the presentation of Jesus in the temple “contains the fundamental symbol of light – the light which, coming from Christ,…shines on all the Church's children…But those who are called to the consecrated life have a special experience of the light which shines forth from the Incarnate Word”.
Secondly, the evangelical image manifests prophecy as a gift of the Holy Spirit. “Simeon and Anna, contemplating the Child Jesus, catch a glimpse of his destiny of death and resurrection for the salvation of all peoples, and they announce this mystery as universal salvation. Consecrated life is called to this prophetic witness, linked by its dual, contemplative and active forms”.
Thirdly, the gospel image of the presentation of Jesus in the temple shows the wisdom of Simeon and Anna, the wisdom of a life dedicated totally to seeking the face of God, his signs, his will; a life dedicated to listening to – and to announcing his word. Consecrated life, in the world and in the Church, is a visible sign of this seeking the face of the Lord, and of the ways that lead to him.
Finally Pope Benedict concluded that consecrated life, “becomes a life-giving commitment”. That “with wisdom, with faith” and the “inexhaustible possibilities of true education”, can guide the hearts and minds of men and women of our time “towards the good life of the Gospel.”
And to the rest of the Church, Pope Benedict requested that, "To your prayers I entrust those who, having made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, strive after sanctity in the service of children, young people, the sick, the elderly and the lonely. We are grateful to them for their prayers and for the work they do in parishes, hospitals, care homes and schools. Their service represents a particularly precious gift for the Church. My heartfelt blessings go to all those who live in accordance with the evangelical counsels".
Full text of Pope Benedict XVI's messages.