Bishop Terry R. LaValley celebrated the Mass of Solemn Consecration to the Life of Consecrated Virginity Lived in the World for Mary Beth Bracy at St. Peter’s Church of Holy Cross Parish, Plattsburgh on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 16, 2023.
Mary Beth Bracy’s Family
Mary Beth Bracy and Bishop Terry R. LaValley
Rev. John Downs and Mary Beth Bracy
What is Consecrated Life? (Canons 573-730)
The term “consecrated” has its roots in Latin and is often translated as “dedicated, devoted as sacred” or “set apart.” A person who is living a “consecrated life” is someone who has dedicated his or her life to God in imitation of Christ and publicly professes poverty, chastity and obedience.
Religious life is a form of consecrated life that consists of men and women who make specific vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to a religious community.
These communities can consist of sisters, nuns, brothers, monks, or religious order priests. The Diocese of Ogdensburg is blessed to have a number of religious communities serving within its boundaries.
Catechism of the Catholic Church #922
“From apostolic times Christian virgins (1Corinthians 7:34-36) and widows (St. John Paul II, Vita Consecrata 7), called by the Lord to cling only to him with greater freedom of heart, body, and spirit, have decided with the Church’s approval to live in the respective states of virginity or perpetual chastity ‘for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven’ (Matthew 19:12).
Vita Consecrata—Pope St. John Paul II
#7 “…being practiced today is the consecration of widows, known since apostolic times (cf. 1 Tim 5:5, 9-10; 1 Cor 7:8), as well as the consecration of widowers. These women and men, through a vow of perpetual chastity as a sign of the Kingdom of God, consecrate their state of life in order to devote themselves to prayer and the service of the Church.
920. Without always
professing the three evangelical counsels publicly, hermits “devote their life
to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation
from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.”
921. They manifest to everyone the interior aspect of the mystery of the Church, that is, personal intimacy with Christ. Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a silent preaching of the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life simply because he is everything to him. Here is a particular call to find in the desert, in the thick of spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One.
How to Discern
Religious Life. Is Religious Life for
Just as a couple discerning marriage spends time getting to know each other and determining whether or not their lives “fit” together, discerning the religious life requires that you get to know some communities to discover whether or not you “fit.” Here are five questions you can ask yourself to help progress along the path of discerning God's plan for you.
1. Am I drawn to live religious family life with this particular
The term community usually refers to a particular group of religious who reside and work together as a family. As you interact with the religious sisters of a community, ask yourself if you feel drawn to live this community family life with them.
2. What do they do?
The apostolate is the mission of the community. It is the work it has been “sent” to do to share in the mission of Christ in the world. Is it concerned with basic physical needs like food, shelter, or healing? Is it more spiritual or intellectual, like teaching or preaching, counseling, or liturgy? Is it more hidden, such as prayer or penance for the conversion of the world or reparations for sins? Whatever the apostolate, is it something in which God has instilled in you an interest?
3. How do they live?
Every religious community has a rule of life, which governs every aspect of community life, from their habit, spirituality, apostolate, even how meals should be taken and how the members interact with one another.
4. Where do they come from?
What is the history of the order? Who are the founders? Are there any saints from the order? Inspirational members who've lived the rule of life perfectly offer the community examples to emulate and pray to, as well as give them direction, both personally and as a community, from the examples of their lives.
5. Who are they?
This is the ultimate question to ask, and it is answered with their charism, the way in which a particular order witnesses Christ and shares in His mission, at a particular time and in a particular culture. In a general sense, a charism is a gift from God which helps build up the Church. For religious communities, the charism is the soul of the community, that which gives it purpose and motivation, and animates its action. Just as each person is distinct and can be identified by his personality, a religious community is identified by its charism.
What are Religious
Vows (Evangelical Counsels)?
In Poverty, consecrated persons live a radical dependence on Christ for their material needs. In Chastity, consecrated persons give witness to their special and unique bond with Jesus Christ. In Obedience, consecrated persons sacrifice their own will to become God's instruments in the world.
“The Consecrated Life, deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord, is a gift of God the Father to his Church through the Holy Spirit. By the profession of the evangelical counsels the characteristic features of Jesus - the chaste, poor and obedient one - are made constantly "visible" in the midst of the world and the eyes of the faithful are directed towards the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven.” - Vita Consecrata #1
The Next Step
As you get to know different communities and answer these questions about them, the most important question for anyone discerning a religious vocation is this: Who has God created me to be?
Spending time with God gives Him the chance to reveal this to you. You should also spend time with religious communities to see if you “fit”: visit them, experience their spirituality, their community life, and their apostolate. Learn more about some nearby religious orders,(link into Episcopal Vicar for Religious
Finding Joy in Religious Life
Vatican Council II called for a renewal in religious life. The Council document “Perfectae Caritatis” and other Church documents are devoted to formation and their understanding of religious life. Formation is a life-long process of physical, moral, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions of growth that a candidate for religious life considers through a discernment process. Each Congregation, according to the Code of Canon Law (641-661, determines the process of discernment. Religious Congregations follow these stages of formation according to their Constitutions:
A probationary time which provides an opportunity for both the congregation and the candidate to determine her suitability for religious life and her readiness to meet its demands This period is usually one year but cannot be less than six months or more than two years.
The novitiate is a time of spiritual formation when the novice strives to develop an intimate union with Christ and is led to desire the greatest holiness for life in the congregation. She becomes accustomed to the life of daily prayer, full participation in the liturgy of the Church, and the practice of living in God's presence. She learns the essentials of religious life and deepens her understanding of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience.
The novitiate ends with the novice makes her first temporary profession. The novice assumes the observance of the three evangelical counsels by public vow, are consecrated to God through the ministry of the Church and are incorporated into the congregation. These vows are valid for one year and renewed annually. The period of temporary profession may not be less than three years and no longer than six years.
After the period of Temporary Profession, the sister enters into a life-long commitment to God through the perpetual vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Religious profession is a special and fruitful deepening of one’s baptismal consecration. This act of final profession is a total response to God’s call, who freely hands over his or her life to the following of Christ according to the way of life of his or her congregation.