Monday 17 February 2014

A Fashion that Comes and Goes (or Trads and the "spirit of Summorum Pontificum")

At the time that Pope Benedict XVI issued his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and the accompanying letter to Bishops, I posted to the following effect:
Traditional Catholics seemed to me to take the parts of Summorum Pontificum that they liked (a greater juridical freedom to celebrate the Extraordinary Form) and leave to one side the parts they did not like (insertion of new prefaces and saints into the Extraordinary Form, the agenda of mutual enrichment)
Summorum Pontificum did not establish an equality of status between the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form - as these terms themselves, used in the juridical provisions of the motu proprio, clearly indicate - and did not justify the kind of promotion of the Extraordinary Form that we then saw from certain quarters; indeed, Pope Benedict's accompanying letter argued that it would be the Missal of Pope Paul VI, celebrated reverently and in accordance with its rubrics, that would unite parishes
After Summorum Pontificum, it was not possible in juridical terms to consider the Extraordinary Form to be in any way "more traditional" than the Ordinary Form, and that, in consequence, Traditional Catholicism as a movement in the Church could not define itself only in terms of attachment to the Extraordinary Form
I think I was, at the time, described as having a "minimalist" interpretation of Summorum Pontificum.  I would say that others were adopting a "spirit of Summorum Pontificum", seeing it as a green light to promote the Extraordinary Form over the Ordinary Form. Under Pope Benedict XVI I think there was a mistaken sense that "the Traditional Mass was back". The election of Pope Francis has certainly pricked that bubble. But it was never the case that Summorum Pontificum envisaged or intended a "restoration", and I believe that a careful reading of the motu proprio and accompanying letter to Bishops bears this out. This "spirit of Summorum Pontificum" represents a certain fashion that, like the "spirit of Vatican II", will see its day and then pass away. (As far as the notion of "restoration" is concerned, Fr Hunwicke appears to lack the discretion in this regard that those longer in the Roman fold manifest.)

Rorate Caeli quotes one part of Pope Benedict's letter to Bishops, thereby mischievously playing off Pope Benedict against Pope Francis. But in reflecting on Pope Francis reported remarks about fashion in regard to the Extraordinary Form, it is worth reading another part of that same letter (my italics added):
The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.  Already from these concrete presuppositions, it is clearly seen that the new Missal will certainly remain the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful.
I believe Pope Benedict here correctly assessed the situation of the vast majority of dioceses in the universal Church - attachment to the Extraordinary Form, including that emerging among young people, remains an interest for a small minority in the Church (despite the contrary impression that can be gained from Catholic blogs, and recognising that Summorum Pontificum has given that minority a numerical boost). In this sense, to use Pope Francis' term, it does have something of the character of a fashion - and it is interesting to look at exactly how the report of Pope Francis' words expresses this:
I find that it is rather a kind of fashion.
It is a nuanced wording, with a particular sense to the word "fashion" that should not be identified with a statement that young people attached to the Extraordinary Form simply do so "to follow a fashion" in the same way that people might dress in a particular way. This does not mean that the attachment of young people to the Extraordinary Form should be disregarded and no provision made for it; but it does mean that the provision should be suitably proportionate in scale.

It is also worth noting a certain even-handedness in Pope Francis' reported remarks:

.... I consider greatly important to go deep into things, because if we do not go deep, no liturgical form, this or that one, can save us."

We also need to recognise that Pope Francis is credited in Rorate Caeli's report with "affection, attention and sensitivity" when speaking on this matter, in order not to hurt anyone.

[In parentheses, I suspect that the position of a country like the Czech Republic is significanctly different than that of countries like England and Wales. I think a discovery of freedom after a time of repression, and a very particular cultural heritage, might well create a particular style of interest in the Extraordinary Form that would not be found in mainstream Western countries. Others might be able to comment on this more fully than me.]

If Traditional Catholicism, with its definition (so far as I can tell, and I have yet to be convinced otherwise) by way attachment to the Extraordinary Form, is not to be just a fashion in Pope Francis' sense, I do think it needs to demonstrate a responsibility towards the Ordinary Form, to be more universal in its outlook. It needs to overcome the "spirit of Summorum Pontificum" and move from being a fashion with a limited appeal to being a more natural part of the life of the whole Church.

Saturday 15 February 2014

Reflections on evil

A brief citation in Evangelii Gaudium has sent me back to Georges Bernanos' The Diary of a Country Priest. It seemed an appropriate place to go in reflecting upon recent events in Belgium, where the legislature has passed a law that will allow euthanasia for children (the children must request euthanasia and have their parents' consent).

The passage of Bernanos cited by Pope Francis is this:
The sin against hope - the deadliest sin and perhaps also the most cherished, the most indulged. It takes a long time to become aware of it, and the sadness which precedes and heralds its advent is so delicious! The richest of all the devil's elixirs, his ambrosia.
In the operation of a law such as that which it appears will shortly come into force in Belgium, there is a network of guilt (the word here used in the sense of responsibility for an action that is ethically unjust, in the same way that a court might find a person "guilty", rather than in an emotive sense). The "sin against hope" comes in to play at several points.

Euthanasia is profoundly an action against life (cf Catechism of the Catholic Church n.2277):
Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.
But it is also profoundly an action against hope, in the first instant, on the part of those voting in favour of the legislation. They have manifested their inability to recognise that life itself, even when weak and impaired, is a good to be promoted. They have acted contrary to the "inalienable" character of the right to life expressed in Article 3 of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which articulates a right that exists "without distinction of any kind".

They have also sown the seeds of that act against hope in the relationships between every terminally ill child and their parents. A question that should not even be there in any such relationship will now be there in every such relationship, if you live in Belgium. How does a child ask for euthanasia if the parents have not first suggested it to them? Parliament has implicated every parent of a seriously ill child in this conversation. I am reminded of the story that Clara Lejeune tells about her father (Life is  a Blessing, p.46 in the Ignatius Press edition), soon after a television debate in France had raised the possibility of abortion of babies diagnosed as suffering from Down's Syndrome:
One morning a ten-year-old boy with trisomy came for a consultation. He was crying inconsolably. The mother explained: "He watched the debate with us last night".
The child threw his arms around my father's neck and said to him, "They want to kill us. You've got to defend us. We're just too weak, and we don't know how".
It also sows the seeds of that sin against hope in the relationships between medical professionals and their young patients and their families, since those medical professionals must also be involved in the decision. What does it say of their confidence in their own profession - and their own inter-personal skills, which are just as much a part of their profession as their technical skill? Are they so without hope that they are unable to devote their skills to the successful (which does not always mean survival) of their patients?

Bernanos' words indicate, too, how the unthinkable - the deliberate killing of children - becomes acceptable, even in what would be considered a civilised continent. It takes a long time to become really aware of this sin against hope when one has become accustomed to legalised euthanasia. The parallel in the United Kingdom is the way in which we have become accustomed to abortion to such an extent that one abortion provider (see here and the comment at the end of the news release here) readily sees abortion as the back up for contraceptive failure.

As Bernanos' words suggest (and Fr Tim indicates when he reminds us of the position taken with regard to euthanasia by the medical profession in Germany, even ahead of the Nazi euthanasia programme), becoming accustomed to a practice means that a society fails to perceive its evil nature - "it takes a long time to become aware of it".  In the Belgian context, a particular responsibility rests with those engaged in the professions of politics and of medicine; their actions are not just confined to the range of their own professions but are actions representative of the whole of society. Members of those professions need to say a "no" to the law that has now been passed - by their votes, as did some 44 members of parliament, and by their letter in the media, as did a large number of paediatricians.

The prompt of conscience, more than anything else, asks all members of society to find a way of articulating a "no" to such an evil. The prompt of conscience is less one that demands a materially effective course of action to reverse or limit the effects of a law passed - that is a matter of a calling that is given to some and not to others. Rather it asks that members of society continue to articulate that "no" when the law has been passed. Primarily, it is a "no" that a person says to themselves, in public so that others may perceive that "no", and in public so that they are seen as expressing that "no" and so distancing themselves from complicity in the evil. It is not a comment on the choices and actions of others; it is primarily a statement about oneself.

It is also a "no" that asks that a person does not take part directly in the evil that the law permits, a particular ask for those in the professions directly involved.

This seems to me a primary motivation for participating in a prayer vigil at an abortion clinic, for example. It could also drive the way in which an annual Day for Life is implemented. The "vigil" movement in France that has arisen in the aftermath of the Loi Taubirau is another example of this. The statement of a "no" is a dimension of participation in all of these, though each also has other aspects to it. The way in which a bishop or priest articulates this "no" arises from their office as pastor of souls and teachers, so might have a different character than the articulation of a lay person.

I am going to end with another passage from The Diary of a Country Priest. In his homily at Mass yesterday, on the feast of two co-patrons of Europe, Father observed, with feeling, that the new law in Belgium had been passed on a continent that was perhaps more civilised than any other, and that this was a sign of a decay in the life of that continent. As well as a sin against hope, is it not also a sign of a sin against love (in the proper sense of the word love) in our continent? Bernanos places in the mouth of his country priest a meditation upon hell that might well have relevance here:
... the lowest of human beings, even though he no longer thinks he can love, still has in him the power of loving. Our very hate is resplendent, and the least tormented of the fiends would warm himself in what we call our despair, as in a morning of glittering sunshine. Hell is not to love any more, madame. Not to love any more! That sounds quite ordinary to you. To a human being still alive, it means to love less or to love elsewhere. To understand is still a way of loving. But suppose this faculty which seems so inseparably ours, of our very essence, should disappear! Oh, prodigy! To stop loving, to stop understanding - and yet to live.
 Is Europe gradually losing its ability to love, in the true sense?

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Abortion: two miscellanea

British Pregnancy Advisory Service are reporting research on contraceptive use among their clients: Women trying hard to avoid unwanted pregnancy, research shows.

BPAS' research indicates that some 26% of women having an abortion at BPAS were using the contraceptive pill (if I have interpreted the data in their press release correctly). With "typical use", the research suggests that 9% of women using the contraceptive pill would be expected to conceive.

BPAS research indicates that some 35% of women having an abortion at BPAS were using condoms. With "typical use" they suggest that 12% of such women would conceive.

Am I correct in thinking that the women conceiving when these contraceptive methods are used are disproportionately highly represented in the population of those women seeking abortion, compared to the full population of those using these methods?

The Chief Executive of BPAS comments at the end of the news release:
Contraception fails and sometimes we fail to use it properly...
Ultimately women cannot control their fertility through contraception alone, and need accessible abortion services as a back-up for when their contraception lets them down.
If this statement represents the basis on which BPAS provides abortion to its clients, one wonders whether that basis is lawful (though it should be noted that, elsewhere on their website, BPAS qualify the possibility of abortion for a woman by the words "if you can legally do so").  I am not aware that contraceptive failure is a legal grounds for an abortion.

H/T e-LIFE newsletter.

In other news: Caroline Farrow has an analysis of newspaper reports today of undercover investigations at crisis pregnancy centres: Crisis pregnancy centres "scandal". Christian Medical Comment has coverage here: Behind the headlines: information and misinformation in pregnancy counselling.

Saturday 8 February 2014

Evangelii Gaudium: comment on two snippets

Pope Francis observes (Evangelii Gaudium n.127), in connection with the idea that evangelisation necessarily involves inter-personal communication, that:
..... there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbours or complete strangers. This is the informal preaching which takes place in the middle of a conversation, something along the lines of what a missionary does when visiting a home. Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.
One can see the parallel to recruitment to a trade union. It is a bit of a mantra of trade union recruitment that "most people don't join a union because no-one has asked them". Similarly, the apostolate of a Catholic organisation such as the Legion of Mary draws heavily on creating opportunities for personal contact with those whom one wishes to bring to Christ. Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium n.128) gives a very useful exemplification of the form that this every day evangelisation might take.

But there is an intriguing, and quite un-developed, snippet in the next paragraph. Here Pope Francis brings the question of individual personal contact back to that of inculturation:
If the Gospel is embedded in a culture, the message is no longer transmitted solely from person to person. In countries where Christianity is a minority, then, along with encouraging each of the baptized to proclaim the Gospel, particular Churches should actively promote at least preliminary forms of inculturation.
What is un-developed here is that relation between person-to-person contact and that situation where there is a communication at a (community) cultural level. I suspect that a lot more could be made of how these two elements complement each other and arise from/inform each other. The hazard of an evangelisation that occurs exclusively at the level of culture, and does not penetrate to the level of the personal, is only too apparent in those countries of formerly-strong Catholic culture and weak Catholic practice in daily life. Likewise, person-to-person contact has to impact the culture, or it becomes just "what Catholics do in private on a Sunday".

The second snippet I wanted to comment on is taken from Pope Francis' lengthy treatment of the homily (Evangelii Gaudium nn.135-159). It can be found in n.146:
The first step, after calling upon the Holy Spirit in prayer, is to give our entire attention to the biblical text, which needs to be the basis of our preaching.
Pope Francis assumes that the homily will address the Biblical text(s) provided in the Scripture readings of the Mass of the day. This is an assumption shared by a whole generation of priests and, indeed, it would be wrong not to recognise that preaching on the given texts is just as much a feature of Pope Benedict XVI's homilies as it is of Pope Francis' homilies. However, the rubric (General Instruction on the Roman Missal nn.65-66) allows a wider range upon which the homily can be based (my emphasis added):
The Homily is part of the Liturgy and is highly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an explanation of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners....
On Sundays and Holydays of Obligation there is to be a Homily at every Mass that is celebrated with the people attending and it may not be omitted without a grave reason. On other days it is recommended, especially on the weekdays of Advent, Lent and Easter Time, as well as on other festive days and occasions when the people come to church in greater numbers.

In my own experience, the blind insistence that a homily must be preached at a weekday Mass, and that it must be about the Scripture readings of the day, leads to some of the most dire homilies I have ever heard (cf Pope Francis' comment that "We know that the faithful attach great importance to it, and that both they and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them!" in Evangelii Gaudium n.135).  Pope Francis is quite right, I think, to devote the attention to the homily that he does in Evangelii Gaudium - an effective homily impacts greatly on the manner and depth of the participation of the faithful in the Liturgy, lifting it above the "rather average" that leaves them lukewarm.

It is particularly frustrating when one turns to the Collect for the saint being celebrated on the day and can recognise in its words the particular charism of that saint .... which would provide material for a much more useful and succinct homily than a vague wandering around a (more or less) obscure Biblical text. Likewise when one encounters the text of the Preface - yesterday evening, for example, Father used the proper Preface for Eucharistic Prayer 2 which, in the new English translation, provides a wonderful exposition of the core of Christian teaching ("kerygma"), and which is fascinating for its relevance to the idea of the new evangelisation that is the subject of Evangelii Gaudium. The second reading from the Office of Readings can also provide a useful alternative source for a homily.

I suspect that, if we look at his major homilies (rather than the daily homilies at Casa Santa Martha), we will find that Pope Francis widens his scope to move from the Scripture readings to the needs of the particular celebration. This seems to be what the "three words" structure of his preaching is about.

At a human level, I feel that when I am listening to a priest preaching a homily I am entitled to expect him to (a) have something genuinely worthwhile to say and (b) to have prepared properly how and what he is going to say. (I can recognise that I am atypical of most parishioners in my expectations here; but I do see others respond positively to the more "substantial" homily when it is delivered.) The clerical collar does not provide a particular privilege in this regard. When priests insist on preaching every day at Mass, and insist on that homily being about the Scripture readings of the day, it is only the most exceptional among them who will meet these two criteria day in and day out.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Thoughts on a day of action

Gay activists are today marking an international "day of action" which, if I have understood news reports correctly, intends to put pressure on those enterprises sponsoring the Winter Olympics to make explicit statements of opposition to Russian laws with regard to the supplying of information about LGBT lifestyles.

1. I do think that Christian leaders in Russia and internationally would do well to be heard condemning physical and verbal violence against those activists on the side of LGBT lifestyles, violence that appears from media reports to be at a significant level. This condemnation does not imply any withdrawal on their part from traditional Christian teaching on human sexuality; it is on the other hand a legitimate witness to the dignity of human persons whose beliefs on this matter are different from their own. It represents a principle of non-discrimination at the heart of action on behalf of the human person - in the word used by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights are "inalienable", that is, they belong to each and every human person without exception.

2. It is also worth taking cognisance of Article 16, especially sub-section (3), of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognising that the sense of this article applies to marriage as a union between a man and a woman:
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
Whatever one might make of the motivations of the Russian politicians and the circumstances under which they enacted their law which is the subject of todays protest, that law can be seen as a provision to protect marriage and family life as envisaged by sub-section 3.

One might put it against Article 19's assertion of a right of exchange of information; but there is provision within the UN Declaration at Article 29 for limitations of rights in order to meet the requirements of "the general welfare in a democratic society", which might well be seen as applicable in this case:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
3.  Following the example of Auntie Joanna, this appears an appropriate time to post the text of the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (scroll down from this link to find the relevant paragraphs) on this question:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,140 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."141 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Evangelii Gaudium: "missionary disciples", "inculturation" and "popular piety"

In Chapter 3 of Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis turns his attention to "The Proclamation of the Gospel". In a section headed "We are all missionary disciples" (n.119 ff) Pope Francis writes (n.120):
In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients.
Though he acknowledges the desire for a training or formation for evangelising (cf n.121), Pope Francis is clear that all are called to evangelise and that the answering of that call should not be put off on the grounds that training is needed. The genius of a number of movements or organisations in the Church lies precisely in their ability to empower for evangelising activity Catholics who would otherwise not engage in such activity. I know, for example, of the impression that my own mother made on her contemporaries in her teens/twenties - inspired by their engagement in a Young Christian Worker section in a Lancashire cotton town. (It also prompted her to become an active trade unionist.) The Legion of Mary likewise, and perhaps notably in this context because of its espousal of a "master and apprentice" system of formation (cf p.66 of the Legion Handbook):
The notion is general that the formation of apostles is mainly a matter of listening to lectures and studying textbooks. But the Legion believes that such formation cannot be effective at all without the accompaniment of the work itself; and indeed that talk about the apostolate, divorced from the actual work, can have the opposite effect to that intended.
The system of the "Generazione nuova" (Gen) within the Focolare is similar, with members of the older age groups acting as animators for the younger participants.

In these first pages of Chapter 3, Pope Francis also addresses the question of culture in the context of evangelisation. It is interesting to read how, treating first of the notion of culture, Pope Francis then goes onto speak of the Christian faith being received within the culture of a person (nn.115-117):
The human person is always situated in a culture: “nature and culture are intimately linked”. Grace supposes culture, and God’s gift becomes flesh in the culture of those who receive it.
Rather than the culture changing the Gospel, it is the Gospel that permeates the culture. Inculturation is less an adaptation of the Gospel and more an insertion of the Gospel in the culture.

It is also interesting to note what one can be forgiven for thinking is Pope Francis prime model of a practice of a Christian faith that is truly inculturated: the practice of popular piety (cf Evangelii Gaudium nn.122-126). This is, of course, a very different understanding of inculturation than that which is sometimes proposed.
Once the Gospel has been inculturated in a people, in their process of transmitting their culture they also transmit the faith in ever new forms; hence the importance of understanding evangelization as inculturation. Each portion of the people of God, by translating the gift of God into its own life and in accordance with its own genius, bears witness to the faith it has received and enriches it with new and eloquent expressions. ... Herein lies the importance of popular piety, a true expression of the spontaneous missionary activity of the people of God...
Popular piety enables us to see how the faith, once received, becomes embodied in a culture and is constantly passed on. 
Pope Francis argues strongly, in three sentences, each of considerable significance, that the practices of popular piety - perhaps more lively in his home continent than in Europe - are an expression of a substantive theological insight:
Only from the affective connaturality born of love can we appreciate the theological life present in the piety of Christian peoples, especially among their poor....No one who loves God’s holy people will view these actions as the expression of a purely human search for the divine. They are the manifestation of a theological life nourished by the working of the Holy Spirit who has been poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5). 
Pope Francis' final thought on inculturation comes at the end of this section of Chapter 3, where he considers the need to proclaim the Gospel to different cultures (nn.132-134), and suggests an evangelising import of the work of theologians:
Proclaiming the Gospel message to different cultures also involves proclaiming it to professional, scientific and academic circles. This means an encounter between faith, reason and the sciences with a view to developing new approaches and arguments on the issue of credibility, a creative apologetics...
A theology – and not simply a pastoral theology – which is in dialogue with other sciences and human experiences is most important for our discernment on how best to bring the Gospel message to different cultural contexts and groups.The Church, in her commitment to evangelization, appreciates and encourages the charism of theologians and their scholarly efforts to advance dialogue with the world of cultures and sciences. I call on theologians to carry out this service as part of the Church’s saving mission. In doing so, however, they must always remember that the Church and theology exist to evangelize, and not be content with a desk-bound theology.  

Saturday 1 February 2014

World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life

The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, celebrated on 2nd February, has for some years been marked by the Church as a day of prayer for Consecrated Life.

When Bishop Hugh Gilbert spoke at Brentwood Cathedral some time ago, one of his observations with regard to the experience of the Church since the Second Vatican Council was that there had not yet been the renewal of religious life that might accompany, for example, the growth of the new (and largely though not exclusively lay) movements. Bishop Hugh's suggestion was that we should perhaps look for this renewal of religious life as a sign of the vitality of the life of the Church. That Bishop Hugh is himself a monk and that, since he gave that talk, we have a Jesuit in the person of the Successor of St Peter perhaps offers us some "sign" of this call.

This year there is additional impetus to this World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life with the announcement of a Year of Consecrated Life: Year of Consecrated Life set for 2015.

It is worth reading again the homily that Pope Benedict preached for this feast day last year, shortly before the announcement of his resignation. After a reflection on the Scripture readings of the feast, Pope Benedict addressed the following words specifically to the religious who had joined the celebration as part of the Year of Faith:
The topic of light, that reechoes the first and second songs of the Servant of the Lord in the Deutero-Isaiah (cf. Is 42:6; 49:6), is vividly present in this liturgy. It was in fact opened by an evocative procession, in which the Superiors and General Superiors of the Institutes of consecrated life represented here took part and carried lit candles. This sign, specific to the liturgical tradition of this Feast, is deeply expressive. It shows the beauty and value of the consecrated life as a reflection of Christ’s light; a sign that recalls Mary’s entry into the Temple. The Virgin Mary, the Consecrated Woman par excellence, carried in her arms the Light himself, the Incarnate Word who came to dispel the darkness of the world with God’s love. ...
I invite you in the first place to nourish a faith that can illuminate your vocation. For this I urge you to treasure, as on an inner pilgrimage, the memory of the “first love” with which the Lord Jesus Christ warmed your hearts, not out of nostalgia but in order to feed that flame. And for this it is necessary to be with him, in the silence of adoration; and thereby reawaken the wish to share — and the joy of sharing — in his life, his decisions, the obedience of faith, the blessedness of the poor and the radical nature of love .....
In the second place I invite you to have a faith that can recognize the wisdom of weakness. In the joys and afflictions of the present time, when the harshness and weight of the cross make themselves felt, do not doubt that the kenosis of Christ is already a paschal victory. Precisely in our limitations and weaknesses as human beings we are called to live conformation with Christ in an all-encompassing commitment which anticipates the eschatological perfection, to the extent that this is possible in time (ibid., n. 16). In a society of efficiency and success, your life, marked by the “humility” and frailty of the lowly, of empathy with those who have no voice, becomes an evangelical sign of contradiction.
Lastly, I invite you to renew the faith that makes you pilgrims bound for the future. By its nature the consecrated life is a pilgrimage of the spirit in quest of a Face that is sometimes revealed and sometimes veiled: “Faciem tuam, Domine, requiram” (Ps 27[26]:8). May this be the constant yearning of your heart, the fundamental criterion that guides you on your journey, both in small daily steps and in the most important decisions.
 Do not join the ranks of the prophets of doom who proclaim the end or meaninglessness of the consecrated life in the Church in our day...
 Pope Benedict's words do so much have the "feel" with which we have now become familiar in the words of Pope Francis.