Friday afternoon in the Vatican Basilica, the Holy Father met with members of congregations, institutes, societies of apostolic life, and new forms of consecrated life, for the occasion of the World Day of Consecrated Life, an annual celebration instituted by John Paul II.
At the end of the Eucharistic celebration presided by Cardinal Franc Rode C.M., prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Benedict XVI entered the basilica and greeted those present. Opening his address he affirmed that the Day "is an appropriate opportunity to ask the Lord together for the gift of an ever more incisive presence of male and female religious, and of consecrated people, in the Church on her journey in the world."
The Pope reminded his audience that "your evangelical witness, in order to be truly effective, must arise from an unreserved response to the initiative of God, Who consecrated you for Him through a special act of love."
"In our time there exists, especially among the young, a widespread need to meet God. Those who are chosen by God for consecrated life make this spiritual longing definitively their own. ... With their example, they proclaim to the world - which is often disoriented but in reality searching for meaning - that God is the Lord of existence."
Consecrated men and women, "by choosing obedience, poverty and chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven, show that all ties of love to things and to people are incapable of definitively satisfying the heart." Their lives "constitute a total and definitive, unconditional and passionate response to God."
"When they renounce everything to follow Christ," the Pope added, "consecrated people ... necessarily become a 'sign of contradiction,' because their way of life and thought often contrasts with the logic of the world. ... When faced with such courage, many people who thirst for truth are inspired and attracted by those who do not hesitate to give their lives for that which they believe."
The Pope encouraged those present never to forget that "consecrated life is a divine gift and that it is, in the first instance, the Lord who brings it to success. ... This certainty must be a comfort to you, keeping you from temptation and discouragement in the face of the inevitable difficulties of life and the many challenges of the modern age."
The Pope concluded his remarks by recalling how that day's liturgy of the Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple is characterized by the symbol of light, "indicating Christ, the true light of the world, which shines forth in the night of history and illuminates all searchers after truth. Dear consecrated men and women, burn with this flame and make it shine in your own lives, so that everywhere may be lit by a fragment of the brilliance irradiated by Jesus, splendor of truth."