February 2, Candlemas, is since 1997, World Day of Consecrated Life was instituted by Pope John Paul II. Candlemas is a feast of encounter. In years past the Pope celebrated the Mass but this year he’s celebrating Vespers. Four years ago I was there with some friends and it was a widely beautiful experience because we were united in prayer and in communion with Pope Benedict with all the various charisms –religious orders, congregations, religious and secular institutes– called by the Lord into existence for the entire Church, not just for a select few. While a man professes the vows of a Capuchin or Benedictine his vocation is for his own salvation and for the witness of the Resurrection. It is not a case of either-or. This is an important point: a day of prayer like the one for consecrated life is not exclusively for those in vows, but for all of the faithful who are called to live a life of holiness, a life of conversion rooted in Baptism. Pope Benedict notes three aspects of the day of prayer for consecrated life: to thank and praise God for the gift of the consecrated life, to promote and appreciation with all the faithful of this vocation and to invite all the vowed people to recognize what the Lord has done in them through the Gospel.
Hence, the day itself, Candlemas, February 2, is liturgically significant because it is a liturgical day of manifesting Christ as the Light of the World as we’ve heard in Simeon’s recognition. The Church recalls the Infant Jesus being presented in the Temple fulfilling the Mosaic Law where the first-born child is presented 40 days after birth to God. As Christ is the Light, religious, indeed, all Christians, are to be light to the world.