Religious of the diocese exhorted that faith will set them apart at Candlemas Mass

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Missionary of Charity Sister Savina Grace, carries candles into Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral for the Candlemas Mass commemorating the Feast of the Presentation of The Lord and World Day for Consecrated Life Thursday, Feb. 1. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC Sun)

The presentation of the Christ Child in the temple — an act by his parents according to Jewish custom — and the men and women whose lives are set apart in service to Our Lord were both celebrated by the Diocese of Phoenix in a vigil Mass that brought together members of consecrated life and laity.

The Feast of the Presentation of The Lord Feb. 2 and World Day of Consecrated Life were observed in an evening that began with Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted blessing dozens of candles, which were then lit and carried by participants into a darkened Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral.

“The feast honors the day when Mary brought the baby Jesus to the temple to consecrate him to the Lord. It was part of the Jewish custom that mothers bring their first-born son to the temple to offer the child to God,” explained Sr. Anthony Mary Diago, RSM, director of the diocese’s Office of Consecrated Life. “We have a procession with the lit candles into the dark church to symbolize that those who follow a vocation are the Light of the World, like Christ.”

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted blesses the candles outside Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral prior to the Candlemas Mass commemorating the Feast of the Presentation of The Lord and World Day for Consecrated Life Thursday, Feb. 1. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC Sun)

The feast is part of the liturgical calendar. The day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life was instituted in 1997 by Pope St. John Paul II. Just as Christ is the “Light of the World,” those in consecrated life carry the light of Christ to the world, represented in the candles.

“We don’t recognize today the dedication people make in their lives for the Church. Our society is lost. To see people witnessing to the presence of God whether as consecrated lay person in religious life or in a secular institute is really important,” said Most Holy Trinity parishioner Donna Kurgan.

The support was welcomed by those in religious life.

“It makes us feel really supported in our vocations and (that) the church is really behind us as we strive to live out religious life,” said Br. John of the Cross, one of three novices with the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit in Laveen. “(We’re) preparing to make vows. Just seeing the support of the Diocese really encourages us to continue; persevere.”

A pair of Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist join the assembly in a singing hymn during the Candlemas Mass inside Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral commemorating the Feast of the Presentation of The Lord and World Day for Consecrated Life Thursday, Feb. 1. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC Sun)

Bishop Olmsted, in his homily, recalled the faith and dedication of Simeon and Anna as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. Simeon, a righteous and devout man, realized the fulfillment of God’s promise to him that he would see the Messiah before dying, and Anna, a prophetess who had been worshipping at the temple night and day, gave thanks to God and “spoke about the child Jesus to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk 2:38).

“Faith is what set Simeon and Anna apart from everyone else in the temple that day. Faith and obedience did this, and they will do the same for us.”