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‘Dedicated to the service of the Church’

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

April 26, 2023

Editor’s Note: The following is Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily from the consecration of Mary Beth Bracy to a life of consecrated virginity lived in the world on April 16.

The custom of consecrating women to a life of virginity flourished in the early Church. It led to the formation of a solemn liturgical rite constituting the candidate a sacred person, a surpassing sign of the Church’s love for Christ, and an image of the world to come and the glory of the heavenly Bride of Christ. In the rite of consecration, the Church reveals its love of virginity, begs God’s grace on those who are consecrated, and prays with fervor for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Today the Church consecrates this woman, Mary Beth Bracy, to a life of virginity. She was raised right here in the Champlain Valley. God has called her to be more closely united to Himself and to be totally dedicated to the service of the Church and of humankind. Her consecration is a call to greater fervor in spreading the Kingdom of God and in giving to the world the Spirit of Christ. Mary Beth desires to live spousal union with Christ amid her everyday circumstances, in the family and society, just like St. Kateri Tekakwitha and many other holy women, with the Blessed Virgin Mary as her model of virginal, spousal and fruitful love.

Mary Beth, the life you seek to follow has its home in heaven. God himself is its source. It is He, infinitely pure and holy, who gives the grace of virginity. Our Lord Himself showed us the calling of such a life, consecrated to God the Father and chosen for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, through Baptism has already made you a temple of God’s glory and a child of the Father. Today, through our ministry He anoints you with a new grace and consecrates you to God by a new title. He gives you the dignity of being a bride of Christ and binds you to the Son of God in a covenant to last forever.
Mary Beth, make your whole life reflect your vocation and your dignity. Our holy mother the Church sees in you a chosen woman within the flock of Christ. Imitate the Mother of God; desire to be called and to be a handmaid of the Lord. Nourish your love of God by feeding on the Body of Christ; strengthen it by self-denial; build it up by study of the Scriptures, by untiring prayer, by works of mercy.

Remember that you are given over entirely to the service of the Church and of all your sisters and brothers. You are a disciple in the Church and in the world, in the things of the Spirit and in the things of the world. Let your light then shine before women and men, that your Father in heaven may be glorified, and His plan of making all things one in Christ come to perfection.

You have renounced marriage for the sake of Christ. Your joy and your crown, even here on earth, will be Christ, the Son of the Blessed Virgin and the Bridegroom of virgins. The ways of holiness are many, according to the vocation of each individual and the paths to holiness are personal. To be consecrated is to be set aside for a sacred purpose. My friends, here Mary Beth will be set aside as a sacred person in the Church, one who is given the title “bride of Christ.”

Your witness is vitally important today, Mary Beth. You will draw the world to heaven and offer to the world a sign of the presence of its heavenly destiny, a reality tragically absent from our world today. Yours is a call to a life totally for Christ and, in Christ, totally for others.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “Faced with cultural and political trends that seek to eliminate, or at least cloud and confuse, the sexual differences inscribed in human nature, considering them a cultural construct, it is necessary to recall God’s design that created the human being masculine and feminine, with a unity and at the same time an original difference and complimentary.” The consecrated virgin, accepting her womanhood, offers a particular witness to the understanding of male and female complementarity. Such a witness is sorely needed today.

In the days after Jesus’ death and resurrection, His disciples huddled in a locked room, fearful of repercussions from the Jewish leaders. Jesus appears to the disciples and says, “Peace be with you.” This phrase occurs three times in today’s Gospel, establishing a theme built on one that Jesus often used in His preaching: “Do not be afraid.”

Mary Beth, I pray this Divine Mercy Sunday that the Lord keep you in His peace and joy as you live out your vocation of selfless love. Thank you for your humble “Yes” to the Lord and for inspiring all of us with such courage, deep faith and a generous heart.

May God be praised…forever may God be praised!

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