Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Seeking God on the road less traveled

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published February 5, 2015  | En Español

The poet Robert Frost penned a now quite famous poem “The Road Not Taken” in 1920, concluding it with this stanza:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

It is that “road less traveled by” that gives us an insightful description of the consecrated life that the Church celebrates this year. The consecrated life is a road that admittedly very few people follow, but it has clearly made and continues to make a significant difference in the life of the Church and in so many of our own personal lives. We are fortunate indeed if we have a religious woman or man as a mentor, teacher, friend, colleague or relative in our lives.

The consecrated life is a countercultural presence in the midst of the world today, as it has always been. Those who travel this road continuously remind us all that both roads ultimately are leading and inviting us to God. Most of us think that we generally know more about the one road of marriage and family life or living in the world as a single person than we do about the one less traveled in the consecrated life—although I am not too certain that our knowledge of the first road does not also need some extensive review in light of the society in which we now live.

Religious men and women do fascinate people. Last month at the Epiphany reception that I host for the women religious of the Archdiocese, a local media representative was invited to meet some of the women religious in attendance. I am sure she learned a lot and hopefully was able to correct any of her prior misconceptions regarding religious life in the Church today.

Those in consecrated life are as diverse as the many orders to which they belong. Some are contemplative; some are actively involved in the apostolates; some are native to this nation; and increasingly, many others are living out their vows here in the United States while having been born in other nations. They all contribute to the richness of the life of the Church in north Georgia.

The three evangelical counsels—poverty, chastity and obedience—that consecrated men and women follow do baffle most people. And, in truth, religious women and men spend their entire lives exploring and embracing the challenges that these counsels present to them. In our hyper-sexualized society, chastity seems to garner the greatest attention. Yet those in the consecrated life would probably tell us that each of these counsels is interrelated and each one offers its own hardships.

Chastity is not to be equated with simply being unmarried or single. Chastity is the virtue that seeks fulfillment in being completely in love with the One who is as real and alive and present as any other person that we might ever encounter.

Poverty is more than merely living without personal wealth but discovering a richness in love of the One who fulfills our heart’s deepest desires.

Obedience is not enslavement, but it seeks to allow my will to embrace the will and the direction of others that I accept as authorities in my life for love of Christ.

These vows are all interconnected in the consecrated life as they are in all of our lives as we seek to love others generously, selflessly and respectfully.

Pope Francis has asked those in consecrated life to “wake the world,” demonstrating that there are values to be found in following the road less taken. They need to alert those of us who are following the more frequently taken path to long for and focus on the One who is to be found on both roads.