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The Consecrated

The leading characters in this event will be
above all the bishops gathered in communion
Life and Its Role in with the Holy Father John Paul II. As pastors
the Church and in and guides in perfection, and faithful to the

the World charism of each institute,2 they will listen to

the Spirit and give attention to the desires and
by Vatican needs expressed by the church concerning the
institutes of consecrated life and the societies
DESCRIPTION of apostolic life. Their particular task is one of
discernment and pastoral guidance. Present
This working paper for the October 1994
alongside the bishops will be some
World Synod of Bishops expounds on the
representatives of the superiors general for
consecrated life in light of the ecclesiology of

PUBLISHER & DATE Also present, as observers, will be some

women and men religious, men and women
Vatican, October 1994 members of institutes of consecrated life and
societies of apostolic life, priests, lay women
and men, called by the Holy Father to express
in this way the universality of the church and
Listening to the Spirit
all her vocations, in a mutual listening to the
1. The consecrated life is a gift which the experiences and desires of the whole people
Father has given to the church by means of of God.
the Spirit so that, in faithfulness to the Gospel,
the most characteristic traits of the life of his It is urgent that the whole church gather in

Son Jesus, the chaste, poor and obedient one prayer around the synod fathers and the other
synod participants in order to implore the light
(cf. Mt. 8:20; Phil. 2:8), and the unfathomable
riches of his mystery (cf. Eph. 3:8), might be of the Holy Spirit through the intercession of

present in the world and might draw everyone the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints,

toward the kingdom of God.1Therefore, the especially the saintly founders and
foundresses. It is to the Holy Spirit, who stirs
ninth ordinary general assembly of the Synod
of Bishops, which has as its topic "the these charisms in the church, that prayer is

consecrated life and its role in the church and raised in one voice, that he may guide the

in the world" is a grace-filled moment for the church toward a renewed outpouring of his

entire people of God. gift of wisdom and grace for a new Pentecost
in the consecrated life. He is "the life and exhortations Christifideles Laici and Pastores
strength of the people of God, the bond of its Dabo Vobis. The ecclesiology of communion
communion, the vigor of its mission, the must now contribute to a deeper reflection on
source of its multiple gifts, the secret of its the consecrated life in the church. It is
admirable unity, the radiance and beauty of its impossible to have an adequate conception of
creative power and the fire of its love."3 the mystery, communion and mission of the
church without an understanding of the
The Present Hour consecrated life, just as the consecrated life
cannot be understood and lived unless it is
2. The aim of the synod is to reflect on the
rooted in the church's mystery, communion
consecrated life in the light of God's plan,
and mission.
returning to the sources of grace from which it
arises, the great wealth of its historical The framework for this reflection on the
expressions and the legacy of its saints. At the consecrated life is the new evangelization of
same time, however, the synod is intended to today's world, characterized by the rise of new
discern the challenges and expectations of the values and cultures which have a conditioning
contemporary world, for which the Holy effect on the traditional view of the
Spirit enriches the consecrated life with consecrated life. While this context presents
resources of grace, spirituality, manifold significant challenges to its identity and
works and creativity in the apostolic life. mission, it also affords a providential
opportunity, on the basis of the creativity of
During recent decades, in the wake of the
the charisms of the Spirit, to evoke
Second Vatican Council, the church has
courageous responses based on the Gospel.
delved deeper into her nature and mission in
The hope-filled moment in which the church
the light of the ecclesiology of communion4 in
is living calls for such a reflection, as does the
order to understand more deeply her mystery
constant invitation coming from Christ and
rooted in the Trinity, her nature as a sign and
from the charism of the founders and
instrument of intimate union with God and of
foundresses, which continues in time.
the unity of the human race.5 In recent synods
this vision has given us a better understanding John Paul II recalled the meaning of the
of the vocation and mission of the laity (1987) coming synod in these words: "The successors
and of the identity and mission of priests and of the apostles will meet to discuss your life
their formation in the circumstances of the and the contribution which your founders and
present day (1990), as can be clearly seen in foundresses-and your respective spiritual
the post-synodal apostolic families with them-have given and still give to
the mission of the church. They want to been given to the lineamenta which, following
understand in all its breadth and depth the a well-established method, is intended to offer
design of the Lord who sanctifies, enriches points of reference to promote reflection-even
and also guides his people through the gifts on negative aspects-and elicit responses,
and charisms of the communities of suggestions and evaluations.
consecrated life and the societies of apostolic
life. The bishops want to help you to be A sign of the interest aroused by the synod is

Gospel leaven and evangelizers of the cultures the quantity and quality of the official

of the third millennium and of the social responses sent to the General Secretariat of
ordering of the peoples."6 the Synod by the episcopal conferences and
the synods of the Oriental churches, the
In a recent address to superiors general, he departments of the Roman Curia, the Union of
affirmed: "Today the religious life is Superiors General for Men and the
experiencing a particularly significant International Union of Superiors General for
moment of its history because of the Women and the World Conference of Secular
demanding and widespread renewal imposed Institutes.
by the changed sociocultural conditions at the
threshold of the third millennium of the In addition to these, many observations were

Christian era.... In their day the founders and sent by cardinals and bishops, national and

foundresses were able to incarnate the Gospel international conferences of men and women
message with courage and holiness. It is religious, individual institutes of consecrated
necessary that, faithful to the breath of the life and societies of apostolic life,

Spirit, their spiritual daughters and sons confederations and federations of monasteries

continue this witness in time, imitating their as well as individual monasteries, priests,
creativity, with a mutual fidelity to the women and men religious, consecrated virgins

charism of their origins, and in constant and hermits, theologians and brethren from

listening to the demands of the present other churches and Christian communities.
moment."7 This is valuable material which offers
assistance in coming to an understanding of
An Encouraging Response the situation and the expectations of the
consecrated life in the church and in the world
3. Preparations for the coming synod are in today.
progress throughout the church. This can be
seen from the many initiatives of reflection,
prayer and study. A widespread response has
Additional Intensive Study geographical and cultural situations; a
reflection on its relationship to the mystery,
4. An attentive study of the responses and communion and mission of the church; a
observations has pointed above all to courageous statement of its identity and
questions of a general nature as well as to apostolic mission so that it may have the
those proper to various nations and institutes renewed impetus to be a prophetic witness
concerning the present state of the consecrated today for the salvation of the world.
life, its identity and role in ecclesial
communion and some of the most urgent By its very nature the instrumentum laboris is
questions involving the present and future of intended to offer topics for the synod's
consecrated life. The instrumentum discussion. It is meant to illustrate, pinpoint
laboris has taken all this material into and delve deeper into these aspects in the light
account, with an eye toward the celebration of of the responses, bearing in mind the
the synodal assembly. complexity of the consecrated life, its
universal reality and the pastoral nature of the
Emerging from the responses is a general synod. At the same time, it must not fail to
view of the topics and trends which, although highlight some specific questions which many
having certain differences according to responses entrust to the synod's reflection.
individual institutes, various nations and This synodal document takes its inspiration
cultural and geographic areas, offers a from the word of God and the church's
substantial convergence of "lights and tradition, and draws upon the teaching of
shadows," hopes and desires, and questions Vatican II and the postconciliar documents on
and obligations concerning the consecrated the consecrated life.8In this way, as the
life in the church and in the world. According majority of the responses have requested, it is
to some, this is a period of transformation or meant to recall the church's teaching and open
of profound change in the consecrated life, new paths to theological reflection on the
while others see it as one of renewal, consecrated life and its spiritual and apostolic
revitalization and refoundation. spirit.

Furthermore, the responses give rise to a The Consecrated Life

renewed evaluation of the consecrated life and
the forms it has taken, especially in the 5. It seems essential to make an initial
following directions: an emphasis on its clarification on the topic of the synod so all
specific nature and variety of charisms; might have a better understanding of the
special attention to the diversity of
complexity and variety of individuals, public profession of chastity.14 Finally, it adds
communities and institutes to which it refers. societies of apostolic life.15

Historically speaking, the Today there are approximately 1,423 institutes

expression consecrated life has various of women religious of pontifical right and
meanings in the documents of Vatican II and 1,550 of diocesan right. Among the religious
in recent canonical legislation of the universal institutes for men there are 250 of pontifical
church. The dogmatic constitution Lumen right and 242 of diocesan right. There are
Gentium and the decree Perfectae approximately 165 secular institutes of
Caritatis9 describe the rise of various forms of pontifical or diocesan right, including those of
religious and consecrated life, that is, priests, clerics or groups of lay women and
institutes devoted entirely to contemplation, men. There are also 39 societies of apostolic
institutes of monastic and conventual life, life of pontifical right. To these we must add a
clerical institutes dedicated to various growing number of consecrated virgins, of
apostolic works, lay institutes and secular consecrated widows and widowers, hermits
institutes. and hermitesses and other groups that have
initiated the process of canonical recognition.
The Code of Canon Law includes among the
institutes of consecrated life religious The Synod of Bishops, being universal by
institutes in general and secular institutes. In nature, cannot overlook this broad and
this category it also places the eremitical and complex vision of the consecrated life.
anchoritic life. It also mentions that the order
of virgins is similar (accedit) to the forms of Meaning and Limits of Terminology
consecrated life, as are societies of apostolic
6. As explicitly stated at the announcement of
life as well (accedunt).10
the topic of the ninth ordinary general

The Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches assembly of the Synod of Bishops and at the

speaks first of all of monks, among whom can presentation of the lineamenta, the object of

be included hermits and religious.11 It synod discussion is the various forms of

considers societies of common life such as (ad consecrated life, to which are added the

instar) religious12 and secular institutes.13 It societies of apostolic life.

also mentions the ascetics who imitate the

The responses have indicated that the great
eremitical life and the virgins and widows
variety of forms and traditions within the
who, although living in the world, make a
institutes of consecrated life and societies of
apostolic life presents some weighty Many responses express a desire for the
problems. specific treatment of each form of the
consecrated life and for finding adequate
The first of these problems is terminology. solutions to problems, even local ones. Such
The responses point out that a great majority specific attention to the matter is usually
of people continue to use indiscriminately the claimed above all because of the specific
terms religious life and religious. Although nature and mission of the secular institutes,
technically speaking these terms designate which are seen as typically diverse because of
only institutes of religious life as such, the secular nature of their life and apostolate.
instances of their misuse are common, even in A similar notion is voiced concerning the
some documents of the magisterium. societies of apostolic life, consecrated virgins
and hermits.
Although it is already present in Vatican
II,16 the term consecrated life seems rather In accordance with the official title of the
new to many people. Some think the ninth ordinary general assembly,
designation is not entirely appropriate and the instrumentum laboris treats the
even discriminatory, as if to say through its connotations, values, problems, demands and
use that other Christians are not "consecrated" tasks of the institutes of consecrated life and
in their baptism. The societies of apostolic life in the present-day
terms consecration and consecrated life are circumstances of the church and the world,
taken here in their precise theological clarifying in some cases specific features
meaning, indicating a life consecrated by regarding above all identity, communion,
means of the evangelical counsels and mission and major priorities for the immediate
recognized as such by the church. For future. Each institute and form of consecrated
obvious practical reasons the instrumentum life is distinguished because of its specific
laboris usually uses the term consecrated nature, mission and charism. In the synodal
life as such or similar expressions. The gathering the instrumentum laboris will
widespread designation of this terminology permit an ample dialogue on all questions of a
must be taken in an analogical sense and universal and pastoral nature.
according to the proper nature of the diverse
forms of life which are included in it. At times Plan of the Instrumentum Laboris
a specific terminology is used so as to refer to
each of the forms of consecrated life 7. The purpose of this document is the
according to their nature. preparation of the synod discussion of the
consecrated life and its role in the church and
in the world. Based on the responses, it offers I. CONSECRATED LIFE TODAY
a broad-based exposition divided into four
parts. 1. A Presence in Church and World

The first part, "the consecrated life today," Like the Gospel Leaven
presents the theological, spiritual and pastoral
8. It is necessary to keep in mind the wealth
reality of the consecrated life (I), its situation
and variety of forms of the consecrated life
in the circumstances of the present day (II)
today in order to be aware of the reality and
and according to geographic and cultural areas
complexity of the synod's topic. Nevertheless,
(III), questions concerning some specific
it is not easy to furnish a complete
forms (IV) and the request for a renewed
description. There is no such thing as
theological synthesis (V).
consecrated life in the abstract; rather, it is

The second part, "the consecrated life in the expressed in diverse forms and institutes,
mystery of Christ and the church," offers a incarnated in real persons-women and men-in

theological vision of the consecrated life diverse settings, situations, spiritualities and

within the mystery of the church (I), some apostolates.

common features about vocation, the

Its members constitute an important group in
following of Christ and consecration (II) in
the church, comparable to the Gospel leaven
the dimension of communion, mission and
(cf. Lk. 13:21). The members of the institutes
witness (III).
of consecrated life and societies of apostolic
The third part, "the consecrated life in life number more than a million, but they are a
ecclesial communion," is a continuation of the minority within the people of God. In

second part and treats more accurately the statistical terms they amount to only 0.12

perspective of the ecclesiology of communion percent of the members of the Catholic

(I), in the universal church and the particular Church. Of this percentage group, women
churches (II). constitute 72.5 percent of consecrated
persons, while 27.5 percent are men. With the
The fourth part, "the consecrated life in the majority of consecrated persons being women
church's mission for the world," studies the and lay brothers, the group is thus made up of
challenges and tasks of the consecrated life 82.2 percent laity, leaving only 17.8 percent
for the future (I), the call to the new priests or deacons.
evangelization (II), the response of its
evangelical charisms for the world (III). Though small in number, this group is "a
radiant sign of the kingdom of heaven" for the
church and for the world.18 Concentrated in it monastic life are held in great honor in the
is a variety of forms of life, spiritual traditions nonuniate Eastern churches, which have
and apostolic works bearing witness to the preserved the great spiritual, liturgical and
manifold grace of Christ, the presence of the apostolic tradition of their origins.19 In some
Spirit and the power of the Gospel. non-Catholic ecclesial communities forms of
consecrated life have been preserved or new
The consecrated life is a memoria of the forms of consecrated life have arisen- similar
teachings and example of Christ and the to those of the Catholic tradition-especially in
Gospel values lived by the saints in the course the Anglican church and more recently in the
of the pilgrimage of the people of God evangelical and Reformed communities. The
throughout the ages. It is a witness of common witness of commitment to Christ and
commitment in the following of Christ and a the values of the evangelical life can be a
prophecy of the eschatological destiny of valid element for promoting unity through the
history. exercise of ecumenical dialogue and the
spiritual ecumenism of conversion and prayer.
A common reality unifies consecrated
persons-the call to total self-giving to God; Analogous forms of personal dedication seen
love for Christ the teacher, Lord and in the search for the divine, in meditation,
bridegroom of the church, who is intimately prayer, asceticism and the witness to the
followed and served above everything; and transcendent values-often accompanied by
the decision to live according to the Spirit. compassionate service to one's neighbor-can
be found in other non-Christian religions. The
The consecrated life is a prophetic witness to
consecrated life can be the basis for a fruitful
the primacy of God and to the things that do
dialogue with them and offer a common
not pass away. Indeed, its value lies more in
witness to the values of the Spirit.20
"being"-from God and for God-than in
"doing"-its mission-although there should be The consecrated life, which is inspired by the
no dichotomy between being and doing. Gospel, is a sharing in the consecration of
Jesus, the Son of God and savior, the basis of
Common Witness
consecration for all the baptized. However, in
9. In the Catholic Church the consecrated life other religions we cannot fail to find the life-
expresses a yearning which is typical of the giving breath of the Spirit from whom comes
Gospel vocation. This can even be found all that is true, good, just and beautiful, as
today in some non-Catholic churches and seeds of the word called to bear fruit in due
communities. In fact, the eremitic and season and as the renewing leaven of society.
In this way the consecrated life, together with nothing that is genuinely human fails to find
other forms of evangelical life and the search an echo in the hearts of Christ's disciples.21
for the absolute in various religions, in taking
on cherished spiritual values, exercises a Scattered throughout all areas of the particular

critical symbolic and transforming role within churches, consecrated persons are placed

society and interprets the transcendent hopes among the people as a sign of ecclesial
of humanity. communion and Christian fraternity. They are
often found in the "desert" where there is no
Gospel's Presence in the World one, on the "margins of society" where they
experience poverty and share the necessities
10. The consecrated life, though a minority in of people, and on the "front lines" where they
numbers, has a rich presence in the church face the risks of proclaiming the Gospel in
and in the world through its wealth of difficult situations.
communities and groups. It performs a
genuine ministry in the praise of God and the After almost 20 yeas, Paul VI's words can be
salvation of the world in the celebration of the recalled describing the consecrated life's
eucharist, liturgical prayer, asceticism and evangelizing presence in the church and in the
contemplation. It is active in evangelization world. He honors and stimulates the fidelity of
and catechesis, in works of charity serving the the consecrated life to its vocation,
victims of both old and new forms of poverty; consecration and mission when he says:
in being close to the sick and marginalized, in
the education of children and adolescents, in "By virtue of their consecration they are
schools and universities, in the advancement particularly free and willing to leave all things

of culture, in teaching the values of justice and go to the ends of the earth to preach the

and peace, and in the means of social Gospel. They are always full of courage in

communications. Often the consecrated life is their work, and their apostolate is often
found in the front lines of the church's mission outstanding in its admirable resourcefulness
and dialogue with the world. and initiative. They are generous and are often
to be found in the most remote mission
In all parts of the earth consecrated persons stations, where they may have to endure great
live the same events as the people of God in dangers to health and even to life. The church
various geographical and cultural contexts. is undoubtedly greatly indebted to them."22
They share the joys and hopes and the sorrows
and anguish of the men and women of today, The consecrated life also has a hidden

especially of the poor and suffering, because presence, that is, the great number of
consecrated persons who, even in old age or
illness continue to exercise a beneficial Very much alive in the church's memory is
influence through the offering of their prayers, the historic fact of the eremitic, monastic,
through their wisdom and through their religious and apostolic life, first born in the
faithfulness day by day. Nor should those be East with the consecration to God of Christian
forgotten who in recent times-and even at this virgins, anchorites and cenobites. These
present moment in various nations-have persons exemplify the first forms of
suffered for their fidelity to Christ and the consecrated life which were guided by the
church. teaching and the apoftegmi of the "fathers"
and "mothers" of the desert, organized by the
A Tree With Many Branches first monastic rules and recognized by the
church with special rites such as the
11. A desire expressed in many of the
consecration of virgins and monastic
responses is that the variety of forms in
profession. Continuing throughout history,
consecrated life not be reduced in perspective
with the creativity of the Spirit responding to
or stifled. This variety corresponds to the
the needs of the times, other forms arose, for
manifold grace of Christ, to the church's
example, the canons regular, the institutes of
historical experience and bears witness to the
religious life, contemplative and apostolic
"catholicity" of the evangelical values, which
groups of various kinds (mendicant orders,
the Holy Spirit has raised up and preserves for
clerics regular, religious congregations, both
the fullness of the Gospel of Christ.
102 clerical and lay, missionary institutes...).
Vatican II contemplates the spread of the More recently the church has recognized the
consecrated life, rooted in the words and form of a consecrated life in the world which
example of the Lord, from its origins to our is proper to secular institutes. Related to these
day in the light of the parable of the Gospel forms are the societies of apostolic life, which
seed (cf. Lk. 13:19): "From the God-given are characterized by their specific apostolic
seed of the counsels a wonderful and wide- and missionary purposes.
spreading tree has grown up in the field of the
The diversity of forms of consecrated life
Lord, branching out into various forms of
depend on their nature and mission, that is,
religious life lived in solitude or in
according to the relationship to the mystery
community. Different religious families have
and mission of Christ which each institute
come into existence in which spiritual
lives and proclaims according to the special
resources are multiplied for the advancement
nature of each family and which sets it apart
in holiness of their members and for the good
with its own distinctive spirituality and
of the entire body of Christ."23
specific apostolate. According to many
responses, a great many people wish to church between institutes dedicated entirely to
highlight the distinctive charism as a universal contemplation and those devoted to apostolic
key for interpreting one's whole experience, and missionary activity, even though the
the practice of the evangelical counsels, one's contemplative and apostolic dimension is
own spirituality, apostolate, community life, common to each institute according to its own
formation and organization. charism. Indeed, the institutes of
contemplative life are eminently apostolic,
The wealth of the variety of forms of the while apostolic institutes order their life on
consecrated life is also expressed in the the basis of their mission in the church so as
multiplicity of liturgical rites within the one to be contemplatives in action, in imitation of
church of Christ. Christ.24

Complementarity and the Exchange of Certain attention is given to the institutes of

Gifts consecrated life and societies of apostolic life
of diocesan right which are bound to the
12. As has been noted, consecrated women far
service of the local church. Today such
outnumber others within the consecrated life,
institutes are particularly flourishing in the
both in monastic life and in apostolic religious
younger churches.
life, as well as in missionary service. They
bring with them the power of their witness,
Traditional and New Forms
the quality of life in communion and the
unique potentiality of their mission. Among 13. The responses make reference to the
the men there are lay institutes composed of phenomenon of the flourishing of new and
brothers alone. Other institutes are clerical in traditional forms of the consecrated life,
their foundation and charism; still others are offering great hope for the synod's work.
both clerical and lay in that clerics and laymen
belong to them on the basis of the same Consecrated virginity and the order of virgins

consecration and charism and participate in are the original expression of a total

diverse ways in their life, administration and dedication to Christ in the church since her

apostolate, depending on the nature of the beginning. Later, however, the institution of
institute. consecrated virgins was absorbed by women's
monastic life and profession. Recently, among
On the basis of a prevalent orientation toward the fruits of renewal there is a renewed
a life dedicated more to prayer and divine flourishing of vocations to virginity in the
worship or to the explicit spread of the Gospel world through "consecrated virgins" who,
by word and work, a distinction is made in the alone or in association with others, dedicate
themselves to Christ, their spouse, and to the the midst of activities which are typical of lay
service of the church. people. Their manner of professing the
evangelical counsels, their expressions of life
In various areas we also see signs of a rebirth in these associations and their apostolate-
of the experience of hermits-priests and including evangelization and witness in the
laymen-and also hermitesses, living in world-differ according to the nature of each
solitude or immersed in urban centers with a institute. Then too, there are the diverse
special vocation. They devote themselves to characteristics of members of secular
the praise of God and intercession for the institutes, depending on whether they belong
salvation of the world. In some areas there can to the clergy or laity.
be noted the existence of "widows" or
"widowers" who, either alone or with others, Men's and women's societies of apostolic life,
offer themselves to Christ and the service of like those of the consecrated life, are
the church. characterized by their being associated for the
sake of apostolic and missionary activity.
Some responses note that it would be good to Though of great merit in the work of
promote individual forms of consecration evangelization and mission, they are
similar to those already recognized. oftentimes not sufficiently known.

Today new forms of the consecrated life are In addition, mention should be made of the
being founded, forms which cannot be presence of groups and communities which
reduced to pre-existing categories. In addition are coming into being or in the process of
to the profession of the consecrated life recognition as institutes of consecrated life,
through the evangelical counsels, they new forms of consecrated life or societies of
ordinarily have some added characteristics apostolic life.
such as the mixed nature of the group made
up of both men and women; renewed forms of 2. Present-Day Circumstances
participation in the administration of the
common life; flexible structures; and more On the Church's Path
dynamic organizational features in view of
14. The responses gave great importance to
their mission.
analyzing the situation of the church and of

Secular institutes, a form of the consecrated the world today in order to understand the
life which has arisen in our century, are present state of the consecrated life. Because

characterized by their consecration in the of its active engagement in the church and its
world or a "consecrated secularity" lived in presence in the world, it has experienced
profound changes which can be understood 3:16). Gazing upon humanity with faith
only in the light of what has happened in sharpened the ability to "read the signs of the
recent decades in the church and society. This times and interpret them in the light of the
period of rapid changes has had a significant Gospel"28 in such a way as to enable the
effect on the identity of the consecrated life consecrated life to respond to the Lord's call
and its various approaches to apostolic in the necessities of our times.29
This twofold fidelity to God and humanity
First of all, one should note a better which must continue to guide the consecrated
understanding of the nature of consecrated life shines forth in a unique way in the person,
life. It was Vatican Council II which offered words and life of Jesus, the Son of the Father
to the consecrated life a theological and Son of Man, and remains the way
framework for understanding how it belongs proposed by the council which will lead to the
to the church25 and the principles for its profound renewal and
renewal and adaptation "to the changed authentic aggiornamentoof the consecrated
conditions of our time."26 life.

The first thing that must be understood about A Serene Look of Faith
the consecrated life is that it is a gift from God
through the church in the service of humanity 15. The journey marked by the council has

and that there is an urgent need to revitalize been neither direct nor uniform. Nevertheless,
the charism at its origin. some common elements of judgment deserve
to be high lighted. It has been a fruitful but
Generally it was observed that the council's difficult process in which many efforts have
invitation to renew the spirit and goal of the been made. Renewal was undertaken with
foundresses and founders27 met with a twofold enthusiasm, courage and decisiveness, and not
response. On the one hand, there was a desire without a share of resistance and failure. The
for spiritual renewal, with hearts and minds results seem to be still insufficient and not
centered on God, the Blessed Trinity, who is entirely refined and concentrated. Everyone
loved above all things and in whose mystery expects the synod to offer encouragement on
we find the source of charity. On the other the path opened by Vatican II.
hand, this spiritual renewal was undertaken
with eyes turned toward the women and men The consecrated life, engaged in the world as
of our day who comprise the world God loved it is in the church, has been subject to the

so much that he gave his only Son (cf. Jn. strong influence of the enormous social and
cultural changes of our era, which have
become a genuine challenge. Without the eyes Men and women called to imitate the Master-
of faith to look upon the present situation of the members of the institutes of the
the world and society, it would be difficult to consecrated life and societies of apostolic life-
understand the changes which have occurred know that they have been chosen from the
as well as the positive results and the abiding world, but that they are not of the world (cf.
difficulties. Indeed, one approach which has Jn. 15:19), that is, they know they do not
marked the consecrated life is that of belong to this world, but to Christ, and have
remaining open to the challenges of humanity been sent into the world by him to proclaim
in our times. the Father's love. This justifies the note made
by many of the responses: The consecrated
As in other eras there were moments of fervor life is held in esteem for its "works," but its
and decline, suppression and restoration, "being" is often not understood; it is often
reform and new foundations; so too in our praised for its involvement in the world, but in
age. The eyes of faith allow us to keep not some areas-especially as happens through the
only from absolutizing the negative aspects in mass media-its image is betrayed to the point
which a search for authenticity can often be that people think it is meaningless. Like
seen, but also from extolling what is positive Christ, it becomes a sign of contradiction.
without properly discerning its defects. Only a
Gospel discernment, with eyes focused on the Cultural and Social Changes
Lord and with attentive listening to his word,
will help to reject whatever is contrary to the 16. As the responses indicate, it is impossible
good and to seek whatever opens hearts to today to understand the consecrated life, its

salvation so that the will of the Father, who tasks and its generous initiatives without

"wills everyone to be saved and to come to taking a realistic look at the world in which
knowledge of the truth" (1 Tm. 2:4), may be we live.

fulfilled. As the responses insist, in the midst

What are the circumstances in today's world
of this situation the consecrated life, because
which exercise a positive or negative
of its total dedication to God and his service,
influence on the consecrated life and present a
must have a prophetic presence which in a
context where consecrated persons ought to
most profound way proclaims hope, voices
live and bear witness to the Gospel?
the message of salvation, proclaims the love
of God and denounces evil and infidelity to In this final decade of the 20th century,
his covenant of love. society is marked by great technological and
scientific progress, even if this is not
witnessed everywhere. Such advances offer
great opportunities in today's world. In some where borders do not put people in opposition
ways positivistic tendencies have been as enemies, where the interchange of goods,
overcome; in other ways there has been the knowledge and services can assume global
fall of rationalistic and totalitarian ideologies dimensions. A more universal culture-taking
which limited the horizons of human into consideration the relations mentioned
existence and claimed to build a world based above-will also allow all peoples to become
on the autonomy of reason or class struggle. actively involved in the affairs between
However, these tendencies still present nations, thereby overcoming a humiliating
themselves in society, leaving no room for the dependency, marginalizations of various types
transcendent. and the barriers between North and South, and
rich and poor nations.
Today material progress could offer the
possibility to improve the condition of In this context-the responses observe-
humanity regarding nutrition, education, consecrated persons, who in their missionary
health care and housing, and to make earning activity have in the course of history actually
one's bread a more humane task. However, the blazed the trails of communion among
poor continue to be poor and new forms of peoples, find in today's world through the
poverty emerge, while paradoxically it is the growing international character of their
poor who often show a greater sensitivity to institutes a citizenship that is natural to them
the human values which a secular society does and witness the opening of new frontiers to
not esteem. Negative symptoms such as their mission, to their contribution to the
extreme nationalism and increased violence universality of the people of God, to the
are on the rise. exchange of gifts among all people and to the
universal reconciliation in Christ.30
The means of communication and
transportation, which technology now offers, A Challenging Situation
allow us to think of humanity as one large
family which, while respecting different 17. Among the values acquired by society, at

ethnic identities and cultures, is tearing down least at the theoretical level and with quite a

the walls of separation and moving closer few contradictions, we find an awareness of
toward reconciliation under the gaze of the the dignity of the person, the value of human

one Father of all. The opportunities offered to rights, especially the right to life and freedom,
Catholicism today are great, responding to the respect of conscience and the right to
deepest aspirations of the consecrated life. objective truth. These values, which reflect
Today we can think of a world of solidarity the influence of the Gospel of Jesus in human
history, have also had repercussions within Sign of Contradiction and Hope
the consecrated life, in the manner of
understanding its role and its communal life. 18. The responses also insist on offering a
realistic view of today's society which can
The human sciences such as psychology have help one to understand the most difficult
given us a better knowledge of the human challenges to the consecrated life, especially
person and the ability to treat this human in the area of the great values at the basis of
nature in its entirety, with its weaknesses and their involvement, and in a special way the
strengths. threefold counsel and evangelical charism of
chastity, poverty and obedience.
However, in this humanity in which much
hope can be found, sin is also present, seeking Profound cultural changes have corroded the
to destroy the Father's plan to make his sons authentic meaning of sexuality, the idea of the
and daughters authentically human in the light family and the value of virginity and celibacy.
of Christ, the new man. Therefore, it is If on the one hand, a healthy view of human
necessary that human culture be evangelized sexuality has contributed to a better
at its roots by those who intend to follow appreciation of the corporal and spiritual
Christ and serve his plan of salvation. Indeed, integrity of the human person, other trends
poverty and injustice continue to be present in have banalized the understanding of it and
this world. There remains the domination of disrupted its balance. The technological
the few over the many, not only in some possibility of separating the unitive and
countries dominated by others, but also within procreative dimensions of sexuality create
a given society, where side by side we find grave challenges to the authentic meaning of
luxury and poverty, fanaticism and violence, human life. In the plan of salvation, voluntary
the scourge of drugs, the loneliness celibacy for the sake of the kingdom and
experienced by many people, disdain for life Christian marriage, in the light of the mystery
from the moment of conception, attacks of Christ the bridegroom and of the church, by
against the family, and the deterioration of the their complementary nature show the power
environment and of creation. of love which integrates, gives of itself and is
committed. It is the alternative offered by the
The responses indicate that women and men good news of love to a sexuality that in its
religious, consecrated persons living in the hedonistic expressions confines man and
world, are not indifferent to these challenges woman to a fleeting experience, consigning
and that they are working to build a more them to loneliness. Fidelity to marriage and
human world in accord with God's plan. the commitment to celibacy for the sake of the
kingdom of heaven are perhaps more difficult witness of poverty in today's world be
to assume today, but in their complementarity achieved?
they have become a privileged sign which
must be restored to the project of true love Today's insistence in culture on personal

and be seen as a mutual example of fidelity. autonomy and on fulfillment, as understood

Celibacy in particular must be a prophecy of by one's subjective conscience creates

the future definitive kingdom (cf. Mt. 22:30). difficulties affecting obedience, the

However, how can we teach today a acceptance of traditions, the objective

commitment as demanding as that of limitations created by law, sacrifice and the

celibacy? mortification of one's own will for the sake of
the broader common good. Frequently the
A liberal economy without any corrective very idea of solidarity is debased by the
measures has led to the growing stratification prevalence of an individualistic logic, thus
in living conditions resulting in the presenting new problems threatening the
abandonment of the weak and the poor, of meaning of obedience and leading to risks of
ethnic minorities, and of the sick and elderly, individualism. At the same time, through
as often happens in the poorest of countries. turning from individualism, the situation
The profit motive in the free-market economy, poses the possibility of rediscovering the
claimed to be the only motive for existence genuine meaning of obedience for love of the
and relationships, leads to a moral relativism, Lord and his kingdom in order to come
to a culture of efficiency which obscures the together in communion and mission, with
sense of a free act of generosity, of poverty eyes fixed on Christ, the Son and obedient
and evangelical simplicity. The organization servant, and on Mary, the handmaid of the
of civil life has often offered the bad example Lord, called to collaborate in the mystery of
of those who seek their own advantage salvation.
through the exercise of power. If a culture
with these characteristics threatens the soul of Today it is difficult for many people to make

Christian life and the consecrated life itself, it fundamental and lasting commitments. There
offers those persons committed to the is also a crisis in the idea of vocation and of
imitation of the poor Christ the opportunity to giving oneself in a lifelong manner. Some ask

live the Gospel of the Beatitudes and alleviate if it is possible to consider the possibility of a

the suffering of so many people whose failure consecrated life made for a temporary period
to share in progress has left them at the of commitment with a view to more mature

fringes of society. How can a more credible choices, as can be found in other forms of
religion or other cultures. The choice of an
absolute ideal, and an offering of self to God world in celebrating the liturgy, in
and the service of others, is a source of harmonious relationships, in promoting what
meaning which humanizes and is a gift of self is true, beautiful, good and just. In the
to humanity. For this reason, persons contemplative dimension they can bear
consecrated to a single ideal, which does not witness to and promote the paths that lead to
pass away, are living signs of those mystery, which is the origin of everything
transcendent values for which a person lives beautiful, and to the interiority which gives
and even dies. In our day there is no lack of meaning to daily work.
persons who have followed Christ to the point
of sacrificing their life, rendering through Material progress often leads to a society in

their martyrdom a sign which is the supreme which consumerism becomes an end in itself.
proof of love. Abandoning the transcendent dimension, it
ends up in religious indifferentism, relativism
A World of Communication and Images and secularism. In this case, it is urgently
necessary to regain the true meaning of life
19. One characteristic of our times is a culture and the world which, despite their beauty
of images which has become widespread aspects, have lost their appeal and mystery.
through the audiovisual media. On the one
hand such a culture should be appreciated for Vocation and Dignity of Women
its closeness to Christianity, which seeks to go
from the visible to the invisible through the 20. "The awareness that women, because of

use of signs and liturgical symbols as their own gifts and tasks, have their own
instruments of salvation and elevates specific vocation has increased and been

humanity through the goods of beauty and art. deepened in the years following the council
and has found its fundamental inspiration in
However, this culture of images is often turned into
a culture of fleeting and superficial pleasure.
the Gospel and in the church's history."31 This
explains the development of a consciousness
The world of communication also enters into concerning consecrated women and their
the areas of the consecrated life. However, presence in recent decades in various areas, a
those who have chosen God cannot lose the phenomenon which coincides with a
interior quality of a life which is nourished by clarification of sociological and theological
contemplation of what cannot be seen with presuppositions, a greater involvement in
human eyes. Consecrated persons, in love interpreting the foundational charisms, a more
with God, the All-Beautiful, are called to bear decisive development in formation and the
witness to the beauty which can save the assumption of responsibility in the
consecrated life. However, adherence to guidance in all that concerns consecrated
extreme present-day forms of the feminist women. These confidently look to them for a
movement has led to spiritual disorientation in helpful word.
the consecrated life in some countries.
Responses and Challenges
Consecrated women in their personal lives
and in their work in evangelization today find 21. This assortment of movements and

themselves at a crossroads of the signs of the transformations in culture-described above on

times. They recognize the importance of their the basis of the responses-has an effect on the

contribution to an understanding of the meaning of consecrated life for today's men

mystery of Christ and want to make and women as well as for the young people of

resplendent the countenance of God, the this era, who are faced with vocational
source of new life. This femininity, which choices for the future.

finds its archetype in Mary of Nazareth, is a

Many of the situations already described have
clarion call to the whole church. Whenever we
had a refining influence on the consecrated
think of the mother of Jesus as the bearer of
life. Recent decades have witnessed many
life and her action of embracing salvation, or
defections, notable crises and an acute decline
of Mary Magdalene and the other women, the
in vocations in some countries. Today the
first "evangelists" of the Lord's resurrection,
consecrated life is faced with the task of
the role of women in the church can be more
reformulating the fundamental nature of its
deeply understood. Indeed, "it is quite clear
charismatic origins. At the same time, purified
from the words and attitude of Christ, which
from the ambiguous motivations which in
are normative for the church, that no
other eras could have had an influence on this
discrimination exists on the level of an
choice, it offers the uncertainties of the human
individual's relation to Christ, in which 'there
heart the free and generous response leading
is neither male nor female, for you are all one
to the full realization of persons in their
in Christ Jesus' (Gal. 3:28.)"32
dedication to God through the evangelical

Women-including consecrated women-in counsels, in communion with the Master and

reciprocity and complementarity with men, following him, in which is found the seed of a
ought to assume all their responsibilities in new humanity, one with greater solidarity,

society and in the church with the contribution fraternity and joy.

and wealth of their feminine nature. This is an

In an era of change such as ours it seems that
urgent challenge presented by today's culture.
many people are still uncertain about what
Bishops are called to discern and offer
concrete, renewed forms will give meaning to
life and will have the capacity to survive. A hope. A summary of points which enjoy a
whole generation can pass during the time of certain degree of unanimity will help give an
uncertainty and searching. However, as many awareness of the path which lies ahead.
responses affirm, today the consecrated life
has the courage to give itself still to the There is sufficient agreement on the positive

profession of the evangelical counsels as a evaluation of the progress which has taken

great plan of God offering Christ's faithful-the place in the theology of the consecrated life in

women and men of our age-a fullness of the areas of Christology, pneumatology and

meaning and joy rooted in the word and ecclesiology and in the treatment of the
example of Christ himself. consecrated life as a fruit of the Second
Vatican Council in later documents of the
At a time when utopianism seems to be fading magisterium and in theological discussion and
and pragmatism runs the risk of making research.
society close in upon itself, all Christians-men
and women religious, those who are Many responses affirm that in harmony with

consecrated in the world and everyone the church's liturgical renewal in recent
according to their vocation-remind others that decades, new value has been given in all

today it is possible to live day by day with the forms of the consecrated life to participation

power of hope and faith. For this very reason in the eucharist and the celebration of the

the poor, the sick, the little ones and those Liturgy of the Hours and the sacraments. The
who have lost life's meaning can be rites of religious profession themselves have
evangelized and witness around them the been renewed. Men and women religious have

rebirth of hope. Consecrated persons must made a great contribution to the work of

also bear witness in today's world to that liturgical renewal. Many communities,
fullness of joy which Jesus promised his especially the monastic and contemplative
disciples (cf. Jn. 15: 11). ones, are points of reference for the
celebration of the liturgy and the promotion of
Fruits of Renewal liturgical worship.

22. In the midst of this profound cultural Forms of piety have been progressively
change, following the call of the church, the updated and greater importance has been
consecrated life has traveled a path of renewal given to contemplative prayer. On many
with lights and shadows. The responses are in occasion today this takes on the form of
relative agreement in describing positive and shared prayer-shared also with the laity-for a
negative aspects as well as in offering signs of
mutual growth in experiencing God and Seeds of Hope
uplifting each other.
23. Among the choicest fruits of the council
In response to the council,33 the word of God we find a desire to return to the sources,35 the
today is better known, read and meditated rediscovery of charisms, a renewed love for
upon. It is found in the hands and hearts of the founders and foundresses, the study of
consecrated persons in the form of lectio their writings and of the spiritual tradition of
divina, contemplative meditation and sharing one's own family, and, in light of charisms, a
of the word as it is lived and meditated upon renewed inspiration of legislative texts. This
both within and outside the community. The re-evaluation of charisms has given in this age
biblical renewal has been shown to be of new vitality and vigor to the consecrated life.
decisive value. In the light of the word there From this comes a better integration of
has been a rediscovery and actualization of spirituality and mission.
the charism of the consecrated life, a better
evaluation of its spirituality and a better Among the results of renewal, the responses

knowledge of the centrality of the imitation of frequently highlight the evangelical option for
Christ in order to be his disciples and apostles. the poor as a concrete form of sharing in the
poverty of the disadvantaged and of
The awareness of baptismal consecration as expressing charity toward the little ones, a
the root of self-giving to God through the charity which was a privileged choice of
evangelical counsels34 has created an many founders and foundresses. This has
understanding of the ecclesiality of the often allowed the consecrated life to become
consecrated life and of its proper vocation and more actively involved in densely populated
mission, perceiving them with a renewed areas and had an influence on a more simple
sense of communion with the other members lifestyle and in the discernment and adaptation
of the people of God: bishops, priests, of apostolic works. This nearness to the
deacons and laity. As a consequence this has people, frequently to the marginalized and
led to a more harmonious and greater abandoned, has brought about a growth of
engagement of the consecrated life in the human and evangelical solidarity as well as of
particular churches and a generous a commitment to justice and human
participation in the evangelizing mission of advancement which today are seen as integral
the church. aspects of the new evangelization. Oftentimes,
the poor themselves, with their profound
sense of God, have evangelized the women
and men religious living among them. Those
who live the consecrated life have been personnel and of the role of the community in
invited by the poor to live a more the formation process.
incarnational spirituality and to be attentive to
history and the signs of the times. This in turn The postconciliar period has also shed light on

has fostered an awareness of the dimensions the necessity of profoundly renewing the

of prophecy and martyrdom and prompted apostolic mission of the institutes, taking into

consecrated persons to take positions in the account their charisms, the needs of the times
front lines, even to risking their lives. and concrete situations, and taking a new look
at the works themselves, the style in which
A sign of renewal is the work done by all the they are performed, the possibility of their
institutes in adapting their proper legislation. continued existence and the places where they
This work has required years of reflection, are carried out. We can, however, ask if some
study and dialogue and has had positive institutes' abandonment of certain works in
results in the regaining and making relevant the areas of the education of children and
values based on charisms and in making young people and in the care of the sick has
renewed proposals for the legislative not impoverished their presence in society and
framework which unites and commits all in the church's evangelizing activity.
members of institutes.
The desire of the council, which invited
Mutual esteem among the institutes, religious and secular institutes to begin new
reciprocal help, collaboration and foundations in the younger churches using a
intercongregational formation programs are new style of adaptation to the religious values,
also a positive result in recent decades. culture and needs of people,36 has developed a
sense of inculturation and its urgency,
We should value the efforts at renewal at especially in this moment of grace in which
work in the structures and methods of vocations are flourishing in the younger
formation. There is an awareness of the churches.
necessity of formation, one that is spiritual,
biblical, theological, pastoral and in some The continued attention and guidance of the
cases even professional. There is concern to church's magisterium in recent decades has
pay greater attention to the person with a view been very positive as well as the contribution
to effective growth and maturation in all of some documents which have been
aspects. There is an awareness of the need for produced by episcopal conferences. This
ongoing formation, of training formation celebration of the Synod of Bishops, the
expressed wish of the Holy Father Pope John
Paul II, is a sign of hope and encouragement understanding among individuals and a more
for all and an occasion to help the seeds of sincere dialogue with superiors. Various
hope to grow. forms of participation in decision making
have come into being regarding both the
New Forms of Community Life internal life of the community and apostolic
24. In efforts at renewal, community life has
undergone significant changes in recent In some places the lower number of vocations
decades. The common life, seen from the has created new problems in community life.
perspective of poverty (uniformity in food, On the one hand there are rather large
clothing and other goods) had led many numbers of elderly and infirm members in the
religious institutes-and sometimes societies of community; on the other hand, the younger
apostolic life too-to live a rather conventual generations desire for a more immediate
form of community life, at times even contact with the people and a special
monastic, without due regard for differences closeness to the poorest of the poor, has led to
among institutes by their very nature. The the disappearance of large-scale works and the
postconciliar reflection has fostered an formation of "small communities based on
evolution in the understanding of the common common interest" formed by people having
life, centered on the dimension of mystery, the same image of religious life and the same
based on the theological reality of a life of goals for the apostolate. Although on the
fraternal communion. positive side this kind of small community has
allowed the members to overcome the
Many institutes of apostolic and missionary
anonymity and individualism to which large
life have desired to rethink and make more
communities can too easily contribute, it
flexible their manner of living and their
nevertheless causes a number of problems, in
community structures so as to respond better
that it risks creating a type of "corporate
to their own nature and purpose.
individualism" with respect to the rest of the
A deeper understanding of the value of the institute, causing harm to the unity of the
person has been expressed in the search for institute.
more simple relationships among the
In the light of the council's directives,37 the
members of the community, marked by
exercise of authority has been renewed in
greater mutual esteem and respect, while
many places and seen as a service to the
giving less emphasis to differences of a
spiritual, apostolic and fraternal revitalization
cultural or functional nature. Wherever this
of communities, allowing greater closeness
has occurred, it has been easier to create
between superiors and subjects. The responses Present Difficulties
positively evaluate the shift from a passive
obedience to an obedience of greater dialogue 25. This broad-based, positive renewal
and participation. process described above must also be
completed with the list of negative aspects
Nevertheless, individualism and also emerging in the responses. It is therefore
authoritarianism are always a strong essential to make an objective analysis of the
temptation and are destructive of the life of negative phenomena, which must not always
fraternal communion. The excessive be attributed to the process of renewal. It is
dependence on former times has sometimes important to note that many of the difficulties
been replaced not by a balanced participation have been faced and overcome at a time in
but by independence under the stimulus of which the consecrated life is advancing
democratic ideas which are not appropriate to toward a new era in its 2,000-year history, and
the life of the church and consecrated life. The for which it awaits encouragement and a new
renewal of institutes cannot be based on thrust.
sociology factors, but only on the rediscovery
of the specific nature of the foundational Many agree in stating that the changes in

charism. Only in the light of the theology of society and the church have caused

the consecrated life in general and of the disorientation, fears, insecurity and a lack of

religious life in particular can discernment be balance. There have been divisions within
made as to the validity of the following institutes. There has been a lack of formation
experiences or suggestions: "small toward legitimate pluralism and dialogue

communities based on common interests" and within communities and the church. Tensions

so- called "inclusive communities," that is, have arisen within institutes and communities,
those composed of people with vows and tensions even with the ecclesiastical

without vows, of different ages, cultures and hierarchy. Lacking is a pedagogy of change

including lay people-married or single- which today has its effects on consecrated

diocesan clergy, etc.; the dispersion of life-also on many social institutions- and has
communities; communities composed also of its roots not only in factors internal to the
members with temporary commitment; and church, but in the profound cultural changes

more democratic methods of participating in in our times.

There is need in these days for a great
evangelical discernment in seeking the Lord's
will. Apostolic works have been abandoned
without mature deliberation, and changes counsels and has weakened the missionary
were made with greater attention to the spirit. For some the fact that some institutes
structures than to the spirit which should enjoy economic security and possess
pervade them. It is not uncommon-the collective wealth, in contrast with the poor
responses note that a certain type of areas where they live, is seen also as a lack of
traditionalism not open to dialogue has an authentic witness of poverty.
created resistance to the changes, holding as
sacred and unchanging certain customs, forms Many deplore the lack of balance between

and works which have come about over the prayer and action and the serious risk of
course of time. Sometimes tensions have activism. Others note that changes not in

arisen because of mutually exclusive conformity with the church's discipline have

concepts, without taking account of the fact been introduced into liturgical celebrations.

that different lifestyles and apostolic works Many formal structures of traditional

can be complementary and that they can observance which furnished support in the

support and enrich one another, even within past have disappeared and have not been
the same family. replaced by other values. For some people this
has created the lack of a proper personal
The responses contain other negative discipline necessary for confronting new
evaluations. The openness to the signs of the situations. Many have noted a spiritual
times and even the option for the poor have vacuum and a loss of the striving toward
generated in some an ideological and political transcendent values. Some people hold that
choice which has even led to the loss of their this is also due to questions raised in recent
own identity. In some cases the legitimate decades in the fields of exegesis, theology and
desire to respond to the signs of the times and morality, questions which ate not
a greater presence in the world has become harmoniously integrated in one's personal
merely an adaptation, which has led to the search and the option of faith.
weakening and irrelevancy of the public
witness of the consecrated life, and in extreme A Testing
cases, to an indiscriminate imitation of the
26. For many institutes the number of
secularized, conventional culture. Some note
defections and the progressive decline in
to their regret that many men and women
vocations has been-and still is-a trial, a
religious have abandoned the sign of the habit
genuine test of hope. There is fear for the
proper to their institute. Others mention that a
survival of many communities and their works
certain search for comfort has banalized the
because of a lack of personnel in the near
more genuine motivation of the evangelical
future. In some regions-many of the responses consecrated life where strength of character
note-young men and women do not have an and conviction is lacking for confronting
appreciation of a vocation to the consecrated difficult periods. The exercise of freedom also
life. But elsewhere there is the danger that in requires training in prudence and affective
seeking the survival of apostolic works the maturity. Adequate means have not always
necessary rigorous vocational discernment been found, and the inadequate ones were
will not be respected. Some speak about cases often the cause of extremes and defections.
of a frantic vocational recruitment of members
from the younger churches, who are then Others note that today's theological and
uprooted from their cultural environment. pastoral appreciation of the laity, if
improperly seen as being in opposition to
The responses present many difficulties at the consecrated life and not integrated into an
level of formation. It has not been easy to find ecclesiology of communion, leads to a
formation personnel capable of confronting doctrinal and affective devaluation of the
significant cultural changes. Frequently, consecrated life by young people. With this
especially in the early moments of the crisis, improper understanding the laity, especially
those in charge of formation responded more those belonging to ecclesial organizations, are
from their own past experience than to the seen as having more opportunities today to
new needs and requests of young people. It express their commitment to the Gospel.
has not been easy to foster formative
processes capable of integrating elements Many responses emphasize that the improved
coming, on the one hand, from a sound involvement of the consecrated life in the

sociology and psychology and, on the other, local churches has created problems regarding

from theology, spirituality or pastoral the just autonomy of institutes. Both parties-
ministry. Such an integration is necessary for bishops and religious alike-note that mutual

the formation of candidates. There was a lack relations have not been properly achieved.

of knowledge on how to combine an authentic Several episcopal conferences express their

sense of tradition with an openness to new regret over difficulties in involving men and
values. Sometimes there was an excess of women religious in the diocesan apostolate
psychology or sociology. There was because they are too frequently changed by

opposition between the urgent needs of the their superiors. Others, however, mention that

apostolate and the need for a solid intellectual an excessive identification with such an
formation. The overcoming of excessively apostolate, as happens in parishes entrusted to

formal structures has in some cases produced religious, can generate a loss of their own

a crisis in institutions and forms of

identity and fidelity to the spirituality and initial stages, albeit very promising from the
mission of their own institute. point of view of new forms, mission and
3. Diverse Situations in Various
Geographical Areas A Diversified Situation An awareness of the variety of situations is
important so as not to have too restrictive a
27. The responses from the episcopal vision of the reality of the consecrated life,
conferences reveal a situation which is which is such that it participates in the
diversified according to various cultural and universality of the people of God through a
geographical areas. In the countries of the presence expressing a strong sense of the
Northern Hemisphere members of institutes of church's catholicity. An important quality of
consecrated life are aging and decreasing in the consecrated life is its ability to relativize
number. In the countries of the Southern differences and cultural expressions in a
Hemisphere the opposite is happening; they certain manner by highlighting the importance
are becoming younger and more numerous. In of the evangelical counsels, which assume and
geographic terms there is a shift from North to transcend individual values, directing them
South and from West to East. toward the one God, the author of all gifts.

It is a question of a process which brings with Northern Hemisphere

it the following: a certain crisis in tradition
and in openness to the new; the loss of 28. In some Western countries, especially in
uniformity and the growth of pluralism; the the Northern Hemisphere, there is the great
lessening of the significance of the challenge presented by the aging of persons
consecrated life and the number of and the statistical projections that some
consecrated persons in some nations; a institutes will find it difficult to survive. In
tendency toward processes of inculturation; these circumstances the number of vocations
and an increased engagement in local is insufficient for maintaining communities
churches as well as the heightened and their apostolic work. This situation
involvement of members of institutes of involves a series of questions regarding the
consecrated life in those places where it is essential aspects of institutes and their
growing and becoming rejuvenated. traditional apostolates, and the dilemma
between bold steps in mission or passive
Such a phenomenon implies an effort to be resignation. Some institutes are questioning
faithful to the institute's proper identity and the sense of their own identity and survival. In
charism and a prudent plan of development, this regard what choices are to be made and
especially in those countries where it is in its
what would be the approach in formation and challenges to the consecrated life in culture,
the work of recruiting new vocations? society and the church. Equal opportunity for
education for all has increased women's role
Formation in all its phases and forms (initial, in academic and administrative
ongoing, intercongregational, etc.) must face responsibilities, and consequently leads to a
unexpected problems created by a situation of greater openness to their responsibility in the
change for which traditional presuppositions church and a positive appreciation of the
seem to be inadequate. Sometimes the traditions of freedom to speak, to express
continuation of apostolic works is not ensured oneself and to act. Differences in the
and frequently they are turned over to the perception of the value of the structure and
state. Communities which have grown smaller forms of consecrated life have made dialogue
must resolve economic problems imposed by difficult and created a marked division
society and ensure a growing dedication to between opposing tendencies in how to
their own elderly and infirm members. For interpret renewal. Furthermore, the problems
persons who do not have the same spiritual posed by immigration in recent decades do
youth they once had, ongoing formation not seem to have received an adequate
becomes the challenge of an authentic response of acceptance and mission within the
conversion. Living their own vocation means consecrated life.
facing the present moment with enlightened
responses. In the nations of Eastern Europe, especially in
those which have only recently had a taste of
In European nations the consecrated life is freedom, vocations are flourishing. However,
called to respond to questions posed by the it is not easy to provide for a proper
new culture and to be active in reweaving the formation. Many women and men religious
Christian fabric of society. This is to be done have lived alone for so long it is difficult for
with a courageous presence and confidence in them to return to community living. For others
the spiritual resources of its charisms, which who have been involved in parish ministry, it
are communicated in wisdom and works so as is important to make a return to their specific
to make the spiritual and apostolic witness apostolate for the good of the particular
more incisive and effective where the number churches. The consecrated life can perform
of persons and works is in decline. important tasks in ecumenical dialogue and in
the process of reevangelization and of the
Some responses ask for a proper evaluation of
promotion of culture in such a way as to
the situation in some regions like North
reweave the anthropological and social fabric
America where local conditions present
of society, which was so seriously damaged In Africa the consecrated life is asked to make
by the totalitarian regimes. better use of traditional elements such as
respect for the elderly and ancestors, the
A courageous contribution is awaited on the importance of hospitality and the possibility
part of consecrated persons to the new of helping one's own family members. What
evangelization, a cultural reawakening and a is required is a capacity to be rooted in the
spiritual renewal which can oppose the wisdom of the peoples, in the pedagogical
weakness of philosophical thought, moral processes of initiation and personal growth,
permissiveness, dissatisfaction with and in liturgical inculturation. Those who give
consumerism and the dissolution of the themselves to God must live in harmony with
Christian which can lead to an impersonal the demands of asceticism, prayer and charity.
piety or recourse to the sects. Sometimes people cannot see the witness of
poverty when consecrated persons live with a
Southern Hemisphere
certain amount of security while the people
29. In some geographical areas of the around them suffer from need. The
Southern Hemisphere vocations abound and consecrated life should give an example of a
new religious institutes are flourishing. The simple life, a commitment in daily work,
younger churches are blessed with many participation in processes for transforming
vocations, although in some areas there is a society and a more harmonious involvement
certain decrease. It is not easy to ensure an in small communities. There is a strong need
adequate formation for a future different from to continue patiently in interreligious
that known to the missionaries who fostered dialogue, especially between Christians and
the birth of the consecrated life in these Muslims, even if significant difficulties are
nations. Some episcopal conferences ask that presented by the influence of sects, with
vocations not be uprooted from their cultural whom dialogue is difficult.
and ecclesial environment, at least not in the
Asia, with its nations of great size and
early years of formation.
population, is the cradle of some of the great
In the responses greater emphasis was given religions of the world and the continent where
to inculturation and dialogue with other Christianity still has relatively few followers.
religious traditions. Great importance was The responses highlight the role played in the
given, as a factor of unity, to the witness past by institutes of consecrated life and many
borne by consecrated persons of different societies of apostolic life of missionary
nationalities who live and fulfill their mission character and the importance of their presence
together. in the future for proclamation and
interreligious dialogue. Common witness to Men and women religious form an important
the values of the great religions is necessary part of the church in Latin America, where
so as to make interreligious dialogue progress vocations are relatively numerous. Their role
with a simple and profound life, a shared in evangelization has been decisive. In recent
spiritual outlook and compassion for all. In decades, attentiveness to people's suffering
some nations vocations abound. Consecrated and closeness to those in processes of change
persons have the opportunity to encounter have caused religious to be in the vanguard of
others through social institutions such as the cause of justice on behalf of the poor, of
hospitals, schools and clinics which allow indigenous peoples and of the marginalized.
them to come in contact with many people Many of them have paid for their involvement
who are not reached through parish activities. with their life. A well-understood theology of
In some nations economic development is liberation and attention to the analysis of
accompanied by organized groups which social structures from the point of view of a
exploit women and force children to work faith vision have helped-and continue to help-
and, unfortunately, to take part in vice. The consecrated persons to hear the cry of the
consecrated life can do much to help the poor poor. In some circumstances there have been
liberate themselves from some of these tensions between religious and bishops. The
conditions which frequently reveal the loss of dialogue recently undertaken with greater
traditional values because of the spread of vigor is promising. An important challenge is
materialism. The presence of forms of the presence and greater responsibility of
contemplative consecrated life fosters a native vocations to the consecrated life.
testimony on behalf of the Absolute and Apostolic activity has been hampered by the
promotes interreligious dialogue. An sects, while the mass media have an enormous
important challenge to consecrated life for the impact on the creation of a mass culture,
immediate future is the assumption of which is quite different from the traditional
positions of administration within institutes by human and religious mentality of the Latin
native persons. American people. The magisterium of John
Paul II and the meeting of the Latin American
In the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity episcopate in Santo Domingo recently offered
and of ancient monasticism, there are some valuable guidelines for the future of the
relatively few followers of the consecrated consecrated life in Latin America.38
life. Nevertheless, these persons have a
particular mission of presence, communion For some countries of Oceania and the Pacific
with other Christian churches, and the witness the emergence of new nations is posing
of prayer and charity toward non-Christians. problems similar to those in Africa. The
responses indicate that at such times the key is dimension of prayer, asceticism and charity in
what form of inculturation to be proposed in fraternal communion. Many bishops express
the new evangelization. Other responses their gratitude for the gift of such oases of
mention the need to promote forms of prayer; and many others would like to have
contemplative life which are closer to the them in their own dioceses. The
people. contemplative life continues to flourish. In the
future, expectations call for fidelity to its
4. Specific Question proper vocation according to the guidelines of
the magisterium.39
A Key for Interpretation
The responses offer some specific questions
30. The majority of responses make reference
coming directly from monasteries of women
to the state of the institutes of apostolic
or proposed through episcopal conferences.
religious life-both for men and for women-
already amply presented above. Yet many Some groups express their attachment to the
responses seem to ignore the existence of traditional values of enclosure and ask that
various forms of consecrated life and the these be confirmed. Others ask that particular
specific problems related to them. A complete attention be given to the forms of
treatment of the consecrated life, however, contemplative life for women so that, while
demands that we take into account some respecting individual charisms, suitable
specific problems concerning certain forms of legislation be drawn up regarding enclosure to
the consecrated life-and forms assimilated to promote communication and to facilitate a
it-not in order to exclude other realities, but to proper formation.
look at some meritorious aspects in the
context of a universal vision of the church Although many people still choose the
which does not ignore forms of consecrated contemplative life, the vocation to this type of
life that may be less significant in size but no life is frequently not understood, not even by
less deserving of proper attention. priests and the faithful. In present-day
circumstances insistence is placed on the need
Institutes of Contemplative Life for a solid initial and ongoing formation
following the church's directives.40 This
31. Numerous are the responses which
formation would be in Scripture, theology,
concern the institutes of contemplative life.
liturgy and spirituality, in conformity with the
From them emerges the church's esteem for
kind of life to be led and according to the
this type of life, which manifests with an
proper charism of the contemplative life.
apostolic fruitfulness the primacy of God, the
Many monasteries demonstrate an openness to the people of our day in the search for God
the needs of the universal and local churches and, according to their own traditions, true
and an active participation in the life of the laboratories of thought and culture for today's
diocese in which they are harmoniously world.
engaged, as well as in their own spiritual
family. However, some of them appear Religious Institutes, Lay Brothers
isolated and removed from authentic
32. Particular attention is given to the
participation in the life of the church.
vocation and mission of lay brothers in the lay

Many responses express the desire that institutes and in clerical institutes as well as in

through associations and federations a suitable those which embrace clerics and lay brothers.

balance might be achieved between promoting

Many people overlook the fact that by its very
growth in communion and collaboration and
nature the consecrated life is neither clerical
respecting autonomy.
nor lay, and that it was predominantly lay in

Many episcopal conferences express some of its origin, especially in the East. They have

the following desires: that the contemplative the impression that the vocation of the lay

life have a more visible presence in the local brother is incomplete in that it lacks the
church; that it be a model of liturgical life and priesthood.

prayer; that it bear testimony to the primacy of

The responses ask that, following the
God; and that it offers warm hospitality
magisterium,42 there be a reaffirmation of the
according to its proper tradition. In this way
value, fullness and importance of the lay
the monasteries can be spiritual oases where
religious life, both in lay institutes and in
priests, seminarians, religious and lay people
clerical and mixed ones. Indeed, such a form
can restore their spirit and find spiritual
of consecrated life is a full expression of
energy. Their presence is particularly
religious consecration and the common
appreciated in the younger churches where
priesthood of the baptized. The presence of
they recall the council's invitation to adapt in
lay brothers in a community is an expression
proper fashion to the authentically religious
of fellowship in Christ. Furthermore, the
traditions of diverse peoples.
various lay "ministries,"43 both internal and

The monks and nuns of both East and West external to the community, when exercised in
are asked, in fidelity to their liturgical and accordance with the charism of each institute,
cultural traditions, to make their monasteries are a participation in the ministerial nature of

centers of spiritual outreach, of hospitality for the church for the spread of the Gospel
throughout the world. Above all, through
consecrated chastity lay brothers are a sign of value of these documents with regard to their
the presence of the kingdom and of the values identity and mission, and also in light of the
which transcend all fleeting things. new evangelization.

It is desirable that lay brothers be given an Combining a secular nature and consecration
integral formation: human, theological, creates a new melding of the presence of the
pastoral and professional. Gospel and of the church in society, providing
a great ability in adapting to the new demands
The synod is asked to resolve the question of arising from social, cultural, political and
the lay brothers' participation in the economic life. Making Christ and the secular
administration of clerical institutes and those dimension of the church present in the world,
with clerics and lay brothers in such a manner the members of these institutes, inspired by a
that this might be regulated by the particular Gospel outlook, are an example to lay people
legislation of individual institutes, with due in the workplaces, combining the faith and a
respect for their nature and tradition. life of consecration with a typically secular
mission. The consecratio mundi should begin
It is hoped that, in communion and
and find its desired fulfillment from within the
collaboration, the sharing of the spirituality of
very lives of the members of secular institutes,
lay congregations with lay associates might be
all through a spirituality characterized by their
promoted without jeopardy to their identity.
presence in secular structures.
Secular Institutes
There is no distinction of clerical members of
33. By the profession of the evangelical secular institutes from other clerics, nor are
counsels, members of secular institutes the lay members distinct from other lay
express and realize their consecration in people in their external life. Their special
apostolic activity and, like leaven, seek to nature lies in their profession of the
permeate every reality with a Gospel spirit in evangelical counsels in the world done in a
order to strengthen the body of Christ and multiplicity of ways and exercised with a
help it grow. Their specific character, spiritual and apostolic emphasis proper to
following the documents Provida Mater each institute's charism.
Ecclesia and Primo Feliciter of Pius XI, is
The responses emphasize the necessity of
outlined by the Second Vatican Council, by
giving full value to this vocation which is in
canonical legislation, as well as by other
deep harmony with the situation of today's
magisterial interventions of Paul VI and John
society. At the same time the responses
Paul II.44 The responses emphasize the lasting
mention that it should be clearly distinguished institutes and their specific character in
from the religious and lay vocations. They relation to lay secular institutes.
point out the necessity of defining a specific
spirituality and fostering an adequate Consecrated Virgins and Widows
formation so that persons might be prepared
34. Various responses speak about
to face the difficult pioneering tasks which are
consecrated virgins, pointing out that their
theirs. Where the lifestyle depends on each
number is growing in the church due to the
institute, the members should not be deprived
special nature of their consecration, the
of the support of a manner of living which can
simplicity and adaptability of their structure,
promote communion and vocational growth.
and the flexibility of canon law regarding

Many responses ask for a better explanation their members and associations.

of the specific vocation of their members,

Consecrated virgins are "sacred persons" with
which is different from that of religious and
a particular emphasis on the mystical espousal
lay people, and their specific participation in
with the Lord and manifest publicly Christ's
the church's evangelizing mission. Others
union with the church. The Rite of
emphasize the great value of their apostolate
Consecration of Virgins clearly expresses the
in society and the church. Some note the great
meaning of their vocation in the light of
opportunities enjoyed by the consecrated laity
tradition and the special circumstances of our
in working in ecumenical and interreligious
times. Their charism implies a total gift of self
dialogue, and in drawing near to those who
to Christ and presupposes the observance of
have grown distant. Some exhibit some
the evangelical counsels according to the
difficulty in acting as leaven within society
various individual or associative forms of
through their witness and in becoming
life45 and through explicitly stated norms
engaged in the diocesan or parish ministry
which take into account their specific ecclesial
because of the discrete and private nature of
their vocation. Others ask for a clarification,
according to the various charisms, of their The consecrated virgins' participation in the
direct participation in evangelization as a church's public prayer and the character of
realization of the priestly, prophetic and their spiritual makeup render them
kingly office of all the baptized. particularly suitable for performing service
within the church. The church, while seeing to
Finally, some express the desire for a
their proper formation, accepts their vocation
clarification of the nature of clerical secular
and consecration, and counts on their mission.
Depending on their vocation and preparation,
they are called to work in the church's through the vow of perpetual chastity. In this
institutions and collaborate in the fields of way they express their desire to live in a spirit
culture and society, or participate in the of poverty and obedience in order to be signs
church's mission in bearing witness and of the kingdom of God and to devote
spreading the Gospel. Their model is Mary, themselves to prayer and the service of the
the mother of Jesus, in her virginal church.
consecration, her spiritual motherhood and her
dedication to the service of the Lord and his The synod is asked to keep in mind the
church. vocation of persons to the order of widows, as
ancient as the church yet today undergoing a
At present there is special need of criteria for rebirth, so as to further clarify the diversity to
developing more fully the specific norms for be adopted in undertaking the evangelical
individual consecrated virgins and counsels, the manner of preparing for public
associations, and for maintaining their specific profession and the type of relationship to one's
nature and better delineating their vocation family.
and mission. The bishops, upon whom
consecrated virgins depend, are also asked to Hermits (Men and Women)
make a realistic study of how to meet spiritual
35. The church acknowledges the existence of
and temporal needs of these consecrated
anchorites or hermits in both East and West,
persons, especially of those who are not in
even though there is a difference in the idea
associations with others.
behind their vocation.

Some responses ask if a similar type of

In the Eastern churches the eremitical
personal consecration for men should not be
vocation is lived within monasteries and
regulated by special norms and by dependence

Likewise, the church recognizes the status of on a superior or on the bishop if the hermit

widows who publicly profess chastity in the lives outside the monastery. It is permitted,

world.46 Various responses refer to however, to constitute by particular law other

consecrated widows and to a special rite of types of ascetics who imitate the eremitical

blessing for widows and the existence of life, both within institutes of consecrated life

groups of consecrated widows. In all these or outside of them.47 In the Latin church the
cases it is a question of individuals who make hermit is recognized as being dedicated to
a public consecration of their state in order to God in the consecrated life if by vow or other

give new life to their baptismal vocation sacred bond he publicly professes the three
evangelical counsels in the presence of the
diocesan bishop and observes his own norm profession of the evangelical counsels but the
of life under the bishop's guidance.48 full realization of the grace of baptism, and in
case of the priesthood through their proper
The responses confirm a flourishing of this apostolic ministry. They live their own style
vocation and the existence of many hermits- of fraternal life in community and tend to the
both clerics and laymen, women and men- perfection of charity through the observance
who live in solitude, in monasteries, in of the constitutions approved by the Holy See
hermitages or even in the midst of people. or the bishop, as the case may be. There are,
Some religious institutes and monasteries however, societies whose members assume
admit the possibility of the eremitical life or the evangelical counsels by some special bond
the temporary choice of this experience. In defined by the constitutions.49 The Code of
this vocation many see a sign of the encounter Canons of the Eastern Churches admits of the
between the cultures of the East and the West, existence of societies of common life "ad
a form of spiritual ecumenism and a new, instar religiosorum."50
concrete expression of total dedication to the
praise of God and to penance for the salvation In the history of the church many societies of
of the world. apostolic life have achieved renown due to
their apostolic dedication, their contribution to
In regard to hermits, there is an urgent need to the mission ad gentes and their founding of
clarify the conditions for accepting them, the many younger churches which are flourishing
process of discerning this vocation, and the today. The responses often note that they are
necessary formation and spiritual guidance, as not known well enough and that their specific
well as the way in which they become an identity is not clearly understood.
active part of the particular churches.
Possibilities should also be investigated to The societies of apostolic life are experiencing
ensure their participation in the eucharist if problems similar to those of the institutes of
they are not priests. the consecrated life, especially in their
confrontation with the secularization of
Societies of Apostolic Life traditions and the small numbers in vocations
in certain countries. Nevertheless, the call to
36. Societies of apostolic life, both of women
the new evangelization and the particular
and of men, are comparable (accedunt) to
vocation to the mission ad gentes naturally
institutes of consecrated life but are different
dispose these societies to a generous
from them and from other forms of
contribution to the new springtime of the
consecrated life in that the basis of their
identity is not that of consecration through the
Gospel which the church is beginning today The problem arises concerning those groups
with great hope.51 which, although having a great variety of
expressions, are marked by a lack of
New Communities and Revitalized Forms uniformity in their composition such as:
of Evangelical Life groups of men and women; groups where
some members profess the evangelical
37. Many responses express the need to offer
counsels, even perpetually, while others do
some clarifications about the new forms of
not; groups in which some live in apostolic
evangelical life which have been springing up
communities, others in communities of a
and becoming established in various places in
monastic type and still others who live alone
recent decades. The renewal of all the people
in a form of consecration in the world; and
of God is brought about by the Spirit through
groups where some are admitted to sacred
the reinvigorating of the forms of life that
orders. In some of these groups there are also
already exist and through raising up new ones
families, some of whom live together while
in the course of history in response to the
others do not. They all depend on a single
needs of the church.
president or moderator, although as a whole
The forms tested throughout history transmit the entity is expressed in various branches
the church's spiritual heritage to new forms, with different persons in authority. As to the
which through their birth and development style of evangelical life, they are often
communicate to them in turn a Gospel characterized by strong austerity, intense
freshness and a missionary thrust. prayer, the restoration of sound forms of
traditional devotion, the participation of all in
A primary discernment is necessary, domestic and manual labor, simple
consisting in weighing whether or not the new relationships and a limited number of
forms are in continuity with what is essential members. The apostolate of such groups is for
to the consecrated life through the profession the most part the following: a missionary
of the evangelical counsels. Another aspect to outreach to those who are "separated" and
be clarified is whether or not it involves those who have never received the Gospel;
groups of evangelical life which fit into one of involvement in the "new evangelization";
the existing canonical forms. If new groups fit ecumenical openness; closeness to the poor
into already sanctioned forms, according to and the marginalized of every kind; and active
the original inspiration of the founders, they involvement in parish structures.
are approved as such. It would then be a
question not of new forms, but of new Although expressed in a variety of ways, the
institutes or societies. inspiration which unites them requires a unity
which is not only spiritual but structural as There exist similar associations, however,
well. Therefore it would be a restriction of such as ecclesial movements, which do not
their nature and charismatic newness if want to be recognized as a form of the
canonical approval as separate entities were to consecrated life, although they have members
be given to the various branches or sectors in who assume the evangelical counsels by some
accordance with previously sanctioned form of bond, including a perpetual one.
juridical forms. It would be like These can receive recognition as associations
dismembering a body. Thus the question must of the faithful, but with their own statutes, and
be clarified as to whether these groups want to under a form still to be specified, because the
be recognized as a new form of the variety of their members requires the
consecrated life52 or as associations of the involvement of various dicasteries.54
faithful with the character of an ecclesial
movement. In the forms of consecrated life which the
church recognizes as such, the intervention of
Toward New Forms of Consecrated Life? ecclesial authority determines and mediates
the act of assuming the evangelical counsels
38. The Apostolic See alone can institute a and therefore their care and discipline.55 From
new form of the consecrated life.53 At this this it follows that these forms do not depend
time it is necessary to examine if the solely on the constitutions of the specific
experience of recent decades is sufficient to institute. In the other forms of "consecration
lead the Roman pontiff to institute new forms of life," however, the discipline of the
of consecrated life in the church so that such evangelical counsels is determined instead by
groups may have a clear discipline and the the statutes of the association, with the
bishops can be helped in their discernment church's intervention more or less decisive
about them. It must be taken into depending on whether the association is a
consideration that only those who assume all private or public one.
three evangelical counsels can be considered
members of an institute of consecrated life, Finally, some responses ask about the
while the others-married or single-who possibility, the opportuneness and the
assume only a bond of obedience and share conditions for the church's specific
property and life in common can be recognition of a stable form of consecrated
considered associates with some degree of a life for married people according to the
bond as specified in the constitutions. evangelical counsels.
5. A Renewed Theology counsels59 and delved deeper into the meaning
of consecration in the light of baptism.60 It
In the Light of Vatican II stressed how it belongs totally to the mystery
of the church in the one call to holiness and to
39. In the wake of Vatican II many responses
the mission of the people of God, and is in
ask for a confirmation of the doctrinal lines of
communion with the hierarchy and the laity. It
the consecrated life in the light of the church's
emphasized its charismatic sense and the
mystery, communion and mission, so as to
multiplicity of forms which can be traced
highlight its characteristic Christological and
back to some of Jesus' actions, his teachings
ecclesial nature, the variety of charisms and
or aspects of his mystery and the church's
its specific identity in relation to the hierarchy
mission.61 It shed light on the eschatological
and the laity.
meaning of religious profession as a radiant
The theology of the consecrated life, sign for the entire people of God,62 recalled
following the observations of the fathers and the humanizing value of the counsels because
authors both medieval and modern, has found whoever follows Christ, the perfect man,
in our era its best expression in the Dogmatic becomes more human.63 In an original
Constitution on the Church Lumen synthesis Vatican II rediscovered the
Gentium which, placing the mystery of dimension of the founding charism and
communion at the center of the church's reminded institutes to return to the sources
attention,56 inserted in it the chapter on and adapt to the changed conditions of the
religious57 and authoritatively taught as had times.64
never been done before that "the state of life
A Renewed Theological Vision
which is constituted by the profession of the
evangelical counsels-while not entering into 40. Currently the theology of the consecrated
the hierarchical structure of the church- life, in keeping with the documents of the
belongs undeniably (inconcusse) to her life magisterium, is shedding light on the
and holiness." The consecrated life can be following new evangelical values: evangelical
understood only in the light of the mystery of realism in the imitation of Jesus of Nazareth;
the church, and the church cannot be fully attention to the pneumatological dimension;
understood without the consecrated life. the prophetic role of the consecrated life; the
relationship to human advancement and
Placing the consecrated life within the
justice; the specific presence and mission of
mystery of the church, the Second Vatican
the consecrated woman in society and the
Council proposed anew the call to follow
Christ according to the evangelical
church, called to the new evangelization; and tend. Finally, the consecrated life is fully
the challenge of inculturation. realized in the mission of the church, which
extends through time and space the mission of
While confirming the essential, sure and Christ and of the Spirit for the total fulfillment
constant factors emphasized by the church's of the kingdom of the Father. The charism of
magisterium, a historical view of the theology the consecrated life is like a reflection of the
of the consecrated life cannot fail to be open Trinitarian mystery, and the variety of its gifts
to the Spirit's many requests to renew the tends to mutual communion and to mission.
charisms and raise up new ones according to For this reason it belongs to the full
the necessities of salvation history, drawing catholicity of the people of God, and the
from the inexhaustible wealth of the Gospel exchange of gifts in that people of God is
and the mystery of Christ, who is its brought about in part by those who, "in
foundation and ever living source. tending to sanctity by the narrower way,
stimulate their brothers by their example" and
Consecrated life is fully understood in the
by their missionary presence help to draw
light of the church as mystery springing from
together in Christ all of humanity and its
the Trinity, in the church as communion with
God and all of humanity, and in the church as
mission which is the revelation and From this view flows the need for a
communication of the Trinity for the salvation comprehensive expression which includes the
of the world. Indeed, the consecrated life, consecrated life in the mystery, communion
which "is a special way of sharing in the and mission of the church. These three aspects
sacramental nature of the people of God," is are difficult to separate. Even if one tries to
rooted in the vocation which comes from the illustrate them in succession, one after the
Father, in the following of Christ and in other, the distinction of one from the other
adherence to his love in the consecration of would be inadequate.
the Spirit.

Its charisms and the life of its members are

fully seen in the diverse, relational and
complementary nature of the vocations and
ministries which are proper to the
ecclesiology of communion in the one
body66 and which are expressed in the
"communion of saints" toward which they
II. CONSECRATED LIFE IN THE 12:4-6). Paul explains this diversity as
MYSTERY OF CHRIST AND OF THE follows: "Some people God has designated in
CHURCH the church to be, first, apostles; second,
prophets; third, teachers; then come mighty
1. In the Mystical Body deeds; then gifts of healing, assistance,
administration and varieties of tongues" (1
Sacramental and Charismatic Dimension of
Cor. 12:28). Everything comes from Christ
the Church
and all is oriented toward him: "And he
41. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of (Christ) gave some as apostles, others as
grace whose law is charity and in which prophets, others as evangelists, others as
gratuitousness is the basis of justice and pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones
peace. Among the gifts of the kingdom of for the work of ministry, for building up the
Christ the "first gift to those who believe" is body of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-13).
the Holy Spirit, who makes us children of
In the body of Christ all the members-pastors,
God and unites us in a single body (cf. Rom.
lay people and religious-participate each in
8: 15-17; Gal 4:47). The Holy Spirit has
their own way in the sacramental nature of the
enriched the church from the very beginning
church, which has its roots in baptism and its
with hierarchical and charismatic gifts to
summit in the eucharist. All are called to
enable her to accomplish her mission in the
holiness and mission.69
world. Indeed, "it is not only through the
sacraments and the ministrations of the church The consecrated life has an essentially
that the Holy Spirit sanctifies the people, leads ecclesial dimension in relation to the
them and enriches them with his virtues. hierarchy in that through the ministry of her
Allotting his gifts according as he wills (cf. 1 pastors the church not only establishes this
Cor. 12:11), he also distributes special graces state, but also through her action she presents
among the faithful of every rank. By these it as consecrated to God.70 Moreover, it is the
gifts he makes them fit and ready to undertake bishops, the members of the episcopal college
various tasks and offices for the renewal and in communion with the Roman pontiff, who
upbuilding of the church." wisely regulate in solidarity the practice of the
evangelical counsels and authentically
In the church "there are different kinds of
approve the rules which are proposed. The
spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there ate
mission of institutes of the consecrated life
different forms of service, but the same Lord;
and societies of apostolic life is nothing other
there are different workings but the same God
than a participation in the church's mission
who produces all of them in everyone" (1 Cor.
performed in communion with her pastors and consecrated life is the result of the action of
in fidelity to the spirit of the founders and the Spirit and belongs to the holiness, beauty
foundresses.71 and fertility of the church.72

A proper ecclesiological approach could lead Paul VI spoke explicitly of the "charism of the
to a better understanding of the consecrated religious life ... (which) is the fruit of the Holy
life in its evangelical and sacramental roots, in Spirit, who is always at work within the
its organic communion and the unity of its church" and specifically of the "charisms of
mission. your founders who were raised up by God" as
well as the "charisms of the institutes."73
Charism of the Consecrated Life in the
Church In the period following the Second Vatican
Council, the consecrated life has been studied,
42. When the New Testament texts speak of understood and lived in this light in a
charisms (cf. 1 Cor. 12:8-10,2830; Rom. 12:6- particular manner. A considerable portion of
8) we do not find the terminology which the effort of spiritual and apostolic renewal
allows us an expression of the vocation and has been made beginning with a return to the
mission today recognized as the consecrated original charisms, in dialogue with the needs
life. However, in them we find the roots of the of our age, but without being conformed to
charisms as they were lived at that time. the world (cf. Rom. 12:2). In this light the
Indeed, among the charisms virginity is consecrated life is understood in its unity and
proposed with special emphasis. According to diversity as well as in its communion and
the words of Jesus (cf. Mt. 19:11-12) and Paul missionary dynamism. The diversity of
(cf. 1 Cor. 7:7), it is a gift from on high and an charisms allows the expression of different
eminent grace in the church. Other charisms styles of community life and apostolate in the
of the apostolic community are gifts for one mission. It permits the witness of different
serving the Lord and the brethren, which spiritual traditions, styles of community and
today are expressed in the life and mission of structures of government. Participation in a
institutes of consecrated life and societies of collective charism contributes to a better
apostolic life. formation for its members, produces a greater
cohesiveness in the community and shapes the
The Second Vatican Council did not explicitly
identity of an institute and the sense of
use the term charism to designate the
belonging to a spiritual family. It is a source
consecrated life, but recognized in it the
of creativity and readiness to respond to new
character of a gift which is attributed to
circumstances in the human family.
celibacy and to the evangelical counsels. The
The Gospel as Root and Norm the cross and serve the one Lord and his bride,
the church."80 Christ is the center of the
43. "The teaching and example of Christ consecrated life according to the admonition
provide the foundation for the evangelical of the Benedictine Rule: "Put absolutely
counsels of chaste self-dedication to God, of nothing before Christ."81
poverty and of obedience. The apostles and
fathers of the church commend them as an The Gospel of Christ and Christ himself, the
ideal of life, and so do her doctors and living good news of the Father, is always the
pastors. They therefore constitute a gift of foundation of every life consecrated to God
God which the church has received from her and the inexhaustible treasure from which,
Lord and which by his grace she always under the action of the Spirit, the founders and
safeguards."74 The consecrated life has its foundresses draw their inspiration and life. All
roots in the very mystery of Christ and in the their experiences are rooted in the words and
Gospel.75 It is not a question of a historic example of the Master. The following of
ecclesial experience only. In its sum total- Christ is a commitment to be lived and
even though specific individual expressions proclaimed in such a way that in its totality
be lacking-the consecrated life is a reality and in the variety of vocations the Gospel of
rooted in revelation and belonging to the Jesus Christ shines forth in the world. In its
church, a precious gift from her bridegroom every form the consecrated life seeks to live a
and savior. message, an example and a mystery of the
incarnate or glorious life as the whole in a
The following of Christ according to the fragment. However every charism is rooted in
Gospel is the fundamental norm of the the following of Christ and every gift of self
consecrated life. It is the highest rule, to him, just as every aspect of his life is
according to the famous expressions of inseparable from his person. The charisms of
medieval tradition: "There is but one first and the consecrated life cannot be separated from
principal rule among the rules of faith and the following of Christ and the gift of
salvation from which all the others derive, like consecration.
rivulets, from a single source, that is, the holy
Gospel";77 "to observe the holy Gospel of our Primitive monastic literature seems to be a
Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience, reinterpretation of the experience in the light
without property and in chastity";78 "to live in of the Gospel or a living exegesis of the
obedience to Jesus Christ and serve him with Scriptures in the light of the experience of the
a pure heart and good conscience";79 and "to monks, for example, the Life of St.
be a soldier of Christ beneath the standard of Anthony, written by St. Athanasius.82 The
reading of the Gospel and then of the New always in obedience to the will of the Father
and Old Testaments has always been the great who sent him."84
inspiration, the first rule of life. Discipleship,
which seeks to imitate Christ and to live out in A Gospel Manifested in Time
a particular fashion some of his words,
44. The history of the consecrated life, in the
appeared gradually under the influence of the
unity of its inspiration, shows that throughout
Holy Spirit like a Gospel manifested in time
the centuries the emphasis has been placed on
and space, a majestic Christ made present in
various aspects of the one Gospel of Christ,
the church through the charisms of the saints.
with particular reference to the needs and

Illustrating the doctrine of the church as the cultural conditions of the age. The primitive

mystical body of Christ, Pius XII first expressions are related to essential aspects of
explained the ecclesial meaning of the variety the Gospel such as following Christ, imitating

of charisms: "Just as Jesus Christ wants the him, remaining with him (cf. Mt. 19:16-26;

individual members to be like him, he wants Mk. 3:13), and total dedication to him in the

the whole body of the church to be so.... assumption of virginity for the sake of the
When she embraces the evangelical counsels, kingdom (cf. Mt. 19: 11). Other expressions

the church reproduces in herself the poverty, are bound up with the reality of the Word and

obedience and virginity of the Redeemer. with participation in the paschal mystery of

Through the multiple and diverse institutions Christ, such as the evangelical "conversion"
adorning her like so many jewels, in a certain of mentality and behavior (conversio morum)
sense she shows forth Christ in contemplation (cf. Mk. 1:15), the call to live one's baptism

on the mountain, preaching to the people, fully as a (nuptial) covenant with God, and as

healing the sick and wounded, calling sinners a profession and covenant of faith with Christ
back to the right way and doing good to (pistis-foedis, homologhia pros Theon).85 It

all."83 This text was later taken up by Vatican requires imitation and communion with his

II. Through the charisms of the consecrated life, according to the evangelical counsels,

life the church sees to it that Christ is shown obedience and service to Jesus Christ, the
forth with ever-increasing clarity to believers Lord and Master, adherence to his person with
and unbelievers alike, "Christ in an undivided heart (cf. 1 Cor. 7:32- 34), the

contemplation on the mountain, or determined choice to serve his kingdom (cf.

proclaiming the kingdom of God to the Mt. 19:21 and 29) and the choice of the
multitudes, or healing the sick and maimed Gospel beatitudes as one's way of life.

and converting sinners to a good life, or

blessing children and doing good to all,
New references from the Gospel progressively Deum) especially through diligence in
come to mind. For the virgins consecrated to the lectio divina of Scripture, in the vacare
God the ideal of life is the realization of the Deo of contemplation or in the divine-human
mystery of the church, which gives herself balance of the ora et labora of the
totally to Christ and makes the eschatological Benedictine Rule.
image of the bride present in the world. For
the hermits of the early church it was a The evangelizing monks of East and West

question of asceticism or spiritual combat and fulfill the plan of the apostolic life following

of flight from the world, in imitation of Jesus, the example of the group of disciples who
who in the desert fasts, prays and struggles follow Jesus and are sent by him after

with the devil, or of the prophets like Elisha Pentecost to preach the Gospel to all creatures

who lived in God's presence (cf. 1 Kgs 19:11- (cf. Mk. 16:15; Mt. 28:19-20). Some preach

12) where God spoke to his heart (cf. Hos. the Gospel among their own people, while

2:16). For cenobites the gift of self to Christ is others continue the universal mission to all

explained by the desire to imitate the nations, building civilizations and spreading

"apostolic life" according to the example of culture. Others, however-women and men
the community in Jerusalem, with Christ's alike-draw their inspiration from the example
abiding presence among those who are of Christ, who was sent to preach the good

gathered in his name (cf. Mt. 18:20)86 and news to the poor (cf. Lk. 4:18), in the creative
with the inspiration of an insatiable longing choice of many aspects of the missionary
which constantly reappears throughout history proclamation of the good news. Or they fulfill

to live in a unity of heart and mind (cf. Acts the Gospel through the works of mercy (cf.
4:32).87 Mt. 25:35-36ff) on behalf of the little ones,
with their witness of charity and their care of
For others the monastic life is a substitute for the poor, the sick and the needy, with
the sacrifice of martyrdom, a realization of the particular attention to children and young
church as a community of worship through people, in accord with new social and cultural
perennial praise, the divine or angelic office necessities.
and the offering (prosphora) of one's own life
to God in fraternal communion. Others see in In our day others want to be a sign of Christ

it the ideal of a return to the harmony of the by their presence in society, in culture and in

innocence of paradise, the disciple and bride the economy, like light, salt and Gospel
of Christ vigilantly waiting for his return, or leaven in the heart of the secular city, so that

an anticipation of heavenly life. Some give the temporal realities may be ordered to God's

pre-eminence to the search for God (quaerere

plan and the world may receive life from the acknowledges the Holy Spirit as its invisible
Gospel.88 creator and the source of its renewal.

An Experience of the Spirit in the Church The consecrated life is a call to holiness
because of God's choice of a person, the gift
45. Every charism has an essential reference of consecration through the ministry of the
to the Holy Spirit. This is how it is expressed church and the commitment to imitate and
in a well-known passage in Mutuae serve Christ. Thus, in the churches of the East
Relationes, which in turn refers to Paul and West the charisms of the consecrated life
VI's Evangelica Testificatio: "The 'charism of are born from an experience of holiness.
the founders' appears as an 'experience of the Many founders and foundresses were called to
Spirit' transmitted to their followers to be the highest degree of conformity to Christ in
lived by them, to be preserved, deepened and their life and service of the church. Many of
constantly developed in harmony with the them have been officially recognized as
body of Christ continually in a process of blessed or saints by the church. In such a way,
growth." religious families owing their origin to them
are, as it were, their abiding presence and a
The Holy Spirit works in a wonderful manner
continuation of their experience of grace.
in the life of the church, bringing full
understanding of the truth of Christ, Every charism points to the mystery of Christ
actualizing his life in her members and and to charity, the greatest of charisms, the
preparing his kingdom. The Holy Spirit has center and unity of them all. It does this with
the role of raising up, through truly "spiritual" the freshness of a new synthesis of
men and women, charisms of spirituality and supernatural values and with a genuine and
apostolic activity, with a creativity and incisive exegesis of the Gospel. Every founder
opportuneness adapted to the needs of the and foundress is like a word which in its
time. He elicits within the church, the depths bears the divine charity which enlivens
mystical body of Christ, a continual growth of and unites everything.
new energies which are a living witness to the
Gospel of Christ. From the viewpoint of "Strive Eagerly for the Greatest of
Christology and an ecclesiology of the church Spiritual Gifts" (1 Cor. 12:31)
as the body of Christ which grows continually
through ministries and charisms (cf. Eph. 46. The consecrated life has its essential
4:16), the consecrated life in all its forms reference point in the church. It is an outflow
of her mystery and expresses the richness of
her charismatic nature and the manifold the God of disorder but of peace" (1 Cor.
wisdom of God.90 14:33).

The liturgy of religious profession for women Every institute must take particular care to
expresses the beauty of the church as a bride delve deeper into, assimilate and manifest its
in these words: "Holy church shines with a essential core, which is characterized by its
rich variety of charisms, a bride adorned with foundation in Christ and in the Gospel, and by
jewels, a queen robed in grace, a mother its communion with the other ecclesial
rejoicing in her children."91 vocations. Totally new charisms can come
into existence, or existing ones can receive a
These charisms are of the church and for the wider purpose, in response to the action of the
church. They make the Gospel and the Spirit in the world, in peoples, in cultures.
historical forms of holiness and spirituality
present. These charisms are also destined to All are called to consider the apostle's
contribute to the effectiveness of the exchange teaching: "Do not stifle the Spirit. Do not
of gifts throughout the church.92 A church despise prophetic utterances. Test everything;
called to the new evangelization needs to retain what is good" (1 Thes. 5:19-20); "strive
receive from the Spirit of Christ an outpouring eagerly for the greatest of spiritual gifts" (1
of grace which will strengthen the charisms Cor. 12:31), for charity, in such a way that "as
for the growth of the entire people of God in each one has received a gift, use it to serve
communion and mission. one another as good stewards of God's varied
grace, ... so that in all things God may be
A life lived according to an authentic charism glorified through Jesus Christ" (1 Pt. 4:10-11).
must be consistent with the fruits of the Spirit
in such a way that charity and joy, peace and 2. Vocation, Imitation, Consecration
patience, kindness and goodness, fidelity,
meekness and moderation (cf. Gal. 5:22) shine A Divine Call
forth in individuals and communities. Even
47. The theology of the consecrated life
though the renewal of the charism-in being
expressed by Vatican II and the later
docile to the "authentic promptings of a real
documents of the magisterium has pointed out
creativity in the life of the Spirit and of the
the unity of vocation, consecration and
church"93-might call into question customs,
mission in an experience of life which bears
traditions, spiritual practices and methods of
the seal of the Trinity.
the apostolate, this must never be a pretext for
confusion and disunity, because God "is not
God the Father, through Christ and under the heart, in holiness of body and spirit; and a call
inspiration of the Spirit, draws certain people which is already manifest in the apostolic
with a divine call94 to follow Christ more church (cf. 1 Cor. 7:32-34).
closely. The response to this call is always a
grace: "It was not you who chose me, but I The consecrated life is a loving response to

who chose you" (Jn. 15:16); it is expressed in the divine call, involving a particular choice to

the total offering of one's life in a covenant follow Christ intimately in total adherence,

with God and in the service of his kingdom. In under the action of the Holy Spirit in

this way, God the Father inserts into his plan consecration and mission.

of salvation (cf. Eph. 1:4- 5, 9-10) those

Evangelical Discipleship and Communion
whom he chooses and calls them to be
With Christ
conformed to the image of his Son (cf. Rom.
8:29-30). Monastic and ecclesial tradition 48. Through their vows or other sacred bonds,
have found in some Gospel passages, in the religious and members of institutes of
broadest context of the call to discipleship and consecrated life and societies of apostolic life
apostolate, a valid motivation for intend to observe the many counsels in the
understanding the vocation of religious and Gospel, which the Lord gives his disciples to
other members of institutes of consecrated observe. Foremost among these is "that
life. The call made by Jesus of Nazareth precious gift of divine grace given to some by
endures in time in the church; the risen Lord the Father (cf. Mt. 19:11; 1 Cor. 7:7) to bind
continues to gather his disciples about him. themselves to God alone more easily with an
undivided heart (cf. 1 Cor. 7:32- 34) in
Many Gospel passages have been interpreted
virginity or celibacy."95 This counsel and
as the basis of the consecrated life. Among
charism involves a genuine covenant with
these we should mention the call of the
God, rooted in baptism, from which the
apostles: "He summoned those whom he
profession of the evangelical counsels
wanted and they came to him" (Mk. 3:13); the
invitation to leave everything and follow him:
"If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you The closer following of Christ through the
have and give to [the] poor, and you will have evangelical counsels is achieved in faith, hope
treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" and love, and expressed in imitation and
(Mt. 19:21 and par.); the gift of celibacy for service, in communion with Christ the
the sake of the kingdom (cf. Mt. 19:11-12) in bridegroom and Lord of one's life, in
order to please the Lord in everything and be participation in his mysteries and in adherence
concerned with his affairs, with an undivided to everything that belongs to him. In imitation
of Paul the ideal of the consecrated life is anointing is the total dedication of the Son
expressed in leaving behind all things and in a who always lives in the Father's presence and
life of teaching out to the Lord and dedicates himself to the Father's affairs (cf.
participating fully in his paschal mystery in Lk. 2:49) and to fulfilling his will to the point
order "to know him and the power of his of giving up his life (cf. Heb. 10:59). His
resurrection and [the sharing of his sufferings offering is also a total gift to the Father on
by being conformed to his death, if somehow behalf of his disciples and humanity: "I
I may attain the resurrection from the dead" consecrate myself for them, so that they also
(cf. Phil. 310-11). may be consecrated in truth" (Jn. 17:19).

The evangelical counsels, lived in the broader In summary, we may say, "The fuller
context of the beatitudes, have the power to expression (of consecration) recalls the hold
conform a person to the crucified and risen of the divine person of the Word over the
Christ. "Religious, therefore, faithful to their human nature which he assumed, and it
profession and leaving all things for Christ's invites a response like that of Jesus: a
sake (cf. Mk. 10:28), should follow him, dedication of oneself to God in a way which
regarding this as the one thing necessary (cf. he alone makes possible and which witnesses
Lk. 10:39), and should be solicitous for all to his holiness and absoluteness. Such a
that is his (1 Cor. 7:32)."97 consecration is a gift of God: a grace freely
Sharing in Christ's Consecration
Consecration Rooted in Baptism
49. Consecration through the profession of the
evangelical counsels has meaning only in the 50. Through baptism and the anointing of the
light of Christ. He is the consecrated one par Holy Spirit all Christians are consecrated
excellence, as is expressed by his name, the people of God and are given the ability to
Christ. He is the Son, "the one whom the make an evangelical and filial response in the
Father has consecrated and sent into the imitation of Christ. The Holy Spirit, the
world" (Jn. 10:36), Jesus of Nazareth, whom sanctifier, consecrates the faithful, places
"God anointed ... with the Holy Spirit and them in communion with Christ and the
power" (Acts 10:38). His is a consecration for Father, and makes them capable of living fully
the sake of mission: the demands of discipleship and mission.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because Inserting the theology of religious life into the
he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the sacramental dimension of the church, Vatican
poor" (Lk. 4:18). The response to this interior II highlighted its relationship with baptismal
consecration and its demands: "The members before they make the offering of their life in
of each institute should recall, first of all, that the eucharistic sacrifice.100
when they made their profession of the
evangelical counsels they were responding to This gift is always for the sake of communion

a divine call so that, not merely being dead to and mission. This consecration is achieved in

sin (cf. Rom. 6:11) but renouncing the world giving oneself to the service of Christ in

also, they might live for God alone. They have ecclesial communion, according to the

dedicated their whole lives to this service. apostolate of each form of life. This gift finds

This constitutes a special consecration which its celebration and daily renewal in the
is deeply rooted in their baptismal eucharist.

consecration and is a fuller expression of

Gift and Obligation of the Evangelical
it."99Consecration consists of a grace of
election and a particular gift of the Spirit, who
takes possession of the person, configures him 51. Vocation, consecration and mission find
to Christ and enables him to live his proper their own distinctive expression and
charism according to the evangelical counsels. fulfillment in the gift or charism of the
At the same time, it is also a response of self- evangelical counsels. When God calls,
giving, accepted and recognized through the consecrates and sends a person, he is simply
116 church's ministry. Just as baptism and molding a new personality and making it
confirmation are the first and fundamental capable of responding to the task which he
consecration of each of Jesus' disciples, who intends to assign. In essence, the gift of the
thereby participate in his paschal mystery and counsels consists in a share in the specific
the mystery of Pentecost in order to live as a chastity, poverty and obedience of Christ, or
member of Christ's faithful in the church, so in a special conformity to the chaste, poor and
too consecration according to the solidity and obedient Christ, and in an introduction into his
stability of the vows or other bonds is a gift of personal manner of living and working.
the Spirit, uniting the person to Christ's
mystery and mission. Jesus' form of life is not based on the demands
and development of the dynamisms of nature,
The liturgy of the Latin church clearly but directly on the values of the kingdom,
expresses this theology in the Rite of going beyond those goods which in the
Religious Profession and in the Rite of Creator's plan ordinarily help a person to grow
Consecration of Virgins. In the solemn and develop. He does not look to anything
blessing of the professed or of virgins the gift other than the goods of the kingdom, which
of the Holy Spirit is invoked upon them have become his portion and lot. His chastity
is a perfect communion of love with the by the Spirit, becoming an extension in time
Father, an absolute openness and of Christ and vitalized by a love which
communication with him, without the least represents the choice of God alone: with all
degree of withdrawal or searching for self. His one's mind, all one's heart and all one's
obedience is a total dedication to the Father's strength (cf. Mk. 12:30).
will and a complete ability to fulfill it even in
the smallest details. This explains why Jesus' Consecrated Chastity
form of life is exclusively his and why
52. "Chastity 'for the sake of the kingdom of
whoever is called to follow it in history must
heaven' (Mt. 19:22) ... must be esteemed as an
be graced with a special gift enabling the
exceptional gift of grace. It uniquely frees the
person to accept it as his own. In the gift of
heart of a person (cf. 1 Cor. 1:32- 35), so as to
the counsels the Spirit conforms the person
become more fervent in love for God and for
who has been called to Christ, who has no
all of humanity. For this reason it is a special
other good than the kingdom, has no other
symbol of heavenly benefits, not to mention a
love than that which flows from Christ for his
most effective means offered to religious so as
brothers and sisters, and has no plan but that
to enable them to dedicate themselves
of the Father.
wholeheartedly to divine service and the

After being aware of and experiencing this works of the apostolate."101

gift, one responds with the gift of self through

Paul Vl emphasized that virginal chastity
vows or other sacred bonds. The obligation of
"reaches, transforms and imbues with a
the one called to make the counsels the
mysterious likeness to Christ a person's being
content of one's life-even before being an
in its most hidden depths."102
offering and a sacrifice-is the joyous
acknowledgment of the offer to participate in By its very nature and intrinsic demands,
and to follow the very same plan of life which Christian virginity is oriented toward worship
the Lord had. It is a gift so great that one must and service, that is, to the worship of the body
invest one's whole life in order to accept and of Christ in the eucharist, and to the service of
preserve it. The vow is the unconditional the mystical body-all members of the body of
restitution of oneself to God as well as an Christ-but in the first place, to the poor and
offering of self, precisely because it is the suffering with whom Christ particularly
acceptance of a gift. All this involves a total identifies. Chastity above all makes people
immersion in the life of the Redeemer and capable of having hearts filled with mercy and
constitutes an excellent realization of the open to all God's children, whom they see as
mystical dimension of life, subsumed entirely their brothers and sisters-members of the same
body-with no limitation placed by gender or God and spending oneself totally for the
social condition. Just as matrimony generates "coming of his kingdom," especially among
the human family, so too virginity generates those who await it most anxiously and who
the divine family. The body which is offered are its primary recipients: the poor and
in sacrifice, going beyond the ties of flesh and marginalized. To the act of dying radically to
blood, becomes that of Christ, the source of all earthly interests is grafted and developed a
life for all. Virginity also generates concern for the new life which is "being about
fellowship. It enables a person to live better the Father's business" (cf. Lk. 2:49) and
the mystery of communion in one's beginning, here and now, to prepare a place in
community. On the other hand, the which the kingdom can become incarnate and
community is the environment in which manifested. The poor person, who has chosen
chastity is preserved and matures in simplicity not to seek his own salvation in earthly
and in the joy of love and mutual friendship. possessions and has found it in communion
with Christ, cannot help but feel obliged to
An authentic formation in chastity cannot work so that everyone may discover this same
ignore the natural and supernatural means experience. Such a person will do all in total
which lead to the fulfillment of mature and dedication and without any self-interest so as
joyful people. Today's cultural context to help others perceive the kingdom present in
presents serious difficulties in the work of Jesus and to make its acceptance easier
educating people to embrace chastity. These through the adoption of a more human and
difficulties should be given attentive consistent style of life.
consideration. They also call for a lengthy
discernment process of vocations.103 Sensitivity to the poor, the spread of an
inordinate degree of poverty in our world and
Evangelical Poverty an easy consumerism all call the consecrated
life into question. The responses offer a
53. "Voluntary poverty undertaken in
pressing call to consecrated persons for a clear
following Christ-which is much esteemed,
witness of personal and communal poverty, of
especially nowadays-...enables them to share
diligent work, of detachment, of total
in the poverty of Christ, who for our sake
availability and of the effective sharing of
became poor, though he was rich, so that we
spiritual and material resources.105
might become rich through his poverty (cf. 2
Cor. 8:9; Mt. 8:20)."104

In a positive sense, living in poverty means

feeling seized and possessed by the desire for
Religious Obedience Obedience becomes a source of apostolic
energy. Those who have made Christ's
54. "After the example of Jesus Christ, who interests their own cannot help but give their
came to do his Father's will (cf. Jn. 4:34; 5:30; all for the coming of his kingdom. Seen in this
Heb. 10:7; Ps. 39:9) and who 'taking the form context, any obedience which might be called
of a servant' (Phil. 2:7) learned obedience passive or a lack of responsibility would
through what he suffered (cf. Heb. 5:8), immediately be a conflict in terms.
religious moved by the Holy Spirit subject
themselves in faith to those who hold God's In present-day circumstances the vow of
place, their superiors. Through them they are obedience needs to be carefully evaluated
led to serve all their brothers and sisters in from the vantage point of its Christological
Christ, just as Christ ministered to his brothers foundation and its personal and communal
in submission to the Father and laid down his dimensions, as they relate to the evangelical
life for the redemption of many (cf. Mt. 20:28; exercise of authority and its implications for
Jn. 10:14-18). They are thus bound more apostolic activity in availability and
close]y to the church's service and they communion for the service of the kingdom.107
endeavor to attain to the measure of the
stature of the fullness of Christ."106 Witnesses to the Paschal Mystery

By the vow of obedience, consecrated persons 55. Since all the baptized are called to

submit to legitimate authority in order to holiness, they must observe the evangelical

know and fulfill God's will. The renunciation virtues of chastity, poverty and evangelical
of their own individual plans allows a obedience in imitation of Christ. However,

constant and total reference to the Father's some are called by the Lord to live a radical

will, so that they may share fully in that expression of these evangelical counsels

freedom of the children of God, which is through vows or other sacred bonds, which
revealed as a greater capacity to love and make them participate in the kenosis of the

serve. This love is freedom so that the will Savior. Where the three evangelical counsels

may be conformed to that of Christ in seeking express the total offering of the person, they

only what involves the Father's business. also include other features which are an
Obedience is first and foremost an entrance expression, as it were, of Christ's unique filial

into the Father's affairs and a capacity to bring attitude to the Father in the dynamism of the
them to fulfillment. Agreeing to die to their Holy Spirit.

own will, the consecrated persons take on the

Those who are called to the profession of the
horizons of the freedom of God himself.
counsels reveal and realize the most
paradoxical dimension of the Christian life- consecrated persons respect and defend
that of Christ crucified and risen. The choice private property, conjugal love and free
of chastity, poverty and obedience expresses initiative, and work hard to see to it that no
the resolution to participate in Christ's one is deprived of what is needed to live, to
sacrifice and the glory of his resurrection. form a family and to provide for their own
future, they must show clearly that one can be
The evangelical counsels have a profound poor, celibate, dependent and a servant while
paschal dimension because they presuppose at the same time being rich in life, love and
an identification with Christ and with his freedom, because "whoever follows Christ the
death and resurrection. Therefore, they must perfect man becomes all the more human."109
be lived with the same attitude as Christ, who
"emptying himself," was obedient to death, Consecrated persons proclaim that beyond
even death on the cross (cf. Phil. 2:5-8). At any created good whatsoever, God alone is the
the same time, however, they impart a share in only good that satisfies the human person and
the joy of the new life to which we are called, that it is in him alone that one can achieve the
so that the Father's saving will may be done in fullness of the Beatitudes. "The religious give
all things. Through the profession of the outstanding and striking testimony that the
evangelical counsels consecrated persons world cannot be transfigured and offered to
become witnesses to the Lord's resurrection God without the spirit of the Beatitudes."110
and the transforming power of his Spirit of
Pentecost.108 3. Communion, Mission and Witness
Communal Dimension
Today's society does not seem particularly
ready to accept the meaning and message of 56. Since the consecrated life is an image of

the evangelical counsels. However, it is not church communion in its internal workings, it

the counsels which are not understood, but the is an expression of the mutual charity in love
fundamental Christian virtues themselves of which distinguishes Christ's disciples. From

poverty (detachment, moderation, hard work, the beginning and to this very day, the

solidarity), of chastity (continence, self- passage of the Acts of the Apostles describing

control, free offering) and obedience the Christian community as one in heart and
(submission, readiness to serve) which find no mind (cf. Acts 4:32) has remained open to a

room in a materialistic, consumeristic and vital exegesis. The fathers call it the
self-sufficient world. These virtues are an "holy koinonia." Vatican II proposed it as the
effective means for bringing about a paradigm of community life.111

revolution arising from the Gospel. Although

The life of communion takes its inspiration The diversity of types of community
from the fraternal communion manifested by expresses the variety of images and values in
Christ in the law of mutual love and by the the church. Monastic stability expresses in
fellowship and equality of his disciples (cf. Jn. prayer and work the fellowship of liturgy and
20: 19-23), in the image of the Trinity (cf. Jn. life; the itinerant community manifests the
17:21-23). For some, unity in love is an evangelizing church setting out on mission,
obligation allowing them to enjoy the however needing to preserve unity; and a
continual presence of Christ promised to those community dedicated to organized apostolic
gathered in his name (cf. Mt. 18:20). For activity expresses the solidarity, effectiveness
others, it is a question of reproducing the and fidelity of a common endeavor. There are
community of the apostles in mission. As a also communities living among the poor or
result of the evangelical character of the other needy groups, bearing witness to the
vocation, sometimes a community draws its church's closeness to them. Finally there are
inspiration from various biblical models: the groups or individuals such as consecrated
model of Nazareth, the home in Bethany (cf. virgins, hermits or members of secular
Lk. 10:38-42), the group of disciples chosen institutes who take part in various workplaces
to be with the Master (cf. Mk. 313-14) or the where they, like Gospel leaven, share the
women disciples who follow and serve him everyday activities of modem life as well as
(cf. Lk. 8:1-3). Others are inspired by the Last the anxiety and the poverty of the most
Supper in the Upper Room, by the Lord's marginalized.
appearance and presence in the midst of the
disciples (cf. Jn. 19:23) or the wait with Mary, For all of these, community life is an ideal and

the mother of Jesus, for the coming of the a means to follow. Christ wants his disciples
Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14). to be configured to this transcendent model of
the Trinity reflected in community. However,
The reality of community life has also been it is a taxing journey which requires maturity
expressed in a variety of symbols: fellowship, in both human and evangelical virtues; a
church, assembly, temple made up of living sharing in fellowship and friendship in the
stones, a body having different members, a joys and sorrows of life; a solidarity in the
circle with God as its center. In this circle, apostolic mission; and a constant generosity in
under the inspiration of charity, all the rays mutual love to the point of giving up one's
converge with the effect that the closer we are life.
to God, the closer we are to our brothers and
sisters, and the closer we are to our brothers In the community dimension the vocation of
and sisters, the closer we are to God.112 the individual leads to an awareness of a
"convocation" by God. Consecration becomes consecrated widows embrace an individual
an experience of communion and of coming form of consecration beyond any forms of
together in the love of Christ, and mission is a association which they might undertake. They
call to share the apostolic ideal. Although they achieve fraternal communion substantially in
have a purely personal dimension, it is in their relationship to the church and her
communion that the evangelical counsels take mystery as such. The members of religious
on their authentic human and divine institutes and societies of apostolic life
dynamism, that is: chastity as maturity in concretize this fraternal communion in forms
interpersonal relationships; poverty as a of common life, but in as many different ways
sharing of material and spiritual goods; and as there are institutes and societies, each
obedience in freedom as a convergence and according to their own charism and
unity of intentions and work-under the purpose.115 Although the members of secular
guidance of authority-in the practice of institutes do not live a common life, they
dialogue and community discernment in what express fraternal communion in their
is for the greater glory of God.113 profound bond with their own institute or by
forming groups for living a fraternal life.116
Fraternal Communion and Fraternal Life
in Common The first reference point of fraternal
communion is the faith by which the many
57. The dimension of fraternal communion is become one heart and mind (cf. Acts 4:32).
a constitutive part of every form of Community calls upon the faith of the church,
consecrated life,114 in that it is a sign of what expressing, celebrating and fulfilling it. An act
the church is in her mystery. In the church as of faith is never a solitary act. Faith generates
communion-an image of the Trinity-the communion in virtue of the central mystery of
consecrated life is presented as a visible, the Christian faith, the Trinitarian mystery.
prophetic reminder of the communion which The confession of the Trinitarian faith
the whole church must already be living and recognizing God as "mutual gift" does not
which, at the same time, is her ultimate goal. cancel out the differences: Communication
presupposes distinction.
The concrete ways in which this dimension is
realized, however, differ greatly among the Fraternal communion is rooted and founded in
various forms of the consecrated life and charity because through charity, the bond of
within communities of the same type as well. perfection (cf. Col. 3:14), we have passed
In fact, consecrated persons such as hermits, from death to life. The summit of community
consecrated virgins living in the world and life is the eucharist. The consecrated person
does not place his hope in an ideal-no matter gift by the means found in the Spirit, each
how noble it may be-but in the person of the according to its nature, character, spirituality
risen Lord. Jesus' resurrection, to which and end. Any type of strict uniformity
consecrated persons bear witness, opens them exercised among various communities or
up to hope for total fulfillment in the future. within individual communities produces a
Bearing witness to the risen Christ means negative effect on the identity of the charism
becoming apostles. Thus, the dimension of of the institute or society.
fraternal communion in the consecrated life
becomes the bearer of the good news of God's The religious community, regardless of the
liberating love. concrete form it may assume because of the
nature and goal of the institute, should not fail
In group expressions of the consecrated life- to take into account certain elements to bring
religious institutes, secular institutes, societies about an authentic renewal. Therefore, the
of apostolic life-following Christ, the poor, community ought to be the place in which-
chaste and obedient one in company with through personal and communal prayer
others means becoming an example in the according to the spirituality proper to each
church and in the world. In other words, it institute-the experience of God can mature for
means that apostolic fraternal communion, in each member and be shared with others. The
its various forms and in conformity with each community ought to be a place where mutual
group's nature and purpose, bears witness to love matures and is fulfilled, and where
faith, hope and charity. freedom and solidarity are not seen as
separate entities, but as mutually inclusive in
Growing in Communion virtue of an effective participation in the
paschal mystery. The community must be a
58. The common life in itself is charged with
witness, a proclamation, a service and a gift to
supernatural and spiritual value. First and
others in the apostolate of silence, prayer and
foremost the accent must be placed on "being"
penance, or in the apostolate of works,
communion, and afterward on "doing"
contributing to the church's mission in
something. Action cannot precede being.
accordance with the charism of the
Since consecration in itself is a gift which
God has given to his church, the fraternal life
in common is also a gift which comes from The community is, in the famous expression
God and which the members of an institute or of medieval tradition, "the school of the
society must first of all receive. Afterward, service of the Lord" and the "school of
the members must preserve and develop this charity." It is therefore a community of
disciples in continual formation so that they Inasmuch as they authentically interpret a
might grow together in Christ through a collective charism shared by all the members
communication and commitment which is of the community, superiors must be capable
always inspired by mutual charity.118 of letting themselves be helped and
enlightened by their council and the other
Service of Authority and Communion structures of participation or consultation. In
fact, all the members of an institute share the
59. The service of authority is fundamental to
responsibility of fulfilling the founding
the order of fraternal life. For this reason the
charism. This shared responsibility is
religious community or society of apostolic
expressed precisely through consultative or
life must be under the authority of a superior
participative bodies, which vary from one
whose primary task is to work to build a
institute to another, depending on their own
fraternal community in which God is sought
nature and purpose. The superior fulfills a
and loved above all other things.
ministry of sanctification on behalf of all the
It is necessary to reflect on what has been so members of the institute or community. Such
rightly stated in Mutuae Relationes,a a function is expressed in the growth of the
document which describes the functions of life of charity of individuals and community
religious superiors in analogy with the in the observance of the evangelical counsels
ministry of teaching, sanctifying and in accordance with the spirit of the institute.
governing proper to pastors and bishops in
Through the service of authority community
life is ordered to its own particular end and
Whoever presides over the community should charism. The role of authority is that of a sure
see himself first of all as a master of the spirit and authoritative guide, of inspiration and
who, exercising a function or ministry of encouragement so that an environment of
teaching, imparts true spiritual direction to the fraternal communion can be created, one
community and an authoritative teaching which can facilitate personal spiritual growth
exercised in Christ's name about the charism and the fulfillment of the apostolic mission,
of the institute. Superiors serve God in the without, however, declining the responsibility
measure in which they promote the to decide whenever necessary.119
authenticity of community life and serve their
In order for this threefold ministry of
brethren by helping them to fulfill their
teaching, sanctifying and governing to be
vocation in the truth.
exercised correctly, the administration of a
community should be both spiritual and
personal in nature so that a true spiritual There must be a growing awareness that the
relationship may be established among all its apostolic mission is given as a charism by
members. Christ, first and foremost, to the founder or
foundress. This is a collective charism passed
Life of Communion and Apostolate on to each member and to individual
communities only through the institute which
60. The charism of the apostolate is a
extends the charism in time. The individual
common patrimony. All members of an
mission comes from Christ but is part of the
institute or society participate in it by their
church's one hierarchical mission, in
vocation and, responding to the gift of
communion with the pope and the college of
consecration, are open to its sanctifying
bishops, and is mediated by the institute
activity. In this way, they form a community,
because it is a share in a common mission.
a group organized in common life and works,
Therefore, every member is personally
bearing public witness to divine charity in the
responsible for fulfilling this mission and
church and in the world. Here, there is a true
ought to live the specific mission he has
shared responsibility, even if lived according
received from the superiors as the mission of
to the various functions performed.
the whole institute. The mission given by the
Fraternal life in common cannot be separated superior in the name of the institute
from apostolic activity, otherwise a dangerous guarantees that the activity performed by the
separation would result. Apostolic activity is individual or a particular community is
essentially communal, even when it is consistent with the mission of the whole
performed by individual members. institute in communion with the universal and
particular church.
Christ is the origin of fraternal life in
community and of apostolic mission. Christ Participating in the Church's Mission
calls to himself those whom he chooses and
61. What makes the entire institute a true
invites them, as belonging to a particular
apostolic community is not the fact that it is
institute or society, to extend his mission in
spread throughout the whole world or the
the world under a particular aspect. Therefore,
juridical fact of the mutual and perpetual bond
the basis of their being gathered in a single
which binds all the members in one institute,
apostolic activity is their love for Christ, who
but the internal and more basic element of the
calls individuals and sends them on a
union of souls, that is, the fraternal
communal mission.
communion rooted in and founded on the
charity of Christ, who gathers the members
together and sends them forth. The life of promote each single member's exchange of
fraternal communion per se is not conferred ideas, sharing and cooperation in the
by simply being together and sharing in an apostolate, even in cases in which not all the
external organization of life. Rather it derives members of a community participate in the
from living one's entire life with reference to same apostolate.
the institute and in communion with the other
members, with whom one shares the same The community is not prior to the mission in

charism of mission. Thus, at the level of the that the former is not located in some sphere

local community it is not the physical fact of extraneous to the latter, rather it is achieved in
living under the same roof or the juridical and through the same apostolic activity.

element of an individual's being sent to a Mission is not only the consequence or fruit of

specific community which makes a group of an intense fraternal life in community, it is

persons an apostolic community, rather it is also the environment in which the unity of the

the charism-mission lived together in a members of the community is expressed and

particular apostolate. What unites the achieved.120

members of a community in an apostolic

Delving deeper into the mystery of the church,
fraternal life is the desire to fulfill the plan of
the Second Vatican Council presented the
the common mission.
nature of the church and her universal mission

Fidelity to the charism calls all the members as inextricably linked: "The church, in Christ,
of an apostolic community to work together is in the nature of sacrament-a sign and
for the same end and determines the way that instrument, that is, of communion with God

community life is organized. The common and of unity among all people."121 A good

apostolic project to be achieved is the main understanding of the church does not separate
point of reference for every individual her mystery from her mission. Mission is not

community and the way in which each an appendage, but an integral part of her most
member of it "creates community." intimate nature.122 Indeed, the church accepts
the gift of Trinitarian communion, incarnates
The convergence of all the members in a it and communicates it as the offering and gift
single apostolic endeavor is the expression of of salvation which she herself has received.
the union of souls in mutual charity and Thus, the church is the "universal sacrament
therefore of the love of Christ. However, as a of salvation."123 Her sacramental structure, the
sign of its authenticity and a support in its elements incorporated in her and the vocations
expression, this convergence needs a whole and charisms which enrich her must be
range of communal forms and activities which understood in the light of mission. The
essence of her mission, in continuation of the The unity of consecration and mission is
mission of the incarnate Word and of the founded on the theology of creation and
Spirit, is to manifest God's saving love, a gift incarnation, and has its unity in Christ, the
given in mystery. Thus mission is not to be Word of God who became man and came to
confused with its various expressions, dwell among us. As God's gift to the church
expressions determined by the communication and the world, it jointly manifests a prophetic
of the life-giving love of God in the diverse witness to the kingdom and its eschatological
ministries and activities of the apostolate. dimension. Consecrated persons are called to
an ever fuller and more mature integration of
In essence mission is not the church's own. It the various aspects of their life. Indeed, they
proceeds from God and is oriented toward must feel that they are in a relationship with
him. It finds its ultimate purpose, nature and the world and yet separated from it, and called
manifold richness in the mystery of the to work in the world but like the leaven as
Trinity. It is essential for mission to make mentioned in the Gospel. In this way, not only
visible the mystery of love which is the life of can they offer the loving service of their life
the Trinity. in Christ's name, but they can also propose a
renewed vision of the true meaning and value
Unity of Consecration and Mission
of earthly things and a clear understanding of
62. Mission is in itself more than an activity the necessary interdependence among people,
or apostolate. As Christ was consecrated and the basis of every community and society.
sent into the world (cf. Jn. 10:36), making his
Whoever is called by Christ to be a disciple
whole life a salvific mission, in a similar
should feel fully engaged in his mission as an
manner consecrated persons, called to
apostle. Those who choose to spend their
reproduce in themselves the image of the
whole life in communicating the Gospel
firstborn Son (cf. Rom. 8:29) through the
manifest the supreme value of love.
action of the Spirit, must make their whole
life a mission.
Unity and Variety of Mission

The mission of consecrated life in the church 63. The apostolate of consecrated persons
takes its initiative from its experience of God consists first and foremost in the witness of
which is open to all dimensions of life: to their life.124 This holds true also for societies
prayer, to the witness of fraternal life, to the of apostolic life and members of secular
courageous proclamation of the Gospel, to institutes. In religious institutes such witness
commitment to justice and human
is public and explicit, as well as personal and proclamation of the Gospel. Today's situations
communal. have created new opportunities and new
"aeropauses" for the mission of the
In institutes wholly dedicated to consecrated life in the present and in the near
contemplation, the contemplative life itself is future, as will be more explicit in the fourth
the mission. Their mission is also the witness part of the instrumentum laboris.
and outreach with which they live a prayerful
communion with the Father through the Spirit, A Prophetic and Transcendent Sign
as Christ did during his earthly life. They
express the attitude of the virgin mother, who 64. The mission of the consecrated life has a

in her heart pondered the words of her Son special prophetic role in the midst of the
(cf. Lk. 2:19, 51).125 people of God, which is prophetic by its very
nature. First of all, consecration itself is
In institutes dedicated to apostolic works, already a prophecy in virtue of the fact that it
mission belongs to its very nature. Avoiding bears witness to Gospel values, which
every idea of a dichotomy, their members are frequently are countercultural in a society
called to live the unity of experiencing Jesus marked by secularism. Such values are a
in communion with the Father and in prophetic rejection of the idols which this
dedication to others in such a way that all world is always tempted to adore. Moreover,
their activity is imbued with a religious it is always destined to evoke questions in
spirit.126 Societies of apostolic life and those who are pursuing purely earthly goals.
missionary institutes highlight the church's Therefore, when it is lived fully and in joyful
missionary outreach and represent Jesus thanksgiving, the consecrated life is a
traveling to various places to preach the prophecy pointing to ultimate realities, the
Gospel.127Secular institutes live mission in definitive goal of every created thing and the
secular situations and make Jesus visibly alive final destiny of every event of human history,
in the midst of people, working in the world the earth and the universe. This prophecy is
through the evangelical charisms.128 needed more than ever in an era like our own,
marked by a lack of clarity about various
Great opportunities for the church's mission human longings. Therefore, the consecrated
are opening up today such as: involvement in life is considered "a very clear symbol of the
new cultural situations; the explosion of heavenly kingdom."129
poverty; the fall of messianic ideologies; a
new hunger for the transcendent; and the The consecrated life is a prophetic sign when
opening up of new horizons for the it makes the primacy of God's love present
and visible. It witnesses to that presence chose for himself and which his virgin mother
through the particular charism of the embraced,"131 together with Joseph, who is
individual institutes, lived in service of the also a particular master for those called to the
poor and abandoned, of the victims of contemplative life or the apostolate.132
violence and injustice, and of the new poor
who make society's panorama a sad one. This Through her unconditional response to the

service is done in imitation of the founder's divine call and her interior consecration

compassion and mercy, and with a sensitivity through the Holy Spirit she is the model of

for human rights and the just cause of human vocation and of total self-giving to God. She
advancement. lived virginity for the sake of the kingdom,
humility, evangelical poverty and a total
A courageous prophetic effort, undertaken for obedience to God's plan. She is the first
the future of humanity and to assure God's disciple and the incomparable example of
presence in the future, is also expected from following Christ, the Lord. Through her total
the synod so that hope for the future of the dedication to the mystery and mission of her
consecrated life can be better developed in Son, she shines as a model of apostolic and
light of an authentic Christian service of the ecclesial service. In her life, which is "a
whole human person and all of humanity, the model for all,"133 the charisms of the
intended recipients of the salvation brought by consecrated life are reflected as in a mirror.
Jesus Christ. Both in the solitude of monasteries and in the
midst of the events of the world and society,
In Communion With the Virgin Mary she is the model of spouse and virgin-
especially for consecrated women-in her
65. Many responses emphasize the need to
dedication to contemplation and self-sacrifice
present the Virgin Mary in the consecrated
for the apostolate.
life as the model and mother of Jesus'
disciples. Mary is the model of the response to Many institutes have an explicit reference to
the divine call and of the basic character of the mother of God in their names. However,
following Christ. She is the person all institutes, guided by their founders,
consecrated by the power of the Holy Spirit. spontaneously recognize Mary's motherly
Her life is total adherence to the mission of presence as a bond of communion within their
Christ and the church.130 own institutes and, either explicitly or
implicitly, see in their own style of life and
In the church, under the action of the Holy
apostolate a special dimension of the life and
Spirit, consecrated persons choose "that kind
mystery of Mary. Indeed, she is the ark of the
of poor and virginal life which Christ the Lord
new covenant; the handmaid of the Lord in III. CONSECRATED LIFE IN
the poverty of the anawim; the mother of fair ECCLESIAL COMMUNION
love from Bethlehem to Calvary and beyond;
the obedient virgin whose yes to the Lord 1. Ecclesiology of Communion
changed our history; the contemplative
The Church as Communion
woman who treasured everything in her heart;
the missionary who hastened to visit 66. On the basis of the teaching of Vatican II,
Elizabeth; the only person attentive to the the 1985 extraordinary assembly of the Synod
needs at Cana; the steadfast witness at the foot of Bishops affirmed that the ecclesiology of
of the cross; and the center of unity which communion is the foundation of the church's
sustained the young church gathered to await ordering and of a proper relationship between
the Holy Spirit. As mother of the consecrated unity and pluriformity in her.135 This has also
one and of the one sent by the Father, by been confirmed by other documents136and is
her fiat and her magnificat, Mary teaches in conformity with the nature of the church
everyone to abandon themselves to God, and the sensus fidei.
joyfully to proclaim God's praise and to
become involved with God in salvation In baptism a person is constituted a child of
history, especially on behalf of the poor and the Father through the power of the one Spirit,
lowly.134 in the only begotten Son. In participating in
the body and blood of the Lord, one enters
Genuine Marian spirituality in the consecrated into a deep union with all the other faithful,
life is nourished through a knowledge of who together form in him one body, the
Mariology and through the promotion of church.137 The church is a communion
liturgical worship and popular devotion. because, as the work of the three divine
However, it is fostered primarily through a persons, she is "a people brought into unity
Marian lifestyle and apostolate, one which from the unity of the Father, the Son and the
helps manifest in the world the mystery of Holy Spirit.138
Trinitarian love, in communion with the holy
mother of the Lord and open to all the needs By sharing through baptism in the priestly,
of the world, especially to the needs of those prophetic and kingly office of Christ, there is
who are the most poor and needy in body and a true equality in dignity and in action in that
spirit. everyone, called to holiness in the exercise of
charity, works together in building up the
body of Christ and discharges the mission
which God has entrusted to the church to
accomplish in the world. The church is obligations and enjoy the same rights.143 The
constituted as the communion of saints in that life of the church as a communion of charisms
all the faithful, sharing in the same goods of is not broken down in a polarization between
salvation (the "holy things"), are made holy in the order of sacred ministers and the lay order,
the bond of charity and in union of but is rather shown to have a greater richness
prayer.139 However, every believer concretely and expression. The fundamental structure of
fulfills his vocation to holiness by building up the church, in fact, is sacramental,
the body of Christ in his own way according institutional and charismatic. In her the
to the gifts received from the Spirit and ordered groups, roles, ministries and forms of
according to the ministries and services he is stable life, raised up by the gifts of the Spirit,
called to perform in the church. This in turn are organically constituted. The organic
actualizes a communion of charisms and communion, animated by charity through a
ministries.140 Equality is thus enriched by a correlation to the mystery of the incarnate
pluriform diversity. Word and the mystery of the church, requires
a juridical form through which the charisms,
Sacramental, Hierarchical and Charismatic which have a particular relevance for the life
Communion of the church, are assumed in the
67. The church as a body (cf. Rom. 12:4-5; 1
Cor. 12:12ff.; Eph. 4:4) shows how her We can identify three categories or general
members are both unified and diverse at one orders of persons making up the church: the
and the same time. The church is a laity, sacred ministers and those who profess
communion founded on her sacraments, the evangelical counsels in a canonically
ministries and charisms. There are different recognized stable form of life.145 These
gifts of the Spirit and therefore diverse ordered groups of persons are complementary
ministries and functions of the church's to one another in that, having their origin in
members; however, all are unified by the the action of the Spirit, they are truly all
action of the one Spirit.141 ordered to mutual sanctification and the one
communion and mission of the same body.146
The universal church-and her image, the
particular church142-is composed of various Consecration through the profession of the
ordered groups of persons. Each of these evangelical counsels as a stable form of life
groups includes those who have received the essentially concerns the mystery of the
same gift of the Spirit, perform the same church, which otherwise would not be fully
ministry or functions, are bound by the same manifested and realized.147 As such it is an
intrinsic part of the church's nature, even if, demands a visible form rendered ever alive by
with time, its various institutional forms may charity.
change and eventually disappear.
Charity is the determining basic principle of
Nevertheless, it should be taken into all social relations in the church. As a gift of
consideration that part of the apostolic the Spirit it is the bond of communion among
charism of holy orders includes having in that all the baptized-regardless of their category
sacramental and institutional structure- and order-at both the universal and particular
especially at the level of the supreme levels. Every relation between the members,
pontificate and episcopate-a pre-eminent and whether individuals or in groups, demands the
specific role with regard to all the other exercise of charity, the fruit of the Spirit who
charisms.148 Therefore, ecclesiastical authority dispenses various gifts. Given the church's
in the role of sanctifying, teaching and nature, however, wherever there is no
governing discerns and regulates the use of all subordination in hierarchical communion
the charisms in order to maintain the unity of charity is not perfect, and therefore Christ is
the whole communion.149 In fidelity to the not fully present and acting, nor is church
Spirit this service must be performed at the communion totally realized or manifested.
universal and particular level with respect for
the specific nature of each charism and role, Charity is the principle which inspires the

and with the purpose of fostering the specific relationship of institutes of consecrated life
nature of each charism and function.150 with the pope, the bishops and the other
members of the people of God so that their
The analogy between the mystery of the harmony may express what the church is: the
incarnate Word and that of the church is the communion, in the Son, of the children of the
essence of the ecclesiology of Vatican II. The one Father, through the work of the Spirit.
church is a mystery of communion. By her
very nature, however, she is not only spiritual Common Call to Holiness and Mission
and invisible (since she is born of the Spirit)
68. By virtue of the regenerating grace of
but also a visible hierarchy, in virtue of
baptism and the anointing of the Spirit, all the
incarnate Christ, the head. In the light of
members of the church are Christ's
such a view of the church it should be seen
faithful, Christifideles. This is the basis of the
that, because of the church's very nature, the
common vocation and dignity of all Christians
bond of communion cannot be limited to the
which also belongs to members of institutes of
realm of the invisible and spiritual, but
consecrated life and societies of apostolic
life.152 In fact, through baptism they are sons
and daughters of the Father in Christ. They Thus, they participate in the common vocation
are disciples who assent in faith to the love of of all the baptized and confirmed, and
their Lord and master. They are living temples manifest the wealth of the mystery of Christ
of the Spirit and living members of the body and of the church. However, many responses
of Christ, called to mission and destined to insist that the state of consecrated life is not "a
glory. kind of middle way between the clerical and
lay conditions of life ... (but) a form of life to
By their vocation, consecration and specific which some Christians (Christifideles), both
mission in the consecrated life, rooted in clerical and lay, are called by God so that they
baptism and confirmation and celebrated and may enjoy a special gift of grace in the life of
nourished in the eucharist, they are called to the church and may contribute, each in his
express their belonging to Christ in a specific own way, to the saving mission of the
dynamism and in communion with the other church."153 Therefore, there must be a more
faithful. Children of God, they have given detailed explanation of the diversity of
themselves to him in imitation of the attitude vocations within the consecrated life.
of the chaste, poor and obedient Son of the
virgin mother. Both women and men disciples Consecrated "Christifideles "
have taken the imitation of Christ according to
the counsels and made it the form of their 69. "All members of the church are sharers in

adherence to Christ as the absolute Lord and (her) secular dimension but in different
master of their existence, pouring themselves ways."154 In its initial historical expressions
out for his service. Consecrated by the Spirit the religious life was predominantly lay, not

through the church, they have received a gift clerical. Today to a large extent, members of

which enables them to fulfill the demands of institutes of religious life and societies of
imitating Christ and of mission. Sharing in a apostolic life-men and women-are consecrated

charism, they are called to express in their life laity, although they are not "laity" according

a specific aspect of the mystery of Christ and to the nature proper to those who live in the

of the church. Called to mission, they must world.155 Because of their consecration, their
dedicate themselves totally to it by their life lay dimension, as a presence in the world and
and apostolate. Destined to glory, they must engagement in temporal realities, is limited in

bear witness by their life to heavenly things, comparison to that of other laity. It is

to the future resurrection and the glory of the expressed, however, according to the nature,
heavenly kingdom. charism and characteristic of their own
institute, in the kind of life they live, and their
apostolate in the church and society.
Consecrated women and lay brothers something univocal, but extremely rich and
belonging to congregations of apostolic life expressive.
can perform through their distinctive mission
a special work in renewing the world Priests "who belong to religious orders and

according to the spirit of the Beatitudes. There congregations represent a spiritual enrichment

are also other categories of persons such as for the entire diocesan presbyterate to which

consecrated virgins who seek to live their they contribute specific charisms and special
special consecration in the world. ministries."156 The same thing can be said of
clerical members of secular
The lay members of secular institutes, who institutes.157 Religious elevated to the
maintain their secular condition in their life, episcopate continue to be members of their
mission and role as leaven in society with the institute.158 The harmonious blend of the two
newness of the Gospel, unite their aspects of the one personal vocation, that is,
consecration with their lay dimension. the sacramental and charismatic grace of the
consecrated life, can bear abundant fruits in
Consecrated Clerical "Christifideles" holiness and in the apostolate to the degree in
which religious priests have a clear
70. Among consecrated persons there are also
understanding of the nature of their ecclesial
those who by vocation and mission are clerics.
ministry, draw inspiration and strength for
The blending of these two aspects of the one
their spiritual life from the fonts of their own
divine call has been documented since the
institute, live according to their own style of
beginning of the consecrated life. The
life and are available for an apostolic outreach
vocation to the diaconate or priesthood within
in the universal and particular church.159 This
an institute of consecrated life or society of
is also true of hermits and contemplative
apostolic life brings out, according to the
monks who combine the diaconate or
special character of the charism proper to it,
priesthood with their specific consecration.
the way in which the ordained minister,
although responding to this sacramental
Sharing in the Priestly, Prophetic and
reality in the church, can live with an
Kingly Office
apostolic missionary spirituality and activity,
which in its variety reflects the richness of 71. By their dignity
Christ's priesthood, and through the action of as Christifideles consecrated persons-women
the Spirit makes the vocation and pastoral and men alike- share in Christ's priestly,
activity of the ministers of the Lord not prophetic and kingly office and express it in
the specific manner of their vocation and Prophetic office
In communion with the other members of the
This doctrine, so important for understanding people of God, consecrated persons share in
the Christian vocation in communion with the prophetic office of Christ through their
Christ and in his service, was emphasized by witness to the Gospel. The prophecy of the
Vatican II for all the baptized,160 and is consecrated life is a sign for the church and
frequently used to refer to the laity.161 It the world. By the profession of chastity they
should also be remembered, however-as many anticipate in their flesh the new world of the
responses indicate-that this also holds true for resurrection (cf. Mt. 22:30). By their practice
the consecrated life. of poverty they manifest the supreme value of
the kingdom of God over all human and
Priestly and cultic dimension earthly goods (cf. Mt. 6:19-21, 24). By their
sharing of goods they proclaim the universal
In their life, religious and other members of
destination of everything to the glory of God
institutes of consecrated life exercise a
and for the good of all, and they attest to the
priesthood and a spiritual worship in virtue of
value of work when it is performed in
their profession of the evangelical counsels.
freedom of spirit. Adhering to God's will in
Living according to Christ's example, they
obedience, they proclaim the kingly way of
make their life an offering, a sacrifice pleasing
submission to the heavenly Father's loving
to God, made holy in the Spirit (cf. Rom.
plan. By their life and words they are an
12:1); by the offering of their own body and
invitation-and sometimes a provocation-for
their total dedication to God with an
everyone, faithful and pastors alike, to serve
undivided heart in chastity (cf. 1 Cor. 7:32-
the Lord purely and freely in fidelity to the
34); by their choice of the poverty of Christ
covenant of love. They propose anew the
which sets them free from idolatry to serve
value and the memory of God's original plan
God (cf. Mt. 6:24) and open to the needs of
which sin has obscured and are a sign of the
their brothers and sisters; by their gift of self
yearning with which all humanity awaits the
through obedience, in communion with Christ
total revelation of the glory of the children of
in order to do the Father's will in everything,
God (cf. Rom. 8:19-21).
they are a pleasing and acceptable sacrifice
for the salvation of the world. In communion
with Christ the consecrated life is eucharistic
and cultic.
Kingly witness communion, consideration should also be
given to the many institutes and societies that
Consecrated persons are called to proclaim express the consecrated life and apostolic life,
Christ's kingly office which makes them free, with which the Holy Spirit enriches the
sound and open to universal communion for mystical body of Christ. Although these do
the sake of building the kingdom. This comes not belong to the hierarchical structure of the
about on the kingly road of charity; with church, they belong to her life and holiness.
hearts open to love of God and neighbor in Given their supradiocesan character, rooted in
chastity; by their joyful experience of poverty the Petrine ministry, all these ecclesial
which in this world already reaps the realities are also elements at the service of
hundredfold benefits in personal and communion among the various particular
communal life (cf. Mt. 19:29) promised to churches."163
those who seek the kingdom; and through
their freedom strengthened by obedience, The institutes of consecrated life, regardless
which permits them in imitation of Christ to of their nature and end, tend to spread
dedicate themselves entirely to the Father's throughout the whole church very quickly,
affairs. In this manner of life is rooted the bringing to the various particular churches
glory and the gift of service, because to serve where they are established a note of
is to reign: "This gift finds its total fulfillment universality, in virtue of their close bond with
in the unreserved self-giving of the whole the ministry of the successor of St. Peter. Such
human person, in a spirit of conjugal love for a note is not simply a geographical, ethnic or
Christ and, with Christ, to all those-women cultural reality. As a manifestation of the
and men-who are totally consecrated to him mystery of the church, it is a theological
according to the evangelical counsels."162 reality. Universality is not identified with a
geographic union of nations and cultural or
2. Communion in the Universal Church ethnic pluralism, rather it is strictly related to
and in the Local Churches the church's mark of catholicity, for which
reason it is the universal sacrament of
Consecrated Life in the Universal Church
72. The importance of the universal
By their nature and by their feature of
dimension of the consecrated life in the
universality, institutes of consecrated life and
ecclesiology of communion and its basis in its
societies of apostolic life are dedicated in a
relationship to the Petrine ministry was
special way to the service of God and the
recently emphasized by the Holy See: "In the
whole church. The supreme pontiff is the
context of the church understood as
highest superior of all consecrated persons, as well as to its individual members because
who each owe him obedience because of the they go against the Gospel witness which they
sacred bond of obedience.164 From this are to give within the people of God, a witness
derives the fact that all institutes are by a essential to the consecrated life as such.
particular title subject to the supreme
authority of the church, that is, the Roman The "prophetic" role of the consecrated

pontiff with the organisms of the Roman persons cannot be construed-as sometimes
Curia and the college of bishops.165 claimed-to be in opposition to the pope and
the bishops. Instead, it is a sincere witness to
This bond with the Roman pontiff must not be Gospel values and includes a submission in
seen as limiting the proper autonomy of faith and love to those whom the Holy Spirit
institutes of consecrated life,166 but rather as a has placed as leaders of the people of God.
safeguard in that it is a guarantee of their The difficulties which sometimes arise must
universality and the special nature of their be overcome by searching together for all
charism. means to help bring about a sincere dialogue
in charity, a charity which always looks to the
It is vital for the institutes to be faithful to the good of the church.
teaching and directions which the Roman
pontiff, united with all the bishops, gives to In the Particular Churches
the church. Since consecrated persons are to
be a positive resource of evangelization within 73. The particular churches are an image of

the church, they cannot fail to communicate the universal church167 in that all the essential
and witness to the authentic teaching of the elements of the church are found in them.

magisterium. To do otherwise would be a loss Likewise found there are the differentiations

of the institute's identity and role in the of Christ's faithful into various ordered groups

church. For this reason, superiors have the according to the variety of their charisms,
duty of intervening when members of their ministries and services. By achieving unity in
institute are lacking in such a fidelity. diversity the particular church realizes the
church as an organic communion in which the
Such a bond of communion is expressed in a Spirit is like the soul of the body, with Christ
mature and supernatural love for the supreme as its head.168 The bond of communion, then,
pontiff and his magisterium. The rejection of is charity which translates into an appreciation
ecclesiastical discipline and dissent from of diversity and an active mutual respect for
statements of the magisterium in matters of the sake of achieving the common good.
faith and morals are damaging to the institute
The various forms of consecrated life as a been achieved wherever the guidelines
constitutive element of the particular church of Mutuae Relationes and the canonical norms
are born and flourish there, bringing their own have been applied well.
charismatic wealth and their feature of
universality. In a special way the vocation Consecrated persons on their part are

which looks to the universal church, becoming more aware of the duty to be

incumbent on the members of the institutes of promotes of communion170 in the particular

consecrated life, is realized within the church through the meaning of their

structures of the particular churches, thus consecration in the church and their witness to
contributing to their spiritual upbuilding and the universality of the Gospel message, which

to the unity of the universal church: "Your goes beyond differences of any kind based on

vocation for the universal church is realized race, culture, tribe, etc. and through their

within the structures of the local church.... solidarity and availability to all, especially to

Your unity with the universal church through the very poor. In such a manner they create
the local church: This is your path."169 bonds between the church and those
marginalized groups which frequently are not
Postconciliar ecclesiological reflection has reached by ordinary pastoral activity.
brought about a renewed awareness that all
the components of the ecclesial fabric are A Dynamic Communion
called to work together to build up the one
74. Despite these positive aspects there are
body of Christ. On the one hand, the members
also difficulties in relationships between the
of institutes of consecrated life, in conformity
various components of the church which
with their own charism, have been led to give
should be taken into consideration.
greater value to the particular church, seeking
their own manner of active presence in it. On While one hopes for the full awareness and
the other hand, the bishops, with due respect appreciation of the consecrated life in the
for the proper autonomy of life and church, there is a need for institutes to
government of the institutes, have often made overcome a sense of self-sufficiency and
an effort for greater joint planning. overattachment to their works so as to foster
relationships of trust and cooperation.
From the responses it is seen that generally
there is a sincere desire to build authentic Some responses point to reasons for the
relationships of communion and collaboration difficulties and misunderstandings. They find
among bishops, institutes of consecrated life, it hard to recognize the charismatic reality of
secular clergy and laity. Positive results have the consecrated life and its place in the church
as an organic and universal communion, church, as a representative of Christ the head.
inspired by the charity and transcending the The bishop, for his part, must recognize and
limits of diocesan or parish organizations. appreciate the consecrated life for what it is in
the church and for all the service it offers
True collaboration is born in the local church from the pastoral point of view.171 Thus, the
when persons develop an interest in the particular church will be built up according to
spirituality and charism of the various forms her nature as a true organic communion.
of consecrated life found there and when these
forms of consecrated life in turn become In the church entrusted to him the bishop is
sensitive to the spiritual climate, history and the visible principle and foundation of
pastoral needs of the particular church where unity172 in faith, in charity and in the
they find themselves. apostolate because of the excellence of the
gift of the Spirit he has received.173 It is
Members of the institutes have a serious precisely the bishop's ministry to be the
responsibility not to disappoint the legitimate perfecter and guide of the people of God.
expectations of the bishops, clergy and laity Living pastoral charity, the bishop must be the
regarding the following: a clear fidelity to the teacher, promoter and example of Christian
obligations deriving from their consecration perfection for the laity, the priests-his co-
through the profession of the evangelical workers- and those persons who are
counsels; a witness of fraternal communion in consecrated through the profession of the
community; total witness of communion of evangelical counsels, each according to his or
mind and heart with the pope and the bishops her vocation.174In order to perform such a task
in all that concerns the magisterium and he is given the ordinary power of government,
discipline; and a ready willingness, in proper and immediate,175 which he exercises
conformity with their own charism, their own directly over all the faithful of every category
end and the necessary autonomy of life and in his church, with due regard for the proper
government, to commit themselves to the autonomy of the institutes of consecrated life.
pastoral needs of the particular church in a 176
spirit of sincere cooperation with the local
clergy and laity. Since the bishop is responsible for the
spiritual, liturgical, catechetical, pastoral and
Bishops and the Consecrated Life charitable life of the diocese, it is his task to
discern the authenticity of the various
75. With regard to the various forms of the
charisms present in his church and protect
consecrated life, it is fundamental to consider
them in the various services performed for the
the role of the bishop, pastor of the particular
good of all."177 Therefore, the exercise of his Members of institutes are also subject to their
ministry is performed according to the own superiors.180 In order to avoid tensions in
principles of the unity of faith and a "duplication" of government, everything
government, of the division of apostolic tasks must be clearly regulated through conventions
and offices, and of sincere mutual aid and and accords between the moderators of the
complementarity.178 institutes and the bishops.181 Indeed, clerical
religious are obliged to maintain their fidelity
Organic Communion to the promise of reverence and obedience
made in their diaconal and priestly ordination
76. The relations between the bishops and the
to the diocesan bishop and the legitimate
faithful consecrated through the profession of
the evangelical counsels-particularly in the
institutes-ought to be based on some All this, however, would remain empty and
fundamental principles with very concrete ineffective in building ecclesial communion in
applications if these relations are to be an organic manner if it were not animated by
constructive in ecclesial communion. charity, which effectively is manifest in
respect and mutual appreciation, according to
First of all, the members of institutes. In virtue
each one's proper nature and function in the
of their consecration and role in the church the
church. Indeed, in order to be constructive the
members of institutes should have sincere
observance of laws must come from the inner
respect-even more than the others of Christ's
demand of charity.
faithful-for the authority of the diocesan
bishop in all that concerns his pastoral Adequate Apostolic Presence
government, that is, the public exercise of
divine worship, the care of souls, preaching, 77. Precisely because both bishops and
religious and moral education, catechetical persons consecrated through the profession of
instruction and liturgical formation, and the the evangelical counsels are inspired by the
various apostolic and charitable activities. charity of Christ and seek the good of the
church, relations between them ought to be
The bishop for his part should recognize the marked by an open dialogue, true respect,
charismatic identity of every form of sincere trust and active collaboration.
consecrated life, with the understanding that However-as the responses affirm-difficulties
the engagement of individual or collective can arise from tensions between the demand
forms of the consecrated life in his diocese of fidelity to the charism proper to the various
can be pastorally fruitful only if their special forms of consecration, especially the type
character is accepted.
which is realized in institutes or societies, and to the members of the institute but also to the
the pastoral needs of the particular church, church.
which are sometimes so impelling.
Coordination is certainly necessary among the
In becoming actively part of a diocese with its apostolic activities of the various institutes as
own apostolic activity, an institute or society well as collaboration between them and the
will have the task of harmonizing with local diocesan clergy under the guidance of the
pastoral needs the fundamental demand of bishop, the pastor of the particular church in
fidelity to its own mission and works. This which the institutes are active. However, this
often requires prudent appropriate adaptation is always to be done-and this holds for
of its means. An institute or society is not, institutes dedicated entirely to the apostolate-
however, to take on works or activities which so as to preserve the nature, end and basic
might not correspond to its proper founding laws of each institute.187 Pastoral activity must
charism.183 neither extinguish charisms nor homogenize
their differences. Instead it should value the
It is therefore necessary for the institutes of charisms of spirituality and apostolate which
women or men to be given works or tasks the Spirit has given to the church.188
which correspond to their proper end. Indeed,
all the apostolic institutes must faithfully On the diocesan, national and universal level
fulfill those spiritual and corporal works of the promotion of the specific apostolate of the
mercy by which they participate in the institutes through the expertise of the
church's pastoral role.184 The institutes which consecrated persons is the source of apostolic
by their rule closely join the apostolic life to dynamism for the church in the biblical,
the choral recitation of the office and liturgical, dogmatic, pastoral, ecumenical,
monastic observance are to adapt their manner missionary and social fields.189
of living to the demands of their apostolate,
but in such a way that they can faithfully Sometimes problems arise when parishes are

preserve their style of life, which is also a entrusted to religious priests or members of

great advantage to the church.185 It is societies of apostolic life. In fact, they can feel

impossible to imagine adapting the that their pastoral effectiveness and identity
constitutions in a manner not in are somewhat hampered if their presence in

correspondence with the founding charism of the parish is considered as something

the institute,186 since that would cause it to supplementary and not a pastoral application
lose its identity and thus bring harm not only of their apostolic charism. Furthermore, it
should be kept in mind that the religious
destined for parish ministry, if such a ministry No matter how urgent the needs of the
does not correspond to the purpose of their apostolate may be, institutes totally dedicated
institute, can fall prey to a certain to contemplation cannot be called by the
individualism and thus experience later diocesan bishop to work in the various
difficulty in being integrated in other pastoral ministries; that would signal their
communities.190 ruin. However, through their spiritual witness
they should be actively part of the diocesan
The responses indicate that frequently the family and not be isolated from
bishops and faithful lament the frequency of it.193 Hermits194 and consecrated
transfers of religious in parishes, since virgins195 have their own special apostolic
pastoral care requires continuity and a rather nature.
lengthy stay. This, however, could create
difficulties for the apostolic dynamism of the With a firm adherence to their mission and
institutes, which must rise above the fixed apostolic activity, the members of institutes of
nature of the parish structures. consecrated life are engaged in the life of the
particular church with a spirit of service, in
A Specific Contribution to The Mission of accord with the guidelines of Mutuae
the Particular Church Relationes and the canonical norms. In this
regard attention should be given to preserving
78. In this context even greater consideration
the distinction between the works belonging
must be given to the specific nature of
to the institute and those entrusted to them by
monastic institutes and those totally dedicated
the diocesan bishop.
to contemplation. It is the former's duty to
preserve the authentic spirit of the monastic As regards justice, agreements should
life which is expressed, either in dedication to precisely state everything concerning the
divine worship through a hidden life or by hiring of persons and the economic
assuming the legitimate task of the apostolate aspect,196 keeping in mind that a too frequent
or Christian charity, but within the walls of change of personnel limits the effectiveness of
the monastery. It would be a betrayal of the pastoral activities.
nature of the monastic institute if works were
undertaken, such as the care of parishes, The bishop is asked to engage consecrated
which would inhibit the observance proper to persons fully in the apostolic activity of his
the monastic life even though these works diocese according to the charism of each
might be necessary for the pastoral life of the institute. This allows the particular church,
diocese.192 which ensures the concreteness and unity of
the apostolic mission, to offer a pluriform and In the pastoral activity of a diocese, non-
harmonious response to the demands made by parish churches-chapels, shrines, etc.-cared
contemporary society. This also fosters for by religious institutes or societies of
integration of the various institutes and apostolic life must be considered as
collaboration among them. complementary forms of presence and
apostolate, and be conducted in harmony, yet
Mutual knowledge and dialogue are in a different manner, from the pastoral
recommended in resolving difficulties in activity of local parishes in the upbuilding of
relationships, as are the establishment of the one church.
offices for coordination and mixed
commissions or committees for the Greater development is needed for those
consecrated life. A specific role is performed means which promote knowledge, mutual
by the episcopal vicar for the consecrated life, appreciation and collaboration.
a person with expertise and training in this
field. Above all, seminaries ought to offer a
theological formation on the consecrated life
In Communion With the Diocesan Clergy and every institute of consecrated life to offer
a doctrinal study of the particular church and
79. The reality of the church as an organic the priestly ministry in the diocese.197 From
communion must have a practical application the practical point of view, there should be
in the various areas of the pastoral life of the coordination among various activities in the
particular church. field of charity, education and health care
sponsored and managed by the institutes of
Taking into consideration the special
consecrated life and those of the diocese or
character of secular institutes in what
parish. The role of the Catholic school in the
concerns the relationship of the institutes of
diocesan and parish apostolate should be
consecrated life and societies of apostolic life
better defined and more greatly appreciated.
with the diocesan clergy, the church can draw
great benefit from the development of a On the basis of their participation in the one
reciprocal appreciation among the various ministerial priesthood, religious priests and
charisms, overcoming every form of those belonging to societies of apostolic life,
clericalism, which would lead to a mere although they are not incardinated in a
marginal engagement-especially in parishes- particular church and are subject to their
of the lay members of institutes and societies. legitimate superiors, fully belong to the
presbyterate to which they contribute the
richness of their own charism and pastoral different ways."200 This is what lay people
methods.198 For their part, religious give to recall for all the faithful through the specific
pastoral concern their witness to the nature of their charism, including those in the
eschatological yearning of the pilgrim church church who profess the evangelical counsels.
moving ahead in faith and hope. Belonging to
the presbyterate places them in close Furthermore the laity, when they perform

communion with the bishop and all the other ministries and services within ecclesial

priests, a communion which has practical institutions according to the variety of the
applications. charisms received, bring to these church
institutions their secular dimension of
In Communion With the Laity involvement in temporal affairs and thus
provide an assistance to consecrated persons
80. Experiencing the church as an organic in their spiritual and pastoral development.201
communion through a complementarity of the
gifts of the Spirit in the light of the mystery of Consecrated persons are united more
the call to holiness of all those reborn in profoundly to Christ in the paschal mystery of
Christ in virtue of baptism has generally led to his death and resurrection, profess the
constructive collaboration between the lay evangelical counsels and offer their whole
faithful and the faithful consecrated through being to God. In this way they remind all the
the profession of the evangelical counsels. faithful-but especially the laity-that this world
can be transformed only through the spirit of
This has also led to a new appreciation of the Beatitudes.202
secular reality as a theological place in which
the laity are engaged in their own special-but In fact the laity expect religious and
not exclusive-way of dealing with temporal consecrated seculars, each according to their
affairs and ordering them according to God by specific nature, to offer an authentic witness
their activity, especially by the Christian of the loving choices they have made in life,
witness of their life. that is, the choice of God as the only absolute,
evangelical simplicity of life, sincere
The entire church "has an authentic secular communion with the church and joyful
dimension, inherent in her inner nature and fraternal service in every field. When the laity
mission, which is deeply rooted in the mystery discover the spiritual source of consecration
of the Word incarnate and which is realized in through the profession of the evangelical
different forms through her members," counsels, it so happens that the laity often ask
whereby "all the members of the church are
sharers in this secular dimension but in
those in the consecrated life for assistance in ecclesial vocations. It should also be founded
prayer and the spiritual life. on a proper ecclesial identity flowing from
membership in one's institute and be open to
So that collaboration might be ever more communion and collaboration as well as alien
fruitful, there must be above all a respect for to every overlapping of authority.203
the dignity of every baptized person and for
the Christian's specific vocation and role in Proper Autonomy of Institutes In Ecclesial
the church. Equally necessary in this regard is Life
a respect for the expertise of the laity in their
field and for the special nature of the life of 81. Since the consecrated life constitutes part

the consecrated persons, especially of of the charismatic and institutional reality of

religious. the church, each institute enjoys a particular
gift of the Holy Spirit. The church recognizes
To achieve such a purpose committees or for each institute a just autonomy of life and
councils could be established in various places especially of government, by means of which
and in various areas of pastoral activity. each can have its own discipline and preserve
intact the legacy flowing from its charism,
The responses mention that in these days that is, its own nature, purpose, spirit and
individual members of the laity or lay groups character.204 Ordinaries in the various places
are expressing the desire to share in the where institutes are found have the task to
spirituality and mission of the institutes of preserve and safeguard that
consecrated life in a complementarity of autonomy,205 which in turn is sustained within
vocations. These institutes are actively the institute by the administrative power
involved in searching for programs of which chapters and moderators of institutes
formation and structural forms to receive from God through the ministry of the
accommodate this participation and church.206The authority of chapters and
collaboration. superiors comes from the Spirit, in
communion with the ecclesiastical hierarchy
The responses often ask about the
which erected and approved the institute.207
membership of individual consecrated persons
in ecclesial movements. Although on the one Autonomy is an innate right of the institute
hand this does have advantages, especially for insofar as it is an element of the church's
spiritual renewal, on the other hand it can intrinsic structure. In fact the action of the
sometimes cause difficulties. Participation in Holy Spirit lies at the origin of an institute's
ecclesial movements ought to be based on the founding charism. The church, conferring the
principle of a healthy reciprocity among the
fullness of the ecclesial expression on the proper blending, the guidance of church laws
charism, guarantees continued authenticity on and their realization through charity, the soul
the basis of the legitimately approved of the church's communion.
constitutions so that everything can work
together for the common good and so that the Institutes of Diocesan Right And of
authenticity of the gift of the Spirit may be Pontifical Right
82. Autonomy and independence vary
In assuring the continuity of the charism, according to the specific nature of the

autonomy of life and especially autonomy of institute's founding charism and its degree of

administration not only involve the internal development in the life of the church in

workings of the institute but also its apostolic conformity with the institute's designation as
works. Otherwise the institute could not fulfill being of diocesan or pontifical right.

its own end and spirit.208 It is "just" insofar as

The diocesan bishop exercises special pastoral
it is determined and protected by common and
care over institutes of diocesan right.210 These
particular law. In this way the autonomy of an
institutes, which are generally at the initial
institute, correctly understood, is an
stages of their existence, need help to become
adaptation of the principle of subsidiarity to
strong from the spiritual and material point of
the life of the church to the extent that it is a
view. The fact that an institute is of diocesan
coordination between universal and particular
right, however, does not diminish its reference
law in the church.
to the universal church and the supreme
Autonomy does not mean that institutes are authority.211 Therefore the bishop's concern is

independent from hierarchical authority. to be directed to the development of the

Dependence remains in the bishops' exercise institute, which by virtue of its charism

of pastoral care for the institutes so that they generally tends toward universality. Since the
may maintain their consecration, witness and diocesan bishop is a member of the episcopal
mission in the church.209 college he should not hinder the expansion of
an institute founded in his diocese or in other
Autonomy and dependence are two territories from fear of a possible conferral of
dimensions relating to all church members pontifical status.
and all church institutions. However, the
institutes of consecrated life act in a specific The exclusive and immediate subjection to the
way in their regard. Since these dimensions Apostolic See by institutes of pontifical

are not opposed to each other they require a right212 is a guarantee of their autonomy in the
concrete instances where they are found in the
various particular churches. It is also an retained for those institutes which have
effective safeguard of their universal character enjoyed this privilege for centuries. This
and development, in conformity with their privilege is not granted only for the good of
original inspiration, all the while respecting the institutes themselves, but also in view of
the pastoral authority of the diocesan bishop. the needs of the apostolate and its common
Particular Bond With The Petrine Ministry
In this way, exemption, in harmony with the
83. The safeguard of the special nature of the church, is intended to promote
characteristics of the charism and the communion. Exemption carries an entirely
universal mission proper to some institutes positive character: It recalls a total and
finds its highest expression in exemption. This complete fidelity to the Roman pontiff and a
should be seen in a positive light. Through readiness to service his universal ministry.
exemption of institutes from the jurisdiction However many of the responses raise the
of the local authorities, the Roman pontiff, question as to how in these times the privilege
with special laws enacted by him and can and ought to be exercised in the particular
privileges granted, allows institutes a greater churches harmoniously and with pastoral
autonomy so that their charisms can be better effect.
preserved and more precisely expressed in
their universal nature and apostolic Communion Between the Institutes And
effectiveness as a participation in the pastoral Coordinating Bodies
care of the Roman pontiff for the whole
church.213 84. What individual institutes are called to be
in the church through their dimension of
Exemption is based on the primacy of the fraternal communion is equally applicable to
supreme pontiff and is explained only in a all the institutes taken together as a whole. All
proper understanding of the relation between institutes are called to feel in communion with
the universal church and the particular one another and to bring about that
churches, that is, between the pope and the communion, all the while respecting the
bishops. At particular times in history the specific nature of their various charisms and
Roman pontiff, by virtue of his primacy, has putting them to effective use. Through
exercised this privilege for the good of the life coordinating bodies, institutes express
of particular churches, and to defend and communion with one another and seek the
protect the integrity of the faith and the unity means to strengthen that communion and put
of the church. Therefore exemption has been it into practice.
It is desirable for the institutes which share the and a sign of the times. At the same time,
same charism or have juridical bonds or a however, major superiors should consider
spiritual affinity to find better ways to achieve themselves free to decide whether or not to
greater cooperation, while assuring a respect join these conferences.217
for their autonomy. They should also be open
to possible cooperative undertakings (merger, Conferences of major superiors are meant to

union or federation) in order to achieve establish appropriate coordination and

greater effectiveness in spirituality, apostolic cooperation with the episcopal conferences

service and formation. and the individual bishops.218 In such relations
the conferences of major superiors must
The conferences, councils and unions of present the mission of consecrated life in
major superiors or moderators of institutes of general and that of the individual institutes, in
consecrated life and societies of apostolic life- other words, a mission of being a sign of
for both men and women-have proven useful communion. This will assure a constant
in the renewal of the consecrated life.215 The endeavor to search for a concrete path of
goal of such organizations is to help every communion in charity so as to express the
institute to achieve its purpose,216 while most intimate nature of the church.
giving due respect for its autonomy, nature
and spirit. The consecrated life can truly be More frequent contacts between the

renewed when each institute seeks to achieve conferences of major superiors and the
its own goals as the founder or foundress Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated
intended. Conferences, then, should not be Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life

seen as some kind of common administrative should be encouraged. A greater contact

organization which would substitute for the between conferences of major superiors and
decisions of the superiors of individual episcopal conferences is desirable, with due
institutes. respect for their different natures. In this
regard joint commissions of bishops and
As a sign of communion, the conferences major superiors have proven effective.
make it generally possible to establish greater Entities for communication and communion
cooperation among the various institutes on are useful for finding practical solutions to
questions of common interest, especially in pastoral problems and avoiding theoretical or
what concerns the formation of members and practical disagreements.
apostolic activity. From this point of view
conferences of major superiors are to be Discussions on doctrinal problems of a
considered valuable to the life of the church general nature concerning civil society or the
life of the church for the purpose of making The witness of unity is also a sign for the
public statements about them are outside the world. This "requires us first of all to create in
scope of the conferences of major superiors. the church herself mutual esteem, reverence
Nevertheless, the major superiors gathered in and harmony, and acknowledge all legitimate
assembly can be of valuable help to the Holy diversity. In this way all who constitute the
See and the bishops, individually or in various one people of God, that is, the pastors or other
entities, in expressing their reflections on members of Christ's faithful, will be able to
problems, including those of doctrinal weight, engage in ever more fruitful dialogue. The ties
concerning the life of the church and of which unite the faithful together are indeed
society. stronger than those which separate them.
Therefore, let there be unity in what is
Witnesses to Ecclesial Communion necessary, freedom in what is doubtful and
charity in everything."219
85. Mutual relations in the church must
always be seen in the light of her mystery of
communion and mission. This allows the CHURCH'S MISSION
expression of a real communion and
participation at three levels: first of all, at the 1. Future Challenges and Duties
theological level, in that church communion is
founded on diverse ministries and charisms Spiritual and Apostolic Vitality
whose exercise always demands attitudes and
86. In the light of its nature and mission in
behavior of common faith, hope and mutual
ecclesial communion, the consecrated life is
charity; at the ecclesial level, because in the
questioning itself about the most important
unity of communion the evangelical meaning
challenges facing its future, beginning first of
of fraternity and service is expressed; finally,
all with an effective spiritual and apostolic
at the pastoral level, because of the fact that
an authentic relationship among pastors, the
faithful and consecrated persons in the church In general there is a call for a strong
must be marked by mutual esteem, respect harmonious blending of consecration and
and acceptance of the diversity of gifts and mission as well as contemplation and action.
tasks. Everything, however, is placed at the To make such a unity possible, most people
service of bearing witness to the action of God are convinced of the need to strengthen the
and the salvation of souls, which is the spiritual and mystical dimension of the
supreme law of the church. consecrated life, that is, union with the
blessed Trinity-the source of all blessing-
through the sacramental life, through prayer forms of fraternal correction and promotion of
and the witness that "God alone suffices," charity.220
through an intense Godward life, through a
personal and spousal love for the Lord in the Considered the unifying element of the varied

pursuit of a "life hidden with Christ in God" spiritualities is the charism of the founder,

(cf. Col. 3:3), and through a life immersed in around which a synthesis of the various
the Holy Spirit and docile to his inspirations. elements of consecration and mission should
be made through the faithful putting into
The source and summit of one's personal and effect of the legislative provisions of each
community life is the daily celebration of the institute.
eucharist, to which is added frequent personal
recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation- Many responses emphasize the following as
including periodic community celebrations of aspects which should not be lacking in any

this sacrament-and daily participation in the form of consecrated life: the availability to

liturgical prayer of the church, as set down in take on the more difficult forms of mission; a
the laws of each institute. readiness to participate in the kenosis of the
Word to the point of martyrdom; compassion
The more frequently mentioned means for the and mercy; a thirst for holiness and a desire to
authentic spiritual vitality of institutes of spend oneself for the salvation of humanity;
consecrated life and societies of apostolic life and a renewed personal and community
include: personal and communal forms asceticism. Many ask that women and men
of lectio divina, prayer and contemplation, religious give a silent proclamation of their
personal prayer and eucharistic adoration, consecration221 through wearing the habit of
love for and devotion to the Blessed Virgin their institute.
Mary, spiritual direction and the examination
of conscience and "review of life." Of course, A reawakening of spirituality is desired,
added to these ate other expressions of one's especially in the active apostolic life, not only

own spiritual tradition. Also of importance is in order for its mission to be more effective

the growth of a true community spirituality but also to make the consecrated life possible

fostered not only by participation in the in a world which seems to be impossible to

eucharist and common prayer, but also by a penetrate with the work of evangelization and

renewed commitment to share a journey of which requires strong spiritual personalities

faith, as well as to help one another in the who will evangelize it with the fervor of the
journey of the spiritual life through renewed saints.
A Renewed Apostolic Presence in the joy of belonging completely to God.
This experience is particularly significant in
87. The consecrated life harmoniously the younger churches where people of
combines "being" for God and "acting" in his different nationalities and races seek in the
service. The first witness asked of consecrated Lord's name to overcome traditional barriers.
persons is always that of living and acting Theirs is a Gospel witness which is often less
individually and communally in conformity visible than the type shown by institutions of
with their consecration and charism, as consecrated life traditionally known in
expressed in their own legislation and Western societies, but they are necessary for
recognized by the church. offering new forms of visibility and Gospel
Consecrated persons help to make God's
countenance visible through their compassion It is necessary for consecrated persons, who
and love for the sick and suffering. In a world live alone for various reasons to follow the
marked by activism and the loneliness of directives of the Holy See in this regard and
individuals, by indifference to silence and be offered guidance by their own superiors.222
contemplation, and by the search for
technological solutions to human problems, The Consecrated Woman And Femininity
the witness of an authentic consecrated life is
of great value because, rooted in constant and 88. As mentioned earlier, women constitute

profound contact with God, it manifests three-fourths of all consecrated persons.

values which transcend the material realm. Through their evangelical witness,
contemplative prayer, intuition and
New models are emerging today for living steadfastness, their capacity for listening and
consecration fully. In fact, some seem to be dialogue, and their attentive and generous
necessary for the survival of the consecrated response to today's challenges, their
life in our world. It is a question of forms of contribution to the church and society is
life which seem almost to intend rewriting the among the most important phenomena for the
traditional manner of following Christ, in church's life and mission. Woman's use of her
meditation on the Word, in community or in gifts to participate in the life of the church and
solitude. society is not only the road necessary for her
personal fulfillment but also the contribution
Consecrated persons living in community based on her womanhood. Both lead to the
express their dedication either through the enrichment of the ecclesial communion and
choice of the contemplative life or through a the apostolic dynamism of the people of God.
balance between prayer and action, but always
In Mary of Nazareth consecrated women have At a time when the church is rediscovering the
their highest model and the most authentic variety of ministries and the complementarity
expression of the dignity and mission of of charisms it is urgently necessary to clarify
woman.223 and give official recognition to the role which
they exercise in the church, so that their
History bears witness to the contribution made specific dedication in the midst of the people
by consecrated women not only to the of God may be better defined. They are still
church's holiness but also to evangelization far from full engagement in the church,
and mission, and to catechesis and theological despite the magisterium's directives in this
research, as well as in the field of education, regard.225
health care and service of the very poor. They
have assumed important roles, including the Many of the responses ask that women be
direction of schools, universities, hospitals granted access to places of discussion,
and other institutions. Today, by having a consultation and decision making, and that
greater presence in the church and society, they be present in the pastoral entities of the
women are exercising new roles according to particular churches.
the measure of their development and
preparation called for in a secularized society. They also ask for a greater active participation

In the public and political spheres consecrated in the church's mission. It is urgent that they

women work with lay people-men and be given greater involvement in processes of
women-in a relationship of reciprocity and discernment and decision making in what
complementarity. concerns their life as consecrated women.
This is explicitly requested in whatever
Conscious of their personal dignity and their regards the autonomy of monasteries of
own vocation, consecrated women are seeking women. They express the hope that nuns will
to grow in their appreciation of all women be allowed to take the necessary initiatives to
who are still oppressed or relegated to a status ensure a suitable formation and to make the
of inferiority. A frank and clear recognition of necessary adaptations in fidelity to their own
women's dignity is the first step in promoting charism.
their participation in the life of the church as
well as in public and social life. In addition, it A lengthy, extensive and continuous

is necessary that they promote a suitable formation must be offered to consecrated

formation for themselves according to the women in accordance with their own
diversity of the forms of life.224 vocation. A better preparation will give them
greater opportunity to be authentic, joyful
witnesses and promoters of the work for the in these cases because there is the danger of
kingdom. Some responses note that a lack of one's making the choice of the consecrated
maturity and the want of a proper theological life for reasons of human advancement or of
formation are the basis of a counterwitness making this choice without due regard for the
and the source of many unsubstantial claims. demands it entails.

Promotion and Care of Vocations The promotion of vocations demands first of

all the prayer of the whole Christian
89. The promotion of vocations is one of community and of individual institutes, that
today's most important challenges for the the Lord, who calls people to follow him, may
future of the consecrated life. The vitality of give the church many good vocations.
the charisms and their presence in the church However, equally important is the educational
and in the world depend on it. support of the family in communicating
Gospel values and a widespread pastoral
Reference has already been made to the many
activity toward youth-even if vocation
diverse situations in the area of vocations. In
recruitment is not its goal-and education
many Western countries there has been a
leading to a mature development of faith and
marked loss of numbers. Many causes have
of human and Gospel values in Christian
been indicated such as family crises and the
communities. The entire local church-bishops,
decline in the birth rate; psychological
priests, deacons and laity-must show its
immaturity which does not support lifelong
esteem and concern for the development of
commitment; the possibility of giving oneself
the consecrated life as a precious gift for all.
totally to the Lord and the service of others
Where it is lacking, the church is all the
outside the consecrated life; and a certain
mistrust of institutionalized forms. Often the
witness of the consecrated life is not Consecrated persons must proclaim the good
understood by the laity and by priests, who do news of their vocation with a joyful witness,
not favor the choice of such a vocation. an example which attracts others and a
welcoming spirit which encourages others to
We note with joy the flourishing of vocations
find Christ in the midst of the community.
in the younger churches and the countries of
Assiduous prayer and mutual help are
Eastern Europe. Such vocations are marked
necessary for perseverance in one's vocation.
by a manifestation of fervor, freedom, joy and
self-giving in the apostolic service, which in Discernment and vocational "guidance" ought
turn elicits other vocations. However, a clear to be exercised everywhere-whether vocations
discernment and a sound formation is needed
are scarce or abundant-paying attention to the intellectual, philosophical and cultural
signs of the call and to the effective qualities formation in view of an adequate study of
of persons, and taking advantage of theology and preparation for the new
psychological expertise for greater security.226 evangelization.

Priorities in Formation Members of secular institutes must be given

an adequate formation in keeping with the
90. The future of the consecrated life depends nature of their institute.
on the dynamic capacity which the institutes
will have in the formation of their members. Integral Demanding Formation
In recent years the Holy See has followed the
area of formation with great care. One of the 91 Today at the level of initial formation the

results is the instruction Potissimum canonical form of novitiate is not considered

Institutioni which contains fundamental sufficient; instead the postulancy is assuming

guidelines for formation at the present time. the dimensions of a prolonged propaedeutic

This document is still not well enough known period-similar to what Pastores Dabo

and needs to be put into practice through Vobis recommends for seminarians-adapted to

educational programs and the ratio diverse cultures and institutes.228 Some reports
institutionis of each institute.227 propose establishing new formation programs
for young people from ethnic minorities or
Many responses emphasize the importance of marginalized groups.
formation in circumstances of the present day.
Some mention that this formation must make Beginning in the novitiate initial formation
up for a certain lack of doctrinal teaching and must offer a strong pedagogy of faith founded

soundness in the candidates. Frequently on the word of God, on the liturgical and

candidates have backgrounds weak in sacramental life and on formation in personal

catechesis and Christian practice. Many prayer and mortification, with personal

candidates are affected by emotional spiritual direction and a solid devotion to the

immaturity, a prolonged adolescence and a Blessed Virgin Mary. A welcoming yet

certain imbalance due to family problems or exacting community life can ensure a person's
the negative influence of society. development in charity, emotional maturity,
obedience, availability, poverty, hard work
Therefore, a formation program must be and cooperation.
systematic, personalized, ongoing and
integral. A number of responses emphasize Formation must be human, ongoing,
the need for a stronger and more intense inculturated, open to ecclesial communion and
mission, and in touch with real life and the is necessary for the exercise of the apostolic
conditions of the poor. Its orientation must be mission.
a vital process centered on the person of
Christ and a deepening of the baptismal Enduring Dynamism of Formation
commitment to imitating Christ, according to
92. Some responses ask that the service of
the particular form of the evangelical life
formation and the work of formation be
proper to each institute. Today, with a
recognized as a priority ministry; that
prolonged period of vocational discernment, it
formation personnel be supported in seeking a
is necessary to insist that the candidates be
formation which responds to the new demands
guided toward making definitive
of the consecrated life; and that the formation
commitments as a permanent option for
of the formators be promoted with appropriate
guidance, using to advantage the recent

A specific formation for the consecrated life guidelines of the Holy See.229

requires a progressive knowledge of the

Intercongregational formation can now be
history, spirituality and the state of one's own
found in many countries as a characteristic
institute in order to have an authentic
form of cooperation, communion and
identification with one's vocation. Initial
exchange among diverse institutes. It can take
formation must be given in one's own country
on different forms. In all of these, however,
with one's own countrymen as formation
the candidate needs the guidance of formation
personnel, and must be rooted in that culture.
personnel from his own institute in order to
Ongoing experiences of formation at the
integrate in his formation the elements of
international and transcultural level are also
one's institute and to evaluate its results.230
necessary within institutes so as to be able to
transcend and thereby purify, discern and Following the guidelines of the Holy See and
appreciate diverse local cultures and place benefiting from the valid experience of
them in communion. various institutes-similar to what has been
proposed for the ongoing formation of priests-
Moreover, formation demands, according to
it is considered important for the synod to
the diverse forms and institutes, that its
encourage continuous formation in various
doctrinal, spiritual and pastoral aspects be
phases of the consecrated life as an
completed by a practical training which
indispensable means of renewal in one's
fosters the particular style of life of the
vocation and mission.231
various communities and professional training
with the required academic studies when this
Since formation requires a knowledge and spiritual life; and the organization of
esteem of other ecclesial vocations, greater community and its administration.
cooperation between the bishops and institutes
of consecrated life is proposed in order to It is not merely a question of adapting certain

have a better knowledge of ecclesial vocations customs, but rather of a profound

through appropriate centers of study. It has transformation of mentalities and ways of

also been suggested that the theology, history, living. It does not extend only to the cultures

law and spirituality of the consecrated life and of the younger churches but also to the

of other vocations should be properly studied changes taking place in Western civilizations.
within priestly formation in the ecclesiastical In fact, the structures of the consecrated life

faculties and universities, and in institutes of drawn up in the rural societies of the Middle
religious sciences. Ages or those coming from the period of the
industrial revolution in the last centuries do
The Challenge of Inculturation not always seem appropriate for expressing
the needs and desires of today's women and
93. The task of expressing the consecrated life men.
in diverse cultures today is one of the great
challenges for its future, given the great Inculturation of the consecrated life finds its
diversity of environments, races and cultures, root in the universality of the Gospel and in
and the church's mission for the the very mystery of the incarnation of Christ,
evangelization of all peoples of the earth. who is light for all the nations (cf. Lk. 2:32).
Inculturation's first task is profoundly
Consecration is an act in which God himself connected to the method and content of the
enlists a person for a particular plan of life new evangelization.232
totally dedicated to his worship and the
service of one's brothers and sisters. However, the process of inculturation is
Consecration can be lived in diverse vocations inspired by revelation. In imitation of Christ
and lifestyles and expressed in various who took on our human nature, the
spiritual forms according to diverse cultures. consecrated life must undergo a process of
drawing near to cultures in order to accept
Inculturation, therefore, involves the whole of their values, to spread itself in that culture and
the consecrated life: the charism that to bear new fruit. Thus the mystery of Christ
characterizes a vocation; the lifestyle; the "in whom are hidden all the treasures of
manner of formation and forms of apostolate; wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3) will shine
prayer and liturgy; the principles of the forth in all nations. The process of
inculturation must be completed in line with The consecrated life, following the lessons of
the kenosis (cf. Phil. 2:7) of Jesus Christ, to history and the openness to universality which
the point of giving one's life in such a way is proper to it, can be a fruitful area for an
that, reaching out with love and respect to authentic inculturation of the Christian faith
persons of a different culture and mentality and the life of the church. In fact, because of
the proclamation of the Gospel, which is the liberality of their gift of self to Christ and
salvation for all, may be extended. A primary their love for everything that is his, and
task is to proclaim the Gospel of salvation in through their intimacy with God and their
other civilizations and cultures, presenting it closeness to people, consecrated persons can
in its fundamental aspects, proposing new also be promoters of inculturation.
wineskins when the old ones are not capable
of holding new wine (cf. Mt. 9:17). Nevertheless, some points must be kept in
mind. Inculturation is not achieved through
Through a Process of Inculturation hasty and superficial adaptation. The
discernment of what is essential involves the
94. Inculturation must take place according to following: a lengthy contemplation of the
some essential requirements. The process mystery of God; freedom of heart which is
must respect the fundamentals of the acquired at the price of basic detachment from
consecrated life: the profession of the entire the situation; familiarity with the word of
Christian faith; intimacy with Christ in prayer God; and a great love for people.
and contemplation; the search for the
perfection of charity; and the practice of the The inculturation of consecrated life demands
evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and a deep knowledge of the civilization and
obedience. These are the Gospel "talents" history of each people. This is acquired only
which are to be always and everywhere through the serious study of languages,
accepted and to which the consecrated life customs, oral and written traditions, and a
offers a shining witness. The values of diverse long living experience. True inculturation
civilizations can make new aspects shine forth cannot be planned too systematically because-
in the life of contemplation, community, like life itself-it is in a certain way a
sharing, hospitality, relationships within the spontaneous phenomenon and a growth
ecclesial family, respect for human persons process.233
and concern for nature. This attitude can favor
the acceptance of new forms of consecrated It is a question, then, of authentically living
life. one's own charism with great love and true
esteem for the people with whom and for
whom one lives. In this context of charity- not merely a question of giving new vitality to
capable of making a person "all things to all the methods of the apostolate, but first and
people"-is found the secret of the success of foremost of cultivating in themselves their call
adaptations and transformations. With the to conversion-to let themselves be
newness of the Spirit, these will give a evangelized-so that in them the light of Christ
dynamic feature to a consecrated life which can radiate as persons who speak with God
will already have within itself all the cultural and are filled with his Spirit (cf. Ex. 33:11; 2
characteristics proper to the church. Cor. 3:19).

2. The New Evangelization Making the new evangelization alive and

effective in the consecrated life is perhaps the
Call to the New Evangelization most important result which can be expected
from the synod. In fact, the consecrated life
95. Consecrated life today is viewed within
belongs to the holiness of the church like
the horizons of the new evangelization in
leaven in the dough (cf. Mt. 13:33). It shows
communion with the church and her mission.
its fruitfulness like a mustard seed (cf. Mt.
It is the invitation often addressed by John
13:31-32) and has the power to proclaim
Paul II to institutes of consecrated life and
Christ without compromise. It is a light which
societies of apostolic life, a call which is
cannot be hidden (cf. Mt. 5:15- 16). It must
capable of evoking within the church a new
manifest the power of Easter through the way
impulse rooted in the power of Pentecost.
of the cross. Particularly apt to religious life
The new evangelization particularly is are the words of Paul VI concerning the
directed to those who are rooted in the wordless witness which evokes these
unfathomable richness of Christ (cf. Eph. 3:8), irresistible questions: "Why are they like this?
who have made a profession to follow him, Why do they live in this way? Why are they
putting their life in his service, and who "are among us? Witness of this kind constitutes in
the living expression of the church's aspiration itself a proclamation of the good news, silent,
to respond to the more exigent demands of the but strong and effective."235
Commitment to the new evangelization can
In virtue of their vocation all consecrated help to form individuals and communities
persons are asked to manifest the saving fully developed in faith and love, where the
power of the Gospel in the variety of the values of the Gospel are lived in their most
charisms which they have received and basic sense. This demands a review of the
through the witness of their life. For them it is quality of personal and communal236 witness
so that a new evangelization might be capable of life in a more generous communion with
of offering the people of today the perennial Christ, in such a way that the fervor of the
message of salvation in convincing terms. charism may be new. It also requires a
Particularly in these days there is lasting profound renewal in proclamation and in
evangelizing power in being close to the poor, works-in perfect ecclesial communion-in such
the sick, the suffering and marginalized so as a way that it will be new in its expressions.
to share their life, according to the various Lastly, it also urges people in these days to
particular vocations, for love of the Lord, who adopt that apostolic "boldness in initiatives"
is particularly present in them (cf. Mt. 25:40). and genuine creativity which is proper to the
charisms of the Spirit, so that it may be new in
Evangelizing Through One's Life its methods.239

96. Consecrated persons must be the first to It requires first and foremost the commitment
undertake the task of the new evangelization, to live the Gospel which is preached, and to
by putting into action-flowing from their deep incarnate it in one's personal and community
communion with Christ-the best of their life so that the proclamation of the good news
talents, according to their spiritual and may be upheld by the power of Gospel
apostolic charisms. Nor should it be forgotten witness. To the extent that their lives shine
that "the apostolate of all religious consists and radiate the light and warmth of truth and
first in their witness of a consecrated life, of the charity of Christ, these Gospel
which they are bound to foster by prayer and witnesses will be so many evangelizers in the
penance."237 church and in the world.

In conformity with their form of consecration Commitment to the new evangelization in

in the world, members of secular institutes are nations with ancient Christian roots, where the
called to make a very real apostolic effort in Christian fabric needs to be rewoven, requires
the service of Christ and his kingdom in the an intellectual preparation ready to respond to
midst of society. cultural challenges so as to offer men and
women of advanced societies the splendor of
The new evangelization invites us to relive in
Gospel truth and the true meaning of property
an evangelical and apostolic dimension the
and justice, which has its source and norm in
fundamental character of following Christ and
responding to the call to holiness. An essential
renewal at its source will make evangelization
"new in its ardor, new in its expressions and
new in its methods."238 It demands the witness
The Renewal of Apostolic Activities of the particular church and a constant
dialogue with its pastors; dedication to those
97. In these days of searching for one's suffering from the new forms of poverty
identity, it is important to be aware of the which the world neglects; and the ability to
demands of renewal in the apostolic mission, offer new and meaningful spiritual and
in light of one's own charism and the changed apostolic forms of presence.240
conditions of the time. Today the state has
taken over many of the social works which New Forms of Apostolic Presence
through the apostolic work of religious
congregations put the church in the forefront. 98. Without neglecting traditional forms and

Today there is still an urgent need for a apostolates, there is a need for other forms of

renewed presence of consecrated persons in apostolic presence.

these institutions in order to bear witness to

The choice of such a presence is required
Christ in the field of education, health care
when an institute reflects on the implications
and the works of mercy on behalf of children,
of inculturation. An analysis of the social,
young people and the elderly.
political and economic situation of the

A return to the sources has helped many Southern Hemisphere-which implies a

institutes of consecrated life to refocus their dialogue between the world's North and

traditional mission and offer new modes of South- leads to a critical examination of many

presence and renewed forms of the apostolate traditional apostolates, not only concerning

in response to the new necessities. The call to numbers and geographic location, but also as
the new evangelization is helping many regards their quality. Many institutes feel

communities to take a new look at the form of called to participate more actively in the

their life in common and their apostolate. concerted development of peoples involved in

Sometimes courageous decisions have been the democratic process.

necessary in order to continue or to begin new

Some new forms of apostolic presence include
apostolic forms which are in harmony with
the following: participation in ecumenical
the charism of the congregation.
movements which seek the promotion of

Some criteria which can shed light on the Christian unity; dialogue with followers of

choices are the following: the commitment to other religions, especially through presence
safeguard the meaning of the charism in a and community witness; and the call to
given environment; the concern to keep alive cooperate with various types of local and

a genuine fraternal life; attention to the needs international groups committed- even for
purely humanitarian reasons-to alleviating addressed in an explicit manner to the whole
sufferings of every kind. church in his encyclical Redemptoris
Missio. It concerns all institutes, those of
A special form of apostolic participation in contemplative life and apostolic life in virtue
this period of the church's history is expressed of their total dedication to the service of the
in sharing with the laity one's manner of church, each according to its proper nature
seeing and acting, especially in certain fields and mission. Their history and vitality, the
which fall into their area of expertise such as fruits of holiness and martyrdom of many
schools and the care of the sick and suffering. institutes, and the development and
universality they have achieved are related to
In recent years many communities and
the generosity with which they have
institutes have developed a network of
responded to Christ's invitation to proclaim
associates or friends-priests and laity-who
the Gospel to all nations (cf. Mt. 28:19-20).
share their spirituality and cooperate in their
The history of the consecrated life, "from the
mission. This is a growing situation which is
ancient monastic institutions, to the medieval
still in search of proper forms but which can
orders, up to the more recent congregations"
allow communities of consecrated persons a
is one of mission.241
better expression of their life in the church
and their specific apostolate. Today too, "since the members of the
consecrated life"-and similarly the members
These new forms can play an important role in
of societies of apostolic life-"dedicate
supporting persons engaged in a spiritual
themselves through their consecration to the
search who want to commit themselves to the
service of the church, they are obliged in a
church in a specific field. These forms offer
special manner to engage in missionary work
the possibility to create places for sharing, for
in accord with the character of the
faith and for support in a common mission
lived in diverse forms but realized in the same
spirit. It is important not to limit these new The pope addresses a pressing appeal to
experiences but to leave new paths open for institutes of contemplative life to be present in
exploration. the younger churches, especially where
religions have a great esteem for the
The Mission "Ad Gentes"
contemplative life because of their asceticism
99. The new evangelization explicitly includes and their search for the absolute.243
the generous invitation to participate in the
mission ad gentes, which John Paul II
The Holy Father has also addressed a specific the world; the promotion and achievement of
invitation to the institutes of women and those this spiritual ecumenism among the faithful
of men which by their special charism were through fostering their spiritual formation;
founded for the missions. The proclamation of and the organization of prayer gatherings,
Christ, then, demands the mission ad discussions, retreats and a better knowledge of
gentes,which is still not complete among so the different Christian spiritual traditions.
many peoples who are still waiting for the
proclamation of the one savior. In particular they are asked to maintain
relations with monasteries or cenobitic
Institutes of consecrated life and societies of communities of other Christian communions
apostolic life, present in the younger churches, for the exchange of spiritual and intellectual
are invited to transform themselves from gifts and of experiences of apostolic life so
evangelized communities to evangelizing that the development of the religious charisms
communities and to be missionaries without of such communions can make a real
boundaries. contribution to the whole ecumenical
movement. In this way, a fruitful spiritual
For the Unity of All Who Believe in Christ imitation can be elicited.

100. Christ's prayer, "that they all may be Furthermore, all are invited to foster an
one..." (Jn. 17:21) must be in the heart of all ecumenical education and, according to their
consecrated persons. The institutes of capabilities, a more effective collaboration,
consecrated life and societies of apostolic life through participating in the activities of the
have specific opportunities to promote the church's ecumenical organizations. It is also
ecumenical ideal and activity, according to considered opportune for the various institutes
their charisms and constitutions. A knowledge of consecrated life and societies of apostolic
of the non-Catholic communities and their life to have inside their community a delegate
spiritual traditions, especially those of the or commission entrusted with guaranteeing
Eastern churches, is the starting point for an their own ecumenical commitment in
authentic practice of ecumenism. formation and the ecumenical activity of the
members of their own institute.245
Noteworthy among the activities most suitable
for fostering the unity of Christians are the Individuals and communities, involved for
spiritual ecumenism of the conversion of the various reasons in the dialogue with Judaism,
heart; the spiritual ecumenism of holiness; the should also be encouraged.
spiritual ecumenism of public and private
prayer and selfless service of the church and
Interreligious Dialogue secular institutes can be of great help for
giving the church a silent but effective
101. Institutes of consecrated life and presence. At the same time, the contribution
societies of apostolic life can make a valid of consecrated women is invaluable in this
contribution to dialogue with followers of area for a proper promotion of the dignity of
other religions, where oftentimes there can be women and their becoming a more active part
found experiences of the "monastic" life of society.247
dedicated to asceticism and contemplation.
Evangelize With the Fervor of the Saints
Many men and women religious are in a
privileged position to emphasize some values 102. The new evangelization urges all the
shared with other religions such as prayer, sons and daughters of the founders to express
meditation and asceticism. In such a way the with the fervor of the saints their own charism
followers of other religions can more easily in the unity of their consecration and the
recognize the church's deep spiritual variety of ministries in the service of the
dimension beyond her organizational and kingdom.
charitable aspects.
Paul VI affirmed this in reference to religious;
The methods of interreligious dialogue and "Today more than ever the world needs to see
the proclamation of the mystery of Christ can in you men and women who have believed in
include the following: the sharing of one's the word of the Lord, in his resurrection and
own spiritual wealth, especially in the area of in eternal life, even to the point of dedicating
the monastic experience, some of which is their lives to witnessing to the reality of that
already in process; the exchange between love, which is offered to all men. In the course
centers of theology and spirituality to achieve of her history, the church has ever been
a greater knowledge of their respective quickened and gladdened by many holy
religious heritage; and cooperation in works religious who, in the diversity of their
of charity, which in other religions are often vocations, have been living witnesses to love
the fruit and sign of the authenticity of the without limit and to the Lord Jesus."248
spiritual life as a sharing in God's compassion
for all. The consecrated life, especially the Thus John Paul II urged the religious of Latin

contemplative life, offers a witness to the America: "In the same way as they did in their
majesty and charity of God and the union of day, today your founders would place in the
all people in Christ.246 In some areas the church's service the best of their apostolic

presence of lay brothers and the members of energies, their profound ecclesial sense, the
creativity of their pastoral initiatives and their
love for the poor, from which so many Besides the spiritual presence which makes
ecclesial activities flowed. The same our society fruitful through prayer, especially
generosity and abnegation which moved your through the divine fruitfulness of the
founders must move you, their spiritual contemplative life, it is necessary to affirm
children, to keep alive the charisms which, realistically the need for the presence of
raised up by the power of the same Spirit, may consecrated people in society as citizens of
continue to be enriched and adapted without a this world yet pilgrims advancing toward the
loss of their genuine character in order to be at homeland (cf. Heb. 13:14).With their
the service of the church and bring to charisms and service they want to put into
fulfillment the inauguration of his effect the Gospel of the Beatitudes and the
kingdom."249 works of mercy.

3. Gospel Charisms for the World Today the consecrated life is present in our
society through its manifold apostolic services
Witnesses to God in the World on behalf of others, according to the diverse
charisms. This presence is a magnificent
103. As the Second Vatican Council states,
expression of the charity of Christ for the total
"Let no one think ... that their consecrated
formation of persons-from literacy training to
way of life alienates religious from other men
the education of children and young people-
or makes them useless for human society.
and for the care of the sick and suffering, the
Though in some cases they have no direct
elderly, the needy, the handicapped and those
relations with their contemporaries, still in a
marginalized by society.
deeper way they have their sisters and
brothers present with them in the heart of In order to perform this work on behalf of
Christ and cooperate with them spiritually, so their sisters and brothers, some are more
that the upbuilding of human society may involved in the professional work of the
always have its foundation in the Lord and women and men of our society or are engaged
have him as its goal." Great are the tasks of in the more trafficked and busy areas of life.
the consecrated life in today's society, and the Everyone, however, is in need of
church appeals to these tasks to initiate a evangelization.251
renewal of society according to the spirit of
the Gospel. It is a matter of becoming directly Evangelical Option for the Poor
involved in evangelization through the
apostolate and of giving an authentic 104. The preferential love for the poor has led
expression to the church's pastoral ministry. many to make generous choices in life, yet not
without an element of danger. There is
certainly no incompatibility between the development plans of international groups
consecrated life and the Lord's option for the more oriented toward methods of exclusion
poor. Instead, such a choice has been a than inclusion.
constant note of the apostolic charisms, often
inspired by the words and example of the However, we must not forget the world of

Lord, who was sent to "preach good news to those who are totally indifferent to the needs

the poor" (Lk. 4:18) and who invites others to of others: those who seem to be satisfied with

practice the works of mercy toward the "little themselves because they do not lack material

ones," as he himself did (cf. Mt. 25:40). An goods, but who frequently suffer from despair
effective presence in situations of poverty, as and loneliness and are tempted to reject the

well as the community's involvement in areas gift of life. They too are searching for the

of misery and marginalization, have been in values of the Gospel and for the peace which

recent decades a sign of the consecrated life comes from Christ, often without even

which fully embraces not only poverty but realizing it.

also the life of poor people, including their

Today more than ever "the cry of the poor"
difficulties, problems and dangers.
(cf. Ps. 9:13; Jb. 34:28; Prv. 21:13) is heard

In this option it is necessary to open hearts, rising "from their personal poverty and their

minds and the creativity of evangelical love to collective misery."252 Today many people

all the new cases of poverty, which are have heard this cry and have responded,
increasing each day. One needs only to think following the path indicated by Paul VI: "That
of the following: the growing number of cry must, first of all, bar you from whatever

unemployed; the most disadvantaged of would be a compromise with any form of

countries where people have nothing because social injustice. It obliges you also to awaken
of natural disasters; those areas devastated by consciences to the drama of misery, and to the

violence, oppression and civil war; and the demands of social justice made by the poor in

growing number of immense groups of their situation, and to share their bitter cares.

refugees. Thoughts turn also to the poverty Furthermore, it calls many of your institutes to
and suffering of all those who have been rededicate for the good of the poor some of
affected by drugs and AIDS. There are also their works-something which many have

uprooted groups and peoples; minorities not already done with generosity. Finally, it

respected because of race; minority groups enjoins on you a use of goods limited to what
subjected to the practice of ethnic cleansing; is required, for the fulfillment of the function

and groups suffering because of a systematic to which you are called. It is necessary that in

exclusion of poorer countries from

your daily lives you should give proof, even marginalized and all those who are victims of
externally, of authentic poverty.253 the new ills afflicting humanity.

Concern for the Sick and Suffering In order for this witness to be effective, those
in authority in institutes of consecrated life
105. Throughout the course of the centuries and societies of apostolic life must see to the
the church has strongly felt that the need to appropriate spiritual, ethical, moral and
serve the sick and suffering is an integral part professional formation of their members.
of her mission. Not only has she fostered the Thus, through them the church herself will be
flourishing of various works of mercy, but she present in places of treatment and care,
has also developed within herself many exercising a humanizing effect on medicine
religious institutions whose specific purpose and a concrete attention to individuals.
is to promote, organize, improve and make Through the Gospel of charity, which sheds
more widespread the care of the sick. In light on the salvific meaning of suffering, the
conducting the work of evangelization the offering of suffering, united to Christ
missionaries have constantly associated the crucified and glorified for the salvation of all,
preaching of the good news with the can rise up to God.256
assistance and care of the sick.254
In the concern for life one must not overlook
Today too, the presence and commitment of the world of bioethics and medical research,
many religious members of secular institutes and the new problems being raised in the field
and societies of apostolic life is a sign of the of genetic engineering. Those who through
church's concern for the suffering members of following Christ are present by vocation and
the body of Christ. In following the example mission in these fields cannot help but make
of the Lord, physician of souls and bodies, the defense of life a commitment which is
and in the loving and generous welcome of justified by God's original plan and the eternal
every human life, especially of the weak and destiny of every human being.257
suffering, the church actualizes a fundamental
aspect of the Lord's mission. Educating the Young Toward The
Civilization of Love
Consecrated persons involved in the health-
care apostolate because of the charism of their 106. A field open to initiatives by institutes is
own institute, or a choice inspired by it, seek that of young people, the future of the church
to bear witness to the "Gospel of and humanity. In some countries of the first
suffering."255 They do so through their service world young people today are living in a
of the sick, the elderly, the handicapped, the world characterized by a search for great
ideals, a profound disappointment with the heart of Christ, in an effective and attractive
broken dreams of ideologies and a surrender presentation of the ideals of the Gospel.
to the surrogates of the false idols of
entertainment and sport. They are frequently Today, the world of youth needs an adequate

the unwitting victims of manipulations which education based on Christian principles and

exploit them and lead them to dehumanizing respect for human values. This is shown

consumerism and facile pleasure that corrupts through an acceptance and education of the

and degrades the person and life itself. In young people living on the margins of society

other nations-especially in the Third World- as well as through a determination to give a

young people are threatened by extreme response to the great problems of young

poverty, unemployment and the lack of people today in diverse cultural contexts:

prospects for the future due to a lack of unemployment; the lack of basic education;

education or work. The Holy Spirit has violence; sexual exploitation; and various

planted in the church particular charisms forms of dependence. A generous presence in

which reflect Jesus' predilection for young listening to young people and in becoming

people, their education and integral involved with them is necessary so they might
promotion. find reasons to believe and hope in a
civilization of love.
Together with public schools, a specific field
is that of the Catholic school, for which so Artisans and Promoters of Culture
many institutes-particularly of religious-have
107. The proclamation of Christ is particularly
been founded in times when the education of
bound to the evangelization of culture and
young people was threatened by a secular
cultures. This does not mean that culture
mentality; This task is still a valid option
should be the norm and measure of the
today and awaits new and courageous apostles
Gospel, but that Christ is the measure of all
of youth.
human work. The church today undertakes the

At this time when the example of our Holy work of inculturation with profound

Father John Paul II urges us to take care of the evangelical freedom259 for the purpose of

youth of our world, those who have inherited introducing respectfully, through the power of
a particular charism in this field have a special the Holy Spirit, the values of the Gospel into

responsibility. They are called to offer the best all human cultures.

of their energies to rekindle the dialogue with

The presence of institutes of consecrated life
young people and form them according to the
has had a great influence in the transmission
and formation of culture. This happened in the
Middle Ages, at the beginning of Europe's cause a loss of value to religious terms; how
consolidation, when the monasteries were the they are the cause of an erosion of traditional
places in which the cultural riches of the past values; and how they are a challenge to
were handed on and the new culture of effective training in cultural, social and moral
Christian humanism was developed. This has values. Nonetheless, they have a formidable
proven true whenever the light of the Gospel potential for improving communications,
has enlightened new nations and cultures. uniting the world and transmitting the truth of
Many consecrated persons have been the the Gospel when they are used for these ends
promotes of culture and often the defenders, in an intelligent manner and with authentic
researchers and scholars of indigenous professionalism. The consecrated life is also
cultures. In the church's mission there is a present in social communications which are
special need today to contribute to a serving the needs of the Gospel, through its
promotion of culture and to the dialogue charisms and activity stirred up by the Holy
between culture and faith. Spirit and adapted to the demands of the
While respecting the specific role of the laity,
consecrated persons have their own tasks- Training people in the proper use of the means
especially those consecrated persons who by a of communication and the possibility of
particular gift of the Spirit have been called to transforming them into new "aeropauses" for
enlighten the paths of the Gospel in dialogue the Gospel of Christ is a challenge to apostolic
with reason and human culture. They must activity in society-present and future.
work to offer wise responses to the many
problems and challenges of today's culture, In Service of the Family
especially in the fields of philosophy,
108. The exhortation made by John Paul II to
theology, scientific research and university
the heads of institutes of consecrated life is
studies in the Catholic universities and other
becoming ever more pressing in our day. He
institutions entrusted to their care.260
urged them "to consider-always with

Today the world of social communications is substantial respect for the proper and original

one of the most important "aeropauses" for charism of each one-the apostolate of the
the proclamation of the Gospel and the family as one of the priority

formation of consciences. The mass media tasks."262 Whether in the area of the ordinary
have a fundamental impact on public opinion pastoral work or through their contact with
and the formation-or deformation-of families in their diverse apostolic ministries,
conscience. In fact, it has been noted how they consecrated persons share in various ways the
current situation of families in all parts of the Artisans of Peace and Justice
world. Some institutes, because of their
inspiration from the mystery of Nazareth or 109. One of the dimensions of the new

their specific apostolic choice are dedicated to evangelization is human advancement,264 a

the family apostolate. In bringing about task which is becoming more important in that

mutual aid and an exchange of gifts they some aspects of modern culture tend to

highlight the precious value of the vocation to dehumanize human existence. At a time when

virginity and the complementary aspect of the so many people are marginalized from the
call to marriage. benefits which progress can give, it is
important to recall that consecrated persons
The methods of this apostolate are widely have played a pioneering role in the world of
known. One need only recall a key text education, health care and authentic human
from Familiaris Consortio: "Hence the advancement in all its forms. Renewing this
possibility for men and women religious, and commitment in courageous and creative
members of secular institutes and other initiatives is already a part of a global
institutes of perfection, either individually or response to the new evangelization.
in groups, to develop their service to families,
with particular solicitude for children, Called to live according to the spirit of the

especially if they are abandoned, unwanted, Beatitudes, members of institutes of

orphaned, poor or handicapped. They can also consecrated life and societies of apostolic life
visit families and look after the sick; they can are the artisans of justice and peace in the
foster relationships of respect and charity world. They do so through prayer, witness and

toward one-parent families or families that are a specific apostolate. In virtue of the link

in difficulties or are separated; they can offer between evangelization and human
their own work of teaching and counseling in advancement pointed out in the church's

the preparation of young people for marriage magisterium, consecrated persons find

and in helping couples toward truly themselves sharing and applying the church's

responsible parenthood; they can open their concern in the field of justice and peace. Their
own houses for simple and cordial hospitality "conversion to God's original plan for
so that families can find there the sense of humanity, as revealed in the new man, Jesus

God's presence and gain a taste for prayer and Christ, will be the measure of their

recollection, and see the practical examples of contribution to hastening in others that
lives lived in charity and fraternal joy as conversion of mind and attitudes which will
members of the larger family of God."263 make more true and stable the reform of
economic, social and political structures, communicating it "to other people in their
ensuring a more just and peaceful society."265 concrete difficulties, struggles, problems and
challenges so that these can be illuminated
The church's social doctrine can and must be and made more human in the light of faith."266
met with a more profound response. Indeed, it
broadens the meaning of traditional Witnessing in their life to the values of peace,
apostolates to include the horizons of the justice and development, and patiently
integral development of every person and all teaching people while seeking to get to the
peoples. This plan must evoke a profound root of problems, consecrated persons can be
reflection which leads to the search for a new witnesses of Christ, who makes all things
humanism. The consecrated life is often at the new.267
crossroads of values and activities promoting
not only the dignity of the human person, the Witnesses to God's Plan for Humanity
orientation of the spirit of poverty,
110. Serving the cause of humanity according
cooperation for the common good and the
to God's plan is the task of all Christians. The
desire for peace, but also the recognition of
consecrated life cannot be exempt from the
supreme values, above all the faith, whose
great concerns and tasks of the church in
source and end is in God.
preserving the great values of creation and the

The recent social encyclicals of John Paul Gospel. The cause of peace and justice, the

II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis and Centesimus defense of life, the fulfillment of the moral

Annus, converge in a strong appeal for law inscribed on the human conscience and
development, which cannot be achieved the safeguarding of creation are all values

without a call addressed to all our which need to be defended and promoted

contemporaries, rich and poor alike, and because of their roots in humanity and in the

including all those committed to and sharing Gospel. As some emblematic persons in the
responsibility for the true progress of the consecrated life have demonstrated,

human family-a progress which has social, consecrated persons have the responsibility to

cultural and spiritual dimensions, and from be particularly sensitive to these problems and

which those consecrated to God's cause to offer to the church their effective and
cannot exempt themselves. As educators and generous collaboration. Their work can be of

witnesses to true justice and peace, those who great service in building the civilization of
have experienced the newness of the Gospel love in communion with the laity and with
in their following of Christ are called to offer respect for their particular apostolic
their specific collaboration in this field, contribution.
A strong common witness of a holiness based spirituality and that of the apostolic activity of
on the Gospel, as well as one promoting the various institutes of consecrated life and
holiness of all the people of God, cannot but societies of apostolic life must be directed
produce a more positive influence in the toward this particular service of the faithful so
world. The charisms of the saints demonstrate as to offer a unique contribution to the new
the humanizing power of Christian holiness evangelization.
and point to their generous work in the service
of humanity. In this way it will be clear that the consecrated
life, following the example of Christ the Lord,
For this reason the new evangelization is not has a task in the church of transformation and
limited only to its initial proclamation nor to humanization, and that its charisms are the
an apostolate of Christian initiation. Today, living words of the Gospel and the presence of
the Christian fabric of society needs to be the incarnate Word for the salvation of the
repaired everywhere. The consecrated life has world.
an urgent role and great responsibility in this
work. Today, catechetical research is needed. CONCLUSION
There is urgent need for the proclamation of
Fidelity of the Consecrated Life
the Gospel truth about the greatest problems
of human existence, that is: the relationship of In a Grace-Filled Moment
everyone to God the creator and redeemer;
respect for life and the dignity of the human 111. The celebration of the Synod of Bishops
person; and the universal destination of goods devoted to "the consecrated life and its role in
achieved in such a way as to make the truth of the church and in the world" takes place as the
the Gospel shed light on the grave problems church is preparing to celebrate the great
of morality. Many initiatives in pastoral jubilee of the year 2000, the 2,000th
programs of spirituality are needed so as to anniversary of the incarnation of the Word of
bring to maturity the Christian experience God, a time of grace in the spread of the
among individuals and groups. Gospel in the world and its renewed salvific
presence for our society.
The consecrated life has as its purpose to
encourage the advancement of the Christian The memory of the past is interwoven with
vocation of the entire people of God, to the holiness and role of the consecrated life.
promote a response to the universal call to Hope for the future-until the Lord returns in
holiness and to form authentic apostles of the glory of his kingdom-is also a part of the
Christ for our world. The heritage of
role to be exercised by the charisms stirred by unity resulting from the work of the Holy
the Spirit. Spirit, the consecrated life is called to be itself
in its identity, communion and role, in
Therefore, in view of the appeals, challenges, faithfulness to its essential elements and in the
reflections and proposals collected in splendor of the variety of the spiritual and
this instrumentum laboris after taking into apostolic charisms of its saints.
account the responses coming from the whole
church, the celebration of this synod becomes Fidelity to the person and to our age. As
an important moment of discernment and witnesses to God in the world, consecrated
encouragement for the consecrated life and its persons are invited to that dynamic fidelity
future, a future open to a hope in the God of which discovers, through contemplation of the
history and the Holy Spirit, who is leading the Lord's countenance and attention to the needs
church to the fullness of truth and of of the men and women of our day, the paths
evangelical life. of salvation through the charisms of the
Gospel sown by the Spirit.
At this grace-filled moment it is important to
recall those four fidelities proposed to the "Now to him who can strengthen you,
consecrated life which ensure vitality in its according to the Gospel, and the proclamation
present and hope for its future.268 of Jesus Christ, ... made known to all nations
to bring about the obedience of faith, to the
First of all, fidelity to Christ and to his only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory
Gospel. Christ, Lord and bridegroom of the forever and ever" (Rom. 16:25-27).
church, master and savior of consecrated
persons, is the first and ultimate reason for
their life and mission; the Gospel the
foundation, rule and joy of their existence.

Fidelity to the church and her mission in the

world. The gift and duty asked of consecrated
persons is to feel with the church, to live her
mystery and ecclesial communion, and to
identify with her mission, which is open to the
needs of our world at this moment in history.

Fidelity to the consecrated life and to the

charism of one's institute. In an unbroken