World Day of Consecrated Life, 2 February

Author: Archbishop Franc Rodé, C.M.

World Day of Consecrated Life, 2 February

Archbishop Franc Rodé, C.M.
Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life

Word, Eucharist and 'Passion for Christ'

At the beginning of this third millennium of the Christian era a joint reflection is urgently needed to help us recognize the new things the Lord of history is inspiring in today's consecrated life.

Moral and social problems, numerous and often dramatic, are calling us as Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life into question.

They impel us to keep alive in the world "the way of life which Jesus, the supreme Consecrated One and missionary of the Father for the sake of his Kingdom, embraced and proposed to his disciples" (Vita Consecrata, n. 22; cf. Mt 4:18.22: Mk 1:16-20; Lk 5:10:1; Jn 15:16).

United to Christ in his consecration to the Father, we never cease to seek his face; we want to stay with him and, like the Samaritan woman of the Gospel, draw through him from the sources of living water, to quench our thirst with his word and rejoice in his presence.

Taking part in his mission, we are overcome by compassion at hearing the "cry of the poor". clamouring for justice and solidarity, and we strive like the Good Samaritan of the parable to give practical and generous responses.

However, these two forces — the desire to stay with Christ and compassion which impels us to reach out to humanity — sometimes tend to clash rather than to converge

Unity of heart and spirit

The pressure exercised by the prevalent culture, which relentlessly presents a lifestyle based on the law of the strongest, on easy and enticing gain and on the disintegration of the issues of the person, family and social community, inevitably influences our thinking, projects and the perspectives of our service.

Moreover, it risks emptying them of the motivation of Christian faith and hope that inspired them at the outset.

The numerous and pressing requests for help, support and service from the poor and the marginalized prompt us to seek solutions with the logic of efficiency, visibility and publicity.

Consecrated life is thus in danger of being unable to express the strong reasons of faith and hope that enliven it. It has difficulty manifesting the evangelical values because all too often the authentic reasons for life and hope that it proposes are concealed.

Clearly, the problem is mainly in the hearts of consecrated persons. They often fail to find the right words to witness clearly and convincingly to Christ, for, "in addition to the life-giving thrust, capable of witness and self-sacrifice to the point of martyrdom, consecrated life also experiences the insidiousness of mediocrity is the spiritual life, of the progressive taking on of middle-class values and of a consumer mentality. The complex management of works, while required by new social demands and norms of the State, together with the temptations presented by efficiency and activism, run the risk of obscuring the Gospel's originality and of weakening spiritual motivations. The prevalence of personal projects over community endeavours can deeply corrode the communion of brotherly and sisterly love" (Instruction Starting Afreshfrom Christ n. 12, 19 May 2002).

It must be recognized that we frequently fail to combine satisfactorily spiritual life and apostolic action; this is absolutely indispensable if we wish to face the challenges of the "new" to which Christ and his Church are inviting, us and which humanity expects.

In a divided and fragmented world, a deep, authentic unity of hearts, spirits and action is indispensable to all.

In the light of the Eucharist

While the episode of the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well leads to the spiritual dimension of contemplation, the episode of the Good Samaritan prompts thoughts on the charitable dimension of assistance: these two Gospel scenes offered to us for reflection are certainly deeply linked.

By highlighting these links and focusing on Christ, the One sitting by Jacob's well, the One who "did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at" (Phil 2:6) but came down to treat us with the oil of mercy and heal us with his Blood, we find a unique and reliable source from which to draw living water, a place in which consecration and mission become one: the light and strength that can give birth to the "new" in consecrated life. This unique source, this source of evangelization, is the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

John Paul II pointed it out to us with urgency on the occasion of the World Day of Consecrated Life on 2 February 2001, saying: "Meet him, dear friends. and contemplate him in a most special way in the Eucharist, celebrated and adored each day as the source and summit of life and apostolic action" (John Paul II, Homily, 2 February 2001, n. 4; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE]. 7 February 2001, p. 2; cf. Starting Afresh from Christ, n. 26).

The Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata recalls in turn that: "The Eucharist, the memorial of the Lord's sacrifice, the heart of the life of the Church and of every community, fashions from within the renewed offering of one's very existence, the project of community life and the apostolic mission. We all need the daily viaticum of encounter with the Lord in order to bring everyday life into sacred time which is made present in celebration of the Lord's Memorial" (Starting Afresh from Christ, n. 26; cf. Vita Consecrata, n. 95).

It is in the Eucharist that the fundamental needs of consecrated life find their model and their perfect fulfilment.

Need for 'renewal'

Despite the atmosphere of despondency and resignation that can be noted in some communities, it cannot be denied that there is a profound need for the "new" among consecrated persons, the expectation of a turning-point, a future to live and to share.

I also think that even those who think there is "nothing more to hope for", actually nourish in their hearts the hope of a possible newness. This applies both to individuals and to communities.

In recent years, many General Chapters have focused on the search for new fields of action and new approaches in which to express their institute's charismatic identity. They have sought new ways of living fraternal life in community and have once again devoted themselves to attentive listening, as well as to a more dynamic commitment in response to the numerous requests for help that come from the situations of moral and material poverty which afflict humanity.

Yet this commitment to the new has not always been in accordance with the criteria of evangelical discernment. "Renewal" is sometimes confused with adaptation to the dominant mindset and culture, with the risk of forgetting authentic Gospel values.

It cannot be denied that the "carnal allurements, enticements for the eye, the life of empty show" (I Jn 2:16) that belong to the world have exercised their bewildering influence, giving rise to serious conflicts within communities and apostolic decisions that are not always faithful to the original spirit and inspiration of the institute.

As always in history, the Church is situated between the breath of the Spirit who is unfolding new paths and the seductions of the world that make the journey hazardous and can lead to error.

For this reason, we must go to the "well" of the Eucharist. Only a Eucharistic interpretation of the needs of the time can help us interpret the quality of the new approaches.

Jesus waits for us in the Eucharist and is calling us: "Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you" (Mt 11:28). As Bishop Melito of Sardis commented:

"So come, O people, all who are oppressed by sin, and receive forgiveness. Indeed, I am your pardon, I am the Pasch of the Redemption, I am the Lamb sacrificed for you, I am your purification, I your life, I your resurrection, I your light, I your salvation, I your king. I bring you to the heights of Heaven. I will lift you up and enable you to see the Father who is in Heaven I will raise you with my right hand" (Homily on Easter, 2-7).

The "passion for Christ" must lead consecrated persons to put Jesus, present and active in the Eucharist, at the centre of their lives and work. At his table, our apostolic approaches will have a greater guarantee of fidelity to his spirit and we will be more certain to make the right decisions.

Jesus came proclaiming the "Good News" and repeats to us today what he said to the Apostle Peter who had returned discouraged after failing to catch a single fish: "Duc in altum" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 1; cf. Lk 5:4).

This is the challenge of the Eucharist. Consecrated life rediscovers its identity when it lets "a living memorial of Jesus' way of living and acting as the Incarnate Word in relation to the Father and in relation to the brethren..., a living tradition of the Saviour's life and message", shine out in its action (VitaConsecrata. n. 22)

This Gospel perspective restores vigour to spiritual motivations, endows apostolic action with fresh vitality and brings to fruition the baptismal consecration, the basis of the identity and mission of consecrated persons.

In particular, I believe that today Christ, the Church and humanity are making three important appeals to the consecrated life: to reassert the primacy of holiness, to reinforce the sense of Church and to witness to the power of Christ's charity.

The Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa refers to this, recalling that "Europe will always need the holiness, prophetic witness, evangelizing activity and service of consecrated persons" (n. 37).

The primacy of holiness

Affirming the primacy of holiness in Christian life above all else was John Paul II's fundamental message for the Third Millennium.

Holiness, in the rich variety of its terms and the ways in which it develops, has always been the prime goal of those who seek God and dedicate themselves to him, "preferring nothing to the love of Christ" (Vita Consecrata, n. 6). Today especially, in the secularized environment in which we live, the witness of a life entirely consecrated to God is an eloquent reminder that God suffices to fill the human heart.

In Novo Millennia Ineunte, Pope John Paul II said: "First of all, I have no hesitation in saying that all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness" (n. 30).

He then added that starting out from holiness "implies the conviction that, since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity" (ibid, n. 31).

The consecrated life, in its different forms in every time and every place, is brought into being by the Holy Spirit specifically to offer Christian communities the image of evangelical perfection.

By an inculturation wisely carried out, consecrated life assimilates the values of the society in which it is called to serve, rejecting what is marked by sin and injecting the values with the vital force of the Gospel.

On this journey, to the extent that an institute of consecrated life can integrate the positive values of a given culture, inculturation becomes an instrument by which it opens an entire people to the riches of Christian holiness (cf. Ecclesia in Africa, n. 87).

Constantly striving to put into practice "God's plan for the human being", consecrated persons are on a par with the common Christian ideal, neither above it nor below it. Indeed, "the whole Church greatly depends on the witness of communities filled 'with joy and with the Holy Spirit' (Acts 13:52)" (Vita Consecrata, n. 45).

"If in fact it is true that all Christians are called 'to the holiness and perfection of their particular state', consecrated persons, thanks to a 'new and special consecration', have as their mission that of making Christ's way of life shine through the witness of the evangelical counsels, thereby supporting the faithfulness of the whole Body of Christ" (Starting Afresh from Christ, n. 13).

The common vocation to holiness of all Christians can never be an obstacle, but rather it is a stimulus to the originality and the specific contribution of men and women religious to the splendour of holiness of the entire Church.

Eucharist lights the way

The Eucharist lights the way and vitalizes the process of sanctification of the Church and of all Christians.

Through the Eucharist, Jesus' sacrifice is made present in every time and place; it is his act of abandonment in the Father, the total gift of himself to humanity that points out to us the way of holiness.

The Eucharist presents anew, to all humanity and each individual person, the model by which Jesus "gave" himself for humankind and the world, gave himself over to God in his death. In the Eucharist he is eternally the One who "gives himself", and he gives himself to humanity as a grace.

In the Eucharist, consecrated persons learn to say with Paul: "I have been crucified with Christ, and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me. I still live my human life; but it is a life of faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:19-20).

Here the identity and mission of consecrated life are manifested in full clarity as a continuity of Christ's mission and totally dependent on him. Thus, passion for Christ is transformed into active energy, into zeal for humanity.

In the Eucharistic celebration, according to the characteristics proper to individuals and Institutions, Jesus teaches how to offer in the present his sufferings and his death for the salvation of humankind. The events of his Passion and death become the foundation and inspiration of the way of seeing and acting by consecrated persons, making every instant a moment of grace.

Thus is fulfilled St. Paul's exhortation to continually "carry about in our bodies the dying of Jesus, so that in our bodies the life of Jesus may also be revealed" (II Cor 4:10).

In the Eucharist a close relationship is created between our body and the Body of Jesus, the Body placed in the hands of sinners and consigned to death so that the eternal glory of the Father might shine on the face of the Son.

Likewise, our body, configured to the Body of Jesus, makes its contribution to the Father's plan of love and salvation, being sacrificed for love and sowing the way of salvation.

This is the authentic face of holiness which consecrated life is called to make present today.

Reinforce a sense of Church

The second forceful appeal to consecrated life asks it to give a more broadly ecclesial meaning to its life and work, endowing the communities with the features of the "home and the school of communion" (cf. Novo Millennio lneunte, n. 43; Starting Afresh from Christ, nn. 25, 28, and Part III in general).

Considerable ground has certainly been covered in recent years regarding the study of the identity of the consecrated life; yet the data contained in Magisterial Documents, especially in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata and the two Instructions of our Dicastery, Fraternal Life in Community and Starting Afresh from Christ, do not yet seem to have penetrated the awareness of consecrated persons or Christian communities.

In today's Church, the notion of "communion" has become the most important hermeneutic principle (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Communionis Notio, 28 May 1992, n. 3, ORE, 17 June 1992, p. 8; cf. John Paul II, Address to the Bishops of the U.S.A., 16 September 1987, n. 1). The identity of the Church's members is no longer defined on the basis of each individual but on ecclesial relations and on the specific ways of participating in the one mission of Christ and of the Church (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, n. 8; Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 12; Vita Consecrata, n. 16 and ff.; Pastores Gregis, n. 22: Synodos EpiscoporumX Coetus Generalis Ordinarius, The Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World, Lineamento, Introduction). The affirmation of personal identity is always a product of the quality of relations established with the brothers and sisters in the faith.

It therefore becomes indispensable to foster quality ecclesial relations with all who, guided by God's Spirit and "obeying the Father's voice..., follow Christ, poor, humble and cross-bearing, that they may deserve to be partakers of his glory" (Lumen Gentium), n. 41).

This will lead consecrated persons to a strong experience of "exodus". Liberated from the narrowness of their ego, they will be called to come out of themselves and to seek together the path of their existence in the community and of their apostolic action.

It is only in a dynamic of ecclesial and social relations that the identity of the charismatic gifts proper to Institutes is revealed.

There is one image that religious families frequently use to represent their history: the tree; the trunk represents the Founder and the branches, the Superiors General or the family's Saints.

A work written in Venice in 1586 uses the image of the tree together with that of a boat (Pietro Rodolfi da Tossignano, Historiarum seraphicae religionis...; v. DIP 4, 518). In this image, the boat represents the Church on which a huge mast is raised spreading out branches like a plant. Navigating in rough seas, this boat receives the help of the holy Religious to reach the port.

This imagery clearly shows how consecrated life develops when it draws life from its trunk and puts down roots in the fertile soil of the Church.

The two images of tree and boat indicate the two ways of conceiving the consecrated life.

The tree suggests the idea of stability but gives rise to a suspicion that the religious family might be seeking self-celebration.

The boat, on the contrary, introduces the idea of a consecrated life understood as a dynamic and as a service to be rendered to the Church in order to come into "port".

For a renewed vitality

A more dynamic relationship with Christ and with his Body, the Church, sets the process of renewal of the institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life on the right road.

In fact, it is not a question of "re-founding", in the case of "human emergencies", but of being accompanied by Christ like the "disciples of Emmaus" on Easter Day, letting his words warm our hearts and the "breaking of the bread" open our eyes to the contemplation of his face. Only in this way will the fire of his love burn brightly enough to impel every consecrated person to become a dispenser of light and life in the Church and among men and women.

In addition, the path of renewal in this perspective will never be simply a return to origins but a recovery of zeal, of the joy of the beginning of the experience, for a creative repossession of the charism. A more open and freer relationship with the origins is expressed through authentic growth and progress, in understanding and in putting into practice the gift of the Spirit, who has given life to a family of consecrated life.

All renewal will be expressed in a gift made to the Church to help her put into "port". Consecrated persons are called, together with their brothers and sisters, to face the risks of navigation, to work on the boat and not stay on the shores of their certainties.

They are not beacons but sailors in the barque of the Church. The beacon knows no danger but sailors come into contact with danger every day: it is their daily bread, the source of their pride.

Consecrated life firmly rooted in the fertile soil of the Church and vitally grafted onto theology and the spirituality of the evangelical counsels in accordance with the teachings of Vita Consecrata (cf. nn. 20-21), will find light and vigour for the courageous decisions it must make if it is to respond effectively to the appeals addressed to it by humanity. Measuring itself against the sources of its charisms and the texts of its constitutions will enable it to start out with fresh zeal towards interpretations that are new but equally demanding.

The renewed dynamism of a spiritual life that is more ecclesial, mere communitarian, more generous and enlightened in its apostolic choices (cf. Starting Afresh from Christ, n. 20) will offer consecrated persons the opportunity to give new life to their roots in the context of the Christian communities in which they work.

In this search for a renewed vitality, the Eucharist is the source and school of a formation in conformity with the characteristics of faith and service proper to each one. The Eucharistic Mystery marvellously teaches people to find the way to reaffirm respect for healthy traditions and predisposes them to listen to the new voices that are raised by humanity, injured and oppressed by our time.

During the Eucharistic celebration, Jesus repeats once again, "Do this as a remembrance of me" (Lk 22:19). The whole of Sacred Scripture, in fact, is built on "doing in remembrance".

"Remembering" is one of the fundamental expressions of the Covenant. God asks his people to have this fundamental and unreserved willingness in their "hearts", through which they totally entrust themselves to him, obediently listening to his Word.

Without the memory of the Exodus and Easter, God's People Israel would not have existed or had the slightest consistence. The memory of the past, of facts and words, interprets events and becomes a source of discernment in the present, "prophetically" guiding them toward the future.

"Remembering" does not only mean thinking back nostalgically to what is no longer, which in any case cannot be presented anew. In the biblical sense, "remembering" means a commemoration, an effective remembrance that renews, realizes and puts into practice what is remembered, becoming contemporary with the event.

Learning to "commemorate" primarily means recovering the sense of "gift", of "listening". The Eucharist, the Pasch of Jesus, his presence, his sacrificial death and Resurrection are nourishment for us, a source of life, communion with that gift, the apex and centre of our life as baptized and consecrated people.

The Eucharist links us to the events and dynamism of the origins of the Church and of our Institutes; it makes them active in the hearts and lives of today's women and men. It is the fulfilment of Jesus' desire: "I have greatly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Lk 22:15).

Every institute of consecrated life is a realization in history of this desire of Jesus. Only by learning to "commemorate" will institutes discover how to meet the challenge of rediscovering the true dimension of their identity in the Church and of reviving missionary zeal, in order to serve humbly and enthusiastically the work of the new evangelization that the world expects of the Church.

Witness to Christ's charity

The third appeal — or challenge — that must be faced today is that of being "a sign of the Lord's Pasch among men and women" through charity.

The commitment to transform society with the power of the Gospel has always been a challenge and continues to be one today, at the beginning of the Third Millennium of the Christian era.

The proclamation of Jesus Christ, the "Good News" of salvation, love, justice and peace, is not always easy to accept in the contemporary world. However, "men and women of our day have greater need than ever of the Gospel: of the faith that saves, of the hope that enlightens, of the charity that loves (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 2004 Presentation).

Today, history sets before us a multitude of new phenomena that nourish both the hope of a fuller life and the fear of suffering and death, these phenomena speak of progress and freedom, seeking to hide the profound signs of new forms of slavery and conflicts between individuals, peoples and nations.

In this "habitat", there is a risk for consecrated persons that the logic of disagreement and merciless fighting might undermine their correct option for the poor and oppressed and impel them towards a limited "horizontalism", full of bitterness and devoid of true hope, which drives them away from Christ, the One Saviour of human beings, instead of bringing them closer to him.

Today, the vast majority, so closed to an eschatological future, live in the absence of hope. Life seems to them their only opportunity to take as much as possible: more and more and ever faster. There is something desperate in this attitude, especially when the fulfilment of desires seems impossible, as almost always happens.

This situation challenges in particular consecrated persons who have made the future their profession of faith and eschatological hope the vehicle of their lives.

Here, the prophetic mission of consecrated life acquires special importance. In this context, it carries out a specific ministry which could in a certain sense be described by analogy as "priestly".

In fact, in Starting Afresh from Christ we read: "in imitation of Jesus, those whom God calls to follow him are consecrated and invited to continue his mission in the world. Indeed, consecrated life itself, guided by the action of the Holy Spirit, becomes a mission. The more consecrated persons allow themselves to be conformed to Christ, the more Christ is made present and active in history for the salvation of all. Open to the needs of the world as seen through the eyes of God, they point to a future with the hope of the Resurrection, ready to follow the example of Christ, who came among us that we 'might have life and have it to the full' (Jn 10:10)" (n. 9).

For charity too, the Eucharist is the source from which consecrated persons can draw fresh prophetic vigour for their community life and service to others. It makes the Cross on which Christ died, "descending into hell", present in our time and shows solidarity to all who were, are and will be prisoners of sin and death, so that, through him, those who are distant may become brothers and sisters and draw close to the Father.

At this school, consecrated men and women learn authentic zeal for humanity and hear the invitation to live their mission as a sharing of death that marks the body and soul of men and women, to open them to hope beyond death.

Illumined by the Eucharistic celebration, consecrated persons will learn to become "Good Samaritans" like Christ, and, in the spirit of Christ, they will be able to suggest paths of hope to all whom they meet on their way.

In the Eucharistic celebration, commemorating the violent death of Jesus becomes "non-violence" in the spontaneous gift of self. Jesus is not sacrificed; he sacrifices himself. The principle of opposition gives way to the principle of solidarity.

At the same time and inseparably so, the Eucharist is a sacrifice, a commemoration and nourishment. The Word made flesh is offered in sacrifice. Those who adhere to this mystery with faith enter into communion with this gift of Christ and in turn become a "gift", since in the Eucharistic celebration communion is linked to the sacrifice of Christ (cf. Jn 6:49-58).

When people do not accept this gift — the entrustment of themselves to the Lord in the Eucharist — the tragedy of Judas' betrayal is re-enacted. They behave like the people in the Synagogue at Capernaum who, when Jesus announced that he was giving his Flesh and Blood for the life of the world, ceased to follow him (cf. Jn 6:64-70).

On the contrary, when every pastoral activity, every service to the little, the poor, the sick and those left on the wayside stems from deep participation in the Eucharistic Mystery, they become the realization of Jesus commandment: "Do this in memory of me". The fire of Christ's love envelops everyone and becomes a commitment and a gift of self.

The consecrated life then finds the strength to emerge from constraints, to overcome barriers and withdrawal into self, to illumine unilateral interpretations of reality.

The "sacrificium laudis" of consecrated persons will thus he expressed with a new ardour for humanity and will impel them to complete in their own flesh "what is lacking in the sufferings of Jesus". Serving, being small and being joyful will always be rooted in the Lord's Pasch, accepted, loved and borne for the salvation of all.

It is not only Religious who are touched by this Eucharistic energy that renews all things, but also the whole of the universe. The life that Christ transmits, this gift of himself through the Eucharist, goes even further. Its influence reaches every material dimension, the entire cosmos.

All creation, in a certain way, is present in the Eucharistic bread and wine, elements of nature cultivated by man. In the Eucharist, creation and the work of human hands are deeply united in the history of salvation. The entire creation is waiting impatiently for the revelation of the Son of God (cf. Rom 8:19), and the human being, transformed by the Eucharist, will work to renew the whole universe, bringing it with him towards fullness of life.

Thus, consecrated life will find in the Eucharist the light to accompany in the truth the way of those who seek a more fruitful relationship with nature, without idealization or exploitation, giving all things their proper value in the logic of the "gift" and of "service".

Start fresh from formation

There is one final point of fundamental importance. Formation is a crucial element in all ecclesial contexts. This is especially true for consecrated persons.

Starting with their initial formation, it will be important to teach them to use all their energies and potential and affective powers in the radical following of Christ, discovered progressively as the "only One", the "only necessity", the One who is the source of life, who can satisfy a person's heart far better than any words.

It is from the encounter with the One who, "though he was in the form of God... did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at" (Phil 2:6), but humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a Cross, in order to communicate his divinity and make man resemble him more closely, that the project of a life imbued with Christ's presence will be born, an existence focused on him, yearning to cultivate the attitude of Christ (cf, Phil 2:5).

A strong and intense experience of the Lord's love will bring young consecrated people to reciprocate this love in an exclusive and spousal way, so that other loves and other values gradually fade from the horizon of their lives.

"But those things I used to consider gain", St. Paul explained with words that could be interpreted as summing up a project of consecrated life, "I have now reappraised as loss in the light of Christ. I have come to rate all as loss in the light of the surpassing knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ. For his sake I have forfeited everything; I have accounted all else rubbish so that Christ may be my wealth and I may be in him" (Phil 3:7-9).

The depth and totality of this passion for Christ will become almost spontaneously total, unconditional participation in his passion for humanity. Young consecrated persons will feel urged irresistibly to proclaim the Gospel of the Beatitudes to all who are poor, discouraged and oppressed; they will feel spurred to become their companions on the difficult journey of life in accordance with Jesus' style, discreet yet strong. They will open their hearts to hope, following the demanding ways of life that are offered to them.

It is essential to review the formation of consecrated persons, for it will no longer be limited to one period of life. It will be fundamentally necessary, in a reality of frenetic changes, to develop the readiness to learn throughout life, in every age and season, in every human context, from every person and every culture, so as to be taught by any fragment of truth and beauty that we find around us.

It will be necessary above all, however, to learn to be shaped by daily life, by our own community, by our brothers and sisters, by everyday things, ordinary and extraordinary, by prayer and by apostolic labour, in joy and in suffering, until the moment of death (cf. Starting Afresh from Christ. n. 15).


May the experience of the Virgin Mary,  Mother of Jesus and Mother of the Church, who let herself be formed by all the events in her divine Son's life — who "treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart" (Lk 2:19) —, also guide consecrated life, that it may continue in its dedication to the Lord and travel the ways of the new evangelization with freely-given charity.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
25 January 2006, page 6

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