no. 3 july - september 2006
According to published reports by Zenit News Agency, Pope Benedict XVI says that "courageous choices are needed, at the personal and community level," to rediscover and to show the beauty of following Christ in a consecrated life.
The Pope posed this challenge on May 22nd when receiving in audience the general superiors of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life.
In his address Monday in Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father analyzed some of the key challenges facing consecrated life, which is losing numbers in some parts of the world.
Consecrated persons today have the "task to be witnesses of the transfiguring presence of God in an ever more disoriented and confused world, a world in which shades have replaced exceedingly clear and striking colors," Benedict XVI clarified.
In this connection, the Pope said that "in the last years consecrated life has again been understood with a more evangelical, more ecclesial and more apostolic spirit. But we cannot ignore that some concrete choices have not offered the world the authentic and life giving face of Christ."
In fact, "secularized culture has penetrated the mind and heart of not a few consecrated persons, who see in it a form of access to modernity and rapprochement to the contemporary world," the Holy Father noted.
The consequence, the Pontiff indicated, "is that along with an undoubtedly generous impulse, able to give witness and to commit itself totally, consecrated life is experiencing today the snare of mediocrity, gentrification and the consumer mentality."
"Courageous choices are needed at the personal and community level, which imprint a new discipline on the life of consecrated persons and lead them to rediscover the integral dimension of the following of Christ," the Holy Father stressed.
Benedict XVI clarified that "to belong to the Lord" is "the mission of the men and women who have opted to follow the chaste, poor and obedient Christ, so that the world will believe and be saved."
Therefore, the Pontiff counseled them to be nourished daily with prayer — "intimate conversation of the consecrated soul with the divine Bridegroom" — and with "daily participation in the ineffable mystery of the divine Eucharist, in which the risen Christ makes himself constantly present in the reality of his flesh."
Regarding the vow of chastity made by religious, the Pope explained that "it cannot be framed in the logic of this world." In a reference to Matthew 19:11-12, he said that "it is the most ‘unreasonable’ Christian paradox and not everyone can understand it and live it."
In November 2004 in Rome was held the Congress of Religious with the theme: "Passion for Christ. Passion for Humanity". There were over 1000 delegates, male and female, representing religious from every part of the world. Towards the end of the Congress there was to be an audience with Pope John Paul II. Unfortunately this had to be cancelled at very short notice. The newly appointed prefect of the Congregation for Religious, Archbishop Rodé (now Cardinal), had to give us the news. Of course there was great disappointment.
Cardinal Rodé set about organising a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI and this took place on Monday 22nd May 2006 in the Audience Hall beside St. Peter’s Basilica. Invited were Superiors General and their Vicars from all over the world. Before the Pope arrived, there was a service of prayer around the rosary using many different languages.
When Pope Benedict made his appearance, he was greeted with enthusiastic applause. Cardinal Rodé was the first to speak and he thanked the Pope for the possibility to meet with him. Next the Presidents of the organisations of female and male Superiors General (UISG and USG) spoke. They reminded Pope Benedict that the men and women present for the audience represented over one million consecrated people all over the world who were working in many different ways to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in fidelity to the mission given to the Church.
Finally the Pope spoke and said that it was a joy for him to be able to meet the representatives of the Consecrated Life, and through us he wished to transmit his gratitude to all religious. He also had a special word of care for the elderly and sick religious and all those who were passing through some particular difficulty.
Pope Benedict expressed his admiration for much of what had been accomplished within and by the consecrated life. He also pointed some of the problems in the religious life especially with regard to the temptation to mediocrity. He reminded us of our call to follow Jesus Christ, leaving everything in order to belong totally to God. Our way of life is not reasonable but is one of the great paradoxes of following Christ. We are to be credible signs of the Gospel and in order to do so, we cannot conform ourselves to this passing age but must be transformed according to the mind of Christ (cf. Rom. 12,2).
The Carmelite Forum of Britain and Ireland will sponsor a program on Saturday, September 16, 2006, entitled "Elijah: A Prophet for Our Time." The Forum will take place at Terenure College in Dublin, Ireland.
Keynote speakers are James McCaffrey, OCD and Míceál O’Neill, O. Carm.
The conference will be repeated at the Carmelite Centre in London,
England on Saturday, October 21.
The website of the Forum is: www.carmeliteforum.org