Consecrated persons: God’s gift
AS he reflects on the beauty of consecrated life, Pope Francis asks that “the whole Christian people be increasingly aware of the gift which is present in our many consecrated men and women, heirs of the great saints who have written the history of Christianity.” He asks: What would the Church be like without such saints as Benedict, Francis, Dominic, John Bosco, and Teresa of Calcutta?
Francis quotes Pope Paul VI, pointing out: “Without this concrete sign [of religious men and women] there would be a danger that the charity that animates the entire Church would grow cold, that the salvific paradox of the Gospel would be blunted, and that the ‘salt’ of faith would lose its savor in a world undergoing secularization.”
Francis seeks to promote the practice of “grateful remembrance for all the gifts we continue to receive, thanks to the sanctity of founders and foundresses, and from the fidelity to their charism shown by so many consecrated men and women.” The Pope asks us all “to draw close to these men and women, to rejoice with them, to share their difficulties and to assist them, to whatever degree possible, in their ministries and works.”
Consecrated persons in other traditions. The gift of consecrated life is found in many forms and expressions. Recognizing this, Pope Francis says: “I do not hesitate to address a word to the consecrated men and women and to the members of fraternities and communities who belong to Churches of traditions other than the Catholic tradition. Monasticism is part of the heritage of the undivided Church, and is still very much alive in both the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church.”
Francis notes that “the phenomenon of monasticism and of other expressions of religious fraternity is present in all the great religions.” In addition, “there are instances, some long-standing, of inter-monastic dialogue involving the Catholic Church and certain of the great religious traditions.”
The Pope asks the Church to review the progress already achieved and to make consecrated persons more aware of this dimension of interfaith or interreligious dialogue. The Church is also asked to explore “what further steps can be taken towards greater mutual understanding and greater cooperation in the many common areas of service to human life.” Such journeying together always brings enrichment; it opens new pathways that foster better relationships between peoples, cultures, and religions.
Bishops should promote consecrated life. Pope Francis has issued a special plea to all bishops, asking them to promote the gift of consecrated life in the Church. He asserts: “Consecrated life is a gift to the Church, it is born of the Church, it grows in the Church, and it is entirely directed to the Church.” Thus, consecrated life is found at the very heart of the Church; it is “a decisive element of her mission” and it belongs to the “life and holiness of the Church.”
The Pope directly asks bishops “to show special concern for promoting within your communities the different charisms…. I ask you to do this by your support and encouragement, your assistance in discernment, and your tender and loving closeness to those situations of suffering and weakness in which some consecrated men or women may find themselves. Above all, do this by instructing the People of God in the value of consecrated life, so that its beauty and holiness may shine forth in the Church.”