Iuvenescit Ecclesia: A Light to understand the Year of the Clergy and the Consecrated Persons

Iuvenescit Ecclesia: A Light to understand the Year of the Clergy and the Consecrated Persons

THE letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “Iuvenescit Ecclesia” (The Church rejuvenates) to the Bishops of the Catholic Church is a great light in preparing the theme of the Year of the Clergy and the Consecrated Persons. Without this important document priests and the ordained even the bishops could be prone to misunderstand this year as something exclusively for them. The document is in fact about the relationship between the hierarchical and charismatic dimension or the double faceted gift of the Holy Spirit in the life and the mission of the Church. If we have to continue in embarking the new evangelization, which the Philippine church are continuously invited to do. What is basic in this document is that the hierarchical and charismatic gifts are “co-essential” in the life of the Church: this is the central point of the Letter “Iuvenescit Ecclesia“, published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The document – signed by the prefect, Cardinal Ludwig Müller and the secretary, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, is addressed to the bishops of the Catholic Church and focuses on “the relationship between hierarchical and charismatic gifts for the life and the mission of the Church”. The first are those conferred by the Sacrament of ordination (Episcopal, priestly and diaconal), while the second is freely distributed by the Holy Spirit. The publication of this Letter–dated 15 May 2016, Solemnity of Pentecost–was ordered by Pope Francis on 14 March, in the audience granted to Cardinal Müller.

In other words in this coming year, the ordained could not be taken apart from the laity who also received from the Holy Spirit some charismatic gifts as baptized persons. There are, as we know, consecrated persons who remain as lay. They realized that it is better for them not to be ordained although they have also the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They come from the ecclesial institutions, new movements and aggregations. The document, insisting on the harmonious connection and complementary nature of the two subjects:–the hierarchical and charismatic–provides that it is part of a “fruitful and ordered participation” in the charisms of the communion of the Church, which does not authorize the charismatic dimension, the lay, “to withdraw the obedience owed towards the ecclesial hierarchy”; nor does she “bestow the right to an autonomous ministry”. As “gifts of indispensable importance for the life and mission of the Church”, authentic charisms are called to “missionary openness, to the necessary obedience to pastors, and to maintain ecclesial communion”.

There is only one Holy Spirit who is the source of these charisms and at the same time also the source of the ordained hierarchy. It is not difficult to understand that if they come from the Holy Spirit, there could arise a genuine conflict between the two dimensions. The year of the clergy and consecrated persons therefore, especially those who are not ordained could give a witness together to this unity during this year. In fact their specific vocation is not so much the radicality in following Jesus, which all of the church are invited to do in following Christ in a totalitarian way, but on a prophetic witness–so that all members of the church could be inspired in following their example. A harmonious relationship between them is necessary in order to give this same witness for the unity of the church.

As the document says therefore, that “their opposition, and equally their juxtaposition” with hierarchical gifts would be a mistake. Indeed, a Church “of the institution” should not be opposed to a Church “of charity”, since in the Church “the essential institutions are also charismatic” and “the charisms must, in one way or another, be institutionalized to have coherency and continuity”. In this way, both dimensions “together concur to make present the mystery and the salvific work of Christ in the world”.

In this year for the clergy and the consecrated persons belonging to new ecclesial realities and religious orders, though are never missing in the Church, therefore, need an ecclesial maturity, on the one hand; and on the other hand, the hierarchical dimension, i.e., the ordained ministers are invited to welcome and discern together what is really from the Holy Spirit from the charisms. These two realities, therefore, must reach the “ecclesial maturity” that leads to their full development and integration in the life of the Church, always in communion with Pastors and attentive to their indications. The existence of new realities, indeed–the Letter underlines–fills the heart of the Church with “joy and gratitude”, but are also called to “relate positively with all of the other gifts present in ecclesial life”, so as “to promote them generously, and to accompany them with vigilant paternity” of Pastors “in such a manner that all contribute to the good of the Church and to its evangelising mission”.

Lastly “Iuvenescit Ecclesia” shows how the relationship between hierarchical and charismatic gifts must take into account the “constitutive and essential relation between the universal Church and the particular Churches”. This means that while the charisms are given to all the Church, “the dynamism of these gifts must actualise itself in the service of a concrete diocese”. In addition, these also represent an “authentic opportunity” to live and to develop the Christian vocation of each person, whether this be marriage, priestly celibacy, or ordained ministry. In addition, consecrated life too “is located within the charismatic dimension of the Church”, since the spirituality of institutes “can become for both the lay faithful and the priest a significant resource enabling them to live their own proper vocation”. Is this not a beautiful combination for the synergy of the new evangelization in the Philippines? Moreover, is this is perhaps a timely solution for the lack of vocation experienced by all towards the priestly ministry, religious and consecrated life?

As we look to the merciful eyes of Mary, “Mother of the Church” and model of “complete docility to the action of the Holy Spirit” and of “transparent humility”: by her intercession, it is hoped that “the charisms, abundantly bestowed by the Holy Spirit among the faithful, may be received with docility and bear fruit for the life and mission of the Church and for the good of the world”, and here in Philippines which will celebrate with new vigor, energy and means the year of the clergy and the consecrated persons.