22 May 2010,
An outlook on consecrated life: Today and in the future
It seems that one of the important issues to tackle together in this meeting with you, the Salesian Bishops, is the question of consecrated life. There are several reasons for this. Firstly because of our common calling as consecrated Salesians. Thus it is no small matter for a bishop to give his attention to, a fortiori if he is himself a Religious. Then thirdly because Consecrated Life today (CL) has to deal with a profound crisis of identity, credibility and visibility which is seen in a diminishing of vocations and loss of esteem including from important sectors of the Church. And finally, because of my current role as President of the Union of Superiors General.So let me offer you some elements which can spur us on to reflection. I have arranged these under the heading of “An outlook on consecrated life: today and in the future”, hoping that the heading and contents can help us to better see and appreciate the present and future for CL.
1. An overview
As John Paul II had already said, CL not only has a wonderful history to relate, but also a wonderful history yet to write. So, even while aware of the difficulties it is passing through in Europe especially, due to the unstoppable ageing of its members, the reduced flow of vocations and the new social, cultural and ecclesial context we find ourselves in, I believe we can claim that the effort made by Orders, Congregations and Institutes starting from Vatican Council II - a spectacular effort – has not been useless, and indeed is showing results.
It is true that CL in Europe has been weakened and finds itself in difficulty at the moment in responding to needs highlighted by the Church. Paul VI in his time asked help for Latin America, especially following the CELAM Conference at Medellin. Then John Paul II asked help for Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, and our institutes responded generously. At the same time we need to underscore the contribution that religious in Latin America, Asia and Africa are offering other continents.
We need to add to this the lively-felt need to accompany new circumstances of CL arising in Asia and Africa, and the efforts Orders, Congregations and Institutes are making in this regard. Certainly, we would like to find a deep and convinced understanding of CL by bishops and support for the commitment to give solid formation to the new generations.
In more concrete terms, beginning with the 2004 Congress motto, we would like to interpret and experience our religious life by starting from a great passion for God and a passion for humanity. Thus the principal priorities are:
- Spirituality. Notable efforts are being made so that the Word and the Eucharist are truly the centre of consecrated life and community. We are convinced that the consecrated person must be the living memorial and open hearth for the transcendent dimension found in the heart of each human being.
- Community. Because we know that the witness of communion, openness to everyone in need, is a fundamental one for our world. CL, if lived out in community, is already in itself the proclamation of the Gospel.
- Mission. Mission to be carried out and experienced at the “margins” of society and church, on the ‘frontiers’, meaning exclusion, poverty, secularisation, reflection, formation and education at every level. These seem to us to be the 'places' where consecrated persons have to be to express the missionary dimension of the Church. Mission however also takes in the “passion” – understood as suffering or confinement – of so many religious who continue to pray for the Church and the workers in the harvest, and “passion” understood as martyrdom for so many religious imprisoned or put to death because of the Kingdom. They are the very best representatives of Jesus Christ.
2. The future of consecrated life: Jesus Christ
On the occasion of the International Congress on CL: “Passion for Christ. Passion for humanity”, Abbott Bernard Olivera said that “the future of consecrated life lies in its foundation: Jesus Christ".. I agree fully because in my view, today like never before “the true, current challenge of CL is that of restoring Christ to religious life and religious life to Christ”. This is why for CL we speak with so much insistence today of “returning to the Gospel” and being "radically evangelical”.
All of Christian life is already – or should be – a process of “ongoing conversion” to Christ, so that every Christian becomes a “version” of Christ, his living icon. Such a process was indicated well by St Paul when, speaking of God's saving plan, he exclaimed: “Those whom he had known he had also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son”. If it is wonderful to know that the human and Christian vocation is to reproduce the image of the Son of God in us, there is even more reason for CL to do so, since its identity is precisely that of becoming “the living memory” of Jesus, taking on his obedient, poor and chaste life style.
The extraordinary abundance and convergence, terminological as well, in this regard, expressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consacrata (cf. 220.127.116.11.31.32), is aimed at showing that our originality is not quantitative (“more”), but qualitative (“distinct”). Therefore rather than “evangelical counsels, I prefer to speak of “evangelical values”, since these are not optional for some, but are proposed for everyone. The same attitudes which every Christian must show as a disciple and imitator of Christ, are lived out by the consecrated person in the concrete manner in which He lived them; in fact there are various ways of doing this, according to one's state of life. Focusing obedience, poverty and chastity in this way, while it does not make consecrated people 'exclusive' imitators of Jesus, at the same time prevents them from losing their charismatic identity.
Naturally there are other reasons for explaining the current insistence on the return to Christ. Above all, the growth of institutions of CL and development of a theology of CL risk identifying this very CL with its dimensions of consecration, communion and mission, and especially of confusing mission with activity and works. More than ever today the light which should shine forth from CL should not come from structures and institutions, but must show itself in the life of consecrated persons and religious communities, in their identity, credibility and visibility as consecrated persons. This is possible on condition that they have a strong sense of the mystical about them, the result of their experience of God, their following Christ and the availability they show to the Spirit. God is and must be the very first concern of CL.
3. The objective superiority of consecrated life
"The Christian tradition, we read in Vita Consecrata, has always spoken of the “objective superiority” of consecrated life" (CL 18). According to not a few observers the drop in vocations to special consecration could also be due to a kind of “levelling” of all vocation to its lowest common denominator with the consequent loss of the state of “excellence/superiority” of CL. What can I say in this regard?
Firstly I think it is important to understand what is meant by the “objective superiority” of CL. Recalling the universal vocation to holiness, Vatican Council II ended up radically renewing its way of understanding Christian life, superseding the terminology of the states of perfection which left us with the idea that, even if it was never said, there were also states of imperfection. Holiness is the gift and task of every Christian; it is understood as the perfection of charity, made concrete in the sequela-imitation of Jesus. In this regard it would be good to recall the extraordinary foresight of St Francis of Sales.
Life according to the evangelical counsels however continues to be seen as the “exclusive” prerogative of consecrated persons. Appreciation for it swings between pre-conciliar maximal-ism, which considered the evangelical counsels to be the exclusive characteristic of CL, and a minimalism which reduced the meaning of consecration to professing by vow what every Christian is called to live out as a way of sanctification.
Regarding the theology of CL the Magisterium of the Church has provided some interesting indications. What “Presbyterorum Ordinis” (15-17) of Vatican Council II and “Pastores dabo vobis” say about “evangelical counsels” in the life of priests (27-30: ‘Priestly existence and evangelical radicalism’), is also similarly presented, and rightly so, by “Vita Consecrata” with respect to lay people!: “Everyone reborn in Christ is called to live out, with the strength that comes from a gift of the Holy Spirit, the chastity that corresponds to his or her state of life, obedience to God and the Church, a reasonable detachment from material goods, since everyone is called to holiness, which consists in the perfection of charity” (CL 30).
Between extreme maximal-ism, overcome today, and extreme minimalism, dangerous because it can lead to a crisis of identity, we need to seek not so much a 'middle' path but what is proper to and typical of CL. The same Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consacrata, tells us this in various passages. Already at the beginning of the 1st Chapter it says: “The evangelical basis of consecrated life is to be sought in the special relationship that Jesus, in his earthy existence, established with his disciples, inviting them not only to welcome the Kingdom of God in their lives, but to put their own lives at the service of this cause, leaving everything and closely imitating his kind of life” (n. 14). After this CL is called a “life conformed to Christ”. This view is presented in n. 18: His way of living in chastity, poverty and obedience appears as the most radical way of living the Gospel on this earth”.
It is precisely in this context that the Exhortation Vita Consacrata speaks of the objective superiority of CL. It also says: “Consecrated life, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, constitutes a closer imitation and an abiding re-enactment in the Church" of 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 (…). Consecrated life truly constitutes a living memorial of Jesus' way of living and acting” (CL 22). “This is clearly seen from the fact that the profession of the evangelical counsels is intimately connected with the mystery of Christ, and has the duty of making somehow present the way of life which Jesus himself chose and indicated as an absolute eschatological value” (CL 29). “Consecrated persons, who embrace the evangelical counsels, receive a new and special consecration which, without being sacramental, commits them to making their own — in chastity, poverty and obedience — the way of life practised personally by Jesus and proposed by him to his disciples” (CL 31). “As a way of showing forth the Church's holiness, it is to be recognised that the consecrated life mirrors Christ's own way of life” (CL 32).
These texts of John Paul II are very enlightening. I personally continue to believe in the "objective superiority" of CL, in the sense given by St Paul, according to which whoever has other preoccupations can only with difficulty be totally consecrated to God or be fully devoted to his neighbour (I Cor. 7, 29-35). I share the interpretation of those attribute the fall in vocations to special consecration to this reducing to a common denominator of all vocations. However I am aware that the phenomenon of fewer vocations is very complex and has other important explanations, such as demographic reduction, increased well-being,secularised cultural environment, as well as the undeniable failures of CL.
4. Renewal of consecrated life
Vatican Council II spoke of the “renewal” of CL. From then on there is ever greater insistence on “revitalising”, “restructuring”, “refounding”, taking for granted the end of one model and repeating the need to draw up “new models” of CL. Based on my experience, and thinking especially of the current crisis in western countries (drop in vocations, ever higher age, unification of provinces, alienation of great structures which are increasingly empty etc), I ask myself where CL is headed?
I am convinced that few institutions like CL within the Church have fulfilled their task of an “accomodata renovatio” (PC n. 1) asked for by Vatican Council II so well. It was a case of a renewal expressed in various ways, beginning with the Constitutions, then the habit, forms of government, organisation of the community, apostolate … Nevertheless what follows in the various words used to indicate the renewal was not merely linguistic cleverness, since in fact it led Orders, Congregations and Institutes to demanding changes in their structures, forms of government, life styles.
Perhaps we are learning that by nature CL must be always in a state of change, so it does not lose its Christocentric identity, its prophetic call, its great reserves of humanity. So rather than announce its end to the four winds or the lack of meaning in CL, it is now up to us to create life forms or recreate apostolic structures which correspond better to the Gospel, allow us to understand more deeply the demands of fraternal love, apostolic witness, the simplicity and self-giving of Jesus. In other words the time has come to recover the specific nature of CL, meaning what can make it credible, effective and significant.
It becomes essential then to redefine the identity of CL, which is based not on vows, nor on Constitutions, habit, not even mission, but on its peculiar relationship with Christ. We need to spell out again what a consecrated person is, so that they may have ‘something special’ to offer the world and the Church; and it is precisely this ‘something special’ that makes them significant. In the Congress on “Passion for Christ, passion for humanity” it was said that the Holy Spirit is leading CL towards a more essential form; it must appear less as an organiser of works geared to human development and more as a sign of the tender presence of God in the service of man in need, by means of more explicit evangelisation, in communities of intense fraternity, in a simple and sincere life style.
5. New forms of CL
For a while now in the Church, together with new ecclesial movements, new so-called “forms” of CL have been coming into existence, with features, often, notably different in respect to the great Orders and Religious Institutes of the past. The question I ask myself is, first of all, what are – and what do they mean – these “new forms of CL”, but also if and to what degree they can be an “opportunity” for the Orders and Institutes of the past.
If we go back through the history of CL, we can identify novelties brought by hermits, cenobitic life, monasticism, mendicants, regulars, congregations and institutes at the service of man, societies of apostolic life, secular institutes, gradually shaping daily CL in its character of consecration through vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, community and mission, or better “fuga mundi” in order to give “primacy to God” and be the Samaritan for the “world's needy”. In turn the birth of these institutions gave place to great movements within Church and society and within CL itself.
Today as yesterday the Spirit acts freely and creatively; and can obviously give rise to, indeed is giving rise to, “new forms” of CL, as has been the case throughout the history of Christianity. “The perennial youth of the Church continues to be evident even today. In recent years, following the Second Vatican Council, new or renewed forms of the consecrated life have arisen. In many cases, these are Institutes similar to those already existing, but inspired by new spiritual and apostolic impulses. Their vitality must be judged by the authority of the Church, which has the responsibility of examining them in order to discern the authenticity of the purpose for their foundation and to prevent the proliferation of institutions similar to one another, with the consequent risk of a harmful fragmentation into excessively small groups. In other cases it is a question of new experiments which are seeking an identity of their own in the Church and awaiting official recognition from the Apostolic See, which alone has final judgement in these matters.
These new forms of consecrated life now taking their place alongside the older ones bear witness to the constant attraction which the total gift of self to the Lord, the ideal of the apostolic community and the founding charisms continue to exert, even on the present generation. They also show how the gifts of the Holy Spirit complement one another.
In this newness however the Spirit does not contradict himself. Proof of this is the fact that the new forms of consecrated life have not supplanted the earlier ones. Amid such wide variety the underlying unity has been successfully preserved, thanks to the one call to follow Jesus — chaste, poor and obedient — in the pursuit of perfect charity. This call, which is found in all the existing forms of consecrated life, must also mark those which present themselves as new”. (CL 12)
Nevertheless I must confess that neither the identity of these so-called “new forms” of CL nor the novelty that they could bring seem to me to be very clear. Groups like this are defined, in fact,more as movements than as forms of CL, in fact they do not want to be numbered amongst the ranks of various institutions of CL. Besides, the description used, “consecrated”, at least in some of these groups, in reference to the experience of couples or families living in community, inspired by a particular spirituality and involved in particular fields of activity, profoundly alters the meaning of the term, reserved to express “celibacy” or “virginity” for love of the Kingdom and not to be confused with matrimonial chastity. Finally, the strong sense of belonging that can characterise any group at its beginnings, does not indicate novelty in a strict sense, seeing that also the different forms of CL experienced this effect at their beginnings.
6. Consecrated life and local Church
There is frequent discussion today of the rapport between CL and local Church. Theoretically everyone is convinced of the importance of a mutual dialogue. But in fact, often each one risks following its own path. The challenge continues to be how to reconcile, for religious, their own specific charismatic nature on the one hand with the necessary “rediscovery” of their belonging to a local Church.
In an ecclesiology of communion CL cannot but grow in its “sensus Ecclesiae”, especially since Vatican Council II and the document “Mutuae relationes”. It came about as a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church; it belong to the life, mission and holiness of the Church, as “Lumen Gentium” says explicitly (n. 44). The Church's history shows that consecrated persons have always been and still are in the vanguard and at the frontiers of evangelisation, human development, culture, implanting the Church and building the Kingdom of God. The ranks of consecrated saints and martyrs then let us see that the passion for God and humanity produces results of holiness to the advantage of the whole Church.
It is true that in facts rather than reports of meetings or dialogue between local Church and CL sometimes there are moments of difficulty and misunderstanding. This is owed to the fact that the local Church has not always respected the charisms and has attempted to reduce its overall mission to pastoral ministry. Sometimes too CL has not lived up to its charismatic life as an expression of Church and has not understood that its autonomy is in reference to the Church's inner life and organisation, but not liturgy and ministry which is built up by the local Church. At times the prophecy of CL has been considered to be a disturbance in the life and activity of the local Church and so it has been left aside; at times also in CL there has not been a lack of theological, pastoral, liturgical and spiritual deviations.
It is not right to place CL and local Church in opposition, as if they be, respectively, expressions an expression of charism and an expression of institution. this explains the fact that in practice often CL and local Church go their own particular way. If on the one hand consecrated persons cannot deny their identity and mission, including their prophetic role, since they are a gift of God to the Church, on the other hand for the same reason they should not set themselves up in opposition to local Church as if they were a parallel Church. Today more than ever CL should develop amongst its members a deep ecclesial sense; they are convinced that the more CL is rooted in the particular Church, the more it will be fruitful and meaningful; indeed I would dare to say that experiencing this sensus ecclesiae contributes to strengthening the prophetic calling of CL.
7. Spirituality – communion – mission
Spirituality, communion, mission: three fundamental aspects of the Church's life, and also that of CL. Precisely for this reason, in respect of the founding charism and in a careful due perception of the “signs of the times”, it is both necessary and important to spell out what could be the specific contribution of religious both in the field of spirituality and of communion and mission.
In effect spirituality, communion and mission are three fundamental aspects in the life of the Church and CL. In this case they are equal to the features which, little by little throughout history have determined their identity today: experience of God, fraternity in communion and apostolic mission. John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation “Vita Consacrata” speaks explicitly of “Confessio Trinitatis”, “Signum Fraternitatis”, “Servitium Caritatis”. I am convinced that CL is a real therapy for our society, on condition that it is a visible and credible sign of God's presence and love (“mysticism”), that it is a critical moment for everything to do with the human person understood according to God's plan (“prophecy”), and that it sides with mankind, especially the poorest, the needy, the excluded or those left aside (“diaconia”).
I believe that the contribution of CL could follow the lines of this triple prophetic sign: primacy of God in contrast to materialism and the onslaught of immanentist secularism; authentic fraternity in contrast to an exalted individualism and the cult of selfishness; service of charity in contrast to poverty in all its many forms. It seems that today more than ever what Church and Society ask of CL, is to listen to the Spirit with complete availability of obedience and let itself be led by Him more promptly and joyfully.
8. The newness of young consecrated men and women
Today there is much talk of an ageing CL, but there are also young consecrated men and women. I think it is worth saying a word about them. How are they going? What are they offering consecration that is new?
In fact this is a topic to which the Union of Superiors General, after the Congress of Young Religious, dedicated an entire Assembly under the heading of “Towards the future with young religious - challenges, proposals and hopes”. Here it tried to get a better idea of the reality of the new generation of religious. We can add to this the reflection made by a later International Congress on CL organised by the two Unions (USG and UISG) in November 2004 with the title “Passion for Christ – passion for humanity”. The USG Assemblies which followed focused on the following topics: Post-Congress Consecrated Life 2004: “What is budding forth” (May 2005); “Fidelity to and abandonment of Consecrated Life” (November 2005); “For a faithful Consecrated Life” (May 2006).
As you can see from the topics, there has been an effort to better understand and accompany what CL is experiencing, in general, as well as young consecrated life. On this one in particular, I would like to sum up the novelty of youthful consecrated life in three aspects: their search for a deep experience of God, their desire for communion even where this is not always a desire for community, their dedication to the cause of the poor and the marginalised.
These features are often accompanied by a psychological fragility, vocational inconsistency, and marked subjectivism. This threefold challenge can be positively resolved through a formation that makes the typical story of each person a horizon and path towards authentic human realisation; that collaborates in understanding and accepting that freedom is the supreme value in human development, inasmuch as it is a “terminus a quo”, a departure point, but not a “terminus ad quem”, because in the end the only absolute value is love, that which brings about the wonderful work of full human transformation; that knows how to demythologise this magic word of experience, because what counts is not the value of the experience, but experience of the value to be interiorised and assimilated.
Finally, we need to speak of a reality that in our time more than in any other, implies going “against the flow”: formation to renunciation. Put paradoxically, we need to foster an experience of renunciation, by living in the 'desert' of one's own heart. Indeed, playing with these words I would say that it is not enough to just foster the experience of renunciation, but also in many circumstances, it is necessary to renounce experience, one of the most difficult things to understand and accept today. From this comes the pressing need to form to inner freedom, a freedom that allows one to make courageous and evangelical choices, and to order life around them.
9. The multicultural nature of consecrated life
Multiculturalism is a worldwide fact. In the half-yearly Assembly of the USG in May 2009 we chose to spend time reflecting on this, under the heading: “Geographical and cultural changes in Institutes of consecrated life: challenges and perspectives”.
There was a double justification for the theme, one partly parallel and another more substantial. The parallel motivation was the Continental Synods beginning with Africa. In our reflection we expressed our commitment to closely follow the Church's journey. The substantial reason was the need we had recognised to reflect on a new circumstance, meaning, the decentralisation of the Church and CL towards the periphery.
The topic was particularly interesting, because it is not always clearly easy to define the changes, geographical relocations and cultural balances occurring in CL,and we saw it more necessary than ever therefore to begin to describe and understand them. We say in fact that Institutes are not always aware of the changes taking place. There are demographic changes in continents which have consequences for vocational growth; then there is the reality of ageing, adding to this the slow influx of vocations in countries traditionally rich in vocations.
Nor is it easy to identify the challenges presented to CL by all this. A clear example can be found in the growing number of tribal vocations coming toCL. Candidates have a weak cultural and family background and sometimes find themselves having to work in activities in the Institute in the cities, right outside their context, without due preparation or inculturation.
For the rest it is now beyond doubt that the community now needs to discover new models of incarnation. CL presents ever more multicultural situations within itself. It is a sign of the ‘victory of the Gospel’ over divided humanity. But it is also a challenge that has to be faced up to with discernment. The governing bodies of Institutions are seeking new ways which will foster, along with cultural balances, unity and communion as well. At this level too, new problems of inculturation of the charism, and formation are posed.
We have to say that changes provoke choices which are not always reflected on. To maintain activities or works or sustain processes of evangelisation, for example, the decision might be taken to import vocations from other continents into Europe, but then we see that this solution is inadequate. Choices made in the face of changes need therefore to be more enlightened.
Our reflection has chosen to focus attention on two realities by which CL is measured today: movement from the centre to the periphery and the inter-culturality which is ever more a feature of religious communities. If the first of these factors is in reference to the universal nature of the Church and therefore of CL, called to be part of every culture, the second highlights an element which is not accidental, from the moment that the way of being CL leads to living together, united by a charism as a sign and witness of communion at the service of a shared mission.
Faith in the Lord Jesus who calls us to live the Gospel within the specific nature of the charism and mission of the Institute, allows very different people, different in character, formation, age, expectations and not least, culture, to form a true community of brothers and sisters united in Love. The “truth of the Gospel” (Gal 2:5.14) is therefore the key to interpretation of CL in the diversity of contexts and in the inter-culturality of communities, its criterion for evaluation, the authentic rule of Life.
In fatc, fraternal love in community is not the result of mutual sympathy, but of a journey of conversion where religious men and women learn to love the Lord above all else through visible signs of fraternal communion. This is why they commit to recognising the value of the diversity which emerges in relationships, nurturing together the qualities which help to bring about “a concrete synthesis of what may be not just an evangelisation of culture also an evangelising inculturation and an enculturated evangelisation” (VFC 53).
10. Consecraed life at the service of communion
CL in the Church is convinced of is service to communion, aware however that this communion is realised today in the midst of diversity and attentive therefore to overcoming the temptation to uniformity.
In view of a greater social, political and cultural significance and spiritual, pastoral and vocational fruitfulness, serving communion is a mission entrusted to consecrated persons not only through silent witness, but through well chosen activity.
Strengthened by personal experience of fraternity which is God's gift, consecrated persons as individuals and communities, are called to expand, strengthen or recreate communion: they become “experts in communion” (CL 46), a leaven of unity, workers for reconciliation.
We often tend to skip over, as too well known, the role of communion to which religious are called in the universal Church and the particular Churches. This role can have new expressions through more visible insertion into these churches through specialised services and in accenting the sense of universality which is common to religious institutes.
The mission of communion regards relationships between consecrated persons. “Mindful of the spiritual friendship which often united founders and foundresses during their lives, consecrated persons, while remaining faithful to the character of their own Institute, are called to practise a fraternity which is exemplary and which will serve to encourage the other members of the Church in the daily task of bearing witness to the Gospel” (CL 52).
And, thanks be to God, there is no lack of new practical insistence in this regard. To active involvement in animation, communication and coordinating bodies, “to discern God's plan in this troubled moment of history in order better to respond to it with better works of the apostolate” (CL 53), we add the possibility of establishing systematic and stable cooperation amongst different institutes for specific initiatives which require a convergence of competencies and resources. This has already been tried in study centres. the complexity of today's context and new demands of evangelisation lead not only to agreement on set-up and guidelines, but also to thinking of certain collaborative initiatives.
Still within ecclesial communion, but also going beyond it, religious are invited to give birth to “movements”, “aggregations” or “families” of and with the laity. This aggregating factor could be the desire to take part in the spirit and mission of the Institute as in the case of “associates and lay volunteers” (cf. CL 54-56), cultural or common social interest (peace, ecology, human rights, volunteers…), a concrete initiative working together. In groups like these, religious take part sincerely in activities in favour of just causes and give the specific contribution of reflection and witness to solidarity.
Besides, there is the hope, from some, for setting up international and inter-cultural communities which, having this experience, become workshops of acceptance and the value of diversity.
The Apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata saw religious life, then, as a privileged place for dialogue between the great religions (cf. CL 101-102), since at its origins there is an option which, in general terms, which is shared amongst all deeply religious persons. this then becomes a mindset to acquire, a practice to be put into action in every presence and a place where community can be located which has specific aims.
By way of conclusion
Culture today, especially the world of communication and globalisation, open up new perspectives for us offering hitherto unknown problems. This demands of us a renewed willingness to serve CL. With creative fidelity we need to relaunch its energies and initiative so that it continues to be a lively and active presence in the Church at the service of a spirituality of communion and sharing.
Every institute of CL is profoundly aware that the processes of renewal require constant response, which pass by way of
- constant return to the sources of all Christian life;
- constant return to the original inspiration of the Institutes;
- adaptation of the institutes to the changing conditions of the times.
There is however first of all a criterion which becomes normative, meaning that the three requirements of this renewal have to be taken together: simul!. There can be no adequate renewal with just one of these alone. Besides, with the growth of our Institutes in Asia and Africa inculturation becomes urgent; similarly we feel strongly the commitment to evangelisation in Europe. from this perspective CL is challenged to rebirth. CL is God's gift to His Church. And our common responsibility, bishops and religious, to receiving it gratefully and living it responsibly. May Mary guide and help us, “the sublime example of perfect consecration, in her complete belonging and total dedication to God”; may She be the one who communicates to us “the love that allows us to offer our lives daily for Christ, cooperating with him in the salvation of the world” (CL 28).
Turin, 22 May 2010
Fr. Pascual Chávez V., SDB