Pointing at the bulletin letter's date (link) at left will display it's title.
June 15, 2008
Consecrated Life - A Viable Option?
Last weekend the suggested prayers of intercession included a prayer that addressed the issue of Consecrated Life. The reason for this suggestion was related to the Gospel of the day which told of Matthew’s desire to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. There are two issues related to the present day consecrated life. One issue is the idea that not all Catholics are well informed on the meaning and purpose of this type of life. The second issue is the fact that many Catholics do not see this life as a viable option for their life in the church. So, perhaps we can briefly address these two issues.
Consecrated Life is simply defined by saying that a person chooses to consecrate their life to God by entering a religious community and, after a period of several years of prayerful reflection, initiation into the community and instruction on the rule of life of this particular community, they profess the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. These vows are taken in the presence of the local bishop or his representative. Like marriage vows, these vows are sacred promises. The difference is that they are made to God rather than a spouse but are also held binding for life. Only the Vatican can release a person from these vows.
There are many and varied religious communities that a young man or woman can choose from if they feel called to total commitment to God and his church. A man can become a priest and lead a consecrated life with vows or, if he does not feel called to the priesthood, he can serve the church as a brother or a monk. Regardless of whether these men choose to be monks, brothers or priests, they all take vows and all live in a community. Although women cannot be priests they also have many options.
Religious communities have been in existence for centuries. In the early part of the church the only option was to live in a cloistered community. This meant that men or women chose to live their commitment to God in the quiet of the cloister or the monestery. They did manual work, did charitiable works by assisting people who came to the monestery for help, and spent several hours a day in prayer, deeping their life of intimacy with God. Their lives of total consecration was a witness to the presence of God among his people. Today these communities continue to exist world wide. Such communities as the Carmelites, the Poor Clairs, the Carthusians, the Cistersians and Srs. Of the Precious Blood are but a few.
As time went on many communities were begun in relation to the needs of the church. Men such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, St. Ignatius Loyolo, St. Vincent de Paul and women such as St. Francis Xavier Cabrini and St. Elizabeth Seton all founded communities to help the poor, the sick and the uneducated. Consecrated Life to God became associated to being fully commited to those in need. Both men and women could serve the church while being teachers, nurses, social workers etc.
Is consecrated life a viable option for the 21st Century Catholic man or woman? The dwindling numbers in these communities would probably falsely tell us that the answer is no. We need to revisit this issue however. (Cont. next week)
Lorette P. Nault