Welcome to part four of the Vita Consecrata Series! Thank you for joining us as we walk through Saint John Paul II’s reflection on what the consecrated life is and what role it plays in the Church and in the world.
After exploring the nature of consecrated life in previous chapters, the late Holy Father spends the third chapter of the exhortation reflecting on how consecrated religious serve as a “Manifestation of God’s Love in the World.” He writes:
In the image of Jesus, the beloved Son “whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world” (Jn 10:36), those whom God calls to follow him are also consecrated and sent into the world to imitate his example and to continue his mission. Fundamentally, this is true of every disciple. In a special way, however, it is true of those who, in the manner that characterizes the consecrated life, are called to follow Christ “more closely,” and to make him the “all” of their lives.
Consecrated persons are on mission “by virtue of their very consecration,” John Paul II writes, and they have the “prophetic task of recalling and serving the divine plan for humanity.” This is made possible through an intimate relationship with God, a solid experience with dialogue in fraternal life, and a deep understanding of the challenges of their time. In other words, there must be a close union between contemplation and action in their lives.
Consecrated religious must be prepared to evangelize through witness and proclamation, and they must be open to adapting in different cultures. Those specifically dedicated to the new evangelization must be ready to live the Gospel while reading the signs of the times. They must continue to give special attention to the poor in all states of affliction. New fields such as social communications need their attention, and the Church needs religious to engage in dialogue with other Christians, people of other faiths, and any seekers who turn to them. Most importantly, they must be able to do this with a “consistency between proclamation and life,” always affirming the primacy of God, even to the point of martyrdom.
The evangelical counsels make it possible for consecrated religious to live out these different charisms, but it is a challenge to live chastity, poverty, and obedience with joy. This is why the spiritual life is so important, St. John Paul II writes:
To tend towards holiness: this is in summary the program of every consecrated life, particularly in the perspective of its renewal on the threshold of the Third Millennium. The starting point of such a program lies in leaving everything behind for the sake of Christ (cf. Mt 4:18-22, 19:21,27; Lk 5:11), preferring him above all things, in order to share fully in his Paschal Mystery.
The Church depends so heavily upon the prayers and the work of consecrated religious. Let us remember to pray for them, especially during this Year of Consecrated Life, that they may remain holy and strong in the face of the many challenges in our world.
Saint John Paul II, pray for us!