Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ecumenism and the Consecrated Life

  A 4 day colloquium sponsored by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life  (CICLSAL) began today at the Augustinianum in Rome.  This is one of the events prepared for the year dedicated to the Consecrated Life.

   One day will be dedicated to the religious life in the Catholic church, one day to religious life in the Orthodox churches and one day dedicated to the consecrated life in the Anglican and Protestant traditions. The last day the group will join with Pope Francis for the closing of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the basilica of St. Paul's outside the walls.

Each day the participants gather for an ecumenical morning prayer based on this year's theme "Give me a drink". This then followed by a greeting from wither the Prefect of the CICLSAL or of the Congregation for Oriental Churches and the President of the Council for Chrostian Unity. The morning session concludes with a major presentation of the meaning of the consecrated life for each tradition (Catholic, Orthodox, or Reformed) and two testimonies give concerning the meaning of the vowed life and communal or fraternal living. The afternoon sessions are spent in sharing experiences and working on a final message to be issued at the conclusion of the colloquium.

Dom Joao Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the CICLSAL
 Today's session continued with a greeting from the Prefect of the Congregation, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz who explained that the importance of religious life for the Catholic church is best understood from its charismatic and prophetic structure. This is the reason why the manifestation of the consecrated life is important for the life and mission of the Church.  Unfortunately often times religious life is not really understood nor appreciated by the local church and at times even tensions arise between structures of authority within the church.  Tensions should not be feared because they are signs that there is life since it is the Spirit which is always challenging the structures  to grow and to be better equipped to be at service to the Gospel,  The sole fount is Jesus Christ and the Gospel he came to proclaim that enlivens the church with various charisms.  What religious need to do is to constantly return to this dynamo of energy which is filtered through the founding vision of the Founders and Foundresses of the diverse religious institutes so that their witness remains authentic and at service of the Gospel. A self-referencing attitude will hinder the true purpose that consecrated men and women have in the world today.

Fr. José Carballo, ofm, Secretary of CICLSAL
  In the major presentation of Fr. José Rodriguez Carballo, ofm the Secretary of the Congregation, entitled "Consecrated Life in the Latin Church", a mosaic of consecrated life in the Catholic Latin churhc was presented.  Here he made the distinction between the various institutes who dedicate themselves to God and to the service of their neighbor through the public profession of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience. What is important is to not two realities of the public profession and the living of a life in common.  On the other hand "secular institutes" are those who have some of profession of the counsels but they do not live in community, as religious do, and they do not do ministry in their own Institute.  The third type is a "society of apostolic life".  Their members live in common like religious, strive to reach holiness, dedicating themselves mainly to apostolic ministry.  The difference from Institutes of consecrated life is in the fact that the profession of the counsels does not constitute the characterizing element of their life.
  An interesting statistic is the total number of consecrated persons in the various states of religious life totals approximately 756,385.
   Archbishop Carballo emphasized three essential elements of consecrated.  These include consecration, fraternal life in community and mission.  The consecration underscores God's initiative and transforming relationship that the individual freely accepts.  Rooted in baptism consecrated persons are called to holiness as are all the baptized.  However, because of the vows that they freely pronounce there are "totally dedicated to God, loved beyond all things" (LG 44).  The vows are  primarily a gift of Christ, the Savior, in that they are fullness, love and freedom of the human person. The vows are grace, namely the Father's saving response in Christ through the Spirit to the most profound expectations of the human person -- to become everything for Christ, and through Christ, to his or her brothers and sisters in community, and with them, to all humanity.
  Fraternal life in community is the true form of prophecy in the Church and the world, and must never be absent from consecrated life. Fraternal life in community has its roots in the God's paternity, which allows us to see his countenance in others, and, therefore, we can call them 'brothers' and 'sisters', and consider them as 'part of us'.  To achieve this, fraternal live in community needs to be sustained by common prayer, by each one's freedom, and by the commitment of all the community members to continually build community.  It needs to be a life based on dialogue and respect for every person.  It needs to be a life that takes into account the gifts of each brother or sister and it needs to be marked by co-responsibility of each member to enliven fraternal life in community.
  Lastly mission is one of the three founding and fundamental elements of religious life. Religious fully participate in the church's mission, and the latter, on her part, takes part in the missio Dei. Mission, more than a geographical movement is one of the heart.
  These elements of the consecrated life may help others see how religious life has a definite ecumenical dimension.  Since the consecrated life is centered on Christ its purpose it to go out of itself and people where their needs are the greatest.  It is a concrete form of human dialogue which becomes a dialogue of communion, humble service, and an humanizing place.

Fr. José Maria Hernandez, CMF
  This rich presentation of the reality of the consecrated life in the Latin Catholic church was followed by two testimonies seeking to illustrate how the vowed life contributed to an ecumenical awareness and offered opportunities to heal divisions and overcome that which separates us.  This was recounted through the dialogue of life in the experiences of José Maria Hernandez, CMF.
  The second witness was given by Sr. Agnés Granier, RSA who spoke about the values of community life that lead to mission and the going out of oneself to where God's love is most needed.

  Fr. Guido Dotti concluded the morning with a brief presentation of the Bose Ecumenical Community of men and women.

  The afternoon session was  held in working groups that discussed the morning's presentations and began working on a final statement.  Catholic vespers were celebrated in the church of the Gesù.  Tomorrow the program will concentrate on discovering Orthodoxy's forms of consecrated life,