CONSECRATED LIFE (WUZ DAT?)

Since his election as Pope almost two years ago, Pope Francis has created quite a stir. His low key life style, his informality, his reordering of priorities, and his willingness to take a critical look at how the Catholic Church presents itself to the world and ministers to its own faithful have certainly grabbed the world’s attention. With everything else he was saying and doing last fall, it was easy to overlook his proclamation making this The Year of Consecrated Life. To be more precise, the Pope has made the Year of Consecrated Life extend from the First Sunday of Advent (November 30, 2014) to the Feast of the Presentation (February 2, 2016). That, apparently, is one thing that Popes get to do: change the definition of a year! More to the point: What is “consecrated life” and why should this “year” matter to us? Consecrated Life includes the many religious orders and congregations as well as individuals who make public vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience but live alone. It refers primarily, though, to groups of men and women who, inspired by the first Christian community in Jerusalem which held everything in common, seek to serve the church by living a communal life. Consecrated life began in the early centuries of the church when individual hermits living in the desert began to cluster around a central spiritual figure. This led in time to the huge monasteries of the Middle Ages, essentially self-contained cities, where monks working in all fields from agriculture to zoology, helped sustain education and research as well as the faith. This led to the formation of communities of friars in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries who tried to bring the best of the monastic life into the growing cities and form communities that were smaller and more flexible to better serve the people there. The Servite priests and brothers who minister at Assumption (along with other groups like the Franciscans and Dominicans) were founded during this time. In later centuries missionary congregations came on the scene and many congregations of brothers and sisters were founded whose primary purpose was to staff Catholic schools, hospitals, and orphanages. And in the past half century the Holy Spirit has called new expressions of consecrated life into being, dedicated to restoring valuable elements of our Catholic tradition that got lost in the years following the Vatican Council reforms of the 1960’s. The essentials, though, of community prayer, community meals, and the sharing of material resources have remained throughout all the incarnations of Consecrated Life. One of the obvious reasons for this year of Consecrated life is that for most religious congregations, numbers have declined sharply in recent decades. A teaching sister or a teaching brother is a rarity in a Catholic school today. This was one of the reasons behind the Vatican study of the religious sisters in our country which recently issued a report that was largely favorable to the work of the sisters. When I arrived at our Servite parish in St. Louis in 2000, the teaching sisters had been gone from the school for ten years. I asked a seventh grade religion class once what they knew about nuns and sisters. Almost everything they told me came from the way nuns are depicted in movies and on television, seasoned with a few tales from grandmother about how strict the nuns used to be. The Pope sees this ebbing of Religious Life, especially in the Western Hemisphere, as a real loss to the church. A remark I once heard about the disappearance of the sisters in our schools is worth pondering, whether you agree with it or not: “In many cases the lay teachers we have now are better trained and better qualified than the nuns they replaced; but even the most ineffective sister still witnessed to the kids that she was performing her job for some reason other than getting a paycheck. If there is anything more basic to forming disciples than serving others I don’t know what it is.” The Pope has asked all religious congregations to do three things: look at the past with gratitude; live the present with passion (“Is Jesus really our first and only love as we promised he would be when we professed our vows? Only if he is will we be empowered to love, in truth and mercy, every person who crosses our path.”); and to embrace the future with hope (“Hope is not based on statistics or accomplishments, but on the One in whom we have put our trust.”). As we do our own soul searching during this Year of Consecrated Life we’d appreciate your prayers. – Fr Joe Chamblain, OSM


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CONSECRATED LIFE (WUZ DAT?) — 2 Comments

  1. Wondering if you have any information, books concerning the de elopement of healing ministry in a parish? Please pray for our success forming our group.thankyou for your time. God bless you

  2. If you would like a Servite to come to your parish to speak about Saint Peregrine, please call Father Chris Krymski at 1-773-638 0159 x104 for more information. We do come to parishes to give talks or three evening parish missions about suffering, healing, and compassion of Saint Peregrine’s intercession. We can help to celebrate a special Holy Hour service to experience God’s healing touch of mercy. Thank you for asking.
    Father Doyle

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