Papal Address to Union of Superiors General

«Consecrated Life Has its Origin in the Lord»

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is an address given Friday by Benedict XVI in an audience with participants in a biannual general assembly of the Union of Superiors General of religious congregations.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am delighted to meet with you on the occasion of the half-yearly assembly of the Union of Superiors General, which you are celebrating — in continuity with that of last May — on the theme of consecrated life in Europe. I greet the president Don Pascual Chávez, whom I thank for the words that he addressed to me, and the executive council; a special greeting to the directive committee of the International Union of Superiors General and to the numerous superiors general. I extend my thoughts to all of the members of your orders and institutes throughout the world, especially those who suffer persecution for witness to the Gospel. I would like to express my sincere thanks for what you do in the Church and with the Church on behalf of evangelization and of man. I think of the multiple pastoral activities in the parishes, in the shrines and the centers of worship, for the catechesis and Christian formation of children, of young people and of adults, manifesting your passion for Christ and for humanity. I think of the great work in the field of education, in the universities and in the schools; of the multiple social works, through which you encounter the brothers who are most in need with God’s love itself. I think also of the witness, at times dangerous, of the evangelical life in the missions «ad gentes,» in often difficult circumstances.

Your last two assemblies have been dedicated to considering the future of consecrated life in Europe. This has meant rethinking the meaning of your vocation itself, which entails, first of all, seeking God, quaerere Deum: you are seekers of God by vocation. To this pursuit you consecrate the most precious energies of your life. You pass from secondary things to those that are essential, to what is truly important; you seek the definitive, you seek God, keeping your gaze fixed upon him. Like the first monks, you cultivate an eschatological orientation: Behind the provisory you seek what remains, what does not pass (Cf. Address at the Collège des Bernardins, Paris, September 12, 2008). You seek God in the confreres whom have been given to you, with whom you share the same life and mission. You seek him in the men and women of our time, to whom you have been sent to offer, with your life and with your words, the gift of the Gospel. You seek him especially in the poor, the first to hear the Good News (cf. Luke 4:18). You seek him in the Church, where the Lord is present, above all in the Eucharist and the other sacraments, and in his Word, which is the master way of the pursuit of God; it leads us into conversation with him and it reveals to us his true face. Always be passionate pursuers and witnesses of God!

The profound renewal of the consecrated life begins with the centrality of the Word of God, and more concretely in the Gospel, supreme rule for all of you, as the Second Vatican Council affirms in the decree «Perfectae Caritatis» (cf. n. 2) and as your founders well understood: The consecrated life is a plant with a wealth of branches that has its roots in the Gospel. This is demonstrated by the history of your institutes, in which the firm will to live the message of Christ and configure your life to him, is and remains the fundamental criterion of vocational discernment and of your personal and communal discernment. The Gospel lived daily is the element that gives beauty to the consecrated life and presents you before the world as a trustworthy alternative. Contemporary society needs and the Church expects you to be a living Gospel.

Another fundamental aspect of the consecrated life that I would like to stress is fraternity: «confession Trinitatis» (cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation «Vita Consecrata,» 41) and parable of the Church as communion. The witness of your consecration passes through it. Fraternal life is one of the aspects greatly sought by young people when they draw near to your life; it is an important prophetic element that you offer to a fundamentally individualistic society. I know the efforts that you are making in this field, as I also know the difficulties that communal life has. There is need of serious and constant discernment to listen to what the Spirit says to the communities (cf. Revelation 2:7), to recognize what comes from the Lord and what is contrary to him (cf. «Vita Consecrata,» 73). Without discernment accompanied by prayer and by reflection, the consecrated life runs the risk of accommodating itself to the criteria of this world: individualism, consumerism, materialism; criteria that eliminate fraternity and deprive consecrated life of what is striking and attractive about it. Be masters of discernment so that your brothers and sisters assume this «habitus» and your communities become an eloquent sign for the world of today. You who exercise the service of authority, and who have the task of leadership and planning for the future of your religious institutes, remember that an important part of the spiritual animation and government is the common pursuit of means to promote communion, mutual communication, warmth and truth in reciprocal relations.

A last element that I would like to highlight is mission. Mission is the Church’s mode of being and, in it, of the consecrated life itself; it is part of your identity; it moves you to bring the Gospel to everyone, without limits. Mission, supported by a powerful experience of God, by a robust formation and by a fraternal life in community, is a key for understanding and revitalizing consecrated life. Go, then, and in creative fidelity make the challenge of the new evangelization your own. Renew your presence in the Areopaguses of today to proclaim, as St. Paul did in Athens, the «unknown» God (cf. Address at the Collège des Bernardins).

Dear Superiors General, for many institutes the present moment presents the datum of numeric diminishment, especially in Europe. The difficulties, however, must not make us forget that the consecrated life has its origin in the Lord: It is willed by him for the building up and the holiness of his Church, and thus the Church itself will never be deprived of it. As I encourage you to walk in faith and in hope, I ask you for a renewed effort in vocations work and in initial and permanent formation. I entrust you to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to your holy founders and patrons, while from my heart I impart to you my apostolic blessing, which I extend to your religious families.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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