VATICAN CITY, FEB. 4, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Eucharist is at the heart of the process of renewal that religious and consecrated persons have been living since the Second Vatican Council, says John Paul II.
The Pope wrote this in a message he sent from the Gemelli Polyclinic for the World Day of Consecrated Life. Archbishop Franc Rodé, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, read the message at the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica celebrating consecrated life Feb. 2, feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
John Paul II recalls that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the promulgation “Perfectae Caritatis,” Vatican II’s decree on the renewal of religious life.
Following the directives of the magisterium, he states, “the institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life have journeyed on a fruitful path of renewal, marked on one hand by the desire to be faithful to the gift received from the Spirit through their founders, and on the other hand by the desire to adapt their way of living, praying and acting to the actual physical and psychological conditions of the members of the institute and also — in keeping with the peculiar nature of each institute — to the needs of the apostolate, the exigencies of culture, and the social and economic circumstances.”
Thanking God for “this timely ‘aggiornamento’ of consecrated life,” the Pope said he is convinced that it will bear “fruits of holiness and missionary action, provided that consecrated persons preserve the ascetic fervor in an unaltered manner and transmit it in apostolic works.”
“The secret of this spiritual ardor is the Eucharist, inexhaustible source of fidelity to the Gospel, because in this sacrament, center of ecclesial life, is fully realized the profound identification and total conformation with Christ, to which consecrated men and women are called,” he writes.
On the occasion of the World Day of Consecrated Life, Archbishop Rodé explained on Vatican Radio that “consecrated persons number more or less one million today: this figure includes religious Institutes, societies of apostolic life, secular institutes, new forms of consecrated life and contemplative monasteries.”
“We can say that religious life is quite alive and vital. Vocations, in certain countries of Asia and Africa, are growing, while in Europe –because of secularization and other factors, in particular the decrease in births and an ageing population — they experience a marked numerical decline. The same might be said of the United States and Canada,” he explained, analyzing the situation.
“In any case, the religious institutes carry out precious work, especially in the field of education, catechesis, service to new poverties, such as immigrants, drug addicts, adolescents or very young mothers, etc.,” clarified the archbishop.
“There is an exception in regard to vocations: while the vocations of active congregations in the world diminish, those of cloistered life, the contemplatives, have not experienced this diminution,” he noted.
According to the Slovenian archbishop, the main challenge of consecrated life at present is “the response to the call to holiness that the Lord addresses to all men and women religious.”
“Therein is found the profound and authentic meaning of religious life: to follow the Lord’s call to realize in life the ideal of the Gospel in all its radicalism, in all its beauty. If religious follow this call, if they respond to the Lord, then they will be authentic witnesses of the Gospel in today’s world. People, especially youth, will see in them an example to follow,” he stressed.
The world expects from religious “an example of inner peace, of recollection. Often, the man of today feels somewhat lost; he lives superficially and is unhappy. It is hoped that in the life and example of religious there is a lively experience of God, who is the only one who gives meaning to man’s life,” concluded the prelate.