NORTH EASTON, Massachusetts, OCT. 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is an excerpt from the address Cardinal Franc Rodé, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, gave at the Stonehill College symposium on “Apostolic Religious Life since Vatican II … Reclaiming the Treasure: Bishops, Theologians, and Religious in Conversation.”
The Diocese of Fall River hosted the Sept. 27 event.
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Vocations are a gift from God; the initiative is completely his. Nevertheless, as is his custom, he normally uses secondary causes and he depends on our collaboration to carry out his plans.
I distinguish two different and complementary ways to promote vocations: One I will call indirect and the other direct. And, counter-intuitively, I think that what I call indirect promotion is actually the more important of the two in the context of the Church today because all of us can engage in it, the whole body of the Church benefits from it, and without it the direct promotion of vocations remains mostly sterile.
“Indirect” promotion is everything that builds up the life of Christ in the Church, and it can be summarized in three dimensions of life: spirituality, catechesis, and apostolate or ministry. And we have to focus these three dimensions to Christian life on the two places that most affect the vocation to consecration: on the family and on the heart, mind and soul of the individual young person.
Very often in our own lives and communities the reason the seed does not bear fruit is not that the ground is rocky or otherwise bad, but that many other concerns clamor for our time and attention. What I mean is, today we are engaged in and worried about many things, like Martha. Committees, conferences, social justice issues, press releases, and such like, clog our calendar. But there is one thing and one thing alone that will ultimately change the world, and that is the inner transformation of the human person through contact with the grace of Christ.
Spirituality is centered not on a vague religious feeling of being right with God and neighbor and having nice experiences in prayer. Its essence is continual conversion, nourished on the sacraments, and the fulfillment of God’s plan for one’s life. It has an objective dimension.
Catechesis is not limited to initial instruction, but is the continued deepening in the riches of our Catholic faith that alone among all religions and all versions of Christianity provides solid and completely satisfying nourishment for the intellect as well as the soul. It is essential that catechesis go hand-in-hand with spirituality, and to be able to give a reason for one’s hope, as Peter said. Witness Pope Benedict.
The third dimension is action, the external living of Christ’s charity that takes one beyond the boundary of his own comfort. For the individual, this is a new experience of Christ. In prayer and the sacraments you are transformed by your contact with Christ, in catechesis your mind is nourished, but it takes the practice of Gospel charity to enter fully into the charity of Christ who didn’t hold onto what he was, but came among us to serve. In doing apostolate you walk as it were “in Jesus’ sandals.”
Using our individual charism, enriching the above with the example and experience of our founders and history, we can all contribute to the renewal of a vigorous, authentic Christian life in all those with whom we are in contact. It will be well worth our while to examine the nature and thrust of every single project we have under way, to look at the use we make of our time and what occupies it, and then to take the time to cleanse and prioritize. And we should also look at the content and quality especially of our youth programs.
I have called this work “indirect” because it prepares the seed-bed of vocations (the family) and the subject of vocations (the individual young person), to have an open and generous disposition toward God’s will (spirituality) to appreciate the greatness and gift of the faith (catechesis) and to be able to sacrifice and give oneself to the call for the good of souls (apostolate).
In those families and in those individual lives is where God will normally plant the seed of a vocation. And this brings us to our next point: direct promotion.
“Direct” promotion of vocations is when we set out to find and encourage those young people God is calling to our own community. It supposes that we truly believe God is working in those souls, and therefore we seek with confidence and don’t get disheartened if success does not come immediately.
We do direct promotion in many ways: We advertise, we speak in schools and colleges, we write, we invite, we offer retreats and “Come and See” programs, and so forth. This must and should continue and increase if possible, using all the means we have at our disposal today.
I believe three elements contribute to making this direct promotion effective:
First, the indirect preparation mentioned above (whether it was done through an apostolate or ministry of one’s own community, or another community or ecclesial movement, or in the individual’s home parish).
Second: What we offer must be genuine. In other words, the community life and formation I invite this young person to, must reflect the particular charism of my religious family and be in full, joyful communion with the Church.
Lastly, the vocations promoter must be equipped humanly, intellectually and spiritually for his or her delicate task.
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On the Net:
Cardinal Rodé’s full address: www.zenit.org/article-23916?l=english