VATICAN CITY, FEB. 4, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The prefect of the Congregation Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life announced plans for two new documents, on lay brothers and liturgical formation of religious.
Cardinal Franc Rodé explained Tuesday, the World Day of Consecrated Life, on Vatican Radio that the figure of the lay brother, members of a religious order who make vows but are not ordained priests, “must be appreciated in the Church.”
For this reason, he said, a document on this topic is planned for publication in the fall.
“Recently we reflected on the figure of the lay brother in the religious congregations of brothers and in mixed religious congregations of priests and brothers,” the cardinal said. “We have seen that in the last decades the number of lay brothers has decreased a lot.”
For example, the Institute of the Brothers of the Christians Schools had some 16,000 members in 1965, and currently have less than 5,000.
Cardinal Rodé noted: “It is a great diminution. Unfortunately, all the congregations of brothers have great difficulties.
“And this also affects the mixed congregations of priests and brothers: The number of brothers has decreased much more than that of priests.”
The prelate asserted, “There is a problem and something must be done.”
He observed the absence of documents on this vocation, stating, “We think that one of the reasons for this decrease in vocations of lay brothers is, in fact, a certain lack of attention on the part of the Church to this figure of consecrated Christian as a lay brother.”
“We want to prepare a document dedicated specifically to this figure of lay brother, as an autonomous figure, a figure that makes sense in itself, which has its own identity,” the cardinal affirmed.
He pointed to the specificity of this call of God, affirming that “a lay brother is not — as is often thought and as people think — someone who has not been able, or has not wanted for some reason, to be a priest.”
“It is a vocation that has a logic in itself with a particular mission in the Church, and history amply demonstrates this,” the prelate stated.
He invited his listeners to reflect on the important function that congregations of brothers have had in the formation and education of young people, with numerous schools and universities in many countries.
“Let us also think of sanctity,” Cardinal Rodé said. “Numerous are the brothers who have been canonized, especially brothers of mixed congregations, among them the Capuchins and Jesuits.”
Necessity of prayer
The cardinal spoke next about the second document due for publication, which addresses “the absolute need of prayer” and of “liturgical formation” for religious.
“Some say that the men and women religious of today pray too little,” he noted.
“Today, in such an agitated world, prayer is, without a doubt, more difficult,” the cardinal acknowledged.
For this reason, he continued, “we must stress the absolute necessity of prayer in the spiritual life of a consecrated man or woman.”
The prelate explained that the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, had suggested the preparation of an interdicasterial document.
The proposal was to entrust the first part to the dicastery for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and the second, to the dicastery for Divine Worship.
Cardinal Rodé said that this is important “because, on one hand there is a certain ignorance, a certain lack of knowledge and liturgical formation in young men and women religious.”
“On the other hand,” he added, “there are also liturgical fancies that are not always in good taste, and which do not correspond to the desire and will of the Church and to the spirit of the liturgy itself.”