Pope Urges Orders to Rediscover Original Charism

Offers Key to Overcoming Vocation Crisis

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 19, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The key for religious orders, congregations and institutes to overcome a crisis of vocations is for them to live their love for Christ without concessions and to rediscover the original spirituality of their founder, says Benedict XVI.

This was the advice the Pope gave Monday to the executive committee of the International Union of Superiors General, who were meeting in the Vatican to reflect on “some particularly relevant and important aspects of consecrated life.”

In his address, which was published today by the Vatican, the Holy Father said: “We are all aware how, in modern globalized society, it is becoming ever more difficult to announce and bear witness to the Gospel. The process of secularization that is advancing in contemporary culture does not, unfortunately, spare even religious communities.”

“Nonetheless,” he added, “we must not be discouraged, because if — as has been said — many clouds are gathering on the horizon of religious life today, there also exist — indeed they are constantly growing — signs of a providential reawakening which gives rise to consolation and hope.”

The Pontiff continued: “The Holy Spirit blows powerfully throughout the Church, creating a new commitment to faithfulness, both in the historical institutes and, at the same time, in new forms of religious consecration that reflect the needs of the times.

“What characterizes these new forms of consecrated life is a shared desire […] for a radical form of evangelical poverty, for faithful love of the Church, and for generous dedication to the needy with particular attention to that spiritual poverty which so markedly characterizes the modern age.”

Aging congregations

Benedict XVI subsequently went on to refer to “the orders and congregations with a long tradition in the Church,” noting how they have suffered a “difficult crisis due to the aging of members, a more or less accentuated fall in vocations and, sometimes, a spiritual and charismatic ‘weariness.'”

The Pope underlined that today many young men and women “experience a strong religious and spiritual attraction, but are only willing to listen to and follow those who give coherent witness to their adherence to Christ.”

“It is interesting to note,” he said, “that those institutes that have conserved and chosen a state of life that is often austere and faithful to the Gospel lived ‘sine glossa’ have a wealth of vocations.”

The Holy Father added, “Today, as in all ages, there is no lack of generous souls ready to give up everyone and everything to embrace Christ and his Gospel, consecrating his existence to his service within communities characterized by enthusiasm, generosity and joy.”

Although describing this crisis as “worrying,” Benedict XVI highlighted certain positive signs, “especially when communities have chosen to return to the origins and live in a way more in keeping with the spirit of the founder. In almost all recent general chapters of religious institutes the recurring theme has been precisely that of rediscovering the original charism, to then incarnate it and renew it in the present.”

Such rediscovery “has helped give institutes a promising new ascetic, apostolic and missionary impulse,” said the Pope. “It is along this road that we must continue, praying to the Lord to bring to full fruition the work he began.”

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