VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 30, 2003 (Zenit.org).- In a divided world, religious communities are called to be a sign of hope, says John Paul II.
Communion among those who are consecrated “will be a powerful sign and source of hope for a world with exaggerated forms of individualism and social fragmentation,” the Pope said Monday when he received in audience the participants in the general chapter of the Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré.
In his address, the Holy Father said that “consecrated life and its witness of the salvific message of Jesus Christ has had a fundamental role in the evangelization of Europe and in the formation of its Christian identity.”
“Europe continues to need the holiness, prophecy, evangelizing activity and service of consecrated persons,” he said.
The recent extension of the order’s presence in other parts of the world and new forms of the apostolate pose new challenges, the Pope added.
In this new phase, he proposed to the canons regular “the example of the early Church, living and promoting the ideal of ‘a single heart and soul.'”
The Canons Regular of Prémontré, known as Premonstratensians, Norbertines, or White Canons (in the British Isles), number 1,310 religious and novices, including 930 priests.
St. Norbert founded the order in the early 12th century, at the dawn of the great reform movement of the high Middle Ages in Western Europe.
The order contributed to the culture known in secular circles today as Western civilization. It was the reforming, pacifying and civilizing influence of St. Norbert, combined with the zeal he inspired, which resulted in the creation of almost 400 order houses throughout the Medieval world, stretching from Palestine in the east to Norway (some even say Finland) in the west; from Latvia in the north to Sicily in the south.
In each location, peace, Christian virtue, learning, and other attributes now considered “native” to Western culture, were sown and cultivated, reflected in time in the high Middle Ages, the Renaissance and finally modern Western civilization.
The religious lead communal lives in priories and abbeys, following the Rule of St. Augustine, but are also very involved in activities outside their houses.
The canons regular are present in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, England and Scotland, the Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, the United States, Canada, South Africa, Congo, Brazil, Chile, Peru, India and Australia.