Monday, October 30, 2017

What do we do with opposites?

We live life with an array of opposites.

  • Sometimes we see opposites almost "in conflict" such that we must choose one and reject the other.
  • Other times we might hold opposites in a "tensive relationship" and strive for a balance.
  • Yet a further possibility is a struggle to "integrate" opposites. 
The above maybe an over-generalized and simplistic summary perhaps, but does it have possibilities for opening a window of insight into the different forms of consecrated life. If we consider "consecration" and "secularity" from the analogy of opposites, then perhaps:

  • Enclosed Contemplative Religious life in some respects "opposes" consecration and secularity. Members withdraw totally from the secular world to live their life of consecration.
  • Apostolic Religious Life "holds in tension" consecration and secularity. Members are drawn to the world in service, and away from the world as a distraction to their consecration.
  • Secular Institutes are called upon to "integrate" consecration and secularity.

Monday, March 13, 2017

In Celebration of Secular Institutes

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the proclamation Provida Mater Ecclesia by Pius XII  confirming Secular Institutes as a new form of Consecrated Life within the Church. The website for the World Conference of Secular Institutes has a section on Basic Texts – foundational and magisterial. They are well worth reading. Herewith some reflections on Secular Institutes.

Secular, not Religious

In canonically defining Secular Institutes in Provida Mater Ecclesia, Pius XII indicated one of the distinguishing characteristics of Religious Institutes was their common life.[1] Secular Institutes, not being bound to live a common life, were therefore freed from many of the requirements that mark the manner of living consecrated life in its religious form.[2] It was this common life “apart” that rendered consecrated religious Life as a separate “state” within the Church, though not of a different order, for consecrated life itself – in any form – does not pertain to the hierarchical structure of the Church.[3] In the Revised Code of Canon Law,[4] Secular Institutes are to retain their secularity and not become water-downed religious.[5] Magisterial documents, while acknowledging two forms of Secular Institutes, those who “collaborate” in some work and those whose way is one of “presence and penetration”,[6] repeatedly stress the secular nature of these Institutes as one of their defining hallmarks. However, while they are not “Religious Communities”,
they carry with them in the world a profession of the evangelical counsels which is genuine and complete, … This pro­fession confers a consecration on men and women, laity and clergy, who reside in the world. For this reason they should chiefly strive for total self‑dedication to God, one inspired by perfect charity. These Institutes should preserve their proper and particular character, a secular one.[7]

What do we mean by “lay”?

Scholars write volumes on the what is meant by “laity”. One paragraph hardly suffices. However, what differs between 1947 and now is the complexity of the term “lay”. In the early Church the term ‘lay’ was used to represent the non-clerical members of the Christian community, and it still carries this meaning in the hierarchical structuring of the Church. However, often the term “lay” is used interchangeably with the term ‘secular’, specifically in contexts relating to the charismatic structure of the Church articulating different “states” of life. Thus depending on context, ‘lay’ and ‘secular’ are not always the same. Religious who are not ordained are lay within the hierarchical structuring of the Church, but the canonical configuration of their lives does not deem them to be also ‘secular’ within the charismatic structuring of the Church. Some members of Secular Institutes are ordained. So one can be both ‘lay’ and ‘secular’, both ‘lay’ and ‘religious’,  both ‘clerical’ and ‘secular’,  both ‘religious’ and ‘clerical’; but one cannot be both ‘religious’ and ‘secular’. Lumen gentium stated clearly that “what specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature”[8]. Addressing the First International Congress of Secular Institutes, Cardinal Antoniutti stated:
Whereas men and women, cleric or lay, who become Religious change their canonical status and their official and social relationships within the Church, becoming subject to the Canons concerning Religious, with all the rights and duties there to attached, those who enter a  Secular Institute make no such change: the lay person remains a lay person, …there is no question of their ever being officially called or considered Religious.[9]

The First Secular Institute – a dynamic towards the world rather than away from it

St Angela Merici is credited as founding the first Secular Institute in the Church in 1540, known as the Company of St Ursula.[10] In her rule for the Company, Merici spoke of “sacred virginity.”[11] For her this meant being irresistibly drawn to God and His Kingdom and nothing will satisfy except to shape the whole of one’s life around this. It was a theologically spousal relationship. Thus virginity, for her was a response to love. It was what we call, in the language of today, “consecrated celibacy”. It was sacred, as in consecrated – set aside for God, a gift of self in response to the gift of love itself, the gift of self in totality.
However, whereas the dynamic of this overwhelming attraction to the person of Christ for many centuries for Religious engaged a “fuga mundi – both flight from a contaminating world and space for divine action”, [12] the dynamic for Merici was a movement into the world to share the empowerment for transformation that comes from relationship to Christ.[13] For Merici and her companions, it was their shared gift that established a koinonia in Christ through the Spirit, a participation in the communion of the Triune God, something that could not be protected by monastic enclosure, but rather had to be a lived response of love incarnated in the midst of the world, shared beyond the community, for the transformation of the world.[14]

More than a conjunction of the vertical and horizontal in life

Historically, while formal recognition by the Church of Secular Institutes with Provida Mater Ecclesia is relatively recent, Merici’s original forerunner of this vocation occurred at a time when lay holiness was to the fore. In a climate of much needed reform in the Church, the early sixteenth century had a number of lay associations and paths for lay holiness. The originality of Merici’s Company, was not the conjunction of vertical and horizontal, nor a claim to provide a path for lay holiness that did not otherwise exist. Ranson suggests that Secular Institutes have given way to Ecclesial Movements, their purpose of establishing a conjunction between secularity and baptismal consecration, or the vertical and horizontal, having been achieved and their juridical confinement no longer required.[15]
But this was not the purpose of the original intuition of this vocation.  Rather, it was the claim, that total dedication of one’s life to Christ in a theological spousal relationship, could be lived in the secular domain, and this at a time when there were only two options for women – marriage or the monastery. The originality lay not merely in a claim that this consecration could be lived in the secular domain, but also in the belief that living such consecration in the secular domain had a missionary effect. It sprang up in a simultaneous embrace of the world and a spousal commitment to Christ as a single reality, an interior alchemy.

Relationship to the world

The conjunction of consecration and secularity in Secular Institutes witnesses to the fundamental relationship of Church and world, and is a particular affirmation of the world. It’s interior orientation and wide ranging professional engagement differentiates it from Apostolic Religious Congregations, while its consecration in an abiding stance of hope gives a particular witness to that eschatology that is an arriving determination, a future that is already unfolding in the present, a future that subsumes the present into itself, and a past that is being healed and reconciled. Outwardly the same as all the lay faithful, interiorly the alchemy of Consecration and Secularity gives this vocation its specificity:
Consecrated Secularity. Your specific vocation, dear friends, is collocated precisely in this fundamental Church world relationship, in this missionary insertion of the Church in the history of mankind. Because the whole Church is missionary, albeit not in the same way; the whole Church is prophetic, but not at the same level; the whole Church is incarnated in the world, but not in the same manner. Your manner is irreplaceable, original and unique, lived with generosity and joy as a special gift of the Spirit.[16]
Hope is a theological gift. It is constituted first and foremost by a way of being, a way of being open to a future, rather than the pursuit of a specific object. It lives in the absurdity of the cross, the promise affirmed and to be fulfilled in the Resurrection, the maturity of surrendering to an uncontrollable future and the incomprehensibility of God, trusting absolutely in the infinite goodness and boundless love of God. Hope beckons one away from the comfort zone of the buffered self and controlled world. It stretches one’s being towards the infinite horizon of God, drawing one ever more deeply into Trinitarian communion. Focused in this way, the consecrated secular lives an obedience that is the obedience of the cross, the obedience of surrender to an uncontrollable future, a constant dialectic and discernment between one’s own will and participation in the transformative promise that draws us forward. Their poverty seeks out and affirms that which is of perennial value, and testifies to the beauty and aesthetics, the goodness, generosity and welcome of an ever-loving God:
You are not called to establish special forms of living, of apostolic commitment or social intervention, but rather, forms that can come into being through personal relations, a source of prophetic riches. May your lives be like the yeast that leavens all the dough (cf. Mt 13: 33), sometimes silent and hidden, but always with a positive and encouraging outreach capable of generating hope. [17]


Repeatedly, Magisterial documents affirm for consecrated seculars that “there is no question of their ever being officially called or considered Religious.[18] And yet at the same time it likewise affirms over and over again their full and complete consecration, the same as that of Religious. To Secular Institutes the Church says:
With Christ the Saviour for foundation and model, you fulfil, in your own distinctive way, an important ecclesial mission. But the Church itself is also, in its own way, like Christ, a plenitude too rich for anyone, or any institution, to comprehend or fully express. Nor could we, who are members of it, ever explore it completely because its life is Christ, and he is God. So the Church and its mission can in real terms only be fully expressed in the multiplicity of its members. It is the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, the doctrine of gifts and charisms of the Holy Spirit.[19]
Nevertheless, the very hidden nature of this charism of Consecrated Secular life continues to be overlooked with its lack of visibility and numbers leading people to assert that it has been eclipsed by Ecclesial Movements or that this vocation formally recognized by Provida Mater Ecclesia has failed to blossom. But the transcendent immanence that characterizes this vocation cannot be subjected to such ready judgments. Its very hidden nature and particular transcendent and immanent reality demands that it not be judged according to scientific criteria of numbers or visibility, for after all: “Even if those who find room for it in their hearts are few, that is enough for a leaven, part of God's providence, preserving and propagating his gift to men.[20]
Often Secular Institutes struggle to be understood, sometimes being met with incomprehension, obstacles, outright opposition, and ignorance of their existence. Such obstacles and opposition can be as subtle as allowing persistent ignorance to endure, or visible representation in vocational flyers, banners and websites imaging only one form of Consecrated Life.[21]  More than an issue of justice for those discerning their life vocation having a right to know of all possibilities, it is a matter of bringing to the fore the primary discernment for all the baptized of their relationship to Christ and how they are called in that relationship to grow to maturity in love. Giving priority to modality over consecration fails to witness to the diffentiating  unity of the gifts of the Spirit:
Each state in the Church, while having a specificity of its own, also includes the others. Each state is in its self-giving to God (the “Non-Other”: Non-Aliud) and to the other in the Church and in the world. Thanks to this self-giving, the one, Catholic Church lives in the wonder of divine Love.[22]
In their secularity Secular Institutes fully identity with the world. In their Consecration, they carry the inner yearning of the world for its eschatological fulfillment, living in continuous discernment and dialogue. And in the conjunction of their Secularity and Consecration they embody that hope that pivots on the border between immanence and transcendence. Consecrated Secularity is a reality, a possibility, albeit a hidden one by nature. Life at the margins, life at the edge and definitely not for the feint-hearted – Consecrated Life in Secular Institutes incarnates in the temporal sphere, as an abiding determination, the full depth and mystery of our eschatological hope in Christ through the Spirit.

[1] Pius XII, Provida Mater Ecclesia Apostolic Constitution (February 2, 1947),15, 20. Accessed 6 April, 2015.  See also Thomas E. Molloy “Secular Institutes Canons 710-730” in Religious Institutes, Secular Institutes, Societies of Apostolic Life, A Handbook on Canons 573-746 eds. Jordan Hite T.O.R., Sharon Holland I.H.M., and Daniel Ward O.S.B. (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1985), 276. Molloy notes that Canon 711 affirms that “members of secular institutes do not change their canonical condition in the Church by reason of membership. Lay members remain lay people… It follows then that in the new understanding of consecrated life in the revised Code that religious having special canonical condition in the Church is not by virtue of their consecration, but rather because of their common life which is a specific character and which puts them apart from other Christian people.”
[2] Pius XII, Provida Mater Ecclesia Art.II #1.
[3] Molloy “Secular Institutes Canons 710-730”, 277. Commenting on Canon 711 Molloy highlights that “Consecrated life does not pertain to the hierarchical structure of the church, but rather to its life and its holiness. Consecrated life, likewise, is by its nature neither clerical nor lay, but arises from among both groups, as a special gift of the Holy Spirit to the People of God.” See also Lumen Gentium 43 in The Documents of Vatican II, ed. Walter M Abbott (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1966), 74 .
[4] prepared by The Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland, The Code of Canon Law in English Translation, ed. The Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Irelan in association with The Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand and The Canadian Canon Law Society, 1983 ed. (London: Collins, 1983).
[5] Molloy “Secular Institutes Canons 710-730”, 278. Molloy interprets Canon 712 as an affirmation of the value of secular institutes as a distinct form of consecrated life.
[6] Jean Beyer “Religious Life or Secular Institute”, The Way 7 (1969), 116. See also Paul VI, "A Presence and an Action Which Will Transform the World from Within," in On the 25th Anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia (Rome: 1972). Accessed 6 April, 2015.  In article 16 he notes that there is a pluralism of forms of life available to Secular Institutes to meet their various needs.
[7] Perfectae Caritatis 11 in The Documents of Vatican II, ed. Walter M Abbott (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1966), 473-474. Likewise, see Sacred Congregation for Religious, Instruction “Cum Sanctissimus”, 7.10.  Accessed 6 April, 2015.
[8] Lumen gentium 31. 57.
[9] Card. Ildebrando Antoniutti, “A New Form of Consecration Life Stablished [Sic] by PME.” To First International Congress of Secular Institutes  (Rome, 1970), 22. Accessed 6 April, 2015.
[10] Although the canonical form of the Secular Institute was not recognized officially until 1947, St Angela Merici’s rule for her Company was approved by the diocesan Ordinary in 1536 and confirmed by Pope Paul III in 1544 with the Papal Bull “Regimini Universalis Ecclesiae”. The decree recognising the current Federation of Companies of St Ursula as a Secular Institute acknowledges the Company of St Ursula so founded in 1535 as the forerunner of the vocation of the Secular Institute. Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Prot.n.I.s.4189/93. See also Antoniutti A new form of consecration life stabilised [sic] by PME, #14-17. Antoniutti suggests that Secular Institutes are as old as the Church, having always existed in various forms (#14-15), with Provida Mater Ecclesia merely consecrating what was and always has been present in the Church. However history also came to engender confusion in this field and “To restore clarity to the situation came the work of St Angela Merici…” (#17).  Although the later development of Religious Institutes of Ursulines overshadowed the Companies of St Ursula by strength of numbers and monastic visibility, both forms have coexisted since the foundation in 1535. Many of the Companies were suppressed and dispersed under Napoleon and later refounded, but the Company of St Ursula in Bologna was never dispersed or scattered. There has been historical continuity of the Company of St Ursula since foundation. See Luciana Mariani osu, Elisa Tarolli, and Marie Seynaeve osu, Angela Merici. Contributions towards a Biography (Milano: Ancora, 1986), 508.
[11] St Angela Merici, Rule of the Company of Saint Ursula IX, 40, translated from the manuscript in the Trivulzian Library, Milan Accessed 6 April, 2015.
[12] M.R. MacGinley, A Dynamic of Hope: Institutes of Women Religious in Australia (Sydney: Crossing Press for the institute of Religious Studies, 1996), 333.
[13] Card. Eduardo F. Pironio, “Ecclesial Sense and Joy for the Secular Consacration [Sic],” to Assembly of Directors General (Rome:1976), 32. Accessed 6 April, 2015.: “You have to live both of them with the same intensity and fullness, inseparably united, like two essential elements of the self same reality: your consecrated secularity. As far as you are concerned, the only way of living your consecration is that of dedicating yourself to the radicality of the Gospel from within the world, starting from the world, remaining indissolubly faithful to your temporal tasks and to the interior needs of the Spirit as privileged witnesses of the kingdom (cfr. G.S.43). And the only way of realising fully your secular vocation right now because the Lord has entered mysteriously into your lives and has called you in a special manner to follow him radically is to live with a daily renewed joy your fidelity to God in the fecundity of contemplation, in the serenity of the cross, in the generous practice of the evangelical counsels.”
[14] See Mary-Cabrini Durkin, Angela Merici’s Journey of the Heart, the Rule, the Way (WovenWord Press, 2005), 97-105.
[15] David Ranson, “From Secular Institute to Ecclesial Movement: Conjunctions of the Sacred and the Secular in the Twentieth Century” in The Australia Catholic Record 89 No 2  (April 2012), 137. Ranson interprets Provida Mater Ecclesia giving recognition to new forms of association in which there is a synthesis of the vertical and the horizontal. He asserts that with the rise of Ecclesial Movements, the juridical confines of secular institutes are relieved for “Religious Profession uncompromisingly belonged within a Religious Order”. Accordingly, Ranson works with a conjunction of baptismal consecration and secularity, whereas the intention of Provida Mater Ecclesia 15 was a conjunction of a further theological consecration with secularity, for it stated “they profess the evangelical counsels” and addressed those who were already living as such and sought recognition of this consecration within their secular life. See also Provida Mater Ecclesia 17 and ART III no.2. Profession of the evangelical counsels for Secular Institutes is likewise confirmed in Vita Consecrata 2. See also Beyer, “Religious Life or Secular Institute”, 116 where Beyer observes that Lumen Gentium came as a bitter disappointment for some with the expression in the text arising out of theologians cast in the monastic mould and “who conceived the religious vocation as a consecrated life fully separated from the world, wholly concerned with personal holiness, with eschatological sign and ecclesial witness.” The assumption behind the oblique reference to other sacred bonds as “that the narrower the religious engagement, the profounder the gift of God; which once more casts doubt on the totality of the consecration to God and man in secular Institutes.”
[16] Pironio, “Ecclesial Sense and Joy for the Secular Consacration [Sic],” 28.2.
[17] Benedict XVI “The Church Needs you to fulfil its mission” 2007. Address to Participants in the International Symposium of Secular Institutes,” (2007), Accessed 6 April, 2015.
[18] Antoniutti, “A new form of consecration life stabilised [sic] by PME,” 22. See also Sacred Congregation for Religious, Cum Sanctimus 12.
[19] Paul VI, “A New and Original Form of Consacration [Sic],” 7.
[20] Antoniutti, “A new form of consecration life stabilised [sic] by PME,” 24.
[21] Antoniutti,  “A new form of consecration life stabilised [sic] by PME,” 44, 46-47.
[22] Sara, “Secular Institutes According to Hans Urs von Balthasar,” 311.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Do Secular Institutes take vows?

Some do! Yes, it is commonly perpetrated that secular institutes do not take vows, but in fact, there are some that do.  While the foundation document for Secular Institutes, Provida Mater Ecclesia, did not necessitate public vows for Secular Institutes, neither did the revised Code of Canon Law prohibit the possibility of public vows. So some do, and some don't. 

In norms common to ALL Institutes of Consecrated Life, the church teaches that "Life consecrated through the profession of the evangelical counsels is a stable form of living, in which the faithful follow Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, and are totally dedicated to God, who is supremely loved...The state of persons who profess the evangelical counsels in these institutes belongs to the life and holiness of the Church..." Canon Law, #573, #574 Key here, is that consecrated life is marked by "profession of the evangelical counsels". Each institute determines the manner in which this happens.

Then, with respect to Secular Institutes in particular, it teaches that "the constitutions are to establish the sacred bonds by which the evangelical counsels are undertaken in the institute." Canon Law, #712.

So what is a sacred bond? Most often, in the context of consecrated life, it is understood as an oath or a promise. However, marriage is constituted by a sacred bond, the nature of which is deemed a "vow". So a sacred bond does not exclude a vow.

But in secular institutes, aren't vows "private vows"?

Irrespective of the "nature" of the sacred bond - vows, promise, oath, ..., for an Institute of Consecrated Life, to be "official", such vows (or other form of sacred bonds) are officially "received" by a delegate of the Institute in the name of the Church and made according to the constitutions of the Institute. Such conditions constitute the nature of a public vow - see Canon 1192. However, members of Secular Institutes who live their consecration "in the world" usually do so with a degree of approved and appropriate "discretion". Such discretion is often misinterpreted as rendering their consecration of a private nature, when in fact it has public, i.e. "official", recognition within the church.

So what Secular Institutes take vows?

The Company of St Ursula, Secular Institute of St Angela Merici, gives its members the choice of vow or promise as their sacred bond for professing the evangelical counsels. Notre Dame de Vie is another secular Institute which professes the evangelical counsels through the sacred bond of a vow. There may well be others. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Vocations- if all are equal and in service of one another, how do we speak of them?

Vatican II affirmed the universal call to perfect holiness of all Christians, whatever their state or condition,[1] with the following of Christ, whose life was poor, chaste and obedient, being the foundation of perfect love.[2] Indeed,  Rincón-Pérez notes that “the Council, as emerged from the development of chapters V and VI of Lumen gentium, deliberately suppressed the term “state of perfection” to avoid making any suggestion that Christian perfection is a monopoly reserved to a canonical state.”[3] All Christians are called to live a life that is chaste, obedient to God and the Church, and reasonably detached from material possessions appropriate to their state.[4] In so doing, all Christians are called to the perfection of love in accordance with the fit of their proper vocation,[5] for diversity of gifts is the work of the Holy Spirit. Thus describing consecrated life as more perfect, more complete, more radical, undermines the universal call to holiness of all the baptized.
So how do can we reflect on and speak of the differing vocations in service of one another without retreating to former language of more perfect or more radical. Does the following hold any possibilities?
  • Christian marriage is a graced way of being to image/make present/to be an icon of the convenant relationship of love between God and the People of God.
  • Consecrated life (or more particularly, consecrated celibacy) is a graced way of being to express the primacy of Christ and His Kingdom in our lives.
  • The single way of life? A graced of way being that reflects/images God's openness to all? inclusivity? universal call to holiness? 
  • ........

[1] Lumen Gentium 11, 29.
[2] Perfectae Caritatis 1, 466. This was affirmed again in John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation. Vita Consecrata 31.
[3] Tomás Rincón-Pérez, “Introduction to PARS III De institutis vitae consecratae et de societatibus vitae apostolicae” in E. Caparros et al., Exegetical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law: Book Ii: The People of God (Canons 460 - 746). Vol. 2,2 (Midwest Theological Forum, 2004). 1455.
[4] John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation. Vita Consecrata 30.
[5] John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation. Vita Consecrata 31.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Secular Institutes

Today, 25 November 2015, is the 480th anniversary of the foundation of the first Secular Institute - The Company of St Ursula by St Angela Merici. What is a Secular Institute as the Church now understands it?

There are two kinds of Secular Institutes: those whose mission is one of immersion in the world, to transform it from within. The members of these Institutes live a "hidden" life for they use neither title, nor distinctive dress, and in their professional life may exercise an element of reserve with respect to the Consecration that is the foundation of their life. Other Secular Institutes are more overt and may collaborate for a particular work.

As indicated in the previous post, the distinctions envisaged at the time of the New Code of Canon Law in the 1980s is no longer as clear cut. What we might see now are polarities that draw different Institutes - Religious and Secular - and it is this balancing of polarities that reveals the distinctive charism of each Institute. The following diagram is a preliminary simplistic way to begin to ponder these polarities (and the solid lines are no longer solid but very "fluid").

Institutes of Consecrated Life hold in tension the polarities of being drawn into a greater engagement with the temporal or secular world or being drawn apart from it; some are drawn more towards a contemplative life and others are drawn more towards a life of apostolic service. A further dimension is that of mission whereby for some institutes the engagement in mission is more characterised by dialogue at a pre-evangelization stage and proclamation by way of Gospel living. For other institutes mission is very much much about proclamation in multiple ways.

In our diagram above, those Institutes that have an overtly apostolic character, and so occupy the top part of our diagram, still need to balance the pull of withdrawal from the world and immersion in it. For some, their ministry is a mode of engagement with the world. The world is an "other" in the relationship. There is a sense therefore, that while engaged with the world, they are "apart" or "other". For some of these Institutes, the temporal sphere is a distraction to that which is core in their life. To varying degrees therefore, they will develop structures that protect a certain "apartness" in order to nurture and nourish the core relationship a the centre of their life. In the past such structures have included, but are not limited to, dress, insignia, title, common residence, common order of the day, These Insitutes possibly find themselves in the top right hand corner of the diagram above.

Institutes in the top left hand corner may see themselves as not quite so separate to the world, but rather as part of the world. They seek God in the temporal domain, rather than finding it a distraction and something from which they need to stand apart from. This does not mean that prayer is not an important and necessary part of their life. However, they find themselves more "a-part-of" rather than "apart-from" the world. They are freer in the work they undertake, but find identity/communion/cohesion in the work in which they collaborate specifically for the Gospel. With Secular Instiutes, this work may or may not define the whole of their lives. It may be additional to their ordinary employment.

In the lower right hand corner we might readily recognise those contemplative monastic institutes for whom monastic enclosure is intrinsic to their way of life, with their ministry being that of prayer, not merely nurturing their own relationship to Christ but praying with the Church with and for the world and its needs.

Finally, in the lower left hand corner of this diagram we find perhaps Secular Institutes of immersion. Members of these Institutes have no identifying title, insignia, place of residence, work in which they collaborate. The work they do may not even be specifically "church related" in a public sense. Drawn into the temporal or secular domain as the entire locus of their life, they live in constant discernment of the traces of God in our world, ever seeking to nurture that which is of the Spirit and challenge that which is not of the spirit. They constantly endeavour to live the Gospel in every facet of what they do and say. They are perpetually on mission. But this is not possible unless they also are deeply contemplative and committed to their own life of prayer. They try to live as yeast, to be salt and light for the world.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Consecrated Life - Forms other than "Religious"

The 1980's

Following Vatican II, the Code of Canon Law was revised to incorporate and reflect the teaching of Vatican II, and other changes that occurred over time. The New Revised Code of Canon Law was published in 1983. Significantly, to reflect the teaching of Vatican II, it situated the section on those living consecrated life within the broader chapter on the People of God - Part III of Book II. The title of this section is "Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life." The following table simplistically captures the known forms of Consecrated Life at that time as reflected in this section.

“In” the world
“Apart” from the world
Consecrated Virgins
Secular Institutes
Religious Institutes
And Societies of Apostolic Life

Since the 1980's these distinctions are no longer as clear cut. Now there are simply "Institutes of Consecrated Life", for example Verbum Dei, with no designation of religious or secular. And there are also consecrated members of some ecclesial movements. Some Religious Institutes have evolved to appear more like a Secular Institute and some Secular Institutes appear as quasi-Religious. However, in 1983, in the Code as we have it from then, common to all the above forms is:
(a) Consecration to Christ that engages the totality of one's being, i.e. celibacy for the sake of the kingdom;
(b) This expressed by a sacred bond - vow, promise or firm intention;
(c) Such bond is officially recognised by the Church via the Bishop or Institute who receive the sacred bond in the name of the Church;
(d) And this bond establishes a relationship of authority and mutual responsibility between the person professing it and the one (Bishop or Institute) receiving it.
(e) A conscious endeavour to live ever more fully the evangelical counsels.

Such "Consecrated Life" is public or official. Without this public character and authoritative relationship, one's commitment to follow Christ celibately for the sake of the kingdom, may be just as whole hearted and real, but is deemed "private".

Perhaps here also lies an element in the rightful place of Ecclesial Movements in the Code of Canon Law. These movements have developed significantly since the 1980's and many find that the current Revised Code of Canon Law of 1983 does not adequately represent them. However, this is a further discussion beyond my competence, because as I see it, it also pertains in part to the structuring principle within Canon Law - is it charism or consecrated celibacy? Developments since the 1980's suggest a need for some consideration of Ecclesial Movements, and in particular of their consecrated members. 

What the simplistic outline of the 1980's categorisation does highlight is the complexity of discernment as one finds oneself being drawn more and more towards the exclusivity of one's love being consumed wholly by Christ and the service of the Gospel, i.e his kingdom. For there are associated questions of immersion or withdrawal from secular life, of travelling alone or with others in an institutional framework. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Year of Consecrated Life - "Wake up the world"

Pope Francis has declared 2015 as the Year of Consecrated Life, commencing on the first Sunday of Advent in 2014 and concluding February 2016. The theme for the year is "Wake up the world". How is this to be understood? No doubt many are unaware of this year or its theme. For while consecrated men and women may themselves have used the year as an occasion for renewal and may have personally participated in particular events to mark the year, "wake up the world" may not seem to have noticeably translated into more intense activity, heightened public profile or more public prophetic comment on and advocacy in issues of justice. It may appear to have been largely celebrated amongst themselves for "Wake up" is often suggestive of some loud or heightened activity. Also implied is that the world is asleep. However, there are other images that "wake up" and "sleep" can suggest if we turn to Scripture.

Jesus says of Lazarus "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him" (Jn.11:11), of Jairus's daughter "Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping" (Lik8:52) and of course we read the quotation in Eph.5:14 "Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine in you." In these instances, Jesus recognized life in what others saw as death, life that needed to be stirred into wakefulness by a gentle taking of the hand or a calling forth and then being assisted by others to feed, nourish, unbind, and a return to one's primary community of belonging - family. This is the hope of the Kingdom and our world is in need of hope.

In this vein then, we may ask: Where does our world appear to be dead? Where does it sleep in hopelessness? Where has belonging and communion been broken? What is the gentle hand needed to stir it from its sleep and to restore hope? How is it to be called forth and unbound? To "Wake up the world" is also an invitation to reflect on our world, where it sleeps, or where it appears to have died, and to discern how to gently stir it, call it forth and renew its hope. It may well appear an unobserved work. It is an invitation to embrace the world ever more deeply with the love of Christ. It has a profound depth.