By Devin Watkins
The Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life released a letter on Thursday to commemorate an important milestone for all men and women who have dedicated their lives to God in a special way.
Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz recalled the 25th anniversary of the publication of Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata, on 25 March 1996.
He opened his letter by thanking all consecrated persons for responding to God’s call to service.
As the world faces the health, economic, and social effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cardinal De Aviz invited them “to personally awaken in everyone a sense of hope.”
Heart of the Church
The Cardinal also reaffirmed that “consecrated life is at the very heart of the Church as a decisive element for her mission.”
Despite the Exhortation being published in a time of great uncertainty and “weak commitments”, he said the document gave a surprisingly firm definition of consecrated life: “icon of the transfigured Christ.”
Consecrated men and women, he added, reveal “the glory and the face of the Father in the luminous splendor of the Spirit.” As such, they should integrate the divine and human in their daily service, combining “the sublime beauty to be contemplated and the distressing poverty to be served.”
Living in relationship
Cardinal De Aviz went on to reflect on the centrality of “relationship” in the life of consecrated persons.
He said the relationship generated in and by Trinitarian communion leads them to seek “communal holiness: not of perfect solitaries, but of poor sinners who daily share and offer each other mercy and understanding.”
“Today, consecrated life is aware of being ‘poorer’ than in former times, but lives – by grace – a much greater relationship with the Church and the world, with those who believe and those who do not, with those who suffer and are alone.”
Sentiments of the Son
The Cardinal then noted that Vita consecrata introduced a “new element” in the formation of consecrated men and women.
Religious formation, he said, is understood as seeking to help the person “have the same sentiments as the obedient Son, the suffering Servant, the innocent Lamb.”
Consecrated persons are therefore called to develop such a profound relationship with Jesus that they “love humanity with a divine heart.”
“We Christians believe in a sensitive God: He hears the groaning of the oppressed and listens to the widow’s plea; He suffers with and for humanity,” said Cardinal De Aviz. “We want to believe that consecrated life, with its many charisms, is the very expression of this sensitivity.”
Way of beauty
Beauty, noted the Cardinal, is one of God’s traits, and therefore an important part of being consecrated to Him.
“In a world which risks sinking into disturbing brutality,” he said, “the via pulchritudinis (“way of beauty”) seems to be the only way to arrive at the truth or to make it credible and attractive.”
Cardinal De Aviz concluded his letter for the silver jubilee of Vita consecrata asking the Virgin Mary to help those who have consecrated their lives to God.
May consecrated men and women, he prayed, “bear witness to that gift by their transfigured lives, as they joyfully make their way with all their brothers and sisters towards our heavenly homeland and the light which will never grow dim.”