The Apostolic Exhortation « Vita Consecrata » 25 Yrs later
Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
WITNESSES TO THE BEAUTY OF GOD
The Apostolic Exhortation « Vita Consecrata » 25 Years later
1996 • 25 March • 2021
To our brothers and sisters in consecrated life,
We do not wish the 25th anniversary (25 March 1996) of the publication of St. John Paul Il’s Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, the fruit of the reflection of the IX Assembly of the Synod of Bishops celebrated in October 1994, to go unnoticed. […]
Before Godfor the world
The Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata was published in a time of great uncertainty, in a liquid society, with confused characteristics and weak commitments. The certainty with which the identity of consecrated life is defined is therefore surprising, « icon Of the transfigured Christ » (Vita consecrata, 14) which reveals the glory and the face of the Father in the luminous splendor of the Spirit. Consecrated life as confessio Trinitatis ! Truly, the concern here is not only to give a solid foundation to the consecrated person’s identity, but more so as offering an original vision of that identity, integrating the divine and human, realizing that mysterious and luminous connection between ascent and descent, between the transcendent height and the kenotic immersion on the borders Of all that is human, between the sublime beauty to be contemplated and the distressing poverty to be served.
Valuable consequences flow from this fruitful insight.
The strength of the relationship
Vita consecrata is built upon the notion of a relationship, the relationship generated in and by the Mystery of God and Trinitarian communion. The salvation that comes through the lives of those who take charge of the other. A witness that is not unique, but that of a fraternity that lives and appreciates what it proclaims. Communal holiness, not of perfect solitaries, but of poor sinners who daily share and offer each other mercy and understanding. A consecration that does not oppose the values of the world and the universal thirst for happiness, but on the contrary reveals to ah that being poor, chaste, and obedient has great humanizing power, is a true eco-system Of the human condition, gives meaning and balance to life, harmony, and freedom in relationships with things, it protects from abuse, creates fraternity, and offers beauty... 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.
The sentiments of the Son
A particular aspect of the relational dimension seems to reach its highpoint when the document deals with the subject of formation. Not just any relationship, but one that leads one to have the same sentiments as the obedient Son, the suffering Servant, the innocent Lamb.
This is not an essentially new element, considering that in the past We have resorted to the relationship of following, identifying, and imitating Christ, but here something more is said and, in Some respects, something new, is offered by the Word (Phil 2:5). It is about the relationship that reaches such an intense and profound level that it rediscovers within itself the sensitivity of the Son, who is in turn, the image and incarnation of the Fatheds sensitivity. 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. We want to believe that consecrated life, with its many charisms, is the very expression of this sensitivity. It could be said that each institute emphasizes with its charism a particular divine sentiment. It is for this reason that formation is presented in the Exhortation as a process that leads in that direction : to have the same feelings, emotions, sentiments, affections, desires, tastes, objective criteria, dreams, expectations, passions... of the Son-servant-Lamb.
It is an exciting project that admirably brings together ("integrates") the spiritual and anthropological dimensions. A project that could transform the idea of formation in its contents, methods, and timing. It would finally be an integrated formation, built on the rock Of eternal love that Sets one free, forming integrated persons who have learned to evangelize their feelings, to love God with a human heart, and to love humanity with a divine heart ! It will be a formation that continues for a lifetime. It is another great insight, one that remains largely to be understood and even more so to be implemented now.
The enchantment Of beauty
If God is beautiful and the Lord Jesus « is the most beautiful among the sons of men », then being consecrated to him is beautiful, The consecrated person is called to be a witness of beauty. In a world which risks sinking into disturbing brutality, the via pulchritudinis seems to be the only way to arrive at the truth or to make it credible and attractive. Consecrated men and women must reawaken in themselves, but above all in the men and women of our time, an attraction for what is beautiful and true.
Beautiful, then, not only courageous, and truthful, must be the witness and the word offered, because the face we proclaim is beautiful. Beautiful must be what we do and how we do it.
Beautiful is the fraternity and the atmosphere that one breathes.
Beautiful the temple and the liturgy, to which all are invited because it is beautiful to pray and sing the praises of the Most High and allow his word to be my guide.
It is beautiful to be together in his name, to work together, even if tiring at times.
How beautiful is Our being virgins to love with his heart, our being poor to say that he is the only treasure, our obedience to his will for salvation, and even among ourselves to seek only him.
It is beautiful to have a heart that is free to welcome the pain of those who suffer, to show them the com-passion Of the Eternal One...
Even the environment must be beautiful, in simplicity and creative sobriety : the house, the table that is set..., that there be taste and decorum in the surroundings, so that everything in the dwelling may reveal the presence and centrality of God.
Supreme Beauty, the sacrament of the mysterious beauty Of the Eternal One. As Peter exclaimed on Tabor before that burst of light and splendor. [...]
We confidently address our prayer to Mary so that consecrated men and women may « bear witness to that gift by their transfigured lives, as they joyfully make their way with alt their brothers and sisters towards our heavenly homeland and the light which will never grow dim » (Vita consecrata, 112). We take this opportunity to greet you and wish you all good things in the Lord, the ALL for us consecrated persons.
Vatican City, 25 March 2021, Solemnity of the Annunciation Of the Lord.
Joäo Braz Card. de Aviz
+ Fr. José Rodriguez Carballo, ofm