Within the Church, there are a certain number of Christians who choose to follow Christ publicly and be identified openly as his disciples. They are taken up by the mystery of Christ’s whole life centred on the love of God the Father. They devote themselves entirely to bringing mankind to experience God’s love and respond in love.

The Church and her mission are part of this ‘mystery’ of love and have as their ultimate goal the establishment of God the Father’s reign over all. So, attracted by the person of Christ and by the experience of God’s love in their own lives, these Christians feel called to give their lives over to imitating and following Christ more closely, centring their lives on God the Father and devoting themselves entirely to the service of his Kingdom.

To achieve this total dedication of themselves to God and his Kingdom in imitation of Christ, they choose to give up the way most people live out their lives in forming a family. Instead, they embrace a life of poverty, chastity and obedience, and embark on a different kind of life together with those brothers or sisters of theirs who have felt called the same way, beginning with the inspired Founder of the different Orders or Congregations. These are those whom the Church calls ‘consecrated persons’.

Consecrated life, therefore, more than anything else, is essentially a loving relationship with Christ, with the Father and with the Holy Spirit, which leads one to love the brothers with whom he lives and whom he has been sent to serve. Each Founder lived this fundamental reality, bringing to it his own characteristics and accentuations, and in this way formed his Institute’s charism, which basically is his particular way of following Christ more closely.

Being a consecrated person today has a beauty and importance all its own. As Vita Consacrata says, ‘the Church and society itself need people capable of devoting themselves totally to God and to others for the love of God’1.

There are many individuals and groups in society who devote their entire lives to a particular value. For example,

  • musicians to music;
  • teachers to education;
  • doctors and nurses to the health of people;
  • policemen to peace in society.

All these individuals centre their lives on those particular values and they serve to keep alive those values in the entire population.

‘Keeping alive’ means many things, like:

  • stirring up interest,
  • creating a sense of concern, and
  • reminding others of their own responsibility.

Society needs all these people.

 

In a similar way, when consecrated persons centre their lives on the supreme value, God, they become pointers to people of how much God loves each one and how each one ought to love God in return. Mother Teresa, for instance, became a sign of God’s tender compassion for poor, suffering humanity.

And so, consecrated persons open up a whole new horizon for people:

  • they remind people to give God the first place in their lives, and show how they can find true joy and freedom in him;
  • they make Christ present and active in the world today as they go about their teaching and healing, preaching and praying: through them Christ reaches out and touches people’s lives; they reveal the beauty of ‘falling in love’ with Christ and how his love can truly fill a person’s life so that he does not need anything else for his happiness and fulfilment;
  • in total availability to the Holy Spirit they live the spiritual life and receive the gift of holiness;
  • they demonstrate what it is to be Church and how we can all live as brothers and sisters, notwithstanding our inevitable differences of origin, language or culture;
      • they invite everyone to raise their eyes to higher things, e.g. to be convinced:
      • that chastity is possible and necessary for genuine human love;
      • that being is more important than having, and sharing more satisfying that hoarding;
      • that doing God’s will, not individualism and self-sufficiency, brings happiness and fulfilment;
  • they remind everyone of the fullness of life that lies beyond this one, and that holiness is the highest realisation of every human being.

As one can see, consecrated life is not only a gift of Christ’s love to a person for his own holiness and happiness, but it is a gift to the Church and to mankind. ‘To some for the sake of all, God gives the gift of a closer following of Christ in his poverty, chastity, and obedience’2.

 

Vita Consecrata 105.
Essential Elements in the Church’s Teaching on Religious Life 7.

This article can be found in Mirror 0215.