Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Consecrated Life

In the Fall 2004 issue of Communio, Jörg Splett has an article entitled, "Evangelical Counsels in Marriage?" As one might rightly infer from the title, he discusses what it might mean to be married and live the life of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

In setting the stage for his discussion, he offers a couple citations which impressed me. The first comes from a 1975 address by Cardinal Hermann Volk to religious women superiors in Germany:
    You don't need to join an order to care for the sick or to run schools with a consciously Catholic spirit. In most cases, the majority of personnel in hospitals or schools run by the orders are laypeople. They also want to serve in a Christian and Catholic spirit. This means that it has to be the order itself, and not what it does, that first attracts young people.
The second quote includes Splett's own words along with a citation from Gottes Schönheit Leben by Kurth Koch:
    The decisive service that consecrated life performs for the Christian world is its existence as such in the state of the counsels. It is the fact that "in response to today's chronic question, 'what do you do?' says 'I am--and by God's grace at that.'"
I think both are right on. With the reform of religious life after Vatican II, many communities seem to be struggling with determining exactly what the nature of the religious life is. In some cases, it becomes little more than a lay apostolate for single people who live together. In fact, it seems to me that the reality of secular institutes provides both an opportunity and a challenge for religious communities as they seek to understand their place in the Church and the world in our time.

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