Living for Him first: Pope urges Religious Orders to rediscover their original charism

28 Feb 2008

By The Record

Pope offers the key to overcoming vocations crisis

The key for religious orders, congregations and institutes to overcome a crisis of vocations is for them to live their love for Christ without concessions and to rediscover the original spirituality of their founder, says Benedict XVI.

This was the advice the Pope gave on February 19 to the executive
committee of the International Union of Superiors General, who were
meeting in the Vatican to reflect on “some particularly relevant and
important aspects of consecrated life.”
In his address, which was published by the Vatican, the Holy Father
said: “We are all aware how, in modern globalised society, it is
becoming ever more difficult to announce and bear witness to the
The process of secularisation that is advancing in contemporary culture
does not, unfortunately, spare even religious communities.
“Nonetheless, we must not be discouraged, because if – as has been said
– many clouds are gathering on the horizon of religious life today,
there also exist – indeed they are constantly growing – signs of a
providential reawakening which gives rise to consolation and hope.”
The Pontiff continued: “The Holy Spirit blows powerfully throughout the
Church, creating a new commitment to faithfulness, both in the
historical institutes and, at the same time, in new forms of religious
consecration that reflect the needs of the times.
“What characterises these new forms of consecrated life is a shared
desire… for a radical form of evangelical poverty, for faithful love
of the Church, and for generous dedication to the needy with particular
attention to that spiritual poverty which so markedly characterises the
modern age.”
Aging congregations
Benedict XVI subsequently went on to refer to “the orders and
congregations with a long tradition in the Church,” noting how they
have suffered a “difficult crisis due to the aging of members, a more
or less accentuated fall in vocations and, sometimes, a spiritual and
charismatic ‘weariness’.”
The Pope underlined that today many young men and women “experience a
strong religious and spiritual attraction, but are only willing to
listen to and follow those who give coherent witness to their adherence
to Christ.
It is interesting to note,” he said, “that those institutes that have
conserved and chosen a state of life that is often austere and faithful
to the Gospel lived sine glossa have a wealth of vocations. Today, as
in all ages, there is no lack of generous souls ready to give up
everyone and everything to embrace Christ and his Gospel, consecrating
their existence to his service within communities characterised by
enthusiasm, generosity and joy.”
Although describing this crisis as “worrying,” Benedict XVI highlighted
certain positive signs, “especially when communities have chosen to
return to the origins and live in a way more in keeping with the spirit
of the founder. In almost all recent general chapters of religious
institutes the recurring theme has been precisely that of rediscovering
the original charism, to then incarnate it and renew it in the present.”
Such rediscovery “has helped give institutes a promising new ascetic,
apostolic and missionary impulse,” said the Pope. “It is along this
road that we must continue, praying to the Lord to bring to full
fruition the work he began.