Consecrated Life : rise up and walk!
JERUSALEM – During this Year of Consecrated Life, a symposium was held on Wednesday, April 22 at the John Paul II Auditorium of the Notre Dame Center of Jerusalem. Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM, Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life gave a conference for the men and women consecrated religious in the Holy Land.
Men and women consecrated religious from the various apostolic and contemplative communities in the Holy Land came in large numbers and attended the symposium on the “Multi-faceted action of the Holy Spirit in the Mother Church in the Holy Land.”
Father Guy Tardivy, O.P., Prior of St. Stephen’s Convent and secretary of the Committee of the Religious Men in the Holy Land was moderator of the four-hour program and introduced the speakers and those who gave their testimonies of religious life.
Bishop William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem reminded the religious and consecrated men and women of the “essential and impressive role played by many religious congregations active in the Holy Land”, while acknowledging “the prominent role played by the Custody of the Holy Land”.
Bishop Shomali stated that “what we – as local Church – expect of you, fathers and sisters, is the same thing which the entire Church expects of you: to be faithful to your charism and to the Gospel!”. He left to Archbishop Carballo, himself a Franciscan, to offer a meditation on the religious vocation and its challenges of present days. Bishop Shomali expressed some of the “wishes” of the local Church for consecrated life in the Holy Land. Among those wishes is the “training in languages of the country: Arabic and/or Hebrew”.
Archbishop Carballo in his presentation touched, in a vivid and concrete style, on the significance and challenges of consecrated life today. “The Gospel above anything else! He pointed out that before being Franciscans, Salesians etc… we are baptized!” As to the charismatic identity proper to each religious family or consecrated life, “it is always a charism in path and relationship” said the Archbishop, and cautioned against any attempt to withdraw into itself or self-reference, under the pretext of “preservation” of this identity, by cutting off from the Church.
When talking about religious life and its future, we can, according to Archbishop Carballo, find ourselves facing three different attitudes: that of pessimists, of optimists and finally, of realists. While pessimists and optimists use the same vocabulary (chaos, dark night and sunset), with a different meaning to describe the situation of consecrated life today, the realists speak rather of lucidity, crisis and discernment. This crisis can be a positive experience of growth, of decision making. A time “to take the bull by the horns” according to the expression of the Spanish Archbishop.
The Archbishop continued that being realistic also means avoiding idealism and utopia. The ideal is important, it is “like the star that guides us,” however, looking only at the ideal and staying away from reality may lead to “perpetual frustration”.
Among the many dangers facing consecrated life today, he warned against “a consecrated life more preoccupied with numbers rather than with the Evangelical significance, more concerned by the works alone and missing the prophetic dimension.” He also pointed out that one of the greatest sins in religious life is probably that of “mediocrity”, that of “a religious life without spirituality and without mysticism”. For him the opposite of this would be “consecrated life that feels the way , centered in the Lord, a sign of the transcendent, focused on the essential elements of its identity: consecration, fraternal life in community, mission, de-centered and able to go to the periphery”.
The Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life ended his presentation by asking the following questions: “Does religious life have a future? What do you think?” and the audience responded in a one joyful voice: “Yes!” He concluded by saying: “Yes religious life has a future, but not necessarily all the forms of religious life”. This is what history teaches us.
The symposium included animated testimonials of men and women religious from different congregations and charism, while the encouraging and hopeful words of Archbishop Carballo reverberated in their hearts: “Consecrated life, rise up and walk!”