New wine in new wineskins: with a commitment to ensuring that the wine does not become vinegar!
Religious today: Sentries of the morning, lighthouses on the coasts, trumpets on the walls…
‘We must not be afraid to leave the ‘old wineskins’, that is to say to renew those habits and structures that, in the life of the Church and, therefore, also in consecrated life, we recognize as no longer responding to what God asks today for His Kingdom to advance in the world: the structures that give us false protection and condition the dynamism of charity; the habits that distance us from the flock to which we are sent and impede us from hearing the cry of all those awaiting the Good News of Jesus Christ’.
‘After the Second Vatican Council’, the Pope went on, ‘the wind of the Spirit continued to blow with strength…leading Institutes to implement spiritual, charismatic and institutional renewal…and…arousing in men’s and women’s hearts new ways of responding to Jesus’ invitation to leave everything to dedicate their lives to following him and to the proclamation of the Gospel’.
The Pope listed ‘areas of weakness that it is possible to encounter today in consecrated life: resistance of some sectors to change, the diminished force of attraction, the number – not irrelevant – of abandonments: ‘And this worries me! It says something about the selection of candidates, the formation of candidates and the mystery of each person, but these two things we must first assess well’.
In addition, there is ‘the fragility of certain formative itineraries, the anxiety over institutional and ministerial tasks at the expense of the spiritual life, the difficult integration of cultural and generational diversities, a problematic balance in the exercise of authority and in the use of goods’.
‘I am also worried about poverty, well, I am engaging in publicity for my family, but St. Ignatius said that poverty is the mother and also the wall of consecrated life. Poverty is a mother, it gives life, and the wall protects against the things of this world’.
Pope Francis then emphasised the importance of prayer: ‘We consecrated are consecrated to serve the Lord and to serve others with the Word of the Lord, aren’t we? But tell your new members, please, tell them that praying is not a waste of time, worshiping God is not a waste of time, praising God is not a waste of time. If we consecrated do not stop every day in front of God in the gratuitousness of prayer, the wine will be vinegar’.
This is what Pope Francis said on Thursday 27 November when addressing those taking part in the plenary session of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. The Holy Father stressed to them that ‘in order to evaluate the new wine and to test the quality of the wineskins that must contain it, you are guided by some orientating criteria: the evangelical originality of choices, charismatic fidelity, the primacy of service, care for the littlest and most fragile, respect for the dignity of every person’.
This meeting took place on the eve of the opening of the Year that the Holy Father dedicated to consecrated life: a great prayer vigil was held on Saturday 29 November at 19.00 in the papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. On Sunday 30 November there was the celebration of the Eucharist at 11.00 in the papal Basilica of St. Peter.
These two celebrations took place in the heart of Rome in communion with all the dioceses of the world where prayer meetings will be held to implore the grace of the Holy Spirit who vivifies and renews the Church.
At the beginning of Advent the intention is to entrust to Mary – the model for, and the patron saint of, every consecrated life – consecrated life in all its various forms (religious Institutes, secular Institutes, Ordo Virginum, Societies of apostolic life, new Institutes).
The Year of Consecrated Life, when the fiftieth anniversary of the dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium and the decree Perfectae caritatis will be commemorated, will be a kairòs for everyone, a favourable opportunity for interior renewal and in-depth growth. Every consecrated man and every consecrated woman is called in time to be a witness to the Gospel, a sign of a hope that becomes proximity and mercy, and prophecy that proclaims ‘new ways to apply the Gospel in history, in expectation of the coming of God’s Kingdom’ (VC, n. 84).
This is a Year that is located between two synods for the family in order to point out the complementariness of the various vocations that interact within the Church and are at the service of one other, ‘for the growth of the Body of Christ in history and for its mission in the world’ (VC, n. 31).