A brief pause in this Year of Consecrated Life
My dear Religious,
We are en route. We are making our way through this Year of Consecrated Life. We are now midway. Let us pause for a moment of fraternal rest and dialogue. I invite you to pause and dialogue within your community. For my part, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you two thoughts that the journey travelled thus far, has left in my mind and in my heart. The first concerns the precious gift that is the “charism”; the other, that of “taking care of vocations”.
- The “Charism”
Here in Canada, circumstances of themselves led to highlighting the Year of Consecrated Life. This is because on April 26 the entire Church in Canada found itself spiritually, in Rimouski, for the celebration of the Beatification of Mother Élisabeth Turgeon, foundress of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. It was an opportunity to meet together and to reflect upon the ‘charism of the founder’ defined by the Church as “an experience of the Spirit, transmitted to the disciples, in order to be lived by them faithfully, constantly developed in harmony with the Body of Christ in perpetual growth” (Mutuae Relationes, 11).
For Mother Élisabeth Turgeon, the “experience of the Spirit” which she wished to transmit was that of witnessing to the “tender love and solicitude of Jesus and of Mary” by dedicating herself particularly to the education and Christian formation of the young. Throughout her life, Mother Élisabeth knew how to pass this on “to her own proper disciples” thereby giving birth to her religious family. By her words for sure, but mostly, by the witness of her life, she succeeded in drawing thousands into this same experience. And we, today, in our religious communities: do we succeed in transmitting the charism that we have received?
In the definition of the “charism of the founder” that I have just recalled, the word “transmit” is accompanied and followed by “living”, “to preserve”, “to deepen” and “to develop” the charism, precisely because the charism is a living and dynamic reality, as is the Spirit who gives it to the Church. How do we live, preserve, deepen and develop the charisms which each of our religious families have received?
I like, in this regard, to share the vigorous appeal the Pope addresses to us: “First, it is necessary to preserve the freshness of your charism, never lose that freshness, the freshness of your charism, always renewing the “first love” (cf. Rev. 2:4). As time goes by, there is a great temptation to become comfortable, to become hardened in set ways of doing things, which, while reassuring, are nonetheless sterile. There is the temptation to cage in the Holy Spirit: this is a great temptation! … The newness of your experiences does not consist in methods or forms, or the newness itself, all of which are important, but rather in your willingness to respond with renewed enthusiasm to the Lord’s call…We need always to return to the sources of our charism, and thus to rediscover the driving force needed to respond to challenges…always on the way, always in movement, always open to God’s surprises which are in harmony with the first call…” (cf. Address of Pope Francis to participants in the Third World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New communities, November 22, 2014).
I would like to entrust this call of the Holy Father in a particular way to the various religious congregations that will celebrate their General Chapter this coming June and July. And I would convey this also to all the religious families as a stimulus and encouragement that the Lord offers us in order to continue and to draw out the riches of the Year of Consecrated Life. We are called again and again to preserve and enrich the ‘charism’ received by going back to the origins, that is to say, to the ‘generative’ inspiration that God gave to each founder and foundress. This demands a constant and diligent ‘evangelical vigilance’ and an attentive ‘communitarian discernment.’
- Taking care of vocations
“As he was going along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net into the sea… And he said to them “Come follow me…” (cf. Mk 1:16-17). It is Jesus who calls. The Lord is the author of a vocation. Wherever he is present, there is a call. Consequently, if no one comes one must spontaneously ask oneself: “But he, is he there?” In other words, we must ask whether he is present within us and within our communities because we know that wherever the Lord is present, he acts, he calls. Certainly there are a number of problems; it may be that we are passing a time of ordeal…but if no one comes, then perhaps we need to re-focus, because wherever Jesus is, there is movement.
Jesus calls us to be fishermen, not of fish, but of persons: “I will make you fishers of men” (cf. Mk 1:17). Fishing is associated with a net, the necessary instrument to be able to fish. We know that for special and delicate fish, one requires particular nets. Only when the nets are in order, well patched and with small mesh, can one retain the “delicate fish of a vocation”. We are those nets, when, united by fraternal love, we ensure that Jesus lives within us and among us. Jesus within and among us is the only true net for vocations. “Vocation grows only there where there is unity and reciprocal love. Often what is lacking is the net of love, of communication, of real sharing that enables the person to be able to find the Lord in the center and his own place close to the Lord. There, where the net is lose and torn, those who could be caught, pass through. We need the tight net of those who believe in the calling of God so that the call may be received and answered” (cf. Klaus Hemmerle, Scelto per gli uomini, 51).
That is why the Church asks each of you, consecrated men and women, to be “true experts of communion” (cf. Vita Consecrata, 46). Yours therefore, is the task “to foster the spirituality of communion”, first of all within your communities, then among the different religious families, and also, toward the entire ecclesial fraternity, and all of humanity (cf. Vita Consecrata, 51ff). So that this communion does not become “headless” (acephalous), it is necessary to be in full communion with the Pope, Successor of Peter, and with the Bishops, Successors of the Apostles, guarantors of the unity of the Church.
Dear religious men and women, in the measure you remain faithful to the specific “charisms of the founders” you will be models and masters of living the new commandment of Jesus (cf. John 13: 34-35). And your communion, kept alive by the dynamism generated by your fraternal charity, will make your communities ‘supernatural powerhouses’ capable of producing that ‘spiritual current’ which, plunged into the nets of your pastoral initiatives, will allow you to ignite in many hearts the light of the faith, feeding the fervor of charity and supporting the strength of hope. With your unanimous charity, you will unite your voices to the concordant and confident invocation of the Church which implores: “Marana-tha, Come Lord Jesus (cf. Rev. 22:20). You will attract new vocations and like the disciples at the lake, you will count them “one hundred and fifty- three large fish” (cf. John 22:11).
Animated by this confidence, each day, in the chapel of the Nunciature, after Holy Communion and before the end of Holy Mass we unite in this prayer for vocations that I would like to share with you:
Jesus, Supreme Shepherd of our souls,
deign to look with your eyes of mercy
upon your beloved Church in Canada.
Lord, grant us vocations;
send workers into your vineyard,
give us holy priests,
and holy families,
in order to proclaim the Gospel
and for the building up of your Kingdom
on this earth.
We ask this through the intercession
of the Immaculate Virgin Mary
your Mother and our Mother.
Lord, give us priests and religious
according to your Heart.
Enjoy the rest of the journey in this year of Consecrated Life! My prayer and my friendship accompany you. And do not forget to pray for me!
Ottawa, May 31, 2015
+ Luigi Bonazzi