Tuesday, March 2, Evangelica Testificatio. It states " Used "charisms" for the first time in an officially promulgated document regarding institutes of consecrated life Insisted on fidelity to charism of institute and adaptation of charism to "changing circumstances of time and place" while retaining their "touchstone of authenticity" ET reaffirmed chastity as meaningful, singular witness in modern world "ever threatened by ravaging eroticism" 13 and urged a poverty of conscious restraint 19 using only goods "necessary for daily sustenance" Cited obedience as complementary to authority in "service of the common good," requiring trustful dialogue and general agreement plus acceptance of decisions of superiors 25 ; encouraged continued fidelity to demands of common life 39 ; urged a lifestyle of "joyful, well-balanced austerity" 30 , and questioned a "flexibility and creative spontaneity" that considered even "minimal regularity" as rigid

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The evangelical witness of the religious life clearly manifests to men the primacy of the love of God; it does this with a force for which We must give thanks to the Holy Spirit. In all simplicity—following the example given by Our venerated predecessor, John XXIII, on the eve of the Council 1 —We would like to tell you what hope is stirred up in Us, as well as in all the pastors and faithful of the Church, by the spiritual generosity of those men and women who have consecrated their lives to the Lord in the spirit and practice of the evangelical counsels.

We wish also to assist you to continue in your path of following Christ in faithfulness to the council's teaching. By doing this, We wish to respond to the anxiety, uncertainty and instability shown by some; at the same time We wish to encourage those who are seeking the true renewal of the religious life. The boldness of certain arbitrary transformations, an exaggerated distrust of the past—even when it witnesses to the wisdom and vigor of ecclesial traditions—and a mentality excessively preoccupied with hastily conforming to the profound changes which disturb Our times have succeeded in leading some to consider as outmoded the specific forms of religious life.

Has not appeal even unjustly been made to the Council to cast doubt on the very principle of religious life? And yet it is well known that the Council recognized "this special gift" as having a choice place in the life of the Church, because it enables those who have received it to be more closely conformed to "that manner of virginal and humble life which Christ the Lord elected for Himself, and which His Virgin Mother also chose.

From the beginning, the tradition of the Church—is it perhaps necessary to recall it? Without this concrete sign there would be a danger that the charity which animates the entire Church would grow cold, that the salvific paradox of the Gospel would be blunted, and that the "salt" of faith would lose its savor in a world undergoing secularization.

From the first centuries, the Holy Spirit has stirred up, side by side with the heroic confession of the martyrs, the wonderful strength of disciples and virgins, of hermits and anchorites. Religious life already existed in germ, and progressively it felt the growing need of developing and of taking on different forms of community or solitary life, in order to respond to the pressing invitation of Christ: "There is no one who has left house, wife, brothers, parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not be given repayment many times over in this present time, and, in the world to come, eternal life.

Who would venture to hold that such a calling today no longer has the same value and vigor? That the Church could do without these exceptional witnesses of the transcendence of the love of Christ? Or that the world without damage to itself could allow these lights to go out? They are lights which announce the kingdom of God with a liberty which knows no obstacles and is daily lived by thousands of sons and daughters of the Church.

Dear sons and daughters, you have wished by means of the practice of the evangelical counsels to follow Christ more freely and to imitate Him more faithfully, dedicating your entire lives to God with a special consecration rooted in that of Baptism and expressing it with greater fullness: could you but understand all the esteem and the affection that We have for you in the name of Christ Jesus!

We commend you to Our most dear brothers in the episcopate who, together with their collaborators in the priesthood, realize their own responsibility in regard to the religious life. And We ask all the laity to whom "secular duties and activities belong properly, although not exclusively" 5 to understand what a strong help you are for them in the striving for that holiness, to which they also are called by their baptism in Christ, to the glory of the Father.

Certainly many exterior elements, recommended by founders of orders or religious congregations are seen today to be outmoded. Various encumbrances or rigid forms accumulated over the centuries need to be curtailed. Adaptations must be made. New forms can even be sought and instituted with the approval of the Church. For some years now the greater part of religious institutes have been generously dedicating themselves to the attainment of this goal, experimenting—sometimes too hardily—with new types of constitutions and rules.

We know well and We are following with attention this effort at renewal which was desired by the Council. How can We assist you to make the necessary discernment in this dynamic process itself, in which there is the constant risk that the spirit of the world will be intermingled with the action of the Holy Spirit?

How can what is essential be safeguarded or attained? How can benefit be obtained from past experience and from present reflection, in order to strengthen this form of evangelical life? According to the singular responsibility which the Lord has given us in His Church—that of confirming our brethren 8 —We would like to encourage you to proceed with greater sureness and with more joyful confidence along the way that you have chosen. In the "pursuit of perfect charity" 9 which guides your existence, what attitude could you have other than a total surrender to the Holy Spirit who, working in the Church, calls you to the freedom of the sons of God?

Dear sons and daughters, by a free response to the call of the Holy Spirit you have decided to follow Christ, consecrating yourselves totally to Him. The evangelical counsels of chastity vowed to God, of poverty and of obedience have now become the law of your existence. The Council reminds us that "the authority of the Church has taken care, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to interpret these evangelical counsels, to regulate their practice, and also to establish stable forms of living according to them.

Through such a bond a person is totally dedicated to God by an act of supreme love It is true that through Baptism he has died to sin and has been consecrated to God.

However, in order to derive more abundant fruit from this baptismal grace, he intends, by the profession of the evangelical counsels in the Church, to free himself from those obstacles which might draw him away from the fervor of charity and the perfection of divine worship.

Thus he is more intimately consecrated to divine service. This consecration will be the more perfect to the extent that, through more firm and stable bonds, the indissoluble union of Christ with his Spouse the Church is more perfectly represented.

This teaching of the Council illustrates well the grandeur of this self-giving, freely made by yourselves, after the pattern of Christ's self-giving to His Church; like His, yours is total and irreversible. It is precisely for the sake of the kingdom of heaven that you have vowed to Christ, generously and without reservation, that capacity to love, that need to possess and that freedom to regulate one's own life, which are so precious to man.

Such is your consecration, made within the Church and through her ministry—both that of her representatives who receive your profession and that of the Christian community itself, whose love recognizes, welcomes, sustains and embraces those who within it make an offering of themselves as a living sign "which can and ought to attract all the members of the Church to an effective and prompt fulfillment of the duties of their Christian vocation Some of you have been called to the life which is termed "contemplative.

Held in God's grasp, you abandon yourselves to His sovereign action, which draws you toward Him and transforms you into Him, as it prepares you for that eternal contemplation which is the common vocation of us all.

How could you advance along this road and be faithful to the grace which animates you if you did not respond with all your being, through a dynamism whose driving force is love, to that call which directs you unswervingly towards God?

Consider, therefore, every other immediate activity to which you must devote yourselves—fraternal relationships, disinterested or remunerative work, necessary recreation—as a witness rendered to the Lord of your intimate communion with Him, so that He may grant you that unifying purity of intention which is so necessary for encountering Him in prayer itself. In this way you will contribute to the building up of the kingdom of God by the witness of your lives and with a "hidden apostolic fruitfulness.

Others are consecrated to the apostolate in its essential mission, which is the proclaiming of the Word of God to those whom He places along their path, so as to lead them towards faith.

Such a grace requires a profound union with the Lord, one which will enable you to transmit the message of the Incarnate Word in terms which the world is able to understand. How necessary it is therefore that your whole existence should make you share in His passion, death and glory.

When your vocation destines you for other tasks in the service of men—pastoral life, missions, teaching, works of charity and so on—is it not above all the intensity of your union with the Lord that will make them fruitful, in proportion to that union "in secret"?

By the former they cling to God in mind and heart; by the latter they strive to associate themselves with the work of redemption and to spread the kingdom of God. Only in this way will you be able to reawaken hearts to truth and to divine love in accordance with the charisms of your founders who were raised up by God within His Church.

Thus the Council rightly insists on the obligation of religious to be faithful to the spirit of their founders, to their evangelical intentions and to the example of their sanctity.

In this it finds one of the principles for the present renewal and one of the most secure criteria for judging what each institute should undertake. It is precisely here that the dynamism proper to each religious family finds its origin.

For while the call of God renews itself and expresses itself in different ways according to changing circumstances of place and time, it nevertheless requires a certain constancy of orientation. The interior impulse which is the response to God's call stirs up in the depth of one's being certain fundamental options. Fidelity to the exigencies of these fundamental options is the touchstone of authenticity in religious life. Let us not forget that every human institution is prone to become set in its ways and is threatened by formalism.

It is continually necessary to revitalize external forms with this interior driving force, without which these external forms would very quickly become an excessive burden. Through the variety of forms which give each institute its own individual character and which have their root in the fullness of the grace of Christ, 21 the supreme rule of the religious life and its ultimate norm is that of following Christ according to the teaching of the Gospel.

Is it not perhaps this preoccupation which in the course of the centuries has given rise in the Church to the demand for a life which is chaste, poor and obedient? Only the love of God—it must be repeated—calls in a decisive way to religious chastity.

This love moreover makes so uncompromising a demand for fraternal charity that the religious will live more profoundly with his contemporaries in the heart of Christ. On this condition, the gift of self, made to God and to others, will be the source of deep peace.

Without in any way undervaluing human love and marriage—is not the latter, according to faith, the image and sharing of the union of love joining Christ and the Church? Thus, at the very moment that human love is more than ever threatened by a "ravaging eroticism," 23 consecrated chastity must be today more than ever understood and lived with uprightness and generosity.

Chastity is decisively positive, it witnesses to preferential love for the Lord and symbolizes in the most eminent and absolute way the mystery of the union of the Mystical Body with its Head, the union of the Bride with her eternal Bridegroom. Finally, it reaches, transforms and imbues with a mysterious likeness to Christ man's being in its most hidden depths.

Thus, dear brothers and sisters, it is necessary for you to restore to the Christian spirituality of consecrated chastity its full effectiveness. When it is truly lived, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, consecrated chastity frees man's heart and thus becomes "a sign and stimulus of charity as well as a special source of spiritual fruitfulness in the world. For our part, We must be firmly and surely convinced that the value and the fruitfulness of chastity observed for love of God in religious celibacy find their ultimate basis in nothing other than the Word of God, the teachings of Christ, the life of His Virgin Mother and also the apostolic tradition, as it has been unceasingly affirmed by the Church.

We are in fact dealing here with a precious gift which the Father imparts to certain people. This gift, fragile and vulnerable because of human weakness, remains open to the contradictions of mere reason and is in part incomprehensible to those to whom the light of the Word Incarnate has not revealed how he who loses his life for Him will find it.

Observing chastity as you do in the following of Christ, you desire also, according to His example, to live in poverty in the use of this world's goods which are necessary for your daily sustenance.

On this point, moreover, our contemporaries question you with particular insistence. It is certainly true that religious institutes have an important role to fulfill in the sphere of works of mercy, assistance and social justice; it is clear that in carrying out this service they must be always attentive to the demands of the Gospel. You hear rising up, more pressing than ever, from their personal distress and collective misery, "the cry of the poor.

As disciples of Christ, how could you follow a way different from His? This way is not, as you know, a movement of the political or temporal order; it calls rather for the conversion of hearts, for liberation from all temporal encumbrances. It is a call to love. How then will the cry of the poor find an echo in your lives? That cry must, first of all, bar you from whatever would be a compromise with any form of social injustice.

It obliges you also to awaken consciences to the drama of misery and to the demands of social justice made by the Gospel and the Church.

It leads some of you to join the poor in their situation and to share their bitter cares. Furthermore, it calls many of your institutes to rededicate for the good of the poor some of their works—something which many have already done with generosity. Finally, it enjoins on you a use of goods limited to what is required for the fulfillment of the functions to which you are called. It is necessary that in your daily lives you should give proof, even externally, of authentic poverty.

In a civilization and a world marked by a prodigious movement of almost indefinite material growth, what witness would be offered by a religious who let himself be carried away by an uncurbed seeking for his own ease, and who considered it normal to allow himself without discernment or restraint everything that is offered him? At a time when there is an increased danger for many of being enticed by the alluring security of possessions, knowledge and power, the call of God places you at the pinnacle of the Christian conscience.

You are to remind men that their true and complete progress consists in responding to their calling "to share as sons in the life of the living God, the Father of all men. You will likewise be able to understand the complaints of so many persons who are drawn into the implacable process of work for gain, of profit for enjoyment, and of consumption, which in its turn forces them to a labor which is sometimes inhuman. It will therefore be an essential aspect of your poverty to bear witness to the human meaning of work which is carried out in liberty of spirit and restored to its true nature as the source of sustenance and of service.

Did not the Council stress--in a very timely way--your necessary submission to "the common law of labor? But your activities cannot derogate from the vocation of your various institutes, nor habitually involve work such as would take the place of their specific tasks.

Nor should these activities in any way lead you towards secularization, to the detriment of your religious life. Be watchful therefore regarding the spirit which animates you: what a failure it would be if you felt yourselves valued solely by the payment you receive for worldly work!

The necessity, which is so imperative today, of fraternal sharing must preserve its evangelical value. According to the expression in the Didache, "if you share eternal goods, with all the more reason should you share the goods that perish. The legitimate desire of exercising personal responsibility will not find expression in enjoyment of one's own income but in fraternal sharing in the common good.


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Evangelica Testificatio




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