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Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Archives


Religious Life Index

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The Apostolate of Religious Witness
…I suggest that we look at the following aspects of our subject — keeping in mind that our focus of attention is on Christ, the first religious, and that, like Him, religious are to both practice the counsels and give witness to the world.
Come and See
The invitation of Jesus, "Come and see" (Jn 1:39), is the golden rule of pastoral work for promoting vocations even today. — Vita Consecrata, no. 64. All believers share the responsibility of promoting the gift of the priesthood, the religious life and other forms of consecrated life. The Church cannot survive without the witness of those who follow Christ with "an undivided heart." Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten the "golden rule."
Institute on Religious Life (Letter)
I believe the breakdown of religious life in the Western world is a phenomenon unique in the history of Christianity.There have been, since the last half of this century, more departures from Catholicism, more closings of Catholic churches, more dioceses that have been secularized than ever before in the history of Christianity.
Vocations and the Commitment Crisis
With the dwindling number of entries into seminaries and novitiates, we naturally ask, "What happened?" And we are inclined to put the blame where it does not belong, on a lack of vocations. It is high time we took a hard look at the facts and draw some obvious, even though painful, conclusions.
The Crisis in Religious Life—A Crisis of Faith in the Church's Teaching Authority
My purpose in the next few pages is to get just one idea across—a crucial one on which everything else depends: to show that religious life in the United States today is going through the most serious crisis in its history. I am not ready to say the crisis is either good or bad. Only the future can tell. I am not even prepared to say what brought the crisis about. I am only sure that a crisis exists and that we ought to do something about it.
The History of Religious Life: New Testament Origins of the Religious Life – Part 1
There are many reasons for beginning our study on the History of Religious life by paying some attention to its origins in the New Testament. Whatever else Religious Life means, it should mean a complete and whole soul’s dedication of oneself to God. But this kind of commitment is impossible without strong motivation. The higher the demands, the stronger must be the motive to meet them. And the strongest motives a Christian can find for making the sacrifices the religious life calls for - is the belief that the foundations of this life are in Divine Revelation…Why do we say that Jesus is the first Religious?
The History of Religious Life: New Testament Origins of the Religious Life – Part 2
What did the Church tell us? And we go back to Christ Himself and His immediate followers. Three kinds of totality, we are told by the Church, identify religious life as first practiced by the Savior and His immediate followers and to be somehow imitated by all who since the first century claim to be religious. Totality of Sacrifice, Service and Duration.
The History of Religious Life: Christian Perfection in the First Two Centuries after Christ - Part 1
We’re on the Christian community in the early post-Apostolic age. My reason for doing this is to give some historical context for seeing what happened immediately after Christ’s Ascension into Heaven and, indeed, after the apostles had gone to their reward and the Church began, as it were, on Her own. We first note that from the very beginning that early Church which, for our purpose, would extend from Pentecost up to, say, the end of the third century. So it’s about the two hundred fifty years after Pentecost by which time, as we shall see, we have the first beginnings of organized religious life much more as we know it now.
The History of Religious Life: Christian Perfection in the First Two Centuries after Christ - Part 2
St. Justin, in the middle of the second century, lists as one of the features of Christianity - listen - that many men and women age of fifty and sixty instructed since childhood in the teaching of Christ, have kept their virginity. That good to hear? He was writing in the year 150A.D. This esteem for virginity is found throughout the whole Church, so it is not, you might say, consistent with any particular culture…
The History of Religious Life: Origins of Christian Monasticism - Part 1
Our purpose is very specific: to identify what may be called the spiritual patrimony of the early Church as the foundation on which all future living of the evangelical counsels was built.
The History of Religious Life: Origins of Christian Monasticism - Part 2
The date of St. Benedict is 529. Our intention is to see in historical sequence the early development of what may be called structured religious life; but all before St. Benedict, the Founder of Western Monasticism. To get our bearings and keep them, we should first divide the matter to be seen into something like logical parts each preceding, somehow meeting, the future part on which, then, it will build. Part One: To look at something of the persons whose life and practices set the pattern for Western Monasticism; second, the features of the life of these persons and third, the organization in established Rule.
The History of Religious Life: St. Augustine and the Religious Life
The subject of our lecture, therefore, is the contributions of St. Augustine to the doctrinal principles and community structure of religious life. The best way to approach St. Augustine’s doctrinal teaching is to see what were the principal heresies that he had to combat during his day.
The History of Religious Life: The Rise and Growth of Western Monasticism: Part 1
As we look at monastic spirituality, I have here four principal aspects. First, monasticism conceived as conversion of life, then at greatest length its basic elements on which we will spend most of the time, then its continuous influence in the Church and then some permanent values for everyone, whether religious or not.
The History of Religious Life: The Rise and Growth of Western Monasticism: Part 2
Does this foster humility? It sure does; because given that definition of taciturnity – silence with a purpose – it means therefore that if I am, according to Benedict’s norm, a taciturn individual; I will speak when I should, I will say a lot; change the wording – I will talk a lot. Not everyone who talks a lot says a lot.
The History of Religious Life: The Rise and Growth of Western Monasticism: Part 3
The spiritual combat is Benedict's great masterful contribution to the spiritual life. The apostolate is of two kinds: the apostolate of holiness and the apostolate of service. What's the difference? Both are forms of the apostolate.
The History of Religious Life: The Rise and Growth of Western Monasticism: Part 4
What the monastic tradition contributed to religious was the idea of a community that was first and mainly a group of believers, it was first of all a community of faith; secondly, it was a community of obedience; thirdly, it was a community of service. But what bears emphasis is that the communal character of religious life depended not only on being obedient to the Abbot, the community is also interrelated; so that my bond to my community is not only that fifty in a given community might have the same superior and then each going their respective ways. You will still have community in name but no longer in reality. We call that a corporate apostolate, for example: Living together, being together, working together, recreating together, everything is done together; that's monasticism pure and simple. One of the features of religious life in the strictly monastic tradition is that everything is done together.
The History of Religious Life: The Decline and Reformation of Religious Life after St. Benedict
There was a need for reformation because there had been a decline which is a nice word for saying that there had been a secularization of religious life. What were some of the features that became prominent and for which all those reformers, and I just chose the biggest, struggled to overcome?
The History of Religious Life: St. Francis of Assisi and the Witness to Evangelical Poverty - Part 1
However Francis, for the first time in the Church's history, went beyond the monastic Orders that by this time had become widespread and had done great work in the Church beyond Benedict, Bernard, Romuald and the rest of them. Francis, though like them, said, "If you want to be poor as I understand poverty, you must dispossess yourself of everything you own - you." But then he went beyond that and he said, "You must also dispossess yourself as a community."
The History of Religious Life: St. Francis of Assisi and the Witness to Evangelical Poverty - Part 2
Now the Poor Clares are of course the Second Order, but they identify themselves completely as far as possible with the Friars Minor in terms of personal and communal dispossession. But conservatively there are three hundred Franciscan Institutes recognized by the Church. There are four thousand religious communities in the Catholic Church, and I am confident that at least three hundred follow a Franciscan way of life. But the vast majority except for the three of men and the Poor Clares for women, most of them are not Orders but Congregations; they therefore do not take solemn vows of poverty; they therefore do not dispossess themselves of what they own even as individuals, less still as communities.
The History of Religious Life: St. Francis of Assisi and the Witness to Evangelical Poverty - Part 3
By Franciscan theology we mean of course the reflection on the faith as has been done over the centuries by the great masters of theology in the Franciscan order. So Franciscan theology is the theology of the Franciscans, but who have been true to the spirit of Saint Francis. The four great names always after Saint Francis, that may be said to be the founders of Franciscan theology, are Alexander of Hales, who are the earliest, blessed Raymond Lily, Saint Bonaventure, and Duns Scotus.
The History of Religious Life: St. Dominic and the Apostolate of Teaching the Word of God
We will take an analysis and a rundown of ten of the outstanding statements in the Dominican tradition given by St. Thomas Aquinas, who was on the scene early in the Dominican Order and whose writings have influenced the whole Church ever since. I would like to first give you a brief rundown on the history of the Dominican Order, compare St. Francis with St. Dominic, then go over the chart with you, and then look at St. Thomas' teaching, which is, perhaps, the highest expression of Dominican spirituality that we have.
The History of Religious Life: St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Society of Jesus
There are three principal sources of Ignatian spirituality. They are the so-called Momumenta Ignatiana - about forty volumes of the writings not only of Ignatius, which are not that much, but the lives of his contemporaries and of all the documentation of the Society of Jesus of the Holy See and between the Society of Jesus and by then Cardinals, Patriarchs and Bishops throughout the world. Because by the time St. Ignatius died the Society had spread in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas . So the Momumenta are the basic source of all documentation from Ignatius' first entrance on the scene to his death.
The History of Religious Life: St. Teresa of Avila and the Carmelite Reform
Notice we call this Teresian spirituality and not precisely Carmelite spirituality. The reason for the importance is first of all that the Church’s authority stands behind the person whom she has either canonized or beatified and above all has approved that person’s writing, soundness of doctrine, and for our purpose, way of sanctity. When the Church canonizes people, she infallibly declares two things: one, that the individual is certainly in heaven in the glory of God; and secondly, the effect this person’s way of life is a secure and effective means of also attaining holiness. The spirituality therefore has to do with that tried and approved means of growing in holiness.
The History of Religious Life: St. Frances de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal
Frances de Sales built on St. Ignatius, notably of course, his spiritual exercises and Ignatius stress on human liberty.…The real difference between saints and would be saints: there are those who are saints [because they] voluntarily cooperated with God’s grace. The has beens, pardon me, the would have beens, are those who had the grace but did not cooperate.
The History of Religious Life: St. Vincent de Paul: Apostle of Charity
Vincent de Paul was a hardheaded realist. His, I dare say, is the most down to earth spirituality you are going to consider in these two semesters. In time, he discovered that the great needs, the social needs of the people, were minor compared to their spiritual needs. And there he felt that if I’m going to do what needs to be done for the faithful, I must help the priests.
The History of Religious Life: St. John Baptiste de La Salle
St. John Baptiste de La Salle was French - 1651 to 1719. Chronologically he fits in between Vincent de Paul and Alphonsus. As a matter of fact except for Vincent there could not have been a John Batiste de La Salle. He is the founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Date of foundation and Church's approval - 1684. Among the writings, I would especially recommend the Method of Mental Prayer. It was written for his own members; simple, clear, detailed. St. John Baptiste did not want priests in his community, though he himself of course was a priest, canonized rather late - 1900 and has since been declared patron of teachers.
The History of Religious Life: St. Alphonsus Ligouri and the Development of Popular Piety
St. Alphonsus, first of all, is in the Catholic Church the patron both of confessors and of spiritual directors. He is the founder of a major religious community. He is in many ways as significant in moral theology as Thomas Aquinas is in dogmatic theology.
The History of Religious Life: St. Elizabeth Seton and American Spirituality
The sources are all drawn from the documents of the Holy See regarding Elizabeth Seton. There are four principal documents that can be consulted. There is a whole volume of the so-called Acta of Beatification, hundreds of pages of the study of Elizabeth Seton's virtues. But in terms of documents the first is the decree of her beatification and then canonization - the two decrees in which her life and virtues are synthesized. The second is the homily that Pope Paul VI gave on the day of her canonization. The third is the allocution that the same Pope gave to the American hierarchy. And the fourth is an Angelus message some time later in which Pope Paul came back to Mother Seton.
The History of Religious Life: St. Therese of Lisieux, Patroness of Missions
I dare say among all the saints that we have so far studied in the past two semesters most of you know a great deal about this saint. It's all the more strange, by the way, in view of the fact that she lived a very short life, did nothing spectacular, performed no extraordinary deeds and died apparently in obscurity in a Carmelite convent.
The History of Religious Life II: Religious Life in the Light of the Vatican Council II
I think I would say something about religious life since the Second Vatican Council. I would like to look at it from three viewpoints. First, to identify the principle documents of the church during and since the Council, from which the both present status and future prospects of religious life somehow will stem. Then very briefly look at the problems, whose number is legion and whose solution is known to God alone will have entered religious life since the Council. And then something about the renewal and adaptation that is going on and that shows great promise into the years to come.
What is a Religious Vocation?
There is more than passing value in stressing the fact that a religious vocation is a grace. It is, therefore, a gift and an opportunity that must be freely responded to if the grace is not to remain sterile and ineffective.
Sacrifice and Vocations
Every vocation is born of sacrifice, is maintained by sacrifice and is measured in the apostolate by the sacrifice of those whom God calls to the priesthood or the religious life. This should not be surprising, once we realize that it was by His sacrifice that Christ redeemed the world. The servant is not greater than his Master. In fact, the more intimate is one's vocation to the service of Christ, the more demanding will be the sacrifices required.
Community Religious Life as the Living Experience of the Counsels in the Mystical Body of Christ
We know and the Church has been teaching us that religious life is part of Christian revelation, indeed, that it is a mystery. And, like all other mysteries, religious life is not only to be believed, but as far as is possible with God’s grace, to be understood. In fact, to believe means to understand, to see with the eyes of faith what the natural man cannot comprehend.…Our focus of attention in this study is on community and more specifically on religious community.
The Apostolate in Every Vocation to Follow Christ
Religious life is not an abstraction. We can talk about it in the abstract, but it is not lived out in the abstract. It is either lived out in a specific community with a specific apostolic purpose, or it soon becomes a religious community only in name.…Focusing on four specific aspects of the overall theme of how the apostolate is essential to every vocation, the first area is the meaning of vocation in general, in a very broad perspective. Then, the meaning of vocation and the special following of Christ. Third, the relationship of a vocation to the religious life and the apostolate. And finally some theological implications.
Religious Life: A Prophetic Vision (Book Review)
Diarmuid O’Murchu’s "Religious Life: A Prophetic Vision" is a revolutionary book. …O’Murchu is a social psychologist whose published writings reveal a radical mind. He claims that what Catholics still call the religious life can no longer be contained within the framework of Christianity. Otherwise, in his own words, the vowed life is doomed to stagnation and death. He devotes over two hundred and fifty pages to outline the revolution that must take place in consecrated life in the Catholic Church. My plan in this analysis is to identify the main ideas on which O’Murchu bases his thesis. After each presentation, I will evaluate these ideas from the perspective of authentic Catholic doctrine.
Analysis of the Problems in Religious Life Today and Some Proposed Solutions
In making this analysis, it seemed best to first set forth the dominant problems, along with an explanation of why they are problems. Then some solutions will be offered to each set of problems. And finally, the problems and their hopeful solutions will be arranged in the order of what is considered their priority on the practical level. Each problem area will be given a title to help focus attention on its basic features.
Chapter Two: Community Life
In the history of the Church, community life has existed from apostolic times. The community of Christians living at Jerusalem after the Lord’s Ascension set the pattern for the future, and no community since then can afford to ignore this biblical paradigm. St. Luke, disciple of the peregrinating St. Paul, has left us a cameo description of how this first community lived.
The Eucharist and Vocations
The Eucharist, therefore, is the best way to foster vocations. This means that persons who attend Mass, receive Communion and invoke Christ in the Blessed Sacrament obtain light and strength that no one else has a claim to.
Mary, Mother of Vocations
When Mary told the angel at the Annunciation, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word," she became the patroness of every priest and religious until the end of time. Her acceptance of God's invitation to become His Mother made her the Mother of all vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
American Religious Life in Historical Perspective - Chapter 1: The Crisis in Religious Life
My purpose in the next few pages is to get just one idea across---a crucial one on which everything else depends: to show that religious life in the United States today is going through the most serious crisis in its history. I am not ready to say the crisis is either good or bad. Only the future can tell. I am not even prepared to say what brought the crisis about. I am only sure that a crisis exists and that we ought to do something about it.
American Religious Life in Historical Perspective - Chapter 2: Community Life
In the history of the Church, community life has existed from apostolic times. The community of Christians living at Jerusalem after the Lord’s Ascension set the pattern for the future, and no community since then can afford to ignore this biblical paradigm. St. Luke, disciple of the peregrinating St. Paul, has left us a cameo description of how this first community lived.
American Religious Life in Historical Perspective - Chapter 3: Comparative Religious Life
There is so much to say about religious life in the Catholic Church that it must seem like an intrusion to talk about anything else. But I think we can wait a bit before going on with our subject. There can be real profit in looking for a while at the equivalent of the religious life as it is practiced outside of Roman Catholicism, and has been, in same instances, for centuries before the time of Christ. What we want, of course, is all the light available on the essence of the religious state.
American Religious Life in Historical Perspective - Chapter 4: Constitution, Rules, Customs
Some of this evaluation and examination is essential to the success of this work; however, the purpose is more refined. We want to convince ourselves that community life without institutional form is a nameless utopia; that some kind of structure is essential to community life as seen in the whole of the Church’s past history; and, that the task before us is not to remove these forms. That would destroy the religious life! But it is to improve them, up-date them, and make them more compatible with the crying need of today: a communal life that does not stifle personality but helps it grow in mature sanctity and makes for a more effective apostolate.
American Religious Life in Historical Perspective - Chapter 5: Vocation, Vows, Commitment and Apostolate
In any discussion of the religious life two words are invariably associated: vocation and vows. They should be associated because they belong together. However, there are two other words that should join their company: commitment and apostolate. These form what I consider the inseparable combination: vocation and commitment, vows and apostolate. The interrelation of these four concepts is not a human invention, nor even an ecclesiastical construct, but derives from the divine plan of salvation and rests on nothing less than the supernatural providence of God.
American Religious Life in Historical Perspective - Chapter 6: The Eucharist
The religious life and the Eucharist are so closely related that the one can scarcely be conceived without the other. In the history of the Church, religious life began with the Eucharist; different orders and congregations took their root in the devotion of their founders to the Eucharist and, in the course of time, the spiritual vigor of religious communities and their apostolic effectiveness have been measured by the Eucharist. As the one flourished the other flourished, and as the one waned and grew less significant, the other also became weak or even died altogether.
American Religious Life in Historical Perspective - Chapter 7: Confession
Until recently the subject of Confession among religious was not much discussed. The Church’s legislation that "religious should approach the Sacrament of Confession at least once a week" was taken for granted. (Canon 595,3). Occasionally an article or even a book might be published on the subject, like Die Häufige Beicht (Frequent Confession) by the Benedictine Archabbot of St. Martin’s Abbey in Germany. But the focus was on how to make frequent Confession more profitable. It was not whether weekly Confession was profitable. That was assumed, and perhaps presumed too lightly.
American Religious Life in Historical Perspective - Chapter 8: Poverty, Chastity and Prayer
If there is one theological development that has come out of the Second Vatican Council, it is the concept of the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation. This means more than saying that the Church professes to have a sacramental system, from Baptism to Holy Orders. The Catholic Church claims to be itself the great Sacrament of the New Law. The logic behind this profession stems from the general principle that although God can perform by His own power all that is effected by created natures, nevertheless, in the counsels of His providence He has preferred to help men by the instrumentality of other men’s work; so also He makes use of human aid for that which lies beyond the limits of nature, for the salvation and sanctification of souls.
American Religious Life in Historical Perspective - Chapter 9: Silence, Habit and Daily Order
We come to the last phase of our analysis of religious life and personality development. The plan is to see under one theme those features that give strong external witness of religious dedication and communal living, and are a special sign of religious obedience. Why concentrate on silence, habit and daily order? Because these three have always characterized religious life as approved by the Church and they are intrinsic to any authentic religious life that develops in the future.
We distinguish between natural poverty and supernatural poverty. The natural poverty which is binding by the natural law, requires that we respect other people’s property, whatever they own; that we not only do not steal with hands, we do not even steal with our hearts, otherwise known as greed or covetousness.
Public Witness and Religious Identity - The Public Witness of Religious Life
The new Code of Canon Law could not be more clear. It declares that, "The public witness to be rendered by religious to Christ and the Church entails a separation from the world proper to the character and purpose of each institute" (Canon 607, §3). There are seven basic elements in this canon and each deserves careful explanation. On the faithful living out of these elements depends the future well-being and even survival of religious life in countries like the United States.
Rome and Religious Life
Of all the possible subjects dealing with the religious life, the most unlikely would seem to be "Rome and the Religious Life". Why talk about this especially today, when there are so many deep issues being voiced and so much turmoil and tension about the very meaning of a life under vows? Why this subject? Because in my estimation the relationship of Rome to the religious state is at the heart of the present turmoil, and on the proper understanding of this relationship depends, in large measure, the future well-being of men and women religious in the Catholic Church.
Religious Vocation - of Divine Origin
It is no secret to anyone familiar with the scene in countries like America, that two very different concepts of the religious life are widely professed. One view sees religious life firmly rooted in history, tracing its lineage back through the founders of existing communities…Another view of religious life is not only different but antithetical. It is willing to admit the past, even to call it "a glorious past." But it goes on to say that, in our age, this past is gone; and all the wishful thinking or wishful longing for its preservation has become fancy…Behind each view is really a different concept of the Church, in other words, a divergent ecclesiology.…My purpose…is to state without apology that there is only one authentic concept of religious life, namely the first one; that its origins are divine because Christ, who is God, practised this form of life; and to this day calls men and woman to follow Him in living the way He did, a life of the evangelical counsels.
Religious Education and Vocations
Vocations to the priesthood and the religious life depend on good religious education as the harvest depends on a good soil. Vocations prosper when religious education in the home and school is true to its Catholic heritage; when parents and teachers seriously proclaim the Faith of our Fathers, when they train the young in the Christian virtues of obedience, chastity and selfless charity, and lead the souls under their care to a healthy fear of sin and a loving devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Religious Life Today - Part 1 of 4
My purpose in this conference is to get just one idea across--a crucial one on which everything else depends: to show that religious life today is going through the most serious crisis in its history.
Religious Life Today - Part 2 of 4
It must seem strange that we should be reflecting on the meaning of such fundamentals of religious life as poverty, chastity and obedience. Why not talk about their sublimity or dignity, or concentrate on their practice? Why all this preoccupation with the meaning of this and the meaning of that—especially of such prosaic commodities as the three vows? Well, they were perhaps prosaic sometime ago, but they are anything but that today. Volumes are being written, rewriting the essence of religious life and, in the process, redefining the evangelical counsels, including the virtue and the counsel and vow of obedience.
Religious Life Today - Part 3 of 4
One of the most providential developments in the Catholic Church, through the Second Vatican Council, has been the extraordinary emphasis on the Liturgy in the life of the faithful: priests, religious and the laity. Unfortunately this liturgical renewal has not always been wisely interpreted. Not the least problem affecting the Church today is the misreading of what the Council taught and, in some instances, a positive indifference to, by now, the extensive teaching of the Holy See on how the Sacred Liturgy is to be celebrated and what norms are to be followed if the inspired directives of the Church’s latest and most comprehensive ecumenical gathering are to bear the fruit desired by the Holy Spirit.
Religious Life Today - Part 4 of 4
There seems to be a special value in writing about authenticity in the religious life in our time. If there is anything that the modern world abhors it is pretense. It can forgive a person for not being intelligent or educated, for not being skilled or trained, even for not being a law abiding citizen. What it despises is make-believe, where a person claims to be what he is not, or professes to possess what he does not have. Such descriptions as counterfeit and phony, artificial and imitation, are only symbolic of a deep-felt need in our day for honesty and sincerity.
The Spiritual Personality of Religious Communities
Societies, like individuals, have distinct personalities…Religious communities are no exception. They are so numerous in the Church, and so varied, because there are so many ways that Christ can be imitated - since God is infinite and Christ, who is divine, is infinitely imitable. They are also manifold because the Church wisely encourages different ways in which different groups can render varied service to the People of God, some by concentrating on prayerful contemplation and sacrifice, others by combining the roles of Mary and Martha through contemplation in action, and still others by moving rhythmically from prayer to action and back to prayer again.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Introduction (Part 1 of 23)
My plan is to make this a Retreat on "The Essentials of the Religious Life"; more specifically, it is the Retreat that the Holy Father himself wants us to make during this Holy Year of the Redemption. For some of us it will be the last Retreat we will make during a Holy Year.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - The Message of the Vicar of Christ to the Religious of the World (Part 2 of 23)
Over the centuries all the Bishops of Rome have shown a remarkable affection for Religious. They have sensed as of by divine instinct that the welfare of the people of God depends on no small measure on the loyalty of dedicated men and women Religious in living up faithfully to their vows.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Religious Vocation (Part 3 of 23)
As you recall, this is, the first of the essential elements, the non-negotiables that the Holy Father singles out as on trial in the Church today. As he calls it, the first substantial element is a special call from God. We might begin by asking ourselves why it is important to go into this subject or for our purpose, why the Holy Father makes this the first of the essentials.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Life of Public Consecration to Jesus Christ (Part 4 of 23)
As we have seen, the first essential element of religious life according to Pope John Paul is: "a vocation given by God." But a vocation has a purpose. People are called by God in order to do something. What is this something to which those who are religious have been called? They have been called, says the Pope - again I quote - "to an ecclesial consecration to Jesus Christ."
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Religious Vows: The Teaching of the Church - Chastity (Part 5 of 23)
As we have so far seen, Pope John Paul told the American Bishops that the consecration of Religious to Jesus Christ is "through the profession of the evangelical counsels by public vows." The Pope further identifies the sources of the Church's teaching, especially the Second Vatican Council. And then he ends by declaring where this doctrine on the vows is found in definitive, legislative form, namely, the new Code of Canon Law. My purpose will be first of all to see what the Code says in general about the three counsels that a Religious undertakes to practice under vows, and then we shall concentrate first on the counsel and vow of chastity, and reserve the next two vows for later reflection.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Religious Vows: Consecrated Practice of Poverty (Part 6 of 23)
We are as you know concentrating on the religious vows and specifically how the Church's new Code of Canon Law legislates how the vows are to be observed. There is no single aspect of consecrated life on which the Church's Code of Law spends more time, devotes more canons, is more explicit than on the practice of poverty.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Religious Vows: Consecrated Practice of Obedience (Part 7 of 23)
"The evangelical counsel of obedience, undertaken in the spirit of faith and love in the following of Christ Who was obedient even unto death obliges submission of one's will to lawful superiors who act in the place of God when they give commands in accordance with each Institute's own Constitutions."
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Fidelity to the Founder's Charism and to Sound Traditions (Part 8 of 23)
What we're doing, of course, is continuing our meditations on the Holy Father's essential elements of religious life. Before we proceed further, it may be useful to note that the Pope combines two kinds of fidelity; both, he says, required as substantials in the religious life: fidelity to the charism of the founder, and fidelity to sound tradition.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Communion in Community (Part 9 of 23)
Canon 670: "A religious institute is a society in which in accordance with their own law the members pronounce public vows and live a fraternal life in common." Community life is of the essence of religious life.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - The Apostolate of Witness (Part 10 of 23)
By way of introduction, let me first give a short preview of all the canons to see the logic in the Church's careful handling of this vast subject. Then we will take each aspect separately and devote, with apologies, no less than four conferences in sequence to the apostolate of religious, touching on every important phase of what needs to be better understood among religious in our day.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - The Corporate Apostolate of Contemplative Communities (Part 11 of 23)
"Institutes which are wholly directed to contemplation always have an outstanding part in the Mystical Body of Christ. They offer to God an exceptional sacrifice of praise. They embellish the People of God with very rich fruits of holiness, move them by their example and give them increase by a hidden, apostolic fruitfulness. Because of this, no matter how urgent the needs of the active apostolate, the members of these institutes cannot be called upon to assist in the various apostolic ministries."
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - The Corporate Apostolate of Active Apostolic Institutes (Part 12 of 23)
I believe that the simplest distinction is to say that there are in the Catholic Church two extremes. There are strictly cloistered communities that are properly called contemplative and there are communities that are not cloistered but are engaged in a wide variety of active apostolic labors. Between these two forms of consecrated life is a wide variety of institutes some more cloistered at one extreme and others more active at the other extreme.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - The Corporate Apostolate of Religious: Practical Norms (Part 13 of 23)
We have also seen how much the Church looks for from the apostolic zeal of contemplative communities, bidding them to advance the kingdom of God on earth by their life of prayer and solitude, penance and self denial. They are, as it were, the supernatural arsenal on which the Church depends in her conflict with the powers of darkness. We finally saw how demanding are the Church's requirements of those who belong to what are called Institutes of apostolic activity. They are to make the hard combination of cultivating the zeal of a St. Paul combined with the intimate union with Jesus practiced by Our Lady.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - The Church's Teaching on the Prayer of Religious (Part 14 of 23)
We would expect the Church's new Code of Canon Law to be clear and explicit on the practice of prayer by religious, as persons dedicated to the consecrated life. In order to do justice to a vast subject, the matter will be covered in three stages: first, prayer in general; then, the place of the Holy Eucharist in religious life; and finally, the role of penance as sacrament and practice among religious.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Religious Life and the Holy Eucharist (Part 15 of 23)
We should expect that the New Code of Canon Law would be very specific in directing religious to be very devoted to the Holy Eucharist. Why? Because the Church has already told us that the Holy Eucharist is the center of every religious community. If the Eucharistic Christ is objectively the center, evidently we should respond by making Christ central in the Eucharist in our lives. Among many passages on the Holy Eucharist in the Code, to be exact pages and pages, the following Canon bears directly on us: "Each day the members of religious communities are to make every effort to participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, to receive the most Holy Body of Christ and to adore the Lord Himself present in the Sacrament."
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Religious Life and Penance (Part 16 of 23)
By way of introduction we might note that we are here being told three things; there are three nouns and three verbs and adverbs. First, earnestly to strive for conversion; conversion, to be striven for earnestly. Second, the conscience to be examined daily; and third, the Sacrament of Penance to be received frequently. We then have the logical outline for our reflections: conversion, examination, and the Sacrament of Penance.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Lifelong Formation (Part 17 of 23)
The new Code of Canon Law is remarkably clear and very detailed on the subject of continuing or lifelong formation of religious. There are many canons dealing with formation before first vows, but that is not the subject of our reflections. There are new canons, quite unknown in the Church's Canonical history before, specifying and obligating religious to have formation after their vows.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Doctrinal Formation: Who is Jesus Christ? (Part 18 of 23)
Against the background of our last conference on the need of a lifetime formation in the religious life, I wish now to offer three meditations on three successive areas of crucial need for the formation of religious in our day. I say crucial because in my judgment, the single greatest necessity among religious men and women in modern times is sound education in Catholic doctrine.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Doctrinal Formation: What is the Catholic Church? (Part 19 of 23)
In our present conference, we go a step further and again rely on the Nicene Creed. "We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church." As we did before, so now, let us consider each of the four marks as they are called. The four marks of identity by which the Church founded by Christ is recognized. As we meditate on the meaning of these four marks, let us apply each Truth to our own religious lives.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Doctrinal Formation: What is Religious Life? (Part 20 of 23)
The Church wants us to be continually educated, trained, from entrance into a Community up to eternity. We now wish to consider doctrinally, from the viewpoint of the Church's dogma or teaching, "What is religious life?" As our source of doctrine, we take the definition of religious life from the new Code of Canon Law, and isolate those elements in the Church's definition that need to be especially stressed in teaching and training religious all through life, about what we become when we become religious.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - The Government of Religious Communities (Part 21 of 23)
Remember that we are reflecting during this retreat on the Holy Father's essential elements of Religious Life. The second to the last of these substantials according to Pope John Paul reads, "A form of Government calling for Religious authority based on faith." It is essential, therefore, for authentic Catholic Religious life to have a form of government calling for Religious authority based on faith. In this reflection, we shall limit our reflection to the simple statement of the Holy Father rather than try and go through the scores of Canons on government listed in the New Code of Canon Law. We shall see what he means and apply the meaning to our lives.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Religious as Sons and Daughters of the Church (Part 22 of 23)
In Pope John Paul's own words, he identifies the closing essential element in Religious life as "a special relation to the Church." Religious life is nothing - if not ecclesial. It is the Church, the ecclesial, that preserves Christ's revelation about the evangelical counsels. It is the Church which recognized the authentic charism of saintly persons, who then became founders of Religious Institutes. It is the Church which authorized the establishment of individual Religious communities. Finally, it is the Church which regulates the life of religious; approve their constitutions; and decides what may or may not be done by religious.
Retreat - The Essentials of the Religious Life - Mary, Mother of God (Part 23 of 23)
Today's feast, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, was instituted by the late Pope Paul VI. He explained in his Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis Cultus (The Veneration of Mary), why this feast was established and he gave five reasons: 1) was to commemorate the role played by Mary in the mystery of salvation; 2) to exalt Mary's dignity as the one to whom we have received the Author of life; 3) to renew our adoration to the new born Prince of Peace; 4) to meditate on the glad tidings announced by the Angels at Jesus' birth; and finally, 5) to implore through the Queen of Peace, for a war torn world, the supreme gift of peace.

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