Vocations Home / Consecrated Life: Men and Women
See Vita Consecrata for more information on Consecrated Life
Celebrate Communities of Spirit Hearts for Ministry
March 8-14, 2020
For this week, let us shine the spotlight on women religious and encourage a wide range of campaigns and events that invite all who follow Jesus to
- expand and support their gospel witness
- grow the service networks they have seeded
- share their spirituality, charisms, and community
- encouraging young women to consider a vocation to religious life
- support their pastoral, teaching and prophetic works
- and focus on the new world hey call into being.
CCC 915. Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. The perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God.
CCC 916. The state of consecrated life is thus one way of experiencing a “more intimate” consecration, rooted in Baptism and dedicated totally to God. In the consecrated life, Christ’s faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come.
Religious sisters and brothers or monks and nuns are called through a life dedicated to poverty, chastity and obedience to be a witness of the life of heaven living here on earth. They are to serve as a reminder and an encouragement to us to live our own lives with hearts and minds fixed on Christ. They live their lives in radical contrast to this world that is fading away.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church: Religious Life
CCC 925. Religious life was born in the East during the first centuries of Christianity. Lived within institutes canonically erected by the Church, it is distinguished from other forms of consecrated life by its liturgical character, public profession of the evangelical counsels, fraternal life led in common, and witness given to the union of Christ with the Church.
CCC 926. Religious life derives from the mystery of the Church. It is a gift she has received from her Lord, a gift she offers as a stable way of life to the faithful called by God to profess the counsels. Thus, the Church can both show forth Christ and acknowledge herself to be the Savior’s bride. Religious life in its various forms is called to signify the very charity of God in the language of our time.
CCC 927. All religious, whether exempt or not, take their place among the collaborators of the diocesan bishop in his pastoral duty. From the outset of the work of evangelization, the missionary “planting” and expansion of the Church require the presence of the religious life in all its forms. “History witnesses to the outstanding service rendered by religious families in the propagation of the faith and in the formation of new Churches: from the ancient monastic institutions to the medieval orders, all the way to the more recent congregations.”
More on the Religious Life (via cmswr.org)
Religious life is a form of consecrated life within the Church wherein members profess vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience within a Congeregation or Community approved by the Church. Shared community life is an integral part of this form of consecrated life. In professing vows and living within community, the members individually and as a whole witness to a life of communion with Christ, the Church, and one another.
Each religious congregation is blessed by a unique gift of the Holy Spirit called a “charism” which is an expression of the way the congregation is called to follow Christ. A religious community’s charism is expressed in its way of serving the Church in mission, its particular way of living commuity life and its distinct “culture”. A myriad of charisms forms a fabric of ministries within the Church to meet multitudinous needs.
Forms of Religious Life
Contemplative Life (Monks & Nuns)
Institutes of contemplative life bear witness to the love of the Church for the Lord, and contribute, with hidden apostolic fruitfulness, to the growth of the People of God.
Apostolic Religious Life
Those in Apostolic Religious Life have felt God’s call and have devoted themselves to the service of the Church, following the signs of the times and meeting new needs. These include the various canons regular, the mendicant orders, the clerics regular, and in general the religious congregations devoted to apostolic and missionary activity [religious brothers and sisters]. (Pope John Paul II, Vita Consecrata)
RELIGIOUS LIFE FOR MEN
Religious Brothers A religious brother is a consecrated man who intensifies his baptismal commitment through the profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. It is in this consecration that the lay brother finds his identity. Because he is consecrated to God who is Lord and Father of all he in turn becomes a “brother” to all in the Body of Christ. Ultimately he is a witness to charity. Since our Lord wished to establish a unity of believers with love as its foundation now fraternal charity is the life breath to any authentic Christian living. The lay brother has as the focus of his lifestyle to live fraternal charity. Fraternal charity is, in essence, his vocation and this is the message his life preaches both silently, through countless acts of service, and verbally, as he encourages those around him to live a deeper love of God. He lives a life of communal prayer and witnesses both individually and collectively to Christ’s loving presence by service and charity. – See Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church and www.franciscanfriars.com Religious Priests As for priests who profess the evangelical counsels, experience itself shows that the Sacrament of Holy Orders finds a particular fruitfulness in this consecration, inasmuch as it requires and fosters a closer union with the Lord. The priest who professes the evangelical counsels is especially favored in that he reproduces in his life the fullness of the mystery of Christ, thanks also to the specific spirituality of his Institute and the apostolic dimension of its proper charism. In the priest, in fact, the vocation to the priesthood and the vocation to the consecrated life converge in a profound and dynamic unity. Also of immeasurable value is the contribution made to the Church’s life by religious priests completely devoted to contemplation. Especially in the celebration of the Eucharist they carry out an act of the Church and for the Church, to which they join the offering of themselves, in communion with Christ who offers himself to the Father for the salvation of the whole world. (Pope John Paul II, Vita Consecrata). Resources: DSJ Vocations: Additional Resources for Men Council of Major Superiors of Men Religious Brotherhood “Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church” (December 14, 2015)
RELIGIOUS LIFE FOR WOMEN
In the consecrated life, particular importance attaches to the spousal meaning, which recalls the Church’s duty to be completely and exclusively devoted to her Spouse, from whom she receives every good thing. This spousal dimension, which is part of all consecrated life, has a particular meaning for women, who find therein their feminine identity and as it were discover the special genius of their relationship with the Lord. By virtue of their dedication lived in fullness and in joy, consecrated women are called in a very special way to be signs of God’s tender love towards the human race and to be special witnesses to the mystery of the Church, Virgin, Bride and Mother. (Pope John Paul II, Vita Consecrata) Apostolic Sisters A Catholic Sister is a woman who lives, ministers, and prays within the world. A sister’s life is often called “active” or “apostolic” because she is engaged in the works of mercy and other ministries that take the Gospel to others where they are. She professes perpetual simple vows living a life according to the evangelical counsels of poverty, celibacy, and obedience. Check out the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose for an example of this way of religious life. Because both nuns and sisters belong to the church life form of Religious Life, they can also be called “women religious.” In ordinary conversation, the terms “nun” and “sister” are used interchangeably and both nuns and sisters are addressed as “Sister.” In popular culture, the term “nun” is often more widely accessible and immediately understood to refer to women who have professed the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Cloistered Nuns The monastic life of women and the cloister deserve special attention because of the great esteem in which the Christian community holds this type of life, which is a sign of the exclusive union of the Church as Bride with her Lord, whom she loves above all things. Indeed, the life of cloistered nuns, devoted in a special way to prayer, to asceticism and diligent progress in the spiritual life, “is nothing other than a journey to the heavenly Jerusalem and an anticipation of the eschatological Church immutable in its possession and contemplation of God”. In the light of this vocation and ecclesial mission, the cloister responds to the need, felt as paramount, to be with the Lord. Choosing an enclosed space where they will live their lives, cloistered nuns share in Christ’s emptying of himself by means of a radical poverty, expressed in their renunciation not only of things but also of “space”, of contacts, of so many benefits of creation. This particular way of offering up the “body” allows them to enter more fully into the Eucharistic mystery. They offer themselves with Jesus for the world’s salvation. Their offering, besides its elements of sacrifice and expiation, takes on the aspect of thanksgiving to the Father, by sharing in the thanksgiving of the beloved Son. (Pope John Paul II, Vita Consecrata) Learn More: DSJ Vocations: Additional Resources for Women Theology of Religious Life Formation Process Videos Helpful Links: Cloistered Communities Institute for Religious Life National Religious Vocation Conference Religious Ministries Guide Online
SOCIETIES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE (men and women)
Learn more: Daughters of Charity, a Society of Apostolic Life within the Diocese of San Jose
Also called societies of common life, these groups are distinguished by the specific nature of their consecration. They pursue a specific apostolic or missionary end.
CCC 930. Alongside the different forms of consecrated life are “societies of apostolic life whose members without religious vows pursue the particular apostolic purpose of their society, and lead a life as brothers or sisters in common according to a particular manner of life, strive for the perfection of charity through the observance of the constitutions. Among these there are societies in which the members embrace the evangelical counsels” according to their constitutions.
SECULAR INSTITUTES (men and women)
More info: Secularinstitutes.org
On February 2, 1947, Pope Pius XII gave official approval to secular institutes as an original form of consecrated life within the Catholic Church. Members have the special mission “to work for the sanctification of the world from within” (Provida Mater Ecclesia).
In our time there have arisen new expressions of consecrated life, in response to new needs of the Church. These secular institutes consist of those who seek to live out their consecration to God in the world through the profession of the evangelical counsels in the midst of society. They strive to transfigure the world from within and help to ensure the effective presence of the Church in society. Diocesan priests who belong to clerical secular institutes are enabled to be a leaven of communion and apostolic generosity among the clergy. (See Vita Consecrata)
CCC 928. A secular institute is an institute of consecrated life in which the Christian faithful living in the world strive for the perfection of charity and work for the sanctification of the world especially from within.
CCC 929. By a “life perfectly and entirely consecrated to [such] sanctification,” the members of these institutes share in the Church’s task of evangelization, “in the world and from within the world,” where their presence acts as “leaven in the world.” “Their witness of a Christian life” aims “to order temporal things according to God and inform the world with the power of the gospel.” They commit themselves to the evangelical counsels by sacred bonds and observe among themselves the communion and fellowship appropriate to their “particular secular way of life.”
EREMETIC LIFE (men and women)
Hermits bear witness to the impermanence of the world and the fact that we must always remember: that the most important goal in life is to be with the Lord. (Vita Consecrata) CCC 920. Without always professing the three evangelical counsels publicly, hermits “devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.”
CCC 921. They manifest to everyone the interior aspect of the mystery of the Church, that is, personal intimacy with Christ. Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a silent preaching of the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life simply because he is everything to him. Here is a particular call to find in the desert, in the thick of spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One.
CONSECRATED VIRGINITY (women only):
More info: consecratedvirgins.org
Consecrated Virgins embody the image of the Heavenly Bride and of the life that is to come.
CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church) 922. From apostolic times Christian virgins and widows, called by the Lord to cling only to him with greater freedom of heart, body, and spirit, have decided with the Church’s approval to live in the respective states of virginity or perpetual chastity “for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.”
CCC 923. “Virgins who, committed to the holy plan of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.” By this solemn rite (Consecratio Virginum), the virgin is “constituted…a sacred person, a transcendent sign of the Church’s love for Christ, and an eschatological image of this heavenly Bride of Christ and of the life to come.”
CCC 924. “As with other forms of consecrated life,” the order of virgins establishes the woman living in the world (or the nun) in prayer, penance, service of her brethren, and apostolic activity, according to the state of life and spiritual gifts given to her. Consecrated virgins can form themselves into associations to observe their commitment more faithfully.