So if you love a flower, let it be. Love is not about possession. Love is about appreciation. Being love rather than giving or taking love, is the only thing that provides stability. Ram Dass. Spiritual opening is not a withdrawal to some imagined realm or safe cave. It is not a pulling away, but a touching of all the experience of life with wisdom and with a heart of kindness, without any separation. Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness… the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.
Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting. Elizabeth Bibesco. It is love alone that leads to right action. What brings order in the world is to love and let love do what it will. Jiddu Krishnamurti. Love gives us in a moment what we can hardly attain by effort after years of toil. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Forgive the past. It is over. Learn from it and let go. People are constantly changing and growing.
Do not cling to a limited, disconnected, negative image of a person in the past. See that person now. Your relationship is always alive and changing. Brian Weiss. Beautify your inner dialogue. Beautify your inner world with love light and compassion. Life will be beautiful. Amit Ray. Compassion is the wish for another being to be free from suffering; love is wanting them to have happiness.
Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present. Albert Camus Click to tweet. Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it.
5 Biblical Truths About Joy that Will Change Your Life - Vibrant Christian Living
What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside. We have only now, only this single eternal moment opening and unfolding before us, day and night. The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware; joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware. Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed.
Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude. Denis Waitley. The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but rather your thoughts about the situatio n. Always say yes to the present moment. Surrender to what is. Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it… This will miraculously transform your whole life.
Surrender is the most difficult thing in the world while you are doing it and the easiest when it is done. Bhai Sahib. It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed. The true definition of mental illness is when the majority of your time is spent in the past or future, but rarely living in the realism of now. The magic in this world seems to work in whispers and small kindnesses.
Charles de Lint. You just understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing, and dance, and write poems, and suffer, and understand, for all that is life. As long as a sense of self-importance rules your being, you will never know lasting peace. Matthieu Ricard Click to tweet.
To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, but to live gratitude is to touch heaven. Johannes A. Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world. Hans Margolius. If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. Rene Descartes. If peace is our single aim in all we do, we will always know what to do because we will do whatever will protect and deepen our peace.
Gerald Jampolsky. It does not matter how long you are spending on the earth, how much money you have gathered or how much attention you have received. It is the amount of positive vibration you have radiated in life that matters. The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery. Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure.
Life is like that. The whole of life is to spiritualize our activities by humility and faith, to silence our nature by charity. Thomas Merton. I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Groucho Marx. Not thinking about anything is Zen.
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Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen. Ask nothing; want nothing in return. Give what you have to give; it will come back to you, but do not think of that now. Nothing kills the ego like playfulness, like laughter.
When you start taking life as fun, the ego has to die, it cannot exist anymore. Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. Ralph Waldo Emerson Click to tweet. For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. Mother Nature speaks in a language understood within the peaceful mind of the sincere observer. Radhanath Swami. The smallest flower is a thought, a life answering to some feature of the Great Whole, of whom they have a persistent intuition.
Honore De Balzac. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. Fyodor Dostoyevsky. When one loses the deep intimate relationship with nature, then temples, mosques and churches become important. God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars. Martin Luther.
When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator. Mahatma Gandhi. The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over. In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. Aristotle Click to tweet. Whatever life takes away from you, let it go. Don Miguel Ruiz Click to tweet.
The darker the night, the brighter the stars. The deeper the grief, the closer is God! Crying is one of the highest devotional songs. One who knows crying, knows spiritual practice. If you can cry with a pure heart, nothing else compares to such a prayer. When something dies is the greatest teaching. Shunryu Suzuki Click to tweet. They can be healing waters and a stream of joy. Sometimes they are the best words the heart can speak. William Paul Young. Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains.
It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. There is nothing to worry about. There will be tough times, nice times, good times and bad times. They all come in life and go. Nothing stays. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar. Accepting death as a part of life serves as a spur to diligence and saves us from wasting our time on vain distractions.
Matthieu Ricard. A happy family is but an earlier heaven. George Bernard Shaw Click to tweet. Friendship has always belonged to the core of my spiritual journey. Henri Nouwen. Elbert Hubbard. Our capacity to make peace with another person and with the world, depends very much on our capacity to make peace with ourselves. Family life is full of major and minor crises — the ups and downs of health, success and failure in career, marriage, and divorce — and all kinds of characters.
It is tied to places and events and histories. With all of these felt details, life etches itself into memory and personality. Thomas Moore. People hear you on the level you speak to them from. Speak from your heart, and they will hear with theirs. Marianne Williamson. When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself. Wayne Dyer Click to tweet. We find greater lightness and ease in our lives as we increasingly care for ourselves and other beings.
Sharon Salzberg. Desmond Tutu. Faith, hope, love, and insight are the highest achievements of human effort. Be patient with yourself. There is no greater investment. Stephen Covey. Our prayers are answered not when we are given what we ask, but when we are challenged to be what we can be. Morris Adler. If you lose money you lose much, If you lose friends you lose more, If you lose faith you lose all. Eleanor Roosevelt. Believe in your infinite potential. Your only limitations are those you set upon yourself. Roy T. Our way is to practice one step at a time, one breath at a time, with no gaining idea.
Shunryu Suzuki. And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. Paulo Coelho Click to tweet. Spirituality is fearlessness. It is a way of looking boldly at this life we have been given, here, now, on earth, as this human being. Elizabeth Lesser. Fulton J. The greatest religion is to be true to your own nature. Have faith in yourselves. Do one thing at a time, and while doing it put your whole soul into it to the exclusion of all else. Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
Wayne Dyer. Pray, and let God worry. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history — money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery — the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet. The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. Rob Bell. God loves me when I sing. God respects me when I work. Rabindranath Tagore Click to tweet. Suffering is part of our training program for becoming wise. All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.
Anatole France. It is the inner life that is to spark the change in consciousness that will permit us to advance. Brother Wayne Teasdale. I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God. Helen Keller She was blind. The measure of your maturity is how spiritual you become during the midst of your frustrations.
Samuel Ullman. On the spiritual path, all the dreck and misery is transformed, maybe not that same day, but still transformed into spiritual fuel or insight. Anne Lamott. Character can not be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. Helen Keller. Frederick Lenz. The more you recognize the immense good within you, the more you magnetize immense good around you. Alan Cohen. When you find your path, you must not be afraid. You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes.
Disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way. Paulo Coelho. The ultimate reason for meditating is to transform ourselves in order to be better able to transform the world. Thoughts become things. If you see it in your mind, you will hold it in your hand. Bob Proctor Click to tweet. We can make changes in our lives, we can live consciously rather than mechanically, we can open our hearts and we can be more fully alive. The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, and must empty ourselves. Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in his love than in your weakness. Mother Teresa. Until you have suffered much in your heart, you cannot learn humility. Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica. The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
See also: positive quotes , focus quotes.
5 Truths About Joy Found in the Bible
You are not in the universe, you are the universe. Eckhart Tolle Click to tweet. If the mind falls asleep, awaken it. Then if it starts wandering, make it quiet. If you reach the state where there is neither sleep nor movement of mind, stay still in that, the natural real state.
Meditation is not just blissing out under a mango tree. It completely changes your brain and therefore changes what you are. No one and nothing outside of you can give you salvation, or free you from the misery. You have to light your own lamp. You have to know the miniature universe that you yourself are. Banani Ray. Taitetsu Unno. Enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth.
As long as you are trying to become, trying to get somewhere, trying to attain something, you are quite literally moving away from the Truth itself. Never belong to a crowd; Never belong to a nation; Never belong to a religion; Never belong to a race. Belong to the whole existence. Why limit yourself to small things? When the whole is available. If, then, I were asked for the most important advice I could give, that which I considered to be the most useful to the men of our century, I should simply say: in the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you. Leo Tolstoy. Awakening is not a journey of discovering a distant land or a coveted secret, but rather, it is a journey of surrendering to what has always been present but shrouded in illusion and disillusion.
The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. David Foster Wallace. You remain the same person, but you become awakened. Believe something and the Universe is on its way to being changed. Diane Duane. We are all connected; To each other, biologically.
To the earth, chemically. Consecration inevitably implies mission. These are two facets of one reality. The choice of a person by God is for the sake of others: the consecrated person is one who is sent to do the work of God in the power of God. Jesus himself was clearly aware of this. Consecrated and sent to bring the salvation of God, he was wholly dedicated to the Father in adoration, love, and surrender, and totally given to the work of the Father, which is the salvation of the world.
Religious, by their particular form of consecration, are necessarily and deeply committed to the mission of Christ. Like him, they are called for others: wholly turned in love to the Father and, by that very fact, entirely given to Christ's saving service of their brothers and sisters. This is true of religious life in all its forms.
The life of cloistered contemplatives has its own hidden, apostolic fruitfulness cf. PC 7 and proclaims to all that God exists and that God is love. Religious dedicated to works of the apostolate continue in our time Christ "announcing God's Kingdom to the multitude, healing the sick and the maimed, converting sinners to a good life, blessing children, doing good to all, and always obeying the will of the Father who sent him" LG This saving work of Christ is shared by means of concrete services mandated by the Church in the approval of the constitutions.
The fact of this approval qualifies the kind of service undertaken, since it must be faithful to the Gospel, to the Church, and to the institute. It also establishes certain limits, since the mission of religious is both strengthened and restricted by the consequences of consecration in a particular institute. Further, the nature of religious service determines how the mission is to be done: in a profound union with the Lord and sensitivity to the times which will enable the religious "to transmit the message of the Incarnate Word in terms which the world is able to understand" ET 9.
Whatever may be the works of service by which the word is transmitted, the mission itself is undertaken as a community responsibility. It is to the institute as a whole that the Church commits that sharing in the mission of Christ which characterizes it and which is expressed in works inspired by the founding charism. This corporate mission does not mean that all the members of the institute are doing the same thing or that the gifts and qualities of the individual are not respected.
It does mean that the works of all the members are directly related to the common apostolate, which the Church has recognized as expressing concretely the purpose of the institute. This common and constant apostolate is part of the institute's sound traditions. It is so closely related to identity that it cannot be changed without affecting the character of the institute itself. It is therefore a touchstone of authenticity in the evaluation of new works, whether these services will be done by a group or by individual religious. The integrity of the common apostolate is a particular responsibility of major superiors.
They must see that the institute is at once faithful to its traditional mission in the Church and open to new ways of undertaking it. Works need to be renewed and revitalized, but this has to be done always in fidelity to the institute's approved apostolate and in collaboration with the respective ecclesiastical authorities. Such renewal will be marked by the four great loyalties emphasized in the document, Religious and Human Promotion: "fidelity to humanity and to our times; fidelity to Christ and the Gospel; fidelity to the Church and its mission in the world; fidelity to religious life and to the charism of the institute" RHP The individual religious finds his or her personal apostolic work within the ecclesial mission of the institute.
Basically it will be a work of evangelization: striving in the Church and according to the mission of the institute to help bring the Good News to "all the strata of humanity and through it to transform humanity itself from within" EN 18; RHP Intro. In practice, it will involve some form of service in keeping with the purpose of the institute and usually undertaken with brothers or sisters of the same religious family. In the case of some clerical or missionary institutes, it may sometimes involve working alone.
In the case of other institutes, working alone is with the permission of superiors to meet an exceptional need for a certain time. At the end of life, the apostolate will be for many a mission of prayer and suffering only. But at whatever stage, the apostolic work of the individual is that of a religious sent in communion with an ecclesially missioned institute. Such work has its source in religious obedience cf.
PC 8, 5c, Therefore, it is distinct in its character from those apostolates proper to the laity cf. RHP 22; AA 2, 7, 13, It is by their obedience in their corporate and ecclesial works of evangelization that religious manifest one of the most important aspects of their lives. They are genuinely apostolic, not because they have an "apostolate," but because they are living as the apostles lived: following Christ in service and in communion according to the teaching of the Gospel in the Church he founded.
There is no doubt that, in many areas of the world at the present time, religious institutes dedicated to apostolic works are facing difficult and delicate questions with respect to the apostolate.
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The reduced number of religious, the fewer young persons entering, the rising median age, the social pressures from contemporary movements are coinciding with an awareness of a wider range of needs, a more individual approach to personal development, and a higher level of awareness with regard to issues of justice, peace, and human promotion. There is a temptation to want to do everything. There is also a temptation to leave works which are stable and a genuine expression of the institute's charism for others which seem more immediately relevant to social needs but which are less expressive of the institute's identity.
There is a third temptation to scatter the resources of an institute in a diversity of short-term activities only loosely connected with the founding gift. In all these instances, the effects are not immediate but, in the long run, what will suffer is the unity and identity of the institute itself, and this will be a loss to the Church and to its mission. Religious life cannot be sustained without a deep life of prayer, individual, communal, and liturgical. The religious who embraces concretely a life of total consecration is called to know the risen Lord by a warm, personal knowledge, and to know him as one with whom he or she is personally in communion: "This is eternal life: to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent" Jn Knowledge of him in faith brings love: "You did not see him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described" I Pet This joy of love and knowledge is brought about in many ways, but fundamentally, and as an essential and necessary means, through individual and community encounter with God in prayer.
This is where the religious finds "the concentration of the heart on God" CDm 1 , which unifies the whole of life and mission. As with Jesus for whom prayer as a distinct act held a large and essential place in life, the religious needs to pray as a deepening of union with God cf. Lk Prayer is also a necessary condition for proclaiming the Gospel cf. Mk It is the context of all important decisions and events cf.
As with Jesus, too, the habit of prayer is necessary if the religious is to have that contemplative vision of things by which God is revealed in faith in the ordinary events of life cf. CDm 1. This is the contemplative dimension which the Church and the world have the right to expect of religious by the fact of their consecration.
It must be strengthened by prolonged moments of time apart for exclusive adoration of the Father, love of him and listening in silence before him. For this reason, Paul VI insisted: "Faithfulness to daily prayer always remains for each religious a basic necessity. Prayer must have a primary place in your constitutions and in your lives" ET By saying "in your constitutions," Paul VI gave a reminder that for the religious prayer is not only a personal turning in love to God but also a community response of adoration, intercession, praise, and thanksgiving that needs to be provided for in a stable way cf.
This does not happen by chance. Concrete provisions at the level of each institute and of each province and local community are necessary if prayer is to deepen and thrive in religious life individually and communally. Yet only through prayer is the religious ultimately able to respond to his or her consecration. Community prayer has an important role in giving this necessary spiritual support.
Each religious has a right to be assisted by the presence and example of other members of the community at prayer. Each has the privilege and duty of praying with the others and of participating with them in the liturgy which is the unifying center of their life. Such mutual help encourages the effort to live the life of union with the Lord to which religious are called. The discipline and silence necessary for prayer are a reminder that consecration by the vows of religion requires a certain asceticism of life "embracing the whole being" ET Christ's response of poverty, love, and obedience led him to the solitude of the desert, the pain of contradiction, and the abandonment of the cross.
The consecration of religious enters into this way of his; it cannot be a reflection of his consecration if its expression in life does not hold an element of self-denial. Religious life itself is an ongoing, public, visible expression of Christian conversion. It calls for the leaving of all things and the taking up of one's cross to follow Christ throughout the whole of life. This involves the asceticism necessary to live in poverty of spirit and of fact; to love as Christ loves; to give up one's own will for God's sake to the will of another who represents him, however imperfectly.
It calls for the self-giving without which it is not possible to live either a good community life or a fruitful mission. Jesus' statement that the grain of wheat needs to fall to the ground and die if it is to bear fruit has a particular application to religious because of the public nature of their profession. It is true that much of today's penance is to be found in the circumstances of life and should be accepted there. However, unless religious build into their lives "a joyful, well-balanced austerity" ET 30 and deliberately determined renunciations, they risk losing the spiritual freedom necessary for living the counsels.
Indeed, without such austerity and renunciation, their consecration itself can be affected. This is because there cannot be a public witness to Christ poor, chaste, and obedient without asceticism. Moreover, by professing the counsels by vows, religious undertake to do all that is necessary to deepen and foster what they have vowed, and this means a free choice of the cross, that it may be "as it was for Christ, proof of the greatest love" ET Of its nature, religious life is a witness that should clearly manifest the primacy of the love of God and do so with a strength coming from the Holy Spirit cf.
Jesus himself did this supremely: witnessing to the Father "with the power of the Spirit in him" Lk in his living, dying, rising, and remaining for ever the faithful witness. In his turn he sent his apostles in the power of the same Spirit to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth cf. Acts The subject of their testimony was always the same: "Something which has existed since the beginning, that we have heard, and we have seen with our own eyes; that we have watched and touched with our hands: the Word, who is life" I Jn : Jesus Christ "the Son of God, proclaimed in all his power through his resurrection from the dead" Rm 1: 5.
Religious, too, in their own times, are called to bear witness to a similar, deep, personal experience of Christ and also to share the faith, hope, love and joy which that experience goes on inspiring. Their continuous individual renewal of life should be a source of new growth in the institutes to which they belong, recalling the words of Pope John Paul II: "What counts most is not what religious do, but what they are as persons consecrated to the Lord" Message to the Plenary Assembly of the SCRIS, March Not only directly in works of announcing the Gospel but even more forcefully in the very way that they live, they should be voices that affirm with confidence and conviction: We have seen the Lord.
He is risen. We have heard his word. The totality of religious consecration requires that the witness to the Gospel be given publicly by the whole of life. Values, attitudes and life-style attest forcefully to the place of Christ in one's life. The visibility of this witness involves the foregoing of standards of comfort and convenience that would otherwise be legitimate. It requires a restraint on forms of relaxation and entertainment cf. To ensure this public witness, religious willingly accept a pattern of life that is not permissive but largely laid down for them.
They wear a religious garb that distinguishes them as consecrated persons, and they have a place of residence which is properly established by their institute in accordance with common law and their own constitutions. Such matters as travel and social contacts are in accord with the spirit and character of their institute and with religious obedience. These provisions alone do not ensure the desired public witness to the joy, hope, and love of Jesus Christ, but they offer important means to it, and it is certain that religious witness is not given without them.
The way of working, too, is important for public witness. What is done and how it is done should both proclaim Christ from the poverty of someone who is not seeking his or her own fulfillment and satisfaction. In our age powerlessness is one of the great poverties. The religious accepts to share this intimately by the generosity of his or her obedience, thereby becoming one with the poor and powerless in a particular way, as Christ was in his Passion.
Such a person knows what it is to stand in need before God, to love as Jesus does, and to work at God's plan on God's terms. Moreover, in fidelity to religious consecration, he or she lives the institute's concrete provisions for promoting these attitudes. Fidelity to the mandated apostolate of one's own religious institute is also essential for true witness.
Individual dedication to perceived needs at the expense of the mandated works of the institute can only be damaging. However, there are ways of living and working which witness to Christ very clearly in the contemporary situation. The constant evaluation of use of goods and of style of relationships in one's own life is one of the religious' most effective ways of promoting the justice of Christ at the present time cf.
RHP 4e. Being a voice for those who are unable to speak for themselves is a further mode of religious witness, when it is done in accordance with the directives of the local hierarchy and the proper law of the institute. The drama of the refugees, of those persecuted for political or religious beliefs cf. EN 39 , of those denied the right to birth and life, of unjustified restrictions of human freedom, of social inadequacy that causes suffering in the old, the sick, and the marginalized: these are present continuations of the Passion which call particularly to religious who are dedicated to apostolic works cf.
RHP 4d. The response will vary according to the mission, tradition and identity of each institute. Some may need to seek approval for new missions in the Church. In other cases, new institutes may be recognized to meet specific needs. In most cases, the creative use of well-established works to meet new challenges will be a clear witness to Christ yesterday, today, and for ever. The witness of religious who, in loyalty to the Church and to the tradition of their institute, strive courageously and with love for the defense of human rights and for the coming of the Kingdom in the social order can be a clear echo of the Gospel and the voice of the Church cf.
RHP 3. It is so, however, to the extent that it manifests publicly the transforming power of Christ in the Church and the vitality of the institute's charism to the people of our time. Finally, perseverance, which is a further gift of the God of the covenant, is the unspoken but eloquent witness of the religious to the faithful God whose love is without end. Religious life has its own place in relation to the divine and hierarchical structure of the Church.
It is not a kind of intermediate way between the clerical and lay conditions of life, but comes from both as a special gift for the entire Church cf. LG 43; MR In particular, by being an outward, social sign of the mystery of God's consecrating action throughout life, and by being this through the mediation of the Church for the good of the entire Body, the religious life in a special way participates in the sacramental nature of the People of God. This is because it is itself a part of the Church as mystery and as social reality, and it cannot exist without both these aspects.
It was this dual reality that the Second Vatican Council underscored in insisting on the sacramental nature of the Church: at once necessarily a mystery, invisible, a divine communion in the new life of the Spirit; and equally necessarily a social reality, visible, a human community under one who represents Christ the head.
As mystery cf. LG 1 , the Church is the new creation, vivified by the Spirit and assembled in Christ to come with confidence to the Father's throne of grace cf. Heb As social reality, she presupposes the historical initiative of Jesus Christ, his paschal going to the Father, his objective headship of the Church he founded and the hierarchic character which proceeds from that headship: from his setting up of a variety of ministries which aim at the good of the whole Body cf.
LG 18; cf. The twofold aspect of "visible social organism and invisible divine presence intimately united" MR 3 is what gives the Church "her special sacramental nature by virtue of which she is the visible sacrament of saving unity" LG 9. She is both subject and object of faith essentially transcending the parameters of any purely sociological perspective even while she renews her human structures in the light of historical evolutions and cultural changes cf. Her very nature makes her at once "universal sacrament of salvation" LG 48 : a visible sign of the mystery of God, and hierarchical reality: a concrete divine provision by which that sign can be authenticated and made efficacious.
The religious life touches both aspects. The founders and foundresses of religious institutes ask the hierarchical Church publicly to authenticate the gift of God on which the existence of their institute depends. By doing so, the founders and those who follow them also give witness to the mystery of the Church, because each institute exists in order to build up the Body of Christ in the unity of its diverse functions and activities. In their origins, religious institutes depend in a unique way on the hierarchy. The bishops in communion with the successor of Peter form a college that jointly shows forth and carries out in the Church-sacrament the functions of Christ the head cf.
They have not only the pastoral charge of fostering the life of Christ in the faithful, but also the duty of verifying gifts and competencies. They are responsible for coordinating the Church's energies and for guiding the entire people in living in the world as a sign and instrument of salvation.
They therefore have in a special way the ministry of discernment with regard to the manifold gifts and initiatives among God's people. As a particularly rich and important example of these manifold gifts, each religious institute depends for the authentic discernment of its founding charism on the God-given ministry of the hierarchy. This relationship obtains not only for the first recognition of a religious institute but also for its ongoing development. The Church does more than bring an institute into being. She accompanies, guides, corrects, and encourages it in its fidelity to its founding gift cf.
LG 45 for it is a living element in her own life and growth. She receives the vows made in the institute as vows of religion with ecclesial consequences, involving a consecration made by God himself through her mediation cf. She gives to the institute a public sharing in her own mission, both concrete and corporate cf. LG 17; AG She confers on the institute, in accordance with her own common law and with the constitutions that she has approved, the religious authority necessary for the life of vowed obedience.
In short, the Church continues to mediate the consecratory action of God in a specific way , recognizing and fostering this particular form of consecrated life. In daily practice, this ongoing relation of religious to the Church is most often worked out at diocesan or local level. The document Mutuae Relationes is entirely devoted to this theme from the point of view of present-day application. Suffice it to say here that the life and mission of the People of God are one.
They are fostered by all according to the specific roles and functions of each. The unique service rendered by religious to this life and mission lies in the total and public nature of their vowed Christian living, according to a community founding gift approved by ecclesiastical authority. Religious formation fosters growth in the life of consecration to the Lord from the earliest stages, when a person first becomes seriously interested in undertaking it, to its final consummation, when the religious meets the Lord definitively in death.
The religious lives a particular form of life, and life itself is in constant ongoing development. It does not stand still. Nor is the religious simply called and consecrated once. The call of God and the consecration by him continue throughout life, capable of growing and deepening in ways beyond our understanding. The discernment of the capacity to live a life that will foster this growth according to the spiritual patrimony and provisions of a given institute, and the accompanying of the life itself in its personal evolution in each member in community, are the two main facets of formation.
For each religious, formation is the process of becoming more and more a disciple of Christ, growing in union with and in configuration to him. It is a matter of taking on increasingly the mind of Christ, of sharing more deeply his gift of himself to the Father and his brotherly service of the human family, and of doing this according to the founding gift which mediates the Gospel to the members of a given religious institute.
Such a process requires a genuine conversion. Rm , Gal , Eph implies the stripping off of selfishness and egoism cf. Eph , Col The very fact of "walking henceforth according to the Spirit" means giving up "the desires of the flesh" Gal The religious professes to make this putting on of Christ, in his poverty, his love, and his obedience, the essential pursuit of life. It is a pursuit which never ends. There is a constant maturing in it, and this reaches not only to spiritual values but also to those which contribute psychologically, culturally, and socially to the fullness of the human personality.
As the religious grows toward the fullness of Christ according to his or her state of life, there is a verification of the statement in Lumen Gentium: "While the profession of the evangelical counsels involves the renunciation of goods that undoubtedly deserve to be highly valued, it does not constitute an obstacle to the true development of the human person, but by its nature is extremely beneficial to that development" LG The ongoing configuration to Christ comes about according to the charism and provisions of the institute to which the religious belongs.
Each has its own spirit, character, purpose, and tradition, and it is in accordance with these that the religious grow in their union with Christ. For religious institutes dedicated to works of the apostolate, formation includes the preparation and continual updating of the members to undertake the works proper to their institute, not simply as professionals, but as "living witnesses to love without limit and to the Lord Jesus" ET Accepted as a matter of personal responsibility by each religious, formation becomes not only an individual personal growth but also a blessing to the community and a source of fruitful energy for the apostolate.
Since the initiative for religious consecration is in the call of God, it follows that God himself, working through the Holy Spirit of Jesus, is the first and principal agent in the formation of the religious. He acts through his word and sacraments, through the prayer of the liturgy, the magisterium of the Church and, more immediately, through those who are called in obedience to help the formation of their brothers and sisters in a more special way.
Responding to God's grace and guidance, the religious accepts in love the responsibility for personal formation and growth, welcoming the consequences of this response which are unique to each person and always unpredictable. The response, however, is not made in isolation. Following the tradition of the early fathers of the desert and of all the great religious founders in the matter of provision for spiritual guidance, religious institutes each have members who are particularly qualified and appointed to help their sisters and brothers in this matter.
Their role varies according to the stage reached by the religious but its main responsibilities are: discernment of God's action; the accompaniment of the religious in the ways of God; the nourishing of life with solid doctrine and the practice of prayer; and, particularly in the first stages, the evaluation of the journey thus far made. The director of novices and the religious responsible for those in first profession have also the task of verifying whether the young religious have the call and capacity for first and for final profession.
Joy and Spiritual Survival
The whole process, at whatever stage, takes place in community. A prayerful and dedicated community, building its union in Christ and sharing his mission together, is a natural milieu of formation. It will be faithful to the traditions and constitutions of the institute, and be well inserted in the institute as a whole, in the Church and in the society it serves. Formation is not achieved all at once. The journey from the first to the final response falls broadly into five phases: the pre-novitiate, in which the genuineness of the call is identified as far as possible; the novitiate, which is initiation into a new form of life; first profession and the period of maturing prior to perpetual profession; perpetual profession and the ongoing formation of the mature years; and finally the time of diminishment, in whatever way this comes, which is a preparation for the definitive meeting with the Lord.
Each of these phases has its own goal, content, and particular provisions. The stages of novitiate and profession especially, because of their importance, are carefully determined in their main lines by the Church in her common law. All the same, much is left to the responsibility of individual institutes. These are asked to give details concretely in their constitutions for a considerable number of the provisions to which common law refers in principle.
The government of apostolic religious, like all the other aspects of their life, is based on faith and on the reality of their consecrated response to God in community and mission. These women and men are members of religious institutes whose structures reflect the Christian hierarchy of which the head is Christ himself. They have chosen to live vowed obedience as a value in life. They therefore require a form of government that expresses these values and a particular form of religious authority.
Such authority, which is particular to religious institutes, does not derive from the members themselves. It is conferred by the Church at the time of establishing each institute and by the approving of its constitutions. It is an authority invested in superiors for the duration of their term of service at general, intermediate, or local level.
It is to be exercised according to the norms of common and proper law in a spirit of service, reverencing the human person of each religious as a child of God cf. PC 14 , fostering cooperation for the good of the institute, but always preserving the superior's final right of discerning and deciding what is to be done cf. Strictly speaking, this religious authority is not shared.
It may be delegated according to the constitutions for particular purposes but it is normally ex officio and is invested in the person of the superior. Superiors do not exercise authority in isolation, however.
The Fulfillment Principle: Experiencing a Life of Pure Joy and Fulfillment
Each must have the assistance of a council whose members collaborate with the superior according to norms that are constitutionally established. Councilors do not exercise authority by right of office as superiors do, but they collaborate with the superior and help by their consultative or deliberative vote according to ecclesiastical law and the constitutions of the institute.
Supreme authority in an institute is also exercised, though in an extraordinary manner, by a general chapter while it is in session. This again is according to the constitutions, which should designate the authority of the chapter in such a way that it is quite distinct from that of the superior general.
The general chapter is essentially an ad hoc body. It is composed of ex officio members and elected delegates who ordinarily meet together for one chapter only. As a sign of unity in charity, the celebration of a general chapter should be a moment of grace and of the action of the Holy Spirit in an institute.
It should be a joyful, paschal, and ecclesial experience which benefits the institute itself and also the whole Church. The general chapter is meant to renew and protect the spiritual patrimony of the institute as well as elect the highest superior and councilors, conduct major matters of business, and issue norms for the whole institute. Chapters are of such importance that the proper law of the institute has to determine accurately what pertains to them whether at general or at other levels: that is, their nature, authority, composition, mode of proceeding and frequency of celebration.
Conciliar and post-conciliar teaching insists on certain principles with regard to religious government which have given rise to considerable changes during the past twenty years. It laid down clearly the basic need for effective, personal, religious authority at all levels, general, intermediate, and local, if religious obedience is to be lived cf. PC 14; ET It further underlined the need for consultation, for appropriate involvement of the members in the government of the institute, for shared responsibility, and for subsidiarity cf.
ES II, Most of these principles have by now found their way into revised constitutions. It is important that they be so understood and implemented as to fulfill the purpose of religious government: the building of a united community in Christ in which God is sought and loved before all things, and the mission of Christ is generously accomplished. It is especially in Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, that religious life comes to understand itself most deeply and finds its sign of certain hope cf. She, who was conceived immaculate because she was called from among God's people to bear God himself most intimately and to give him to the world, was consecrated totally by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.
She was the Ark of the new covenant itself. The handmaid of the Lord in the poverty of the anawim, the Mother of fair love from Bethlehem to Calvary and beyond, the obedient Virgin whose "yes" to God changed our history, the missionary hurrying to Hebron, the one who was sensitive to needs at Cana, the steadfast witness at the foot of the cross, the center of unity which held the young Church together in its expectation of the Holy Spirit, Mary showed throughout her life all those values to which religious consecration is directed.
She is the Mother of religious in being Mother of him who was consecrated and sent, and in her fiat and magnificat religious life finds the totality of its surrender to and the thrill of its joy in the consecratory action of God. The revised Code of Canon Law transcribes into canonical norms the rich conciliar and post-conciliar teaching of the Church on religious life.
Together with the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the pronouncements of successive Popes in recent years, it gives the basis on which current Church praxis regarding religious life is founded. The natural evolution necessary for ordinary living will always continue, but the period of special experimentation for religious institutes, as provided by the motu proprio Ecclesiae Sanctae II, ended with the celebration of the second ordinary general chapter after the special chapter of renewal.
Now the revised Code of Canon Law is the Church's juridical foundation for religious life, both in its evaluation of the experience of experimentation and its looking to the future. The following fundamental norms contain a comprehensive synthesis of the Church's provisions. Religious life is a form of life to which some Christians, both clerical and lay, are freely called by God so that they may enjoy a special gift of grace in the life of the Church and may contribute each in his or her own way to the saving mission of the Church cf. The gift of religious vocation is rooted in the gift of baptism but is not given to all the baptized.
It is freely given and unmerited: offered by God to those whom he chooses freely from among his people and for the sake of his people cf. In accepting God's gift of vocation, religious respond to a divine call: dying to sin cf. Rm , renouncing the world, and living for God alone. Their whole lives are dedicated to his service and they seek and love above all else "God who has first loved us" cf. I Jn ; cf. PC 5, 6. The focus of their lives is the closer following of Christ cf. The dedication of the whole life of the religious to God's service constitutes a special consecration cf.
It is a consecration of the whole person which manifests in the Church a marriage effected by God, a sign of the future life. This consecration is by public vows, perpetual or temporary, the latter renewable on expiry. By their vows, religious assume the observance of the three evangelical counsels; they are consecrated to God through the ministry of the Church can. The conditions for validity of temporary profession, the length of this period and its possible extension are determined in the constitutions of each institute, always in conformity with the common law of the Church can.
Religious profession is made according to the formula of vows approved by the Holy See for each institute. The formula is common because all members undertake the same obligations and, when fully incorporated, have the same rights and duties. Considering its character and the ends proper to it. Community life, which is one of the marks of a religious institute can.