Thursday, 1 January 2015

Year for Consecrated Life (2)

A feature of the pontificates of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI were the "Years of ...".  What Lumen Gentium n.22 expresses in juridical terms, this practice of calling years to celebrate a particular aspect of Catholic life manifests in the order of pastoral care:
The pope's power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power.
The practice fascinates in another way, in that it is at one and the same time an exercise of a universal pastoral office, and at the same time it remains respectful of the autonomy of the local churches as to how they might celebrate the year.  One might better characterise it as a practice of communion than as a practice of authority.

Archetypal amongst these "Years of ..." are the three years of preparation leading up to the celebration of the Year of the Jubilee of 2000, and the Jubilee Year itself. The practice of a time of Eucharistic Adoration during the vigil before the concluding Mass of the World Youth Days - now the normally expected practise - first began in Cologne during the Year of the Eucharist.

It is opportune that a religious who is the Successor of Peter should call a year dedicated to Consecrated Life. It is unfortunate that the year is likely to be largely dominated by coverage of the Synods dedicated to the family. I am writing this post in the hope that it will draw attention to an ecclesial event of at least similar importance; it is intended to be part of a series of posts.

The National Office for Vocation in the UK has a page with links to resources related to the Year of Consecrated Life. The video at this page is, I think, well worth watching. Having recently read of the work being undertaken by Catholic sisters to support victims of people trafficking I was particularly struck by Fr Timothy Radcliffe's observations about the way in which religious can have an effective Catholic outreach to areas of life that others would find very difficult to enter. I have not looked at the further videos linked on Youtube or Vimeo (they may be the same as the video here). So far as I can tell (correct me if I am wrong), there is no suggestion in these resources of the kind of "temporary commitment" suggested in a Tablet blog post and which I critiqued strongly here.

The National Office for Vocation resources related almost exclusively to consecrated life as lived within a religious order. There are a range of vocations in lay life that involve the same form of consecration - the public and permanent profession of the evangelical counsels - as religious life. One of the most interesting aspects of this is the way in which a number of the new ecclesial movements - Focolare and Communion and Liberation are two prominent examples - have, as a natural part of their growth in the life of the Church, developed a core of members who live a consecrated life in the lay state. A largely hidden form of lay consecrated life is that of the order of consecrated virgins. I hope to post on these later in my series. What strikes me about these developments is that they represent a renewal of a sense of the value of the evangelical counsels, including that of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom. A change to the discipline of priestly celibacy in the western Church would seem to go counter to this movement of the Spirit in the life of the Church.

Meanwhile: please take note that there is something else happening in the Church other than (the media version of) the Synod.

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