The different forms of consecrated life
In the Catholic Church we have those people who have been set apart to imitate and follow Christ in a distinct way. These people live a consecrated life. They pledge to give everything (poverty) and to do everything (obedience) in the service of God, as a loving response to God’s love for them (chastity).
In his apostolic exhortation, Vita consecratedSaint John Paul II wrote the following,
“We are all aware of the treasure represented for the ecclesial community by the gift of consecrated life in the variety of its charisms and institutions. Together, let us give thanks to God for Religious Orders and Institutes consecrated to contemplation or to works of the apostolate, for Societies of Apostolic Life, for Secular Institutes and for other groups of consecrated persons, as well as for all persons who, in their deepest hearts, consecrate themselves to God by a special consecration. The Synod was a tangible sign of the universal extension of consecrated life, present in the local Churches throughout the world. Consecrated life inspires and accompanies the spread of evangelization in different parts of the world, where Institutes abroad are gratefully welcomed and new ones are founded, in a great variety of forms and expressions. Therefore, although in some parts of the world the Institutes of Consecrated Life seem to be going through a difficult period, in other places they are thriving with remarkable vitality. This shows that the choice of the total gift of self to God in Christ is in no way incompatible with a human culture or a historical situation. Nor does consecrated life flourish within the Catholic Church alone. In fact, it is particularly alive in the monasticism of the Orthodox Churches, where it is an essential characteristic of their life. It also takes root or reappears in the Churches and ecclesial Communities, born of the Reformation, and is the sign of a grace shared by all the disciples of Christ. This fact is an incentive to ecumenism, which nourishes the desire for ever fuller communion among Christians, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21).
As shown in the excerpt above, there are different forms of consecrated life within the Catholic Church. Consecrated life can be classified as follows:
915. Christ offers the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. The perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, implies for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation to practice chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these councils, in a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, which characterizes the life consecrated to God.
916. The state of consecrated life is thus a way of living a “more intimate” consecration, rooted in Baptism and totally dedicated to God. In consecrated life, the faithful of Christ, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more closely, to give themselves to God loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and announce in the Church the glory of the world to come.
920. Without always publicly professing the three evangelical counsels, hermits “to dedicate their lives to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude, and assiduous prayer and penance.”
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 gave his life simply because he is everything to him. Here is a particular call to find in the desert, in the heart of the spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified
Consecrated Virgins and Widows
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, decided, with the approval of the Church, to live in the respective states of virginity or perpetual chastity “with a view to the Kingdom of Heaven.”
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, Son of God, and consecrate themselves to the service of God. ‘Church .” By this solemn rite (Consecration Virginum), the Virgin is “constituted as a sacred person, a transcendent sign of the Church’s love for Christ and an eschatological image of this heavenly Spouse of Christ and of the life to come”.
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 to her brothers and apostolic activity, according to the state of life and the spiritual gifts given. to her. Consecrated virgins can form associations to observe their commitment more faithfully.
925. religious life was born in the East during the first centuries of Christianity. Inhabited within institutes canonically erected by the Church, it is distinguished from other forms of consecrated life by its liturgical character, the public profession of the evangelical counsels, the fraternal life led in common and the witness given to the union of Christ. with the Church.
926. Religious life flows 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 manifest Christ and recognize itself as the bride of the Saviour. Religious life in its various forms is called to signify the very charity of God in the language of our time.
927. All religious, exempted or not, take their place among the collaborators of the diocesan bishop in his pastoral duty. From the beginning of the work of evangelization, the missionary “implantation” and the expansion of the Church require the presence of religious life in all its forms. “History testifies to the eminent services rendered by religious families in the propagation of the faith and in the formation of new Churches: from ancient monastic institutions to medieval orders, up to more recent congregations.
928. “A secular institute is an institute of consecrated life in which the Christian faithful living in the world strive to perfect charity and work for the sanctification of the world, especially from within.
929. By a “life perfectly and entirely consecrated to [such] sanctification”, the members of these institutes participate in the work of evangelization of the Church, “in the world and from within the world”, where their presence acts as “leaven in the world”. “Their testimony of a Christian life” aims “to order temporal things according to God and to inform the world with the power of the Gospel”. They engage in the evangelical counsels through sacred bonds and observe among themselves the communion and brotherhood appropriate to their “particular secular way of life”.
Societies of Apostolic Life
930. Alongside the different forms of consecrated life are “societies of apostolic life whose members without religious vows pursue the particular apostolic aim of their society, and lead a life of brothers or sisters in common, according to a particular mode of life, endeavor to perfect charity by the observance of the constitutions. Among these are societies whose members embrace the evangelical counsels” according to their constitutions.
“For many are called, but few are chosen” – Matthew 22:14