MESSAGE OF JOHN PAUL II
Your Eminences, Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood!
1. "To those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (I Cor 1,2-3).
With the greeting of the Apostle St Paul to the Christians at Corinth, I address Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, who with wisdom and prudence governs the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. I wish to greet the Cardinals, Bishops and Officials of the Congregation taking part in the Plenary whose theme is: ""Set out anew from Christ', a renewed commitment of consecrated life in the third millennium".
2. I cannot forget the great Jubilee. As it drew to a close, I invited the whole Church to continue the spiritual journey begun, setting out again with new vigour from the "contemplation of the face of Christ: Christ considered in his historical features and in his mystery, Christ known through his manifold presence in the Church and in the world, and confessed as the meaning of history and the light of life's journey" (Novo Millenio ineunte, n. 15).
In this journey, consecrated persons, called "to put their lives at its [the Kingdom of God] service, leaving everything behind and closely imitating his own
way of life" (Vita consecrata, n. 14), have a teaching mission for the People of God. Listening to the Word, continual praise of the Father, giver of every good gift and the witness of concrete charity towards our neediest brothers and sisters, they show the "depth of the riches and the wisdom and knowledge of God!" (Rom 11,33).
In this deep relationship of love for Christ and of spiritual following in his footsteps, we can find the hope for the future of consecrated life. Consecrated life calls for a personal, voluntary, free, and loving commitment to holiness. Consecrated men and women are called to show forth a real spiritual "expertise" in this journey, tackling with joyful hope the sacrifice and detachment, the hardships and the expectations that are part of this path. It is the way to return to the Father's house, that Christ has opened to us and on which he has gone before us. It is at once detachment and quest; it unites the fatigue of renunciation with the joyful aspect of love (cf.
Lk 9,23ff). Faithful to their vocation, they will one day be able to rejoice with the Psalmist: "Blessed are those who dwell in thy house, ever singing thy praise! Blessed are the men whose strength is in thee, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Bitter Valley they make it a place of springs; the autumn rain covers it with blessings. They walk with ever growing strength, they will see the God of gods in Sion" (Ps 83 , 5-8).
Authentic communion is born from the humble and active sharing of the faith. It leads to putting in common the gifts of goodness and grace, as well as the limits and the poverty of every person for each one to take them up and celebrate together the mercy of the Father.
Thus true communion in Christ fosters a new style of apostolate. The proclamation of the Gospel of consecrated life, when it comes from an intense and generous fraternity, becomes more living and effective. The Apostle St John teaches this in his first Letter: "That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life, we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us" (I Jn 1,1b.3).
In this way, even what is special about consecrated life, the vows and the particular spirituality, becomes a gift received not to be jealously hoarded, but to be given humbly and generously to the People of God with word and witness, so that all, even the distant or the hostile, can appreciate the great originality of Christianity.
Following Christ poor, chaste and obedient, with all their heart and strength, they offer the witness of a life that can give hope to every form of commitment and be an alternative to the world's way of living.
The witness becomes the best way to encourage vocations to the consecrated life. Yes, it is necessary to present to young people the face of Christ contemplated in prayer and tenderly served in our brothers and sisters with selfless love. We must be convinced that "we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person" (Novo Millennio ineunte, n. 29). Jesus assures us: "I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20). It is not enough for us to "speak" about Him; we must also make him "seen", with the bold witness of faith and charity. Christ must become the sure reference point; his Face the source of light, strength and mercy, that illumines the world. Only in Him will we find the supernatural energy that can transform the world according to the divine plan.
With the prayer that your session may be fruitful, thanks to the light and guidance of the Holy Spirit, I cordially impart to you and to all the members of the Institutes of consecrated life and of the Societies of apostolic life my Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 21 September 2001
JOHN PAUL II