100 – Life is complicated; it consists of grace and sin. He who does not sin is not human

Imagine someone who becomes seriously ill, and after many attempts for a cure, finally finds a doctor who prescribes an efficacious remedy. After some days of treatment, he finds himself cured. Naturally, gratitude will bring him to transmit to as many as possible the competence of the doctor and efficacious medicine prescribed, emphasizing the gravity of the illness he was saved from. His testimony, besides praising the doctor, will serve for posterior experiences regarding this illness and encourage all of those who suffer from it to hope for a cure. Evidently, no one would think that this propaganda entails an apology of the sad condition of the sick person…

Something similar happens in the spiritual field. All of us are affected by the same infirmity – sin – and we need living examples that encourage us to reach perfection. For even though it seems difficult, we only need to have recourse to the Divine Doctor and benefit from his grace. And all becomes possible. God himself deigned to carefully assign to some men and women the special vocation of serving as a testimony of sanctity for the others. They are those who embrace the Evangelical counsels as a means of achieving the perfection of charity. Their lives should be a continuous manifestation of the power of our loving God, who became man as ourselves to free us from sin. What should we think, then, of a religious who does not reflect this divine power in his way of life, content in boasting that he is a sinner just like everyone else?



Quote A

You should be real witnesses of a way of doing and acting differently. But in life it is difficult for everything to be clear, precise, outlined neatly. Life is complicated; it consists of grace and sin. He who does not sin is not human. We all make mistakes and we need to recognize our weakness. A religious who recognizes himself as weak and a sinner does not negate the witness that he is called to give, rather he reinforces it, and this is good for everyone. What I expect of you therefore is to give witness. I want this special witness from religious. (Conversation about the Religious Life with the Union of Superiors General, November 29, 2013or in PDF)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter the various parts of our study

I – Does sin complete or corrupt man?
II – The Grace that Christ brings to the world with the Redemption leads humans to abandon sin
III – The Religious state is a state of perfection: Religious must combat sin more than the laity
IV – What testimony should Christians receive from Religious? ­­­

I – Does sin complete or corrupt man?

Catechism of the Catholic Church

God created man without sin

God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God. […] Man is dependent on his Creator, and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 396)

In sinning, man acted against the requirements of his creaturely status

Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, (cf. Gen 3:1-11) abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of (cf. Rom 5:19). […] In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully ‘divinized’ by God in glory. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 397-398)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

Sin has diminished man, blocking his path to fulfillment

Although he was made by God in a state of holiness, from the very onset of his history man abused his liberty, at the urging of the Evil One. Man set himself against God and sought to attain his goal apart from God. Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, but their senseless minds were darkened and they served the creature rather than the Creator. What divine revelation makes known to us agrees with experience. Examining his heart, man finds that he has inclinations toward evil too, and is engulfed by manifold ills which cannot come from his good Creator. Often refusing to acknowledge God as his beginning, man has disrupted also his proper relationship to his own ultimate goal as well as his whole relationship toward himself and others and all created things. Therefore man is split within himself. As a result, all of human life, whether individual or collective, shows itself to be a dramatic struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness. […] For sin has diminished man, blocking his path to fulfillment. (Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, no. 13, December 7, 1965)

John Paul II

Sin is contrary to human dignity

It is precisely sin that since the ‘beginning’ has, in a certain way, ‘disinherited’ man from his own humanity. Sin ‘takes’ from man, in diverse manners, that which determines his true dignity: the image and likeness of God. Each sin in a certain way ‘reduces’ his dignity! The more the one becomes ‘a slave to sin’ (Jn 8:34), the less he enjoys the liberty of the sons of God. He is no longer his own master, as the structure itself of his personal being, that is to say, that of a rational, free and responsible creature, demands. […] For the rational being it is normal to tend to the truth and exist in the truth. Instead of the truth regarding good, sin introduces non-truth: the true good is eliminated by sin in favor of an ‘apparent’ good, which is not a true good, the true good having been eliminated in favor of the ‘false’. The alienation that takes place with sin touches the cognitive sphere, but through the knowledge it affects the will. […] As can be seen, the real alienation of man — the alienation of a being made in the image and likeness of God, rational and free — is nothing other than ‘the domination of sin’ (Rom 3:9). And this aspect of sin is strongly emphasized by Sacred Scripture. Sin is not only against God, it is at the same time against man. (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 9-10, November 12, 1986)

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux           

Free choice was given not in order that man sin, but that he might appear more glorious in not sinning

To man alone, amongst living creatures, was it given, on account of his prerogative of free choice, to be able to sin. But it was given to him not in order that he should accordingly sin, but in order that, if he did not sin when he was able to have sinned, he might appear more glorious. For what could have redounded more to his glory, than if it could have said of him, as the Scripture runneth: ‘Who is he, and we will praise him?’ Why is he thus praiseworthy? ‘For wondrous things he did while he lived. What things? ‘Who was able to transgress’, it saith, ‘yet did he not transgress; go do evil yet did he not do evil;’ This honour, then, he preserved so long as he did not sin; when he sinned he lost it. But he sinned, because he was free to sin; nor was he free otherwise than by virtue of freedom of choice, whence it was indeed that he had in him the possibility of sinning. Yet was it not the fault of Him who gave him free choice, but of himself who abused it, in that plainly he converted to the use of sinning the faculty which he received for the glory of not sinning. For although he sinned by means of the power which he received, he did not sin because he possessed the power to do so, but because he willed to do so. […] Man’s fall, when he sinned, is to be ascribed, therefore, not to the gift of the power to sin, but to the fault of the will. (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Treatise on Grace and Free Will, Ch. VII, pp. 38-39)

John Paul II

The acknowledgement of sin is an essential first step of returning to God

To acknowledge one’s sin, indeed – penetrating still more deeply into the consideration of one’s own personhood – to recognize oneself as being a sinner, capable of sin and inclined to commit sin, is the essential first step in returning to God. […] For it is not possible to deal with sin and conversion only in abstract terms. In the concrete circumstances of sinful humanity, in which there can be no conversion without the acknowledgment of one’s own sin, the church’s ministry of reconciliation intervenes in each individual case with a precise penitential purpose. That is, the church’s ministry intervenes in order to bring the person to the ‘knowledge of self’-in the words of Saint Catherine of Siena – to the rejection of evil, to the re-establishment of friendship with God, to a new interior ordering, to a fresh ecclesial conversion. (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia, no. 13, December 2, 1984)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

Christ is the perfect man, in whom human nature has been raised up to a dignity without equal

The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown. He Who is ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Col 1:15), is Himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. (Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, no. 22, December 7, 1965)

Pontifical Work for Ecclesiastical Vocations

Mary is the perfectly realized image of a woman

Mary, finally, is the perfectly realised image of woman, the perfect synthesis of the feminine genius and the fantasy of the Spirit, who in her finds and chooses His spouse, the virgin mother of God and man, daughter of the Most High and mother of all the living. (Pontifical Work for Ecclesiastical Vocations, Final Document of the Congress on Vocation to the Priesthood and to Consecrated Life in Europe, no. 23, January 6, 1998)

John Paul II

All people are called to be ‘divinized’

Proclaiming Jesus of Nazareth, true God and perfect Man, the Church opens to all people the prospect of being ‘divinized’ and thus of becoming more human. This is the one path which can lead the world to discover its lofty calling and to achieve it fully in the salvation wrought by God. (John Paul II. Bull Incarnationis mysterium, no. 2, November 30, 1998)

II – The Grace that Christ brings to the world with the Redemption leads humans to abandon sin

Sacred Scripture

The mandate of Christ: be perfect

So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt 5:48)

John Paul II

Christians receive a commandment to not sin – and not a mere invitation

In this sense too we can say with Saint Paul that ‘great indeed is the mystery of our religion.’ In this sense too piety, as a force for conversion and reconciliation, confronts iniquity and sin. In this case too the essential aspects of the mystery of Christ are the object of piety in the sense that the Christian accepts the mystery, contemplates it and draws from it the spiritual strength necessary for living according to the Gospel. Here too one must say that ‘no one born of God commits sin’; but the expression has an imperative sense: Sustained by the mystery of Christ as by an interior source of spiritual energy, the Christian, being a child of God, is warned not to sin and indeed receives the commandment not to sin but to live in a manner worthy of ‘the house of God, that is, the church of the living God’ (1Tim 3:15). (John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia, no. 21, December 2, 1984)

Sinlessness is not inherent in man, but Christians receive the necessary strength to not sin as a result of God’s action

Saint John too undoubtedly referring to this mystery, but in his own characteristic language which differs from Saint Paul’s, was able to write that ‘anyone born of God does not sin, but he who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him’(1Jn 5:18). In this Johannine affirmation there is an indication of hope, based on the divine promises: The Christian has received the guarantee and the necessary strength not to sin. It is not a question therefore of a sinlessness acquired through one’s own virtue or even inherent in man, as the Gnostics thought. It is a result of God’s action. In order not to sin the Christian has knowledge of God, as Saint John reminds us in this same passage. But a little before he had written: ‘No one born of God commits sin; for God’s seed abides in him’(1Jn 3:9). If by ‘God’s seed’ we understand, as some commentators suggest, Jesus the Son of God, then we can say that in order not to sin or in order to gain freedom from sin the Christian has within himself the presence of Christ and the mystery of Christ, which is the mystery of God’s loving kindness. (John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia, no. 20, December 2, 1984)

Saint Augustine of Hippo

He who recognizes his own sin, is displeased with it and condemns it, receives God’s pardon

For ‘He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,’ provided you always displease yourself, and be changing until you be perfected. Accordingly, what follows? ‘My little children, these things I write unto you, that you sin not’ (1Jn 2:1). But perchance sin overtakes us from our mortal life: what shall be done then? What? Shall there be now despair? Hear: ‘And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiator for our sins’ (1Jn 2:1-2). He then is the advocate; do your endeavor not to sin: if from the infirmity of this life sin shall overtake you, see to it straightway, straightway be displeased, straightway condemn it; and when you have condemned, you shall come assured unto the Judge. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Homily 1, no. 7)

Saint John of Avila

Those who enjoy a perfect cleanliness from sin manifest and enhance the glory of God

Have nothing to fear in attributing the highness of spiritual honor, and grandeur of spiritual riches, and perfect cleanliness from sins, to those that the celestial Father justified by the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. May no one think that they being as such harms the honor of the Lord. For since all that they have comes from Christ, not only do they not diminish His honor by being so worthy, but they even manifest and enhance it; for it is clear that the more just and beautiful they are, the more are manifested to be of great value the merits of Him who obtained so much good for those who of themselves did not possess nor deserved anything. […] The Lord is not like some, who are upset or little pleased with the honor and virtue of their servants, thinking that it diminishes their own; nor like vain women, who avoid being accompanied by beautiful servants in order not to obscure their own beauty. Certainly, Jesus Christ our Lord has charity, and such that which exceeds our knowledge, as Saint Paul said (Eph 3:19), in order to have our good for his own; and for us to possess many goods, he lost his most worthy life on the cross. (Saint John of Avila. Audi, filia — Listen, O Daughter, Ch. 90)

Jesus has the power of liberating man not only from condemnation, but even from sin

The confession, like the other similar things that in the divine Scripture exist, of the goods that come to us from Jesus Christ, certainly give more honor to Jesus Christ, than saying that neither the virtue of his blood, nor of his grace, nor the sacraments, nor the infusing of the Holy Spirit in man, nor incorporating him in Himself, are sufficient to take the sin from a man, but only that he not be condemned by Him. What is this other than to think little of God the Father, who, having promised to send with his only Son remedy for sin, and that at its time sin would be ended (Dan 9:24), did not fulfill his promise, for although the Son having come, sin remains in the one who participates in the Son? How can the word: ‘I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all of your uncleanliness’ (Ezek 36:25), be fulfilled, if in truth mine is not cleaned, but rather a clean mantle is merely thrown upon me, telling me that justice and purity of Our Lord Jesus Christ shall be imputed to me? This would be more to cover my filth, than to remove it. And whoever says this, on the same account denies that the Messiah promised in the Law is Jesus Christ Our Lord; and should await another, who delivers not only from the condemnation of sin, but from sin itself. For it is clear that the one who delivers from both things, would be a better savior than he who delivers from only one. (Saint John of Avila. Audi, filia — Listen, O Daughter, Ch. 90)

III – The Religious state is a state of perfection: Religious must combat sin more than the laity

John Paul II

Religious life is an express calling to tend toward perfection - it must be attained

Way of perfection means, evidently, a way of a perfection that must be attained, and not of perfection already obtained, as Saint Thomas Aquinas clearly explained (cf. Summa Theologica, q. 184, a. 5.7). Those who are committed to the practice of the evangelical counsels do not pretend at all that they have attained perfection. They recognize themselves as sinners, as all other men, saved sinners. But they feel and they are called more expressly to tend toward perfection, which consists essntially in charity (cf. Summa Theologica, II, q. 184, aa. 1.3). (John Paul II. General audience, no. 1, November 9, 1994)

Consecrated life is a rich manifestation of Gospel values and a more complete expression of the Church’s purpose: the sanctification of humanity

As a way of showing forth the Church’s holiness, it is to be recognized that the consecrated life, which mirrors Christ’s own way of life, has an objective superiority. Precisely for this reason, it is an especially rich manifestation of Gospel values and a more complete expression of the Church’s purpose, which is the sanctification of humanity. (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata, no. 32, March 25, 1996)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

The more fervently Religious are joined to Christ the richer the life of the Church becomes

Despite such a great variety of gifts, all those called by God to the practice of the evangelical counsels and who, faithfully responding to the call, undertake to observe the same, bind themselves to the Lord in a special way, following Christ, who chaste and poor (cf. Mt 8:20; Lk 9:58) redeemed and sanctified men through obedience even to the death of the Cross (cf. Phil 2:8). Driven by love with which the Holy Spirit floods their hearts (cf. Rom 5:5) they live more and more for Christ and for His body which is the Church (cf. Col 1:24). The more fervently, then, they are joined to Christ by this total life-long gift of themselves, the richer the life of the Church becomes and the more lively and successful its apostolate. (Vatican Council II, Decree Perfectae caritatis, no. 1, October 28, 1965)

Code of Canon Law

The consecrated life: totally dedicated to God and foretells the heavenly glory

The life consecrated through the profession of the evangelical counsels is a stable form of living by which the faithful, following Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, are totally dedicated to God who is loved most of all, so that, having been dedicated by a new and special title to His honor, to the building up of the Church, and to the salvation of the world, they strive for the perfection of charity in the service of the kingdom of God and, having been made an outstanding sign in the Church, foretell the heavenly glory. (Code of Canon Law, Can. 573 §1)

John Paul II

Consecrated persons: follow Christ with one’s whole heart and conform their whole existence to Him

In the consecrated life, then, it is not only a matter of following Christ with one’s whole heart, of loving him ‘more than father or mother, more than son or daughter’ (cf. Mt 10:37) — for this is required of every disciple — but of living and expressing this by conforming one’s whole existence to Christ in an all-encompassing commitment which foreshadows the eschatological perfection, to the extent that this is possible in time and in accordance with the different charisms. By professing the evangelical counsels, consecrated persons not only make Christ the whole meaning of their lives but strive to reproduce in themselves, as far as possible, ‘that form of life which he, as the Son of God, accepted in entering this world’. (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Vita consecrata, no. 16, March 25, 1996)

Sacred Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes

Religious know that before the world they are a sign capable of attracting and inspiring a profound revision of life and values

Faithful to this supreme norm (PC 2a), religious know that they are caught up daily in a path of conversion to the kingdom of God, which makes them in the Church and before the world a sign capable of attracting, thus inspiring a profound revision of life and values (LG 44; EN 69). This is, without doubt, the most needed and fruitful commitment to which they are called (MR 16, 26-28), even in those areas where the Christian community works for human promotion and for the development of social relations inspired by principles of solidarity and fraternal communion. […] The power of transformation, which is contained in the spirit of the beatitudes and penetrates dynamically the life of religious, characterizes their vocation and mission (LG 31). (Plenary of the Sacred Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes, no. 18, April 25-28, 1978)

What counts most is not what religious do, but what they are as persons consecrated to the Lord

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 1980). 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. (Sacred Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes. Essential elements in the Church’s teaching on religious life, May 31, 1983)

Saint Teresa of Avila

Great evils exist in the Church because the religious life is not properly observed

Oh, what terrible harm, what terrible harm is wrought in religious (I am referring now as much to men as to women) when the religious life is not properly observed; when of the two paths that can be followed in a religious house – one leading to virtue and the observance of the Rule and the other leading away from the Rule – both are frequented almost equally! No, I am wrong: they are not frequented equally, for our sins cause the more imperfect road to be more commonly taken; being the broader, it is the more generally favoured. The way of true religion is frequented so little that, if the friar and the nun are to begin to follow their vocation truly, they need to be more afraid of the religious in their own house than of all the devils. They must observe greater caution and dissimulation when speaking of the friendship which they would have with God than in speaking of other friendships and affections promoted in religious houses by the devil. I cannot think why we should be astonished at all the evils which exist in the Church, when those who ought to be models on which all may pattern their virtues are annulling the work wrought in the religious Orders by the spirit of the saints of old. (Saint Teresa of Avila. Autobiography, Ch. 7)

IV – What testimony should Christians receive from Religious?

Pius IX

Religious are distinguished for their doctrine, adorned with virtue, aflame with burning love for God and men

Among the chief goals of Our Apostolic ministry is to embrace your religious families with fatherly love, giving them Our most zealous attention, support and protection, and planning and providing for their greater good and dignity. For your Orders were founded by extremely holy men under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for the greater glory of Almighty God and for the salvation of souls. In this, the founders were encouraged by this holy See. By their many different forms, they adorn the Church with variety. As the select auxiliary troops among the soldiers of Christ, they have always been of very great benefit, adornment and protection to both the Christian and the civil commonwealth. Their members, called by God despise all earthly things with their sublime unconquerable spirit. In regarding only heavenly things, they devote themselves to and accomplish with noble toil those important works which are an excellent service to the Catholic Church and civil society. From their beginnings, the religious families have been noted for their talented members who excel in every sort of teaching and learning. These are virtuous and distinguished men of high offices, aflame with burning love for God and men, and superb examples to the world, to angels and to men. They wished nothing more than to meditate on divine things day and night and to endure suffering in imitation of Jesus. They wished also to spread the Catholic faith and teaching and to fight bravely for it, eagerly enduring bitterness, torture, and punishment. They were even willing to sacrifice their very life to bring primitive savage peoples out of the darkness of error, ferocious customs, and the mud of vices to the light of Gospel truth, the practice of virtue, and the pursuits of civil society. They also developed and supported letters, studies, and arts, thus protecting them from perishing. They formed the tender minds and malleable hearts of the young by instilling in them sound teaching. In addition, they recalled the wandering to the path of salvation. Furthermore, since they are merciful, they have practiced every sort of heroic charity at the risk of their lives. This enables them to lovingly provide aid for those who are captive in jail, those who are sick or dying and all who are wretched in want or struck by disaster; they hope to lessen their pain, wipe away their tears, and look after their needs with their entire resources and efforts. (Pius IX. Encyclical Ubi primum arcano, no. 1, June 17, 1847)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

The profession of the evangelical counsels: a sign to attract all to an effective fulfillment of the Christian duties

The profession of the evangelical counsels, then, appears as a sign which can and ought to attract all the members of the Church to an effective and prompt fulfillment of the duties of their Christian vocation. The people of God have no lasting city here below, but look forward to one that is to come. Since this is so, the religious state, whose purpose is to free its members from earthly cares, more fully manifests to all believers the presence of heavenly goods already possessed here below. Furthermore, it not only witnesses to the fact of a new and eternal life acquired by the redemption of Christ, but it foretells the future resurrection and the glory of the heavenly kingdom. Christ proposed to His disciples this form of life, which He, as the Son of God, accepted in entering this world to do the will of the Father. This same state of life is accurately exemplified and perpetually made present in the Church. The religious state clearly manifests that the Kingdom of God and its needs, in a very special way, are raised above all earthly considerations. Finally it clearly shows all men both the unsurpassed breadth of the strength of Christ the King and the infinite power of the Holy Spirit marvelously working in the Church. (Vatican Council II, Dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium, no. 44, November 21, 1964)

John Paul II

Testimony of incalculable value for the Church and an unequaled efficacy for all of those who seek the kingdom of God

The religious state tends to put in practice and helps to discover and love the evangelical beatitudes, showing the profound happiness that is obtained through renunciation and sacrifices. This is a ‘splendid’ testimony, as the Council says, because it reflects something of the divine light that pervades the word, the call, the counsels of Jesus. Moreover, of an inestimable testimony, because the evangelical counsels, such as voluntary celibacy or evangelical poverty, constitute a particular style of life that has an incalculable value for the Church and an unparalleled efficacy for all of those who, in the world, more or less directly or conscientiously, seek the kingdom of God. (John Paul II. General audience, no. 4, February 8, 1995)

The Religious state has rendered abundant fruits of sanctity

Most dear ones, you represent within the Church a state of life that goes back to the first centuries of its history and which has always rendered, time and time again, abundant and delectable fruits of sanctity, of incisive Christian testimony, of efficacious apostolate, and even of notable assistance toward the formation of a rich patrimony of culture and civilization in the ambit of diverse religious families. Very well, all of this has been and is always possible in virtue of that total and faithful union with Christ, of which the Council speaks, and which is not only asked of you but is also favorably achieved by the special condition of religious consecrated to the Lord. (John Paul II. Address to the Council of the Union of General Superiors, no. 2, November 26, 1979)

Religious continually foster in the People of God the awareness of the call to holiness

The consecrated life thus continually fosters in the People of God an awareness of the need to respond with holiness of life to the love of God poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5), by reflecting in their conduct the sacramental consecration which is brought about by God’s power in Baptism, Confirmation or Holy Orders. In fact it is necessary to pass from the holiness communicated in the sacraments to the holiness of daily life. (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Vita consecrata, no. 33, March 25, 1996)

Pius XII

A canonical Religious life is closely interwoven with the holiness and Catholic apostolate of the Church itself

We have only to look at the glorious calendar of religious men and women through the ages to see how a canonical religious life is closely interwoven with the holiness and catholic apostolate of the Church itself. The relationship is integral to the Church and to the Religious Orders and Congregations, which by the grace of the life-giving Spirit has grown gradually and steadily in deeper and firmer self-consistency and unity and in wonderful variety of forms. (Pius XII. Apostolic constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia, no. 4, February 2, 1974)

Congregation for the Clergy

The Religious life constitutes a gift to the whole Christian community that can never be substituted for by priests or by laity

The profession of the evangelical counsels, which characterizes the religious life, constitutes a gift to the whole Christian community. In diocesan catechetical activity their original and particular contribution can never be substituted for by priests or by laity. This original contribution is born of public witness to their consecration, which makes them a living sign of the reality of the Kingdom: ‘it is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 915). Although evangelical values must be lived by every Christian, those in consecrated life ‘incarnate the Church in her desire to abandon herself to the radicalism of the beatitudes’. (Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 69) (Congregation for the Clergy, General Directory for Catechesis, no. 228)

Paul VI

The witness of holiness of Religious is of prime importance in evangelization

Religious, for their part, find in their consecrated life a privileged means of effective evangelization. At the deepest level of their being they are caught up in the dynamism of the Church’s life, which is thirsty for the divine Absolute and called to holiness. It is to this holiness that they bear witness. They embody the Church in her desire to give herself completely to the radical demands of the beatitudes. By their lives they are a sign of total availability to God, the Church and the brethren. As such they have a special importance in the context of the witness which, as we have said, is of prime importance in evangelization. At the same time as being a challenge to the world and to the Church herself, this silent witness of poverty and abnegation, of purity and sincerity, of self-sacrifice in obedience, can become an eloquent witness capable of touching also non-Christians who have good will and are sensitive to certain values. (Paul VI. Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 69, December 8, 1975)

The world needs to see Religious dedicating their lives to witnessing the love of Jesus Christ

Today more than ever, the world needs to see in you men and women who have believed in the Word of the Lord, in His resurrection and in eternal life, even to the point of dedicating their lives to witnessing to the reality of that love, which is offered to all men. In the course of her history, the Church has ever been quickened and gladdened by many holy religious who, in the diversity of their vocations, have been living witnesses to love without limit and to the Lord Jesus. (Paul VI. Apostolic exhortation Evangelica testificatio, no. 53, June 29, 1971)


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