Our Superior General, Maria Inez Furtado, FI, participated last Friday and Saturday in the plenary of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life. In it, Pope Francis expressed his appreciation for the work they perform in the service of consecrated life in the Church and emphasized the importance of the theme – fidelity and abandonment – which they chose in order to reflect on the difficulties of the present moment:
“The topic you have chosen is important. We can say that, at this moment, faithfulness is put to the test; the statistics you have examined show this. We are facing a ‘haemorrhage’ that weakens consecrated life and the very life of the Church. The abandonment of consecrated life worries us. It is true that some leave as an act of coherence, because they recognize after serious discernment that they never had this vocation; however, others, with the passage of time, have less fidelity, very often only a few years after perpetual profession. What has happened?”
There are “many factors that condition faithfulness in this, a change of era and not merely an era of change, in which it becomes difficult to take on serious and definitive commitments,” said the Holy Father, reflecting in particular on three of them: the social and cultural context, the world of youth and situations of counter-testimony in the consecrated life.
Beginning with the first factor, ” that does not help maintain faithfulness”, that is to say, the social and cultural context, the Bishop of Rome pointed out that it promotes the temporary, which can lead us to live in an “à la carte” way and to be slaves to fashion, fueling consumerism, forgetting the beauty of the simple and austere life, and provoking a great existential emptiness, with a strong relativism, with values far removed from the Gospel:
“We live in a society in which economic rules substitute moral ones, dictate the laws and impose systems of reference at the expense of the values of life; a society where the dictatorship of money and profit advocates a vision of existence in which those who are not productive are discarded. In this situation, it is clear that one must first let oneself be evangelized in order to engage in evangelization.”
In the second point dedicated to the world of youth, recalling that there are many generous, united young people committed at religious and social level, the Pope also referred to the challenges faced by youth and encouraged [consecrated persons] to spread the joy of the Gospel:
“There are marvelous young people, and are not just a few. But there are also young people who are victims of the logic of worldliness, which may be summarized as follows: the search for success at any price, easy money and easy pleasure. This logic also seduces many young people. Our task cannot be other than that of staying close to them to spread to them the joy of the Gospel and of belonging to Christ. This culture must be evangelized if we do not want young people to succumb”.
In the third factor, “which comes from within consecrated life itself, where alongside much holiness there is no lack of situations of counter-testimony,” the Holy Father reiterated the centrality of Jesus in the prophetic mission of consecrated persons:
“If consecrated life is to maintain its prophetic mission and its appeal, continuing to be a school of faithfulness for those near and far (cf. Eph 2:17) it must keep its freshness and the novelty of the centrality of Jesus, maintain the attraction of spirituality and the strength of mission, show the beauty of following Christ, and radiate hope and joy”.
In his dense speech, the Pope also highlighted the importance of fraternal life in the community, nourished in prayer, the Word, the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. Without forgetting the closeness to the poor and the mission in the existential peripheries, always contemplating the Lord and walking according to the Gospel and encouraging the preparation of qualified companions in consecrated life and discernment.