Resist every sin from the authority of God
CONGREGATION FOR INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE
AND THE SOCIETIES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE
THE SERVICE OF AUTHORITY
Faciem tuam, domine, requiram
"Let your face shine, then we will be helped"
Consecrated life as a testimony to the search for God
1. "Faciem tuam, Domine, requiram": Your face, Lord, I will seek (Ps 27 , 8). As a pilgrim in search of the meaning of life and immersed in the great mystery that surrounds him, man is really looking - albeit often unconsciously - for the face of the Lord. "Show me, Lord, your ways, teach me your paths" (Ps 25 , 4): no one will ever be able to rob man's heart of the search for that one of whom the Bible says "He is everything" (Sir 43.27). The same applies to the search for the ways in which He can be found.
The consecrated life is called to make visible in the world and in the Church the characteristics of Jesus, who was virgin, poor and obedient1 and it blossoms right on the ground of this search for the face of the Lord and this path that leads to him (cf. Joh 14.4-6). It is a search that leads to inner peace - "en sua voluntate è nostra pace" 2 - but at the same time brings with it the toil of everyday life, because God is God, and his ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts (cf. Isa 55.8). Consecrators thus testify to the joyful and at the same time arduous, constant search for the will of God, and that is why they take all available means that can help them to recognize and fulfill this will.
The religious community also finds its meaning and meaning in this, which it possesses as a community of consecrated people who vow to seek and fulfill the will of God together: a community of brothers or sisters with different tasks, but with the same goal and the same Passion. While about it all are urged in the community to seek what pleases God and to obey Him some, usually for a limited period of time, called to carry out the special task of being signs of unity and guides in the common search and personal and communal fulfillment of the will of God. This is the service of authority.
A way of liberation
2. The culture of our western society, which is strongly focused on the subject, has contributed to spreading respect for the dignity of the human person as a value, as well as positively influencing their free development and autonomy.
The fact of this recognition represents one of the most important traits of modern times and is willed by God. It presents us with the task of finding new ways of understanding authority and how to relate to it. It should not be overlooked, however, that when freedom turns into arbitrariness and personal autonomy turns into independence from the Creator and from the relationship with other people, forms of idolatry emerge that do not increase freedom but lead to slavery.
In this context, people who believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and in the God of Jesus Christ must definitely tread a path of personal liberation from any form of idol worship. This is a path that is modeled on the experience of the Exodus and can find inspiration there: a path that frees us from adapting to widespread ways of thinking and uses the freedom gained to join the Lord, a path that of one The flattening assessment of things from one-sided value standards leads to the search for possibilities that lead to communion with the living and true God.
During the wandering described in the book of Exodus, the shining and at the same time shadow-giving cloud of the Spirit of God precedes everyone and, although it sometimes seems to go on completely senseless paths and lose there, it nonetheless leads to a blissful unity with the heart God's as their fixed goal: "I have carried you on eagle wings and brought you here to myself" (Ex 19.4). An enslaved people are set free to become holy people who will enjoy volunteering before God. The events of the Exodus are of paradigmatic importance to the entire biblical event. They are a prophetic anticipation of the earthly life of Jesus who frees us from slavery through obedience to the caring will of the Father.
Addressees, intent and limits of the document
3. The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life held its last plenary meeting on April 28-30. September 2005 turned her attention to the issues of the exercise of authority and the practice of obedience in the consecrated life. It was noted that this issue deserves a particularly thorough reflection, not least because of the changes that institutes and communities have undergone over the past few years, but also because of the recent contributions made by the Magisterium to the Renewal of consecrated life.
The present instruction is the result of the aforementioned General Assembly and the subsequent considerations that this Dicastery has made on this. It is addressed to the members of the institutes of consecrated life who live together in fraternal and sister communities, that is to say to men and women of the religious institutes to whom the members of societies of apostolic life are close. Nevertheless, all those who have consecrated themselves to God in other ways can find useful information about their way of life. This document is intended to be of help and encouragement to all who are called, through their voluntary obedience to God's holy will, to testify to its primacy, so that they may cheerfully live their yes to the Lord.
In dealing with the subject of this instruction one was well aware of one's intrinsic connection with many other questions. It was also considered that in the world of consecrated life today there is not only a great variety of charismatic projects and missionary tasks, but also that different leadership styles and concretizations of obedience have developed, differences that are often influenced by the cultural environment have arisen.3 In addition, the peculiarities of both women's and men's communities should be taken into account, also from a psychological point of view. This should be followed by reflections on the new challenges that the numerous forms of missionary cooperation, especially with the laity, pose to the exercise of authority. The different weight that the authority exercised by local or central bodies has in the various religious institutes also results in inconsistent forms and modalities of authority and obedience in practice. Finally, it should also be noted that the tradition of consecrated life in general sees the highest authority of the institute in the "synodal" form of the general chapter (or similar assemblies),4 to which all members, especially the superiors, must refer.
It should also be noted that in these years the way in which authority and obedience are perceived and lived has changed both within the Church and in society. Among other things, this change has caused a growing awareness the worth of the individual, including their calling, their emotional world and their intellectual and spiritual gifts, their freedom and their ability to enter into relationships. Furthermore, the central importance here is a Communio spirituality5 and the associated upgrading of those resources that contribute to their more lively realization. Last but not least, a different and less individualistic understanding of the mission has also contributed, since the mission is now in the appropriate forms of concrete cooperation between all members of the People of God carried along becomes.
Nonetheless, if one thinks of the influence exerted by the current culture, then one must remember that the desire for Self-actualization often with the Community projects can come into conflict; the search for that personal well-being in the spiritual and material field, total devotion in service to the common mission can make it difficult; a too subjective interpretation charism and apostolic service can weaken cooperation and fraternal communion.
However, it cannot be ruled out that precisely the opposite problems can be encountered in some areas, which then result from an unbalanced overemphasis on collectivity and excessive standardization, which harbors the risk that aspects such as growth and individual responsibility of the individual will suffer . What is true of the right relationship between the individual and the community, namely that it is not easy to establish, also applies to the relationship between authority and obedience.
This instruction does not intend to go into all the problems that can arise from the aspects or sensations just mentioned of different nature. These only form the background, so to speak, of the considerations and the information presented here. The main aim of this instruction is to reaffirm that obedience and authority, though practiced in different ways, always have a special relationship with the Lord, the obedient servant. She also wishes to assist those who represent authority in the exercise of their threefold service: to individuals who are called to live their own consecration (first part); in building fraternal communities (second part); to participate in the joint broadcast (third part).
The following considerations and hints are to be understood as a continuation of the specifications of those documents that accompanied the path of consecrated life in these difficult years, especially the instructions Potissimum institutioni6 (1990), Fraternal life in community7 (1994), the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata8 (1996) and the instruction New beginning in Christ9 (2002).
CHRISTMAS AND THE SEARCH
ACCORDING TO GOD'S WILL
“So that, freed, we may serve him fearlessly
in holiness and righteousness "
(see. Lk 1,74-75)
Who are we looking for?
4. Jesus, the Lord, introduces the first disciples, who may still be uncertain and without clarity, to a new one Rabbi follow the question "What do you want?" (Joh 1.38). This question raises other fundamental questions: what is your heart looking for? What are you struggling for? Are you looking for yourself or are you looking for the Lord your God? Do you pursue your interests, or the wish of the one who created your heart and who would like to see its realization, according to a plan that only he knows? Do you only reach for perishable things, or are you looking for the one that does not perish? "Lord our God, what should we concern ourselves with on this earth that is so unlike you," asked St. Bernhard. "From the rising of the sun to its setting, I see people overwhelmed by the bustle of this world: some are looking for wealth, others for privileges, still others for popularity."10
"I will seek your face, Lord" (Ps 27 , 8) is the answer of man who has understood the uniqueness and infinite greatness of the mystery of God and the sovereign character of his holy will; but this is also the unconsciously anticipated answer of every human creature in search of truth and happiness. Quaerere Deum has always been the program of every existence that hungers for the absolute and the eternal. Many today tend to view any form of addiction as mortification; but it is part of the essential condition of the creature to depend on someone else - and especially for humans as relational beings, it is also part of being dependent on other people.
The believer seeks the living and true God, the source and the goal of all things, the God who is not the image of our own ego, who rather created us in his image and likeness, who makes known his will and shows the ways as he what can be achieved is: »You show me the path to life. In your face there is joy in abundance, in your right hand bliss forever "(Ps 16,11).
To seek the will of God means to seek a friendly, benevolent will, which is about our true realization, which above all wants the free answer of love to his love in order to make us instruments of divine love. On this via amoris Both listening and obedience thrive.
Obedience as attentive listening
5. "Listen, my son" (Spr 1.8). Obedience is above all a childlike attitude. It is that special form of listening that only a son can give his father, because inside he has the clear certainty that the father has only good things to say and to give to the son; listening that is permeated with that trust that makes the son ready to accept the will of the father, because it will certainly only serve him for the best.
In relation to God, this is more inconceivably true. For we only reach our perfection to the extent that we submit to the plan that He has given us in fatherly love. Obedience is therefore the only way that the human person as an intelligent and free being has at his disposal to achieve full self-realization. Because when a person says "No" to God, he opposes God's plan, demeans himself and condemns himself to failure.
Obedience is the way of growth, and therefore of personal freedom; because it enables the acceptance of a project or a will that deviates from one's own, but which in no way humiliates or diminishes human dignity, which rather justifies it. At the same time, freedom in itself is also a way of obedience, since the believer realizes his freedom precisely in childlike obedience to the Father's plan. It goes without saying that such obedience makes it necessary to recognize oneself as a child and to enjoy being a child, because only a son or daughter can freely entrust themselves to the hand of the father: just like the son Jesus, who is to the father has given home. And if in his passion he even surrendered himself to Judas, to the high priests, to his tormentors, to the hostile crowd and to his executioners, then he only did so because he had the complete certainty that in absolute fidelity to the The Father's plan of salvation, to whom - like St. Bernhard emphasizes - "Death did not please, but the intention of the one who gave his life of his own free will",11 everything gets its meaning.
"Hear Israel" (Dtn 6,4)
6. For the Lord our God, Israel is the Son, the people whom He has chosen, whom he brought forth and raised by his hand, which he lifted to his cheek and taught to walk (cf. Hos 11: 1-4), to which he - as the highest expression of his love - addressed his word without interruption, even if this people did not always listen to it or felt the word as a burden, as a "law". The whole of the Old Testament is an invitation to listen, and listening is in the service of the new covenant: if, thus saith the Lord, “I put my laws within them and write them in their hearts; then I will be their God and they will be my people "(Hebrew 8.10; see. Jer 31,33).
Listening is followed by obedience as the free and liberating response of the new Israel to the offer of the new covenant; obedience is part of the new covenant, yes, it is its characteristic feature. From this it follows that he can only be fully understood within the logic of love, intimacy with God, the ultimate and ultimately liberating belonging to him.
Obedience to the Word of God
7. The first obedience that the creature gives is that of coming into existence. This happens in obedience to the divine fiatthat brings it to life. This obedience reaches its highest expression in a creature that is free to know itself and to accept itself as a gift from God to say "yes" to one's own origin in God. So it does the first real act of freedom, which is also the first and fundamental act of real obedience.
The obedience inherent in believers is the consent to that word with which God reveals himself and communicates himself, and through which he daily renews his covenant of love. From this word arises the life that is given to us every day.That is why every morning the believer seeks living and constant contact with the word that is proclaimed on this day, considering it in his heart and keeping it as a treasure, making it the motive of all his actions and making it the decisive factor in making all decisions. At the end of the day he then confronts him and praises God like Simeon because he has seen the fulfillment of the eternal word within his own humble everyday life (cf. Lk 2: 27-32), entrusting to the power of the word everything that is still unfinished. For the word works not only during the day, but always, as the Lord teaches us in the parable of the growth of the seed (cf. Mk 4,26-27).
The loving daily encounter with the Word teaches us to discover the paths of life and lets us discover the ways in which God wants to set His children free; it nourishes the spiritual instinct for the things that please God, imparts the feeling and taste for his will; gives peace and joy in his faithfulness and makes them receptive and ready for all facets of obedience: for the gospel (Rom 10,16; 2 thes 1,8), belief (Rom 1.5; 16:26) and the truth (Gal 5,7; 1 pt 1,22).
One must not forget that the true experience of God is always an experience of the otherness, that "there is no similarity between the Creator and the creature, however great that there is not always a greater dissimilarity between them."12 The mystics and all those who have had the most intimate experiences of God remind us that contact with the highest mystery is always contact with the other, with a will that is sometimes dramatically different from ours. Obeying God means entering into a “different” order of values, gaining a new and different sense of reality, experiencing an unthinkable freedom and reaching the threshold of the mystery: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways - says the Lord. As high as the sky is above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts ”(Isa 55,8-9).
If this entry into the world of God can also inspire fear, this experience, which the saints also had, shows that things that are impossible for man are made possible by God; yes, such experiences are veritable proof of an authentic obedience to the mystery of God, which is also "interior intimo meo" 13 and is radically different.
Following Jesus, the obedient Son of the Father
8. We are not alone on this journey: we are guided by the example of Christ, the beloved Son, in whom the Father is well-pleased (cf. Mt 3.17; 17.5). It is also he who made us free through his obedience. He is the driving force behind our obedience, so that the divine plan of salvation may also be fulfilled through our cooperation.
All listening to the Father and acceptance of the Father is in him (cf. Joh 8: 28-29), everything in his earthly life is the expression and continuation of what the word has been doing for eternity: to allow himself to be loved by the Father, to accept his love unconditionally - which goes so far that he does nothing of himself (see. Joh 8.28), but always what pleases the Father. The will of the Father is the food that gives Jesus strength in his work (cf. Joh 4,34), which brings to him and us in abundance the fruits of the resurrection, the radiant joy of entering into the heart of God himself and into the blessed company of his children (cf. Joh 1.12). Because of this obedience to Jesus "all have been made righteous" (Rom 5,19).
He lived it even when it turned into a bitter cup (cf. Mt 26,39.42; Lk 22:42), he was "obedient to death, yes, to death on the cross" (Phil 2.8). Here we encounter the dramatic side of the Son's obedience, which is surrounded by a secret that we can never fully penetrate, but which at the same time is of great importance for us because it makes it even clearer to us childlike The nature of Christian obedience is demonstrated: only the son who knows himself to be loved by the Father and loves him again with all his heart can achieve this form of radical obedience.
Like Christ, so too the Christian sees himself as an obedient being. The indisputable primacy of love in the Christian life cannot make us forget that precisely this love has found a face, a name in Christ and has become obedience. Obedience, then, is not a humiliation, but a truth upon which the fullness of human existence is based and attained. This is why the believer so passionately desires to do the will of the Father that he makes it his highest goal. Like Jesus, he also wants to live according to this will. Following Christ, and following his example, consecrated people, in an act of the greatest freedom and unconditional trust, placed their will in the hands of the Father in order to offer him a perfect and pleasing sacrifice (cf. Rom 12,1).
But before his obedience becomes the model example for any other obedience, Christ is the one to whom all genuine Christian obedience applies. Indeed, the practical implementation of his words sets discipleship into effect (cf. Mt 7.24). The observation of his commandments gives concrete form to love for Him and draws the love of the Father upon oneself (cf. Joh 14.21). Christ stands at the center of the religious community as the one who serves (cf. Lk 22:27), but also as the one to whom one confesses one's own faith ("Believe in God and believe in me": Joh 14,1) and to whom one gives obedience; for it is only in this obedience that discipleship can be achieved in a sure and persistent manner: “Indeed, it is the risen Lord himself who is present again among the brothers and sisters who are gathered in his name and who shows the path to be followed «.14
Obedience to God through human mediation
9. God expresses his will through the inner movement of the Spirit, which "leads to the whole truth" (cf. Joh 16,13), as well as through various external mediation channels. Indeed, the history of salvation is a history of mediation through which the mystery of grace that God works in the innermost hearts of hearts becomes visible in a certain sense. In the life of Jesus, too, the mediator function of people is recognizable in no small measure, through which he recognized, interpreted and accepted the will of the Father as his own reason for existence and as food for his life and his mission.
The intermediate instances that express the will of God can be recognized on the one hand by the events of life and by the special requirements of the specific vocation; but they are also expressed in the rules that regulate coexistence, as well as in the orders of those who are destined to lead. In the ecclesiastical context, legally issued laws and ordinances make it possible to recognize the will of God, since these represent a concrete and "orderly" implementation of the demands of the gospel, because their formulation is based on the gospel and is understood from this.
Consecrated persons are also called to follow the obedient Christ within a charismatic or "evangelical" project that is inspired by the spirit and recognized by the church. By recognizing a charismatic project, such as a religious institute, the church guarantees that the inspirations on which it is based and the norms that regulate it can create space for a path of holiness and the search for God. The rule of the order and the other instructions for life also become mediating authorities with regard to the will of the Lord: they are human authorities, imperfect, but nonetheless binding; they are the starting point from which to start anew every day, but which can also be surpassed with that generous and creative exhilaration that leads to the holiness that God "wants" for every consecrated person. Those in authority are entrusted with the pastoral task of leading and deciding in accordance with this path to holiness.
It goes without saying that all of this can only be lived convincingly and fruitfully as long as the desire to recognize and do the will of God remains alive, but on the other hand there is also awareness of one's own weakness and the willingness to validate it of the specific mediating authorities, even if one cannot fully understand the reasons given by them.
In the spiritual intuitions of the founders, especially those who have mapped out the path of religious life in a special way over the centuries, obedience always had a prominent place. St. Right at the beginning of his Rule, Benedict addressed the monk with the words: “So I now address my word to you, whoever you are, if you only refuse your own will to fight for Christ, the Lord and true King, and for him seize the strong, radiant shield of obedience «.15
It must also be remembered that the relationship between authority and obedience fits into the wider context of the mystery of the Church and is a special way of realizing its mediating function. The Code of Canon Law recommends that superiors "exercise in the spirit of service the authority they have received from God through the service of the Church".16
Learn obedience in everyday life
10. It may well happen to the consecrated person that he has to "learn to obedience" out of suffering or from special, difficult situations: for example, if it is required to give up certain plans and personal projects and to renounce the right to to shape life and mission alone; or whenever what is demanded, or whoever demands it, does not seem very convincing from a purely human point of view. Those who find themselves in such situations must therefore not forget that the mediation is inherently limited and lower than what it refers to. This is precisely the case when it is a question of people having a mediator function with regard to the will of God. However, when one has received a lawfully given mandate, remember that the Lord requires obedience to the person who represents him at that moment,17 and that Christ too "learned obedience through suffering" (Hebrew 5,8).
At this point, the words of Paul VI. be reminded: "So you must learn something of the burden that the Lord attached to his cross, that baptism with which he had to be baptizedwhere that fire was kindled that also infects you (cf. Lk 12.49-50); something of that follythat St. Paul wished for all of us that she alone would make us wise (cf. 1 cor 3.18-19). The cross is for you, as it was once for Christ, the highest proof of love. Isn't there a mysterious relationship between renunciation and joy, between sacrifice and expansion of the heart, between discipline and spiritual freedom ”? 18
It is precisely in such painful cases that the consecrated person learns to obey the Lord (cf. Ps 119 , 71), to listen to him and only to cling to him, in the patient and hopeful expectation of his revealing word (cf. Ps 119 , 81), in full and generous readiness to fulfill not one's own will, but one's will (cf. Lk 22,42).
In the light and in the power of the spirit
11. So one binds oneself to the Lord when one's presence in the human mediation authorities, especially in the religious rule, in the superiors, in the community,19 recognizes in the signs of the times, in the expectations of the people, especially the poor; if one finds the courage to open the nets "at his word" (cf. Lk 5.5) to be thrown out - and not solely on the basis of human calculation; if one chooses obedience not only to God but also to people, but in any case for the Lord's sake and not for people's sake. St. Ignatius von Loyola writes in his Constitutions: “... true obedience does not consider who one owes it to, but for whose sake one obeys it. And if one does it solely for the sake of our Creator and Lord, one obeys the one in person who is Lord of all ”.20
Anyone who is called to obedience in difficult times should implore the Father for the assistance of the Spirit (cf. Lk 11.13). He will give them to him, and the Spirit will give light and strength to obedience, he will teach the truth, and the truth will set free (cf. Joh 8,32).
Jesus himself was guided in his humanity by the work of the Holy Spirit: received in the womb of the Virgin Mary through the work of the Holy Spirit; at the beginning of his mission, in baptism, he receives the Spirit who descends on him and guides him; Risen, he gives the Spirit to his disciples so that they can take over his mission and proclaim the salvation and forgiveness he has wrought. The Spirit anointed Jesus and can also make our freedom like His freedom, which is perfectly in accordance with God's will.21
It is therefore necessary that everyone strives to be docile to the Spirit, especially the superiors, who are precisely receiving their authority from the Holy Spirit.22 They must "listen to the will of God" 23 and exercise under his guidance.
Authority is at the service of obedience to God's will
12. In the consecrated life everyone must sincerely seek the will of the Father, otherwise the justification of his life decision itself would be in question; however, it is just as important to encourage this search together with the brothers or sisters, because it is precisely this search that unites and makes one family united to Christ.
Authority is at the service of this search. It should guarantee that this can take place in honesty and truth. At the beginning of his Petrine ministry, Benedict XVI. Significantly emphasized the following in his address: »The real government program, however, is not to do my will, not to implement my ideas, but to listen together with the whole Church to the word and will of the Lord and to let him guide me so that he himself let the Church lead this hour of our history ”.24 On the other hand, it must also be recognized that the task of leading others is not easy, especially when it comes to an exaggerated, conflictual, and competitive pursuit of personal autonomy. Therefore, in the spirit of faith, everyone must carefully consider what belongs to this commission, i.e. orientate themselves to the behavior of the serving Jesus, who washes the feet of his apostles so that they may share in his life and love (cf. Joh 13,1-17).
Great coherence is required of those who run an institute, a province (or other parts of the institute) or a community. The person appointed to the service of authority must know that he can only fulfill it if he first embarks on that pilgrimage that leads to the earnest and sincere search for God's will. The advice given by St. Ignatius of Antioch gave a brother in the episcopate: "Nothing happens without your consent, but you do nothing without the consent of God".25 Those in authority must act in such a way that their brothers or sisters can see that when they command, they are doing it for the sole purpose of obeying God.
Respect for the will of God keeps authority in a state of humble search so that what it does may be as completely as possible in accordance with that most holy will. St. Augustine reminds that whoever obeys always does God's will, not because the command of authority is necessarily God's will, but because it is God's will to obey the superior.26 However, those who have authority must, for their part, constantly seek what God really wants through prayer, gathering, and counseling from others. Otherwise, instead of seeking God, the superior easily runs the risk of arbitrarily putting himself in his place.
In striving to do the will of God, authority and obedience are not different or even opposing realities, but two dimensions of a reality based on the Gospel, one and the same Christian mystery. They are two complementary ways of participating in Christ's bestowal. Authority and obedience find their personification in Jesus: therefore they must be understood in direct relation to Him and in actual assimilation with Him. The consecrated life wants nothing else than His Authority and His To live obediently.
Some Priorities of the Service of Authority
13. a) In the consecrated life, authority is primarily spiritual.27 She knows that she is called to serve an ideal that infinitely surpasses her, an ideal that can only be approached in an atmosphere of prayer and humble search.This search makes it possible to see the work of the Spirit in the heart of every brother and sister. Authority is "spiritual" when it places itself at the service of what the spirit wants to realize through the gifts it bestows on each member of the community within a charismatic program of the institute.
In order to promote the spiritual life, the one who has authority will first cultivate it in himself, namely through a praying, daily familiarity with the word of God, with the religious rule and the other norms of life, with the readiness to listen to others and the Consider signs of the times. "The service of authority requires a constant presence that knows how to give suggestions, to point out the fundamentals of consecrated life, and thus to help people to answer the call of the Spirit with ever renewed fidelity".28
b) Those who exercise authority are required to guarantee their own community prayer times and the quality of the prayer itselfWatching daily fidelity to prayer, knowing that small but persistent steps are being taken to meet God, day after day, without exception, and that the devotees can be useful to others to the extent that they can are themselves connected to God. In addition, those who exercise authority have to watch that - starting with their own person - there is no lack of daily contact with the word of God, because this "has the power" (Acts 20:32) to build up the individual and the community and to show the ways of the mission. Based on the command of the Lord "do this in my memory" (Lk 22:19) care will be taken to ensure that the sacred mystery of the body and blood of Christ is used as the "climax and source" 29 celebrated and venerated in communion with God and among brothers and sisters. In the celebration and adoration of the gift of the Eucharist, which takes place in faithful obedience to the Lord, the religious community draws strength and courage for its total surrender to God, so that it can be a sign of his innocent love for humanity and an effective indication of future goods.30
c) Those who exercise authority are required to promote the dignity of the personby paying attention to each member of the community and their growth and expressing their own appreciation and positive attitude to each, showing sincere love for all and treating things discreetly communicated to him in confidence.
It is also appropriate to remember that before the admonition to obedience - where it is necessary - love must rule - which is indispensable. The word can and may too communio should not be understood as a way of delegating authority to the community (whereby everyone would be indirectly invited to `` do what they want ''), nor as a more or less veiled imposition of their own point of view (, , everyone do what I want '').
d) Those who exercise authority are encouraged to inspire courage and hope in difficult situations. How Paul and Barnabas encouraged the brothers by telling them "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22), authority must assist in accepting the difficulties of the moment and point out that they are part of those sufferings that mark the path that leads to the kingdom of God.
In view of the trials that the consecrated life faces in some places today, for example because of its dwindling presence, the leader of a community will remind of the value of this form of life through all times, since yesterday, today and forever there is nothing more important, more beautiful and more truthful than to give one's life for the Lord and for the least of his children.
Whoever leads the community falls to the task of the good shepherd, who gives his life for the sheep, who does not get to safety in critical moments, but remains present, participates in the worries and difficulties of the people entrusted to him and himself first her accepts. Like the good Samaritan, he will be ready to heal any wounds, to humbly recognize his own limits and the need of others to receive help, because he knows how to learn from his own failures and defeats.
e) Those who exercise authority are required to keep the charism of their own religious family alive. The exercise of authority also involves placing oneself at the service of the Institute's charism, carefully preserving it and bringing it up to date in the household or in the province or in the whole Institute, particularly according to those of the General Chapters (or others relevant assemblies) adopted projects and guidelines.31 This requires from those who exercise authority an adequate knowledge of the charism of the institute, making it a part of their own personal experience, and then looking at the fraternal community and its integration into the ecclesiastical and social environment to interpret.
f) Whoever exercises authority is required to keep the "sentire cum Ecclesia" alive. Authority also has the role of helping to keep alive the sense of faith and ecclesial communion among a people who recognize and extol the wonders of God, bearing witness of the joy that lives there it belongs to the great family of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. The following of the Lord cannot possibly be perceived by lone fighters; rather, it takes place in the ship of Peter, which receives everyone and withstands the storms. A consecrated person will contribute to a good crossing through active and joyful fidelity.32 Those who exercise authority will therefore remind them that “our obedience is a believing in, thinking and speaking with, and service united with the Church. This always includes what Jesus predicted to Peter: someone will lead you where you don't want to go. This allowing oneself to be led where we do not want to go is an essential dimension of our service and it is precisely this that makes us free «.33
The sentire cum Ecclesiawhich is particularly evident in founders, has its source in an authentic community-related spirituality, that is, "an effective and cordial bond with the shepherds, above all with the Pope as the center of the unity of the church": 34 Every consecrated person owes him full and trusting obedience by virtue of the vow itself.35 The ecclesial community also demands a loyal bond with the magisterium of the Pope and the bishops as a concrete testimony of love for the Church and passionate zeal for its unity.36
G) Those in authority are required to encourage continued growth. Accompanying the people who have been entrusted to you on their journey through life is a task that is to be seen as increasingly important by the superiors. They fulfill this task not only by offering their help in the event of any problems and finding solutions, as well as in overcoming crises, but also by attentively accompanying the normal growth of everyone in all phases of life, thus ensuring that the consecrated Person that "youthfulness of the spirit that always persists",37 possesses, which brings them more and more into harmony with that attitude "which corresponds to the life in Christ Jesus" (Phil 2,5).
It is therefore the responsibility of the authority to maintain a high willingness in each individual to allow himself to be further shaped. It will promote in him the ability to learn from life and the willingness to make free decisions, to be shaped by others. At the same time, the authority will ensure that the individual is aware of his own responsibility for the growth of the other. In doing so, those means should be used for communal growth which tradition recommends and which today are recommended more and more by those who have reliable experience in the field of spiritual formation: the common sharing of the word; personal and community planning; collaborative counseling; Revision of life; fraternal correction.38
The service of authority in the light of ecclesiastical norms
14. On the preceding pages, the ministry of authority in the consecrated life has been described in terms of seeking the will of the Father; some priorities were particularly highlighted.
So that these priorities are not understood as purely optional, it seems appropriate in the following to emphasize the special features that characterize the performance of the management task according to the Code of Canon Law.39 Here the characteristics given in the Gospel of the decision-making power exercised by the religious superiors at different levels are implemented in norms.
a) The obedience of the superior. Based on the characteristic nature of the ecclesiastical authority as munus (Office), the Code of Canon Law reminds the superiors of the order that they are called in the first place to be obedient to all. By virtue of the office he has taken on, he owes obedience to the law of God; His authority is derived from this, and before this, as well as before the law of the Church, before the Holy Father and before the proper law of the institute, he must give conscientious accountability.
b) Spirit of service. Having affirmed the charismatic origin and the ecclesiastical bestowal of religious authority, it is reiterated that, like all authority in the Church, the authority of the superior must be characterized by an attitude of service, following the example of Christ who »does not came to be served, but to serve "(Mk 10,45).
In particular, some aspects of this attitude of service are shown, the attentive observance of which will enable the superiors of the order to be recognized as "faithful to the will of God" in the performance of their specific tasks.40
All superiors are therefore called, as brother among brothers or sister among sisters, to reveal that love with which God loves his children, whereby they should avoid any form of domination on the one hand and any form of paternalism or maternalism on the other.
All of this is possible because one trustingly awakens the sense of responsibility of the confreres, "With respect for the human person, their voluntary obedience" 41 promotes and on the dialog builds, whereby it should be noted that consent must be given "in the spirit of faith and love", "in the sense of following Christ, who is obedient to death" 42 and not for other reasons.
c) Pastoral concern. The Code of Canon Law refers to the main aim of exercising authority in religious life, namely "to build a fraternal communion in Christ, in which God is sought and loved above all".43 For this reason, authority in religious communities is essentially of a pastoral nature insofar as it essentially serves the edification of fraternal life in community, as it corresponds to the ecclesiastical identity inherent in religious life.44
The preferred means that the superior must employ to achieve this primary goal can only be based on faith: these are, in particular, the hearing of God's word and the celebration of the liturgy.
Finally, some areas are shown in which religious superiors should exercise special pastoral care towards their confreres or fellow sisters: »In personal needs they should appropriately assist them; they should take care of the sick carefully and visit them, rebuke the troublemakers, comfort the faint-hearted, be patient with everyone ”.45
Sent out in the freedom of God's children
15. The message today is not infrequently addressed to people who are concerned about their autonomy, who jealously defend their freedom and who fear losing their independence.
Through his life testimony, the consecrated person points to another way in which one can realize oneself in one's own life, a way on which God is the goal, his word the light and his will the guide. It is a path of serene progress knowing that one is held securely by the hand of a caring and circumspect Father, a path in which one is accompanied by brothers and sisters who are imbued with the same Spirit, the Spirit who wants to satisfy the longings placed by the father in the heart of everyone and who also knows how to achieve this.
This is the first mission of consecrated people: they must bear witness to the freedom of the children of God, a freedom that is modeled on Christ, they must be people who are free to serve God and their brothers; They must make it clear through their own life testimony that the God who formed the human creature out of clay (cf. gene 2: 7, 22) and woven in his mother's womb (cf. Ps 139 , 13), is also able to shape his life according to the example of Christ, the new and completely free man.
AUTHORITY AND OBEDIENCE
"Only one is your master, but you are all brothers"
The new commandment
16. In connection with the commandment “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your thoughts”, the “equally important second commandment” is given to all who seek God: “you shall be yours To love one's neighbor as yourself «(Mt 22.37-39). Jesus adds: "Love one another as I have loved you", for by the way you love "all will know that you are my disciples" (Joh 13.34-35). Building fraternal communities is one of the fundamental tasks of consecrated life. It must be faced by the members of the community by being driven by the love that the Lord has poured into their hearts. The fraternal life in community is in fact a constitutive element of religious life and an eloquent sign that the kingdom of God has a humanizing effect in the present.
As much as it is true that a community in which there is no brotherly love remains meaningless, it is also true that a right understanding of obedience and authority can be an effective help in living the commandment of love in everyday life, especially when it is about encountering difficulties that affect the relationship between person and community.
Authority in the service of the community, community in the service of the kingdom
17. "All who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (Rom 8:14): We are therefore sisters and brothers to the extent that God the Father is the one who through his Spirit guides the brotherly and sisterly community and makes it like his Son.
The service of authority also finds its place in this overall concept. Superiors are encouraged to work with the people entrusted to them to build up a fraternal community in Christ that seeks God and loves above all else so that his plan of salvation can be realized.46 Authority is therefore at the service of the community, like Jesus, who washed the feet of his apostles so that the community in turn may be at the service of the kingdom (cf. Joh 13.1-17). To exercise authority among the brothers means to serve them on the example of one who "gave his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45) so that they too may give their lives.
Only when the superior himself lives in obedience to Christ and faithfully observes the rule, can the members of the community understand that their obedience to the superior to the freedom of the children of God contradicts anything but this rather Christ, who was obedient to the Father, become more similar and mature in this similarity.47
Docile to the spirit that leads to unity
18. It is one and the same call from God who has brought together the members of a community or an institute (cf. Col 3.15); the common will to seek God leads them further. »Furthermore, community life for church and society is a sign of the special bond that arises from the same vocation and from the common will to obey this vocation, regardless of differences in terms of race and origin, language and culture. As a remedy for the spirit that sows discord and causes separation, authority and obedience shine as a sign of that unique fatherhood that comes from God. They are signs of that brotherhood that springs from the Spirit and of the inner freedom of him who trusts in God in spite of the human weaknesses of all those who represent Him ”.48
The spirit creates in everyone an attitude of availability for the kingdom, whereby the diversity of gifts and tasks is preserved (cf. 1 Cor 12.11).Obedience to his work unites the community in the witness of his presence and makes the striving of all joyful (cf. Ps 37 , 23) and becomes the foundation of fraternal life in which all obey, albeit in different tasks. The search for the will of God and the readiness to fulfill it is the spiritual bonding agent that saves the group from the fragmentation that could arise from the multiplicity of personal idiosyncrasies if they lack the unifying principle.
For a spirituality of "communio" and a holiness in community
19. An in-depth anthropological reflection in recent years has highlighted the importance that relationships have for humans. This knowledge finds far-reaching confirmations in the image of man in the Holy Scriptures. It has undoubtedly also influenced the way in which relationship is understood within the religious community, drawing attention to the value of opening up to what is different, to the fruitfulness of the relationship to what is different and to the enrichment that results from it for all made.
As already noted, such a relational anthropology also has, at least indirectly, the Spirituality of the "communio" influenced and to the new understanding of the concept of broadcast which is seen as the common commitment of all members of God's people in a spirit of cooperation and shared responsibility. At the beginning of the third millennium, the Communio spirituality as the spiritual climate of the Church, and thus as an active and exemplary task of religious life on all levels. It is the future-oriented path for the life of faith and Christian witness.
It finds its indispensable point of reference in the Eucharistic mystery, the centrality of which is recognized more and more clearly, precisely because the Eucharist proves to be “fundamental to the being and action of the Church” and thus “rooted in the mystery of the Church Communion« 49 introduces.
Holiness and mission cannot be realized without the community, because the risen Lord becomes present through them and in them,50 by sanctifying the community and the relationships that arise in it. Did Jesus not promise to be there where two or three are gathered in his name (cf. Mt 18.20)? The brother and sister thus become the sacrament of Christ and the encounter with God, they become a concrete opportunity to live the commandment to love one's neighbor. The path of holiness thus becomes the path that the whole community treads together; not only as the path of the individual, but increasingly as an experience of community: in mutual acceptance; in communicating gifts, especially gifts of love, forgiveness, and fraternal correction; in the common search for the will of that God who is rich in grace and mercy; in the willingness of each to support the other's path.
In today's cultural climate, the holiness of a community is a convincing testimony, arguably more than the testimony of an individual: it shows the lasting value of unity, that gift that the Lord has bequeathed to us. This is particularly evident in international and intercultural communities that place high demands on mutual acceptance and dialogue.
Authority is to promote the growth of fraternal life
20. The growth of brotherhood is the result of an "orderly" love. It is therefore “essential that proper law describes the various competencies of the communities, the councils, the officials and the superiors as precisely as possible. Ambiguity in this area often gives rise to confusion and conflict. Even in the case of "community projects" that can encourage participation in community life and its various tasks, one should be careful to clearly define the tasks and competencies of the authority in accordance with the constitutions. "51
In this context, authority promotes the growth of fraternal life through the service of listening and dialogue, the creation of a favorable climate for exchange and shared responsibility, the participation of all in the concerns of all, the balanced commitment to the neighbor and the community, the support of decision-making and promoting brotherly obedience.
a) The service of listening
The exercise of authority presupposes a willing listening on the part of the superior to the one whom the Lord has entrusted him.52 St. Benedict insists that "the abbot should summon the whole community"; "That everyone should be called for advice, ... because the Lord often reveals to a younger one what is better".53
Listening is one of the most important ministries of the Superior, which he should always be ready for, especially to those who feel isolated and need attention. Listening means accepting the other unconditionally, giving them space in your own heart. Listening therefore conveys benevolence and understanding, expresses respect for the other and shows that his presence and his opinion are being taken into account.
Those who lead should remember that those who fail to listen to their brother or sister are failing to do the same with God; that careful listening allows better coordination of the energies and gifts of the Spirit given to the community. In making decisions, one should also take into account the limitations and difficulties of certain members. The time spent on the hearing is never wasted. Listening can often prevent crises and difficult moments that threaten individuals or communities.
b) Creation of a climate in favor of dialogue, exchange and shared responsibility
The authority must therefore ensure that a climate of trust is created by recognizing and promoting the skills and sensitivities of the individual more and more. In addition, in word and deed, it will convey the conviction that brotherhood requires participation and therefore information.
In addition to listening, she will appreciate sincere, free dialogue in order to exchange feelings, expectations and projects with others: In this climate everyone can find their identity recognized and improve their relationship skills. The authority will not shy away from seeing and confronting those problems that can easily arise from a joint search, from joint decision-making, from joint work, from walking together on the better way for a fruitful cooperation. On the contrary, it will investigate the causes of possible grievances and misunderstandings and propose measures that are supported as far as possible by everyone. It will also endeavor to overcome any form of immaturity among those who are entrusted to them and dissuade them from any attempt to evade a responsibility or burdensome task, to shut themselves off to their own world and self-interest, or to work as a loner.
c) The request for everyone's contribution to the common cause
Whoever is in charge bears the responsibility for the final decision,54 but he must not come to this decision alone; he must take into account the free contribution of all confreres or sisters in the best possible way. A community is what its members make of it: it is therefore of fundamental importance that everyone is encouraged and motivated to contribute so that everyone feels obliged to contribute their own share of love, competence and creativity. Human talents must be strengthened and incorporated into the joint project by motivating them and paying them respect.
It is not enough to have the material goods in common, because much more important is the participation of all in the personal goods and abilities, the personal advantages and talents, the intuitions and inspirations of the members, and even more fundamental are the promotion and exchange of spiritual goods, listening to the word of God and faith, whereby "the bond of brotherhood is stronger, the more central and vital is what one shares with one another".55
Not everyone will be immediately ready for this form of participation: without giving up the project, the authority will endeavor, in the event of any resistance, to cleverly combine the invitation to build a dynamic and enterprising community with art, to join in Trust in God as the only Lord who can reach people's hearts and walk, to be patient and not to expect immediate success from one's own efforts.
d) In the service of the individual and the community
When assigning individual tasks, the authority of the personality of each brother and sister, their difficulties and predispositions, will be taken into account, so that everyone has the opportunity to contribute his abilities while respecting the freedom of all; at the same time, it will necessarily have the good of the community in mind and will consider service to any works entrusted to it.
Such a combination of objectives will not always be easy to implement. It then becomes imperative that the manager acts in a balanced manner. This is shown both in the ability to pick up on the positive in each individual and to use the available forces in the best possible way, as well as in that purity of intention that sets him free inside so that he is not too concerned about pleasing and satisfying , and clearly shows the true, proper meaning of the mission of consecrated people, which cannot be limited to the recognition of the predispositions of the individual.
The consecrated person will also be required to accept the assigned role in the spirit of faith and in the hand of the Father, even if it does not correspond to their wishes and expectations or their understanding of the will of God. Although the individual consecrated person is allowed to share his difficulties by speaking openly as a contribution to the truth, obedience in such cases means submitting to the ultimate decision of authority, believing that such obedience will be valuable, albeit hard-won Contribution to building the empire represents.
e) Decision making in community
“In fraternity inspired by the Spirit, each one conducts a valuable dialogue with one another in order to know the will of the Father, and all recognize in the one in charge the expression of the fatherhood of God and the exercise of God in the service of discernment and authority received by the community ”.56
When the proper law of the institute so provides, or the importance of the decision to be made so requires, the search for an adequate answer is sometimes entrusted to communal discernment, listening to "what the spirit of the communion says" (Rev. 2,7).
While distinction is strictly limited to the most important choices, the spirit of distinction should characterize any decision-making process that involves the community. A time of prayer and personal reflection must therefore never be missing before any decision, combined with a number of important prerequisites, so that together we can find what is right and pleasing to God. Some of these presupposed attitudes are mentioned here:
- the determination to seek the will of God only, drawing inspiration from the actions of God, as found in Scripture and in the historical development of the charism of the Institute. One should be aware of the fact that the logic of the gospel is often "turned upside down" when compared to human logic, which strives for success, efficiency and recognition;
- the willingness to recognize that every brother and sister is able to grasp the truth at least partially and that they can thus contribute with their opinion to the fact that God's will is found together. The readiness of the superior should go so far that he is able to recognize the superiority of the thoughts of others;
- Attention to the signs of the times, the expectations of the people, the needs of the poor, the demands of evangelization, the priorities of the universal and particular Church, the guidelines of the chapters and major superiors;
- the freedom from prejudices, from exaggerated attachments to one's own ideas, from rigid or distorted patterns of perception, from party formation which underlines the differences of opinion too much;
- the courage to provide arguments for one's own thoughts and positions, but also the courage to open up to new ways of looking at things and to change one's own point of view;
- the solemn resolve to maintain unity in any case, whatever the final decision may be.
The distinction in community replaces the authority to which the final decision belongs, neither in nature nor in function; yet authority cannot overlook the fact that the community is the privileged place where the will of God is to be known and accepted. In any case, decision-making is one of the most significant moments of consecrated life, where both the centrality of God as the ultimate goal of the search for all becomes particularly clear, as well as the responsibility and contribution of each on the path of all to the truth.
f) Discernment, authority and obedience
Authority will exercise patience in the momentous process of discernment which it has to guarantee in its individual phases and to support in critical moments. Likewise, she will definitely call for the resolutions to be applied. She will not shirk her own responsibility, be it to lead a quiet life, be it because she is afraid of offending someone's feelings. She will not be negligent when it comes to making clear and sometimes uncomfortable decisions.57 It is precisely the true love of the community that enables authority to combine firmness with patience and attention to everyone with determination. She resists the temptation to close her eyes and ears.
Finally, it should be noted that a community cannot be in a process of constant discernment. After the time of decision-making comes the time of obedience, that is, the execution of what has been decided: both times must be lived in a spirit of obedience.
G) Brotherly obedience
St. Benedict writes at the end of his rule: “One should not show the virtue of obedience only to the abbot. The brothers must also obey one another; they know that this is the way of obedience to come to God ”.58 “That means: They should anticipate one another with mutual respect; they should bear their physical and character weaknesses with inexhaustible patience; in mutual obedience they should compete with one another; no one pays attention to their own well-being, but more to that of the other «.59 St. Basil asks himself: "In what way should one obey one another?" And answers: "like slaves to their owners, according to the instruction of the Lord: whoever wants to be great with you must be the last of all and your servant (cf. . Mk 10.43-44); Then he adds these even more impressive words: "Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve’ ’(Mk 10.45); and in the words of the apostle: "serve one another in love" (Gal 5,13)«.60
True brotherhood is based on the recognition of the dignity of the brother or sister and is realized in the attention to the other and his needs, in the ability to enjoy his gifts, to devote his own time to listen to him or learn from him. But all of this demands to be free inside yourself. Those who are convinced that their thoughts and suggestions are always the better; who thinks that he can decide without any mediator alone what the will of God is in each case; who thinks that he is always in the right and is always convinced that others have to change; who only thinks of his own concerns and has no sense of the needs of others; Anyone who believes that obedience belongs to other times and is no longer reasonable in a developed modern world is certainly not free.
On the other hand, anyone who is always attentive to recognizing a mediator of the divine will in every life situation - especially in every neighbor - is free, however mysterious it may be - and lives according to it. "Christ set us free to be free" (Gal 5.1). He set us free so that we could encounter God every day on the countless ways of our existence.
"Whoever wants to be the first with you should be your slave" (Mt 20,27)
21.Even if one can find it a particularly heavy burden today to take on the responsibilities typical of authority, and it demands humility to make oneself a servant and servant of others, it is nevertheless always good, also to the solemn words of Jesus to remind those who are tempted to surround their authority with worldly prestige: 'and whoever wants to be first with you must be your slave. For the Son of Man did not come to be served either, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many «(Mt 20,27-28).
Those who see in their own office a means to look good or to be affirmed, to be served or to dominate others, are clearly placing themselves outside the model of authority presented in the gospel. Here the words that St. Bernhard addressed one of his students, the successor of St. Peter was asked: “Consider whether you have made progress on the path of virtue, wisdom, discernment and goodness ... Have you become more presumptuous or humble? More benevolent or arrogant? More Merciful or More Merciless? ... What have you developed in yourself: the fear of God or a dangerous arrogance? «.61
Obedience is not easy under the best of conditions. Yet, when the consecrated person sees that the one who exercises authority humbly and zealously places himself at the service of brother and sister and for the mission: if, in the exercise of his authority, despite all human inadequacies, he strives to: To feel the inner attitudes and feelings and the disposition of the Good Shepherd in his actions, then this obedience will be easier.
In her will, St. Clare of Assisi: “I ask those who will be given office among the sisters to endeavor to rule over others through their virtue and sacred mores rather than through official authority, so that their fellow sisters, spurred on by their example, may not do so to her to obey for the sake of office, but out of love «.62
Fraternal life as a mission
22. Under the direction of authority, consecrated persons are encouraged to deal often with the new commandment, the commandment that makes everything new: "Love one another as I have loved you" (Joh 15,12).
To love one another as the Lord loved is to see not just the personal merit of brothers and sisters; it means obeying not one's own wishes, but God, who speaks to us through the circumstances in which the brothers and sisters find themselves and through their needs. Time devoted to a qualitatively improved fraternal life is not wasted time because "the whole fruitfulness of religious life depends on the quality of fraternal life",63 as Pope John Paul II has repeatedly emphasized in blessed memory.
The desire to create fraternal communities is not only a preparation for mission, but an integral part of it, because "fraternal communion as such is already an apostolate".64 To stand as a community in the mission to create fraternity every day in a constant search for the will of God, that means to confess that in following Christ it is possible to bring about a new, humane world of human coexistence.
"As the father sent me, so I send you"
Following the example of our Lord, to be absorbed in mission with all of one's being
23. Jesus, the Lord, gives us to understand through his own way of life that between broadcast and obedience there is a connection. In the Gospels, Jesus always presents himself as the "one who was sent by the Father to do his will" (cf. Joh 5.36-38; 6.38-40; 7.16-18). He always does what his father likes. One can say that the whole life of Jesus is a mission from the Father. He is par excellence the broadcast from the father.
Just as the Word, Christ, began his mission to take on flesh in a human nature that could be completely absorbed, so we too play a decisive role in Christ's mission and its fulfillment, by accepting him, us into a space of his presence make and continue his life in the story so that others can encounter him.
When you consider that Christ addressed this to the Father in his life and work Amen (see. Rev. 3:14) and the perfect one Yes (see 2 Cor 1.20), and that "saying yes" still simply means obeying, then one cannot imagine any mission from which obedience would be unthinkable. To live one's own mission always means to have been sent; So there is at the same time a relation to the one who sends and to the content of the mission, to the message. Therefore, when there is no reference to obedience, the concept of broadcast incomprehensible and runs the risk of being interpreted purely self-related. The Shipment order can always be viewed narrowly as a "profession" that is exercised with a view to personal fulfillment and therefore more or less independently.
Sent to serve
24. In his clergy Exercises writes St. Ignatius of Loyola that the Lord calls everyone to announce to them: "Whoever wants to come with me must also work with me, so that, having become like me in hardship and suffering, may also follow me into glory".65 Then as now one sees oneself confronted with considerable difficulties in the realization of the mission, which can only be overcome with the help of divine grace, in the humble and lively awareness that one has been sent by him and that is precisely why one can rely on his help.
Obedience alone gives us the certainty of serving the Lord, of being "servants of the Lord" in our own actions and sufferings. This certainty brings forth the fruits that are there: unconditional commitment, unshakable loyalty, inner peace, selfless service and a devotion that comes with the use of all forces. “Those who obey also have the guarantee of actually fulfilling their mission, of following the Lord and not looking to their own wishes or expectations. In this way it is possible to be guided by the Spirit of the Lord and to know that one is held by his sure hand even in the midst of great difficulties (cf. Acts 20,22f) «.66
One carries out one's mission when - far from looking for self-affirmation - one is primarily guided by the desire to fulfill the adorable will of God. This desire is the soul of prayer ("Your kingdom come, your will be done") and the power of the apostle. The mission calls for the use of all human strength and abilities. These contribute to salvation if they are oriented towards the will of God, who, like a river, allows transitory things to flow into the ocean of eternal things, where God, as unlimited bliss, is everything in everyone (cf. 1 cor 15,28).
Authority and Mission
25. All of this means that authority over mission, which must be exercised in fidelity to one's charism, has an important role to play. It is not an easy task because there is no shortage of difficulties and misinterpretations. It may be that in the past the authority was exposed to the danger of having predominantly external works and their direction in view, whereby the human being was forgotten; Today, on the other hand, the danger is rather that those who have authority are too reluctant to exercise it, to hurt personal feelings, or that competencies and responsibilities are so confusingly distributed that it is difficult to focus on the common goal and the authority itself becomes inefficient in doing so.
Whoever exercises authority is not only responsible for giving suggestions to the community, but also coordinates the various competencies with regard to the mission statement, proceeding according to the internal norms of the institute and taking into account the role of each. Even if authority cannot (and must not do) everything, it still has ultimate responsibility for everything.67
These days, those who exercise authority are faced with a variety of challenges, because they must understand how to coordinate existing forces according to the missionary mandate. In this regard, too, some important tasks for the service of authority are listed here:
a) The authority encourages to take responsibility and respects the responsibility once taken
Some are afraid of taking responsibility. The main task of the superiors is therefore to impart Christian strength to their employees and the courage to tackle difficulties and thus to overcome fears and despondency.
They will therefore endeavor to allow not only participation in information, but also responsibility, respecting everyone in their due autonomy. For those in authority, this means coordination work that must be patiently provided, and on the part of the consecrated person it implies a sincere willingness to cooperate.
Anyone who has authority must, whenever necessary, "be there" in order to open up a sense of togetherness to the members of the community, which should neither lead to infantile dependency nor allow self-sufficient independence. All of this is the fruit of that inner freedom that enables everyone to do work or to collaborate, to take over or to ask for a substitute, to be a key figure or to make one's own contribution from the back row.
Those who perform the service of authority should be careful not to arrogantly believe that everything depends on themselves, while it is less important - indeed useless - to involve the community in activities. It is better to take one step together than two (or more) steps alone.
b) Authority invites you to accept differences in the spirit of "communio"
The rapid cultural changes not only bring about structural changes that have an impact on activity and mission, but can also lead to tensions within the communities if, due to different basic forms of cultural or spiritual training, the signs of the times are interpreted differently and therefore divergent, sometimes incompatible projects are proposed. Such situations can occur more frequently today than in the past, as the number of communities whose members come from different cultures or cultural communities is growing and the generational differences are worsening. Those who exercise authority are encouraged to approach these heterogeneous communities in the spirit of communio to help and to bear witness in a fragmented world that it is possible to live and love one another, even when one is so different from one another. The following theoretical and practical principles should be adhered to, remembered and implemented:
- Where the Spirit of the Gospel rules, conflicts about different ways of thinking never degenerate into interpersonal conflicts;
- A variety of views favors a deeper understanding of the topics;
- Communication must always be encouraged so that the free exchange of ideas clarifies positions and everyone can make a positive contribution, which is also appreciated;
- Help should be given to overcome egocentric and ethnocentric ways of thinking - these easily lead to the fact that the others are explained to the origin of all evil - and to arrive at a point of understanding for one another;
- The ideal is not a conflict-free community, but a community that takes on the tensions that exist within and finds solutions in a positive way, in which nothing indispensable is given up.
c) Authority maintains the balance among the various areas of consecrated life
Indeed, tension can arise among the various spheres of consecrated life. It is the responsibility of the superiors to ensure that life continues to form an unbroken unit and that in practice there is as much balance as possible between the time spent on prayer and the time spent on work. furthermore between the individual and the community, between engagement and relaxation, between cultivating community life and turning to the church and the world, between personal and community training.68
Sometimes the hardest part is finding a balance between the communal realm and the missionary realm, between life ad intra and life ad extra to achieve.69 Since the urgency of the tasks to be performed can lead to neglecting the interests of the community, and since one has to work more and more as an individual today, it is appropriate to know some rules, which must be observed in order to ensure that on the one hand in the community dedicated to the apostolate, with a spirit of fraternity and, on the other hand, a sensitivity to the apostolate in fraternal interaction.
It is important that those in authority stand up for these rules and that they remind each and everyone that members of the community, even when they are alone in a mission or apostolic service, always do so on behalf of the institute or the community, Yes thanks to the community act. Often people can only be released for a certain activity and carry it out because someone from the community has made their time available, advised or motivated them; Often it also happens that those who stay in the community replace those who are employed outside with work in the house, pray for them or support them with their own loyalty.
So not only should the apostle deeply grateful be, but also in everything he does, closely connected to one's own community stay; He should not seize the apostolate, but should endeavor at all costs to proceed in the same rhythm as the community, to wait for the slower if necessary, to appreciate the contribution of each individual and, whenever possible, to share joys and efforts, thoughts and uncertainties so that everyone looks at the other's apostolate as if it were his own, without envy or jealousy. The apostle should be sure that no matter how much of himself he contributes to the community, he can never compete with what he has received and receives from the community.
d) The superiors have a compassionate heart
St. In a moving letter to a superior, Francis of Assisi gave the following instructions regarding any weaknesses of his confreres: “And by this I want to know that you love the Lord and me, his servant and yours, if you do the following: that there is no brother give to the world whom you - no matter how much he sinned - after he has looked you in the eye, without your merciful forgiveness rejects you when he asked for it; and if he does not ask for mercy, ask him if he wants mercy. And if he then sinned a thousand times before your eyes, love him more than me because of this: you want to win him over to the Lord; and always show mercy with such brothers ”.70
Those who exercise authority are called to develop a pedagogy of forgiveness and mercy, that is, to be an instrument of God's love, who accepts, corrects and always opens up new possibilities for the brother or sister when they have wronged themselves or in sin have fallen. Above all, those in charge must remember that without hope of forgiveness, man struggles to return to his path and almost inevitably tends to add more evil to evil and another to every fall. Mercy, however, opens horizons that reveal that God is able to bring good things out of life situations that are characterized by sin.71 So the superiors should work to ensure that the whole community learns this kind of mercy.
e) You have a sense of justice
Even if St. Francis of Assisi, to forgive the sinful brother, is to be regarded as a valuable general rule, it should be noted that behaviors among the members of the communities of consecrated people can cause serious harm to the neighbor and contrary to their duties that one has towards outsiders and the institution to which one belongs.So if one has to show understanding for those who are guilty, a strict sense of responsibility and consistent charity towards those who may have been harmed by the misconduct of a devotee are still required.
Whoever goes wrong should know that he is personally responsible for the consequences of his actions. Showing understanding for one's brother cannot mean excluding justice, especially when it comes to those who are defenseless or who have been victims of abuse. If one admits that one has failed and faces the consequences responsibly, one is already on the path of mercy: likewise, Israel, distant from the Lord, takes the first step towards repentance at the moment, by facing the consequences of its wrongdoing (the exile) and thus discover his relationship with God in a deeper way.
f) They encourage collaboration with laypeople
The increasing collaboration with lay people in works and activities under the direction of devotees poses new questions to the community and to superiors, which also demand new answers. When laity are encouraged to "offer religious families the valuable contribution of their secular character and specific service", "their participation not infrequently leads to some aspects of the charism being deepened in unexpected and fruitful ways".72
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