VATICAN CITY — Two Vatican officials expressed the great holiness that exists within religious vocations, as well as their hope that the upcoming year will yield the witness of joy in following God.
“I think I can affirm that consecrated life is really enjoying good health at this moment,” said Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, in a Jan. 31 interview. “There is a lot more holiness than what there often appears to be.”
Archbishop Carballo shared his thoughts after the Jan. 31 press conference officially announcing the upcoming Year of Consecrated Life.
Originally announced by Pope Francis in a Nov. 29 meeting with the Union of Superiors General, the Year of Consecrated Life will begin in October and coincide with the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of Lumen Gentium (Oct. 28), the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution on the Church.
Highlighting how the year also falls in light of the 50th anniversary of Perfectae Caritatis (Nov. 21), a decree on the adaptation and renewal of religious life issued by the Second Vatican Council in 1965, Archbishop Carballo stated that their desire for the year is to see the religious vocation “with gratitude — because there are many lights in this path of 50 years — and especially look at the future with hope.”
“Naturally,” he said, “this includes to be aware of the crosses and of the shadows,” explaining that “[in] my ministry, as previously being minister general, I have traveled the world,” and “I think I can affirm that consecrated life is really enjoying good health at this moment.”
Describing how there is often more holiness in religious life than what is seen today, the archbishop noted that, “like in all realities of the Church and of society — a fallen tree makes more noise than a forest that is kept alive.”
“Whoever doubts of the holiness of consecrated life, let him go to monasteries. There is poverty, there is fragility, there is sin, but there is a lot of holiness in our monasteries.”
“Let him go to convents, to places where there are brothers and sisters who are dedicating their lives for God and for others without saving anything,” the archbishop continued, and “let him go to the peripheries — of poverty and of [a] way of thinking. For sure, he will find consecrated over there.”
During a Jan. 31 interview, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, also expressed his hope for the great fruits of the upcoming year.
What is needed today, he said, are “men and women who are capable of telling us of an experience that is profound and true, which tells us that it’s possible for men and women who follow God to be happy always, not just for a moment.”
Recognizing that doing this is “a great challenge,” the cardinal highlighted that “we will also have to learn ourselves; for example, to listen more; to be more like real brothers, not with differences of dignity.”
“We will also have to learn the values that the world today despises, and that’s important for us. So we have challenges that the Pope also sees,” Cardinal Braz de Aviz observed, “but he has a huge trust in this way of living, which is the consecrated life.”
Speaking of the connection between those in religious life and the congregations’ founders, Archbishop Carballo stated that “the founder, through his life, transmits the charism” of the order, “so there is total coherence between the charism of the Holy Spirit and the life of the founder, through his coherence and his testimony.”
However, “sometimes this isn’t the case,” he explained, “so we have to distinguish what the charism is from what the life of the founder is like. And sometimes we will have to condemn for the duplicity or the scandals that a person may have done.”
The archbishop went on to say that this does not mean that the charism should be “condemned” or “suppressed,” but that it is important “to save the charism, because if it is good, then it always comes from the [Holy] Spirit.”
Speaking of the love that is rooted at the base of all religious vocations, Cardinal Braz de Aviz stated his belief that “all of us are in search of experiencing love.”
“Love attracts us; love makes us do crazy things; love makes us overcome huge difficulties that we never thought we were capable of,” he said, noting that “you can find love in so many ways.”
“When it is only human, it often disappoints us and leaves us bitter. But we know that the fountain of that love is in God. God is love.”
“So we need to get close to this love, to be happy and be completed in this love,” the cardinal explained, adding, “I think that, in this sense, all vocations, and in a particular way the consecrated people, have a place; and that is seeking true love.”