Bookmark and Share

The Holy Spirit is the soul of community life

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 22 March 1995 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. In dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the Second Vatican Council states that in its many forms, consecrated life shows "the infinite power of the Holy Spirit marvelously working in the Church" (LG 44). Likewise, the Council's decree on the renewal of religious life emphasizes that it was under "the inspiration of the Holy Spirit" that many became hermits or founded religious families which "the Church gladly welcomed and approved by her authority" (PC 1).

The spirituality of religious commitment, which animates all institutes of consecrated life, is clearly centered on Christ. It is centered on his person, on his virginal and poor life, taken to the point of the supreme gift of self for his brothers and sisters in perfect obedience to the Father. However, such a spirituality, understood in the strongest sense of the term, is a direction given by the Holy Spirit. In fact, following Christ in poverty, chastity and obedience would be impossible without the impulse of the Holy Spirit, the author of all inner growth and giver of every grace in the Church. "Driven by love with which the Holy Spirit floods their hearts," the Council continues, consecrated persons "live more and more for Christ and for his body which is the Church" (PC 1).

2. Indeed, in religious life and in every consecrated life, there is a sovereign and decisive action of the Holy Spirit. This may be experienced in an ineffable way by attentive souls through a kind of connaturality created by divine love, as St. Thomas would say [1] .

When, in his Church, Jesus Christ calls men or women to follow him, he makes his voice heard and his fascination felt by the inner action of the Holy Spirit. He entrusts to the Spirit the task of making his call understood and of awakening the desire to respond to it with a life entirely dedicated to Christ and his kingdom. The Holy Spirit nurtures the grace of vocation in the depths of the soul, making way for his grace to achieve its aim. He takes the lead in fostering vocations and guides consecrated souls on the way of perfection. He is the author of the generosity, patience and fidelity of one and all.

3. In addition to carrying out his role in individual souls, the Holy Spirit is also at the origin of communities of consecrated persons. The Second Vatican Council itself pointed this out (cf. PC 1). This is how it was in the past and it is the same today. The Holy Spirit has always granted the founding charism to some in the Church. He has always surrounded the founder or foundress with people who share the direction of his or her form of consecrated life, teaching, ideals and the attraction of his or her charity, knowledge or pastoral apostolate. The Holy Spirit has always created and fostered harmony among consecrated persons, and helped them to develop a community life enlivened by charity, in accordance with the specific direction of the founder's charism and of his faithful followers. It is comforting to note that in recent times too the Holy Spirit has caused new types of communities to arise in the Church, as well as new experiences of consecrated life.

Moreover, it is important to remember that in the Church, the Holy Spirit guides the responsible authorities in accepting and canonically recognizing communities of consecrated persons. This happens after examining, possibly improving and eventually approving their Constitutions (cf. LG 45), in order to encourage, sustain and often inspire their choice of activity. How many initiatives, how many newly-founded institutes and parishes, how many missionary expeditions have been more or less known to originate in the request or recommendations made by the Church's pastors to the founders and major superiors of institutes!

Often it is through the hierarchy that the Holy Spirit's action develops and even awakens charisms in religious. In any case he uses the hierarchy to guarantee religious families an orientation in conformity with the divine will and the teaching of the Gospel.

4. Again, the Holy Spirit exercises his influence on the formation of candidates for the consecrated life. He establishes in Christ the harmonious union of all the spiritual, apostolic, doctrinal and practical elements that the Church considers necessary for good formation [2] .

The Holy Spirit enables us especially to understand the value of the evangelical counsel of chastity, through an inner enlightenment which transcends ordinary human intelligence (cf. Mt 19:10-12). He inspires souls to give themselves radically to Christ in celibacy. Through his work, "persons consecrated by the vows of religion place at the center of their affective life a 'more immediate' relationship with God through Christ in the Spirit" (Directives on Formation 13), as an effect of the evangelical counsel of chastity.

The Holy Spirit also makes his active, creative power felt in the other two evangelical counsels. He not only provides the strength to renounce earthly goods and their advantages, but forms a spirit of poverty in the soul, instilling a preference for heavenly treasure, far beyond material goods. He also grants the necessary enlightenment to the judgment of faith in order to recognize God's mysterious will in the will of superiors, and to discern in the exercise of obedience a humble but generous cooperation in fulfilling the plan of salvation.

5. As the soul of the Mystical Body, the Holy Spirit is the soul of all community life. He develops all the priorities of charity which can contribute to unity and peace in community life. He ensures that Christ's word and example regarding the love of one's brothers and sisters is the active force in hearts, as St. Paul said (cf. Rom 5:5). With his grace he imbues the behavior of consecrated persons with the love of Jesus' meek and humble heart, his attitude of service and his heroic forgiveness.

No less necessary is the Holy Spirit's permanent influence on the perseverance of consecrated persons in prayer and in a life of intimate union with Christ. He instills the desire for divine intimacy, fosters a taste for prayer, and inspires a growing attraction toward the person of Christ, his word and the example of his life.

The breath of the Holy Spirit also animates the missionary apostolate of consecrated persons as individuals and in community. The history of the development of religious life, marked by a growing dedication to the evangelizing mission, confirms this action of the Spirit in support of the missionary involvement of religious families in the Church.

6. For their part, consecrated persons must cultivate a great docility to the inspirations and movements of the Holy Spirit, a constant communion with him and unceasing prayer to obtain his gifts in ever greater abundance, accompanied by a holy abandon to his initiative. This is the way increasingly discerned by the saints who were pastors and doctors of the Church, in harmony with the teaching of Jesus and the apostles. This is the way of the holy founders and foundresses who have opened up so many different types of community in the Church, giving rise to a variety of spiritualities: Basilian, Augustinian, Benedictine, Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite, and many more. They are all experiences, ways and schools that witness to the wealth of the Holy Spirit's charisms and lead by diverse routes to the one, total Christ, in the one Church.

[1]   cf. Summa Theol., II-II, q. 45, a. 2
[2]   cf. Directives on Formation in Religious Institutes"

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers frères et sœurs,

J’accueille avec joie les personnes de langue française venues à cette audience. En particulier, je salue cordialement Frère Roger et ses frères de la communauté de Taizé. Également, j’adresse mes salutations cordiales aux élèves du Centre Madeleine Daniélou: je souhaite que leur pèlerinage à Rome affermisse leur foi ainsi que leur amour de l’Église; dans le prolongement de ma rencontre de janvier avec les jeunes à Manille et dans la perspective de celle de 1997 à Paris, je les encourage à devenir d’ardents messagers de l’Évangile.

À tous, jeunes et adultes, je donne de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brother and Sisters,

I extend a warm welcome to the young people of the Earthsavers Dreams Ensemble from the Philippines. May you always use your talents to build a world of justice and peace in accordance with the wise plan of God the Creator. Upon all the English–speaking visitors, especially the pilgrims from England, Ireland, Korea and the United States, I cordially invoke the joy and peace of Christ our Saviour.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüe ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher sehr herzlich. Mein besonderer Gru gilt den Studenten des Bischöflichen Theologenkonvikts Collegium Borromaeum in Münster sowie Chor und Orchester des Gymnasiums Essen–Werden mit dem Vokalensemble Essen. Euch allen, Euren Lieben zu Hause sowie den mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbundenen Gläubigen erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo saludar ahora con afecto a los visitantes de lengua española, en particular a los dos grupos de Religiosas, a los estudiantes españoles y a los peregrinos de Argentina y México. Saludo igualmente a los peregrinos guatemaltecos de Zacapa, portadores de una imagen del Santo Cristo de Esquípulas, que luego bendeciré, y cuyo IV centenario se celebra este año.

Al exhortar a las Religiosas, para que su vida sea siempre modelo de entrega a Dios y servicio a los hermanos mediante los diversos apostolados, imparto a todos los presentes mi Bendición.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Caríssimos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Saúdo os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, nomeadamente os portugueses aqui presentes, com votos de felicidades e que a presença em Roma vos sirva para vivificar a própria fé, continuando a “voltar–vos para Deus, acreditando no Evangelho”, como convida a Quaresma, em preparação das alegrias pascais.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Witam pielgrzymów i przybyszów z Polski. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus! W szczególności witam siostry zmartwychwstanki, parafian Matki Bożej Częstochowskiej z Katowic–Podlesia, z Tymbarku i okolic (diecezja tarnowska), grupę z kopalni węgla kamiennego z Rybnika, młodzież ze Szkoły Podstawowej nr 325 z Warszawy, Liceum Ogólnokształcące nr 29 z Warszawy, młodzież z Zespołu Szkół Ekonomicznych z Brzegu, grupę z Wojewódzkiego Klubu Techniki i Racjonalizacji z Lublina, Polaków z Neapolu, grupy turystyczne – “Sigma Travel” z Warszawy, “Itaka” z Opola oraz “Helenka” z Krakowa, poza tym wszystkich innych uczestników audiencji, pochodzących z kraju czy też z emigracji.

Ai fedeli giunti dal Giappone

Rendiamo grazie a Dio!

Cari pellegrini del Giappone e fedeli della parrocchia di Meguro. Benvenuti a Roma. Spero che questo pellegrinaggio romano sia una buona occasione per approfondire la fede. E la vostra testimonianza di fede divenga una buona evangelizzazione in favore del vostro prossimo. Prego il Signore che vi conceda grazie in abbondanza.

Rendiamo grazie a Dio!

Ai pellegrini croati

A tutti i cari pellegrini croati un cordiale saluto. Benvenuti! In modo particolare saluto un folto gruppo di invalidi di guerra, i quali sono testimoni di una drammatica tragedia che da troppo tempo sta distruggendo la vita e ogni convivenza civile in Bosnia Erzegovina e in Croazia, minacciando l’intero Sud-Est d’Europa.

Carissimi, mentre invoco la benedizione di Dio su di voi e sulle vostre famiglie, che sono state ferite insieme a voi, vi invito a farvi apostoli del perdono e della riconciliazione, rimanendo sempre saldi nella Fede cattolica e uniti attorno al vostro Vescovo.

Affido alla Vergine Maria, Madre Addolorata, le grandi sofferenze della vostra gente e la sua costante invocazione di pace nella giustizia.

Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

Ai pellegrini di lingua italiana

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare ai fedeli di Frascati ed a quelli provenienti da Esquípulas (Guatemala), accompagnati dai rispettivi pastori, Mons. Matarrese e Mons. Quezada Toruno, e dall’Ambasciatore del Guatemala presso la Santa Sede: volentieri benedico l’immagine del “Cristo Negro”, che sarà custodita a Frascati quale segno di comunione con la Chiesa Guatemalteca.

* * *

Saluto poi con affetto il folto gruppo di giovani di Faenza, guidati dal loro Vescovo, Mons. Bertozzi, come pure gli studenti di Grottammare, col Vescovo Mons. Chiaretti, e i quattordicenni di Vimercate (Milano): cari ragazzi e ragazze, vi auguro di crescere nella fede e di testimoniarla sempre con coraggio, perché Cristo è la sorgente della vera gioia di cui ha sete la vostra giovinezza.

* * *

Sono lieto di accogliere inoltre i superiori e i Diaconi del Seminario Arcivescovile di Milano. Carissimi Diaconi, questo pellegrinaggio sia stimolo per ciascuno di voi a vivere con intenso fervore la preparazione immediata all’Ordinazione presbiterale.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e alle coppie di sposi novelli

A tutti i numerosi giovani presenti, ai malati ed agli sposi novelli rivolgo infine un ultimo pensiero.

Cari giovani, il tempo di Quaresima che stiamo vivendo vi aiuti a riscoprire il grande dono di essere discepoli di Gesù: seguitelo senza riserve, imitate la sua dedizione alla volontà del Padre ed il suo amore per i fratelli, e diventerete voi stessi un segno della sua vittoria sull’egoismo e sulla violenza.

Voi, cari ammalati, trovate nella meditazione della passione del Signore conforto e speranza. E voi, cari sposi novelli, mettete Cristo al centro della vostra famiglia: Egli cammini sempre con voi e vi renda testimoni del suo amore.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana