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The Spirit continues giving new charisms

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 5 October 1994 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. Consecrated life, which has marked the Church's development over the centuries, has experienced and still experiences different expressions. This variety must be kept in mind while reading the chapter of Lumen Gentium dedicated to the profession of the evangelical counsels. Its bears the title "Religious," but the range of its doctrinal considerations and pastoral intentions covers the much wider and diversified area of consecrated life as it has developed in recent years.

2. Many people today also choose the way of consecrated life in religious institutes and congregations that have long been active in the Church, which continues to find new enrichment in the spiritual life from their living, fruitful presence.

In the Church today, however, there are also new visible associations of consecrated persons, recognized and regulated from the canonical standpoint. First of all, there are the secular institutes, in which, according to the Code of Canon Law, "The Christian faithful living in the world strive for the perfection of charity and work for the sanctification of the world especially from within" [1] . The members of these institutes are obliged to follow the evangelical counsels, but they harmonize them with a life of involvement in the world of secular activity and institutions. For many years, even before the Council, there were some gifted pioneers in this form of consecrated life, which externally is more like that of "seculars" than of "religious." For some this choice was perhaps based on necessity, in that they were not able to enter a religious community because of certain family obligations or other obstacles. But for many it was the commitment to an ideal: to combine an authentic consecration to God with a life lived amid the affairs of the world, and this too as a vocation. It is to Pope Pius XII's credit to have recognized the legitimacy of this form of consecration in the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia (1947).

In addition to secular institutes, the Code of Canon Law recognizes societies of apostolic life, "whose members without religious vows pursue the particular apostolic purpose of the society, and leading a life as brothers or sisters in common according to a particular manner of life, strive for the perfection of charity through the observance of the constitutions" [2] . Among these societies, which are "assimilated" to the institutes of consecrated life, there are some whose members are committed to practicing the evangelical counsels by a bond defined in the constitutions. This too is a form of consecration.

3. In more recent times, a certain number of "movements" or "ecclesial associations" have appeared. I spoke of them appreciatively on the occasion of a convention sponsored by the Italian Episcopal Conference on The Christian Community and Associations of the Laity: "The phenomenon of ecclesial associations," I said, "is a fact characterizing the present historical moment of the Church. And it must also be noted, with true consolation, that the range of these associations covers the entire span of the forms of the Christian's presence in current society" [3] . Now as then, I hope that these lay associations will live "in full ecclesial communion with the bishop" (Insegnamenti, p. 292).  This is in order to avoid the risk of a certain self-satisfaction on the part of those who tend to absolutize their own experience, and of an isolation from the community life of the local churches and their pastors.

Although consisting of lay people, these "movements" or "associations" often steer their members--or some of their members--toward practicing the evangelical counsels. Consequently, even if they are defined as lay people, groups or communities of consecrated life arise among them. What is more, this form of consecrated life can be accompanied by an openness to the priestly ministry, when some communities accept priests or guide young men to priestly ordination. As a result, some of these movements reflect the image of the Church according to the three directions that the development of her historical composition can take: those of lay people, of priests and of consecrated souls within the context of the evangelical counsels.

4. One need only refer to this new situation without having to describe the various movements in detail, in order to emphasize the significance of their presence in the Church today.

It is important to see them as a sign of the charisms given to the Church by the Holy Spirit in ever new and at times unforeseeable ways. The experience of recent years allows us to state that, in harmony with the foundations of the faith, the charismatic life is far from being spent. It is finding new expressions in the Church, especially in the forms of consecrated life.

A very particular and, in a certain sense, new aspect of this experience is the importance that the lay character generally has in it. It is true that there can be some misunderstanding about the word "lay," even in the religious sphere. When lay people are committed to the way of the evangelical counsels, doubtless to a certain extent they belong to a state of consecrated life that is very different from the more common state of other believers who choose marriage and secular professions. "Consecrated" lay people, however, intend to maintain and strengthen their attachment to the title "lay," since they wish to be and to be known as members of the People of God, in accordance with the origin of the word "lay" (from laós=people). They wish to witness to the fact that they belong to this people, without distancing themselves from their brothers and sisters even in civil life.

Also of considerable importance and interest is the ecclesial vision of movements which show a firm intention to live the life of the whole Church, as a community of Christ's followers, and to reflect it in deep union and cooperation between "lay people," religious and priests in their personal decisions and in the apostolate.

It is true that these three characteristics--charismatic vitality, the desire to witness to one's membership in the People of God, and the requirement of communion for consecrated persons with lay people and priests--are features common to all forms of consecrated religious life. But we must acknowledge that they are expressed more intensely in contemporary movements, which are generally distinguished by a deep commitment of dedication to the mystery of the Church and of skilled service to her mission.

5. In addition to movements and communities of a "lay-ecclesial" orientation, we must now mention other types of recent communities, which put greater stress on the traditional elements of religious life. Some of these new communities have a strictly monastic orientation, with a notable development of liturgical prayer. Others follow in the "canon" tradition, which along with the more strictly "monastic" tradition, was so active in the Middle Ages, having particular care for parishes and later, for a more extensive apostolate. Even more radical today is the new "eremitical" tendency, with the foundation or rebirth of both old and new style hermitages.

At a superficial glance some of these forms of consecrated life could seem out of step with the current direction of ecclesial life. However, the Church--which certainly needs consecrated persons who turn more directly to the world in order to evangelize it--also needs, and perhaps even more so, those who seek, cultivate and give witness to God's presence and intimacy, with the intention of working for the sanctification of the world. These are the two aspects of consecrated life seen in Jesus Christ, who reached out to men to bring them light and life, but also sought solitude to devote himself to prayer and contemplation. Neither of these two requirements can be neglected in the Church's life today. We must be grateful to the Holy Spirit who enables us to understand this continually through the charisms he abundantly distributes and the often surprising initiatives he inspires.

[1]   can. 710
[2]   can. 731, §1
[3]   Insegnamenti, VII, 2, 1984, 290; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, Sept. 17, l984, p. 8

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

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Esattamente 56 anni fa, il 5 ottobre 1938 moriva a Cracovia, a Lagiewniki la beata suor Faustina Kowalska che la Provvidenza aveva scelto come Apostola della Misericordia Divina. Lei meglio di tutti sa che cosa bisogna fare perché la vita religiosa dia i suoi frutti aiutando a diffondere e radicare il Regno di Dio nelle anime degli uomini. Raccomandiamo a lei i lavori dell’attuale Sinodo dei Vescovi affinché la vita religiosa e la vita consacrata tornino ad essere una testimonianza leggibile della veridicità del Vangelo e le persone consacrate a Dio siano apostoli zelanti della nuova evangelizzazione del Millennio a venire. Raccomandiamo a lei anche la vita familiare, tutte le famiglie polacche, quelle presenti qui e quelle che vivono in Patria o all’estero. La straordinaria, mistica anima di s. Faustina diventi la portavoce della Misericordia Divina, e non solo nel suo tempo che era un periodo molto difficile, forse il più difficile di questo secolo. La sua anima benedetta faccia giungere le grazie e la misericordia divina a tutte le famiglie in Polonia ed in tutto il mondo alla fine del nostro secolo.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Witam i pozdrawiam wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski. Chciałbym teraz pozdrowić w szczególności górali: z Ludźmierza, z Małego Cichego i Wiktorówek - duszpasterstwo ojców dominikanów; oraz Chór “Gorce” z Nowego Targu; prócz tego pielgrzymów: z Rybnika - parafia św. Antoniego; z Opola - parafia św. Jacka; z Głogówka - parafia św. Bartłomieja; z Tuchowa i Gliwic - duszpasterstwo redemptorystów; z archidiecezji lubelskiej - parafie z Bełżyc, Mełgiew, Rejowca i Kurowa; z Wuppertalu w Niemczech - parafię polonijną; z Bielska-Białej - IV Liceum Ogólnokształcące oraz inne grupy.

To spotkanie w Bazylice św. Piotra poprzedza spotkanie sobotnie i niedzielne związane z Rokiem Rodzin: szczególne spotkanie rodzin z całego świata, które odbędzie się na placu św. Piotra. Daj Boże, aby była pogoda!

Równocześnie w tym samym czasie odbywa się w Rzymie Synod Biskupów poświęcony życiu zakonnemu. Konsekracja, osoby konsekrowane i wspólnoty zakonne to główny przedmiot tego roboczego spotkania synodalnego biskupów z całego świata. Bierze w nim oczywiście udział także wiele osób ze zgromadzeń zakonnych męskich i żeńskich.

Dlatego też dzisiejsza katecheza jest poświęcona życiu zakonnemu. Nie pozostaje to w żadnej opozycji do Roku Rodzin i do tych uroczystości rodzinnych, na które oczekujemy w najbliższych dniach. Raczej jest to jak gdyby wzajemna komplementarność. Powołanie zakonne jeszcze głębiej wyraża, uwydatnia to szczególne powołanie, jakie jest udziałem małżonków, ojców i matek rodzin i wszystkich członków rodzin. Konsekracja zakonna uwydatnia także to, o czym czytamy w nauce Soboru Watykańskiego II, tę jakąś szczególną konsekrację, która jest udziałem małżonków w ich powołaniu do życia rodzinnego.

Pragnę, ażeby te dni pobytu w Rzymie, gdzie będziecie się spotykali z rodzinami całego świata umocniły waszą wiarę, wasze własne powołanie rodzinne na ziemi polskiej, żeby rodzina była Bogiem silna i żeby była Bogiem coraz silniejsza, mimo wszystkich przeciwności, przeciwnych trendów, na które życie rodzinne natrafia w naszych czasach.

Pragnę jeszcze dodać, że dokładnie 56 lat temu, 5 października 1939 r., zmarła w Krakowie (w Łagiewnikach), bł. s. Faustyna Kowalska, którą Boża Opatrzność wybrała na apostołkę Miłosierdzia Bożego. Ona wie dobrze, co należy czynić, aby życie zakonne było owocne dla szerzenia i utwierdzania Królestwa Bożego w duszach ludzkich. Polecajmy jej obrady obecnego Synodu Biskupów, aby życie zakonne stało się znów czytelnym świadectwem prawdziwości Ewangelii, a osoby Bogu poświęcone apostołami żarliwymi nowej ewangelizacji nadchodzącego tysiąclecia. Polecajmy jej też życie rodzinne, wszystkie polskie rodziny, i te tutaj zebrane, i te, które żyją w Ojczyźnie, a także na emigracji. Niech stanie się ta przedziwna, mistyczna dusza s. Faustyny rzecznikiem miłosierdzia Bożego nie tylko wobec czasów tych, w których żyła - a były to czasy ogromnie ciężkie, chyba najcięższe w tym stuleciu - ale także niech stanie się ta jej błogosławiona dusza pośredniczką łask i miłosierdzia Bożego w stosunku do wszystkich rodzin polskich i na całym świecie przy końcu naszego stulecia.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit diesen Überlegungen zur Bedeutung des gottgeweihten Lebens für die Kirche unserer Tage erneuere ich meinen herzlichen Willkommensgruß an Euch alle. Gestattet mir, mich besonders an die über 1.000 Meßdienerinnen und Meßdiener aus der Erzdiözese Köln zu wenden. Euer Besuch erfüllt mich mit besonderer Freude. Ihr repräsentiert die grobe Zahl junger Menschen, die einen besonderen Dienst am Altar und in der Wortverkündigung verrichten. Oft ist es nicht einfach, zu diesem Engagement zu stehen. Doch mehr denn je ist es wichtig, ”Farbe zu bekennen“ und den Wert der reichen Gaben zu erkennen, die Gott jedem von uns geschenkt hat. Auch ihr habt Teil an der Sendung der Kirche, ja ihr seid ihre Hoffnung und Zukunft. Grübt die anderen Jugendlichen zu Hause in Euren Pfarreien und Gruppen und sagt ihnen, wie sehr sich der Papst auch ihnen verbunden weiß.

Einen weiteren Gruß richte ich an die Teilehmer der Diözesanpilgerfahrt aus dem Bistum Münster und an die Pilgergruppe unter Leitung von Bischof Ludwig Averkamp aus Osnabrück. Schließlich danke ich den zahlreichen Chören für ihren Besuch und für ihren Gesang, mit dem sie diese Audienz umrahmt haben.

Euch allen, liebe Schwestern und Brüder, Euren Angehörigen daheim sowie all jenen, die uns in diesem Augenblick geistlich verbunden sind, erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers frères et sœurs,

J’adresse un salut cordial aux personnes de langue française présentes ici ce matin. En particulier, je salue les familles canadiennes venues à l’occasion de l’année internationale de la famille: Madame Louise Brissette, avec 24 enfants handicapés et l’équipe des bénévoles; les familles Veillet et Veillette, du Québec.

Je salue également les jeunes journalistes de l’“Union catholique internationale de la Presse.

Enfin, j’accueille avec plaisir les membres du pèlerinage des Associations internationales de Protection animale.

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

A vari gruppi di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer a warm welcome to the students of the Pontifical North American College who are about to be ordained deacons, and their families and friends.

Dear young men: as you strive to conform your lives ever more fully to the Lord Jesus, the "Servant" of all, I urge you to serve the Church with fervour, joy and fidelity. My cordial greetings also go to the American Friends of the Vatican Library. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Ireland, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, Canada and the United States, I invoke the grace and peace of Christ our Saviour.

Ai pellegrini giapponesi

Rendiamo grazie a Dio! Cari pellegrini del Giappone, sono lieto di ricevere voi, che siete venuti ad incontrare il Successore di Pietro, il Vescovo di Roma. Noi siamo fratelli in cammino nel pellegrinaggio verso il Regno celeste, cercando il volto di Dio. Mi auguro che questo vostro pellegrinaggio porti frutti in abbondanza e per questo vi benedico. Rendiamo grazie a Dio!

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo muy cordialmente a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de los distintos Países de América Latina y de España. En particular, a los grupos provenientes de Castellón, Madrid, Bilbao y San Sebastián. De Latinoamérica, a los peregrinos uruguayos que vienen acompañando una imagen de la “ Virgen de los Treinta y Tres ”, así como a los peregrinos llegados de Costa Rica, México, Guatemala, Argentina y otros países.

A todos imparto con gran afecto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Caríssimos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Desejo saudar, cordialmente, os grupos de portugueses, nomeadamente os peregrinos das paróquias de Cantanhede e de Alvares, da Diocese de Aveiro; e os numerosos brasileiros de Brasília e dos Estados de Goiás, Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Santa Catarina, Paraná e Rio Grande do Sul. Que a visita à Cidade Eterna, reavive a vossa fé em Cristo Jesus, que por amor nos redimiu e nos chamou a ser filhos de Deus e a viver como irmãos na justiça e na paz. A todos, de coração, dou a minha bênção que faço extensiva aos vossos familiares e pessoas amigas.

Ai pellegrini del Belgio e Paesi Bassi

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini provenienti dal Belgio e dai Paesi Bassi. Grazie per la vostra presenza qui oggi. Vi invito, in questo mese di ottobre, ad una preghiera particolare alla Madonna, per il Sinodo sulla Vita consacrata e per le famiglie. A tutti voi ed ai vostri familiari imparto la benedizione apostolica.

Ai croati

Cari pellegrini croati, vi saluto cordialmente. Benvenuti! Nel corso di questo mese, dedicato alla Regina del Santo Rosario, hanno luogo due importanti riunioni: il Sinodo dei Vescovi sulla vita consacrata e l’Incontro Mondiale delle Famiglie. Vi invito, perciò, a pregare individualmente, nelle famiglie e nelle parrocchie, affinché tali avvenimenti producano abbondanti frutti per la Chiesa e per il mondo intero. Benedico voi qui presenti e le vostre famiglie. Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

Agli ungheresi

Saluto con affetto i numerosi fedeli dell’arcidiocesi di Kalocsa-Kecskemét, accompagnati da Sua Eccellenza Mons. László Dankó e da un gruppo di sacerdoti nonché gli appartenenti all’organizzazione regionale dell’Unione Paneuropea e i membri dell’Istituto Pastorale dell’Ungheria. Un cordiale benvenuto anche a voi, cari pellegrini di Budapest, Csopak, Érsekvadkert e Miskolc. Per l’intercessione di Magna Domina Hungarorum, di cui in questi giorni ricorre la festa, il Signore accompagni voi e tutti i fratelli in patria sulla via della fede e della speranza. Con la mia benedizione apostolica. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo.

Ai lituani

Carissimi fratelli e sorelle! Da domenica è in corso a Roma l’assemblea del Sinodo dei Vescovi, dedicata alla vita consacrata e la sua missione nella Chiesa e nel mondo. In questa occasione vi esorto a pregare per le religiose e i religiosi lituani perché le loro preghiere, la testimonianza e le opere siano il vero segno della benedizione divina per la Chiesa in Lituania e per la vostra società. A voi, qui presenti, alle vostre famiglie e a tutti gli abitanti della Lituania impartisco di cuore la mia benedizione apostolica. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai cechi

Do il mio cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini moravi di Zlín e di Opava. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! La pia tradizione dedica il mese di ottobre al Santo Rosario. Perciò vi esorto a riscoprire la comunione con Maria, Madre del Signore, per mezzo di questa bella preghiera. Con questi voti, volentieri vi imparto l’apostolica benedizione.

Agli slovacchi

Con gioia do il benvenuto ai pellegrini slovacchi da Bratislava, Prievidza e Nitrianske Pravno, come anche da Levoca mariana e dintorni. Cari fratelli e sorelle, la preghiera in comune è un mezzo efficace per mantenere e approfondire la vita cristiana. So che in Slovacchia è diffusa la tradizione del Rosario vivente. Impegnatevi affinché si rafforzi ulteriormente. Con l’augurio che ciò si realizzi, di cuore imparto la benedizione apostolica a voi e a tutte le comunità del Rosario vivente in Slovacchia. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo.

Ai fedeli di lingua italiana

Nel salutare ora i pellegrini di lingua italiana, mi è particolarmente gradito rivolgere un pensiero al gruppo parrocchiale della Beata Vergine della Salute in Padova, e soprattutto ai componenti delle Congregazioni confederate dell’Oratorio, che sono giunti a Roma per celebrare il quarto centenario della morte di San Filippo Neri.

Esprimo il mio apprezzamento per l’iniziativa, che intende ravvivare la memoria di un così grande sacerdote, innamorato di Cristo, apostolo di Roma e compatrono di questa Città. Auspico che essa contribuisca a far riscoprire l’importanza storica di San Filippo, ma soprattutto doni rinnovato fervore alle Comunità sacerdotali dei Padri dell’Oratorio e susciti in esse il desiderio intenso di ricondurre al Cristo molte anime specialmente fra i giovani.

Ai giovani, ai malati e alle coppie di sposi novelli

Rivolgo poi un affettuoso pensiero ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli.

Abbiamo celebrato ieri la festa di San Francesco, patrono d’Italia e luminoso esempio di consacrazione a Dio, di servizio agli uomini, di fraternità con tutte le creature.

Invito voi, giovani, a mettervi alla scuola del Poverello di Assisi, per ricercare quei valori umani e religiosi che realizzano pienamente le vostre aspirazioni più profonde.

Esorto voi, malati, ad imitare Francesco nell’amore e nella contemplazione del Crocifisso.

Auguro a voi, sposi novelli, di poter godere nelle vostre famiglie della “perfetta letizia”, frutto di un amore puro, disinteressato e aperto alla vita.

A tutti la mia benedizione!

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