Concerned about the declining numbers of the consecrated, the pontiff notes that a world dominated by the culture of the provisional and money forgets "the beauty of a simple and austere life". He calls for evangelising in lieu of the culture of success at any price, shying away from worldliness, yet maintaining the "strength of mission".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis today spoke to the Plenary Session of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. In a world ruled by a culture of the transient and money, consecrated persons should shy away from the "logic of worldliness" and instead "maintain the freshness and novelty of the centrality of Jesus,” something to offer to young people.
Francis pointed out that consecrated people must maintain fidelity even when it is tested. He noted that statistics show that the Church is “haemorrhaging”, which is weakening consecrated life and the Church herself. Given the number of dropouts, there is every reason to be very concerned, and to wonder why it is happening.
First, he said, there are the factors that "affect fidelity in this era of change”. Indeed, “We live immersed in the so-called culture of the fragment, the provisional, which can lead to living 'a la carte' and be slaves to trends. This culture induces the need to have ‘side doors’ always open to other possibilities; it feeds consumerism and forgets the beauty of a simple and austere life, and in many cases causes an existential void.”
This “also produces a powerful practical relativism, according to which everything is judged in terms of a self-realisation that is often extraneous to the values of the Gospel."
"We live,” he added, “in a society where economic rules replace those of morality; laws that dictate and impose their own frames of reference at the expense of the values of life; a society where the dictatorship of money and profit proposes a vision of existence in which those who do not contribute to it are discarded." In this situation, "it is clear that we must first be evangelised and then engage in evangelisation.”
Francis then turned his thoughts to "the world of youth, complex but at the same time rich and challenging”. For him, "there are many wonderful young people. Yet, even among young people, many are the victims of the logic of worldliness, which can be summarised as the quest for success at any price, for easy money and for easy pleasure.”
“This logic seduces many young people as well. We must commit ourselves to stand by them so as to infect them with the joy of the Gospel and [a sense of] affiliation with Christ. This culture must be evangelised if we do not want young people to succumb."
The Holy father noted a third negative factor that comes "from within the consecrated life itself, where alongside great holiness", there are "situations of counter-witness that make fidelity hard to uphold.”
These include "routine, fatigue, heavy bureaucratic structures, internal divisions, the quest for power [. . .], parvenus, [. . .] a worldly manner of running institutions, a service by authorities that sometimes becomes authoritarianism and other times is laissez-faire."
Yet, "If the consecrated life wants to maintain its prophetic mission and appeal, continuing to be a school of faithfulness for those near and those afar (cf. Eph 2:17), it must maintain the freshness and novelty of the centrality of Jesus, its spiritual attractiveness, and the strength of mission” as well as “show the beauty of following Christ and radiate hope and joy. [. . .] When hope is missing, there is no joy, and things are ugly."
Francis went on to stress that we must "especially take care" of "fraternal life in community." This "must be nurtured by community prayer", and "active participation in the sacraments", as well as "mercy towards brothers or sisters who sin, and share responsibilities."
All this must be "accompanied by an eloquent and joyful witness of simple life alongside the poor and a mission that privileges existential peripheries." At the same time, we must defend themselves "from trends and the culture of the ephemeral" and continue "to walk firm in the faith."
"This means that we too must keep our eyes fixed on the Lord, always careful to walk according to the logic of the Gospel and not succumb to worldly criteria. Many times, great infidelities take small detours or distractions. In this case too, it is important to make our own Saint Paul’s exhortation: "it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep' (Rom 13:11).”
The pontiff ended his address emphasising the importance of accompaniment. It is necessary, he warned, that "the consecrated life invests in training qualified guides to this ministry."
Such accompaniment should "not create dependency," but it has to help "discernment." This, he noted, is not solved only by "choosing between good and evil, but between good and better, between what is good and what leads to identification with Christ."