11/20/2008, 00.00
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Day Pro Orantibus: monasteries for the life of the Church and the world

by Bernardo Cervellera
For 55 years, the Church has dedicated November 21 to the value of contemplative life, in support of the life of all of the baptized, of missionaries, and of society, which becomes less and less human without God. The pope asks that the material needs of monasteries be taken to heart. Monastic life in Asia is one of the privileged instruments of mission.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Seeking God and seeking him through Jesus Christ who has revealed him (cf. John 1:18), seeking him by fixing one's gaze on the invisible realities that are eternal (cf. 2 Cor. 4:18), in expectation of the glorious manifestation of the Savior": for Benedict XVI, this is the vocation of monks and nuns who for millennia have abandoned - in appearance only - the world in order to live in the monasteries. The pope met today with members of the congregation for institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, which is celebrating its hundredth anniversary. In "seeking God," the pope clarified, monks and nuns realize their vocation "for the good of the entire Church." Monasticism, in fact, constitutes "for all forms of religious life and consecration a memory of that which is essential and has primacy in every baptismal life: seeking Christ, and putting nothing before his love." There is an "exemplarity" in monastic life, which upholds every Christian. For this reason, it is worthwhile for every believer to establish familiarity and friendship with a cloistered monastery.

Missionary vocations are also assisted by monastic vocations, especially contemplative vocations. In the PIME, the pontifical institute for foreign missions, many missionaries, including some of the youngest, cultivate relationships of correspondence and prayer with a brother or sister in a contemplative order. This helps the missionaries to remember the One who has sent them, and to keep alive the heart of all works and activities, which is the love of Christ.

"The monastery," the pope said, is where people learn "to live as true disciples of Jesus, in serene and persevering fraternal communion, welcoming any guests as Christ himself," and this makes the monastic experience a model for all Christians. The appeal of the synod of bishops on the Word of God, celebrated recently in Rome, also sees in monks and nuns the primary protagonists in "making the Word of God their daily food, in particular through the practice of lectio divina."

Monastic vocations, especially contemplative ones, are of special relevance in today's world, which is often tempted to build a society without God, where man believes himself to be the only protagonist. But frenzy and presumption are poor teachers, and the wounds of contemporary society - marginalization, violence, the manipulation of life, war, desperation - bear witness to the fact that without "seeking God," we build a world against man.

This respect for contemplative vocations led to the institution of the Day Pro Orantibus, in 1953. Since 1955, it has been celebrated on November 21, the liturgical commemoration of the Presentation of Mary at the Temple. Last Sunday, on November 16, Benedict XVI asked all the faithful to thank "the Lord for the brothers and sisters who have embraced this mission by dedicating themselves entirely to prayer, and who live on what they receive from Providence . . . Dear sisters and dear brothers, your presence in the Church and in the world is indispensable. I am close to you, and I bless you with great affection!" And he added: "Let us pray in our turn for them and for new vocations, and let us commit ourselves to supporting monasteries in their material necessities."

Supporting monasteries in their "material necessities" means helping the Church to be more alive, and the world to be more human.

This commitment is even more urgent in Asia, where the Church's mission is to a large extent composed of hundreds of contemplative monasteries, committed to prayer, to care for the poorest, to dialogue with the contemplatives of other religions. This is shown in some of the stories that we are publishing today on AsiaNews.it. In the apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Asia," John Paul II highlighted the "the intimate connection between the consecrated life and mission" and said that "the Church in Asia looks with profound respect and appreciation to the contemplative religious communities as a special source of strength and inspiration" (no. 44).

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”