Consecrated life takes many forms - Catholic Courier

Consecrated life takes many forms

EDITOR’S NOTE: In conjunction with Pope Francis’ declaration of the Year of Consecrated Life, this marks the fourth installment in a series of articles about various expressions of this vocation.

On Nov. 30, 2014, Pope Francis opened the Year of Consecrated Life, a worldwide, yearlong observance intended to renew hope in religious life. The year will conclude with a papal Mass on Feb. 2, 2016, the Day for Consecrated Life.

In order for Catholics to understand what this year is all about, they first must have an understanding of what consecrated life is, noted Father Daniel Condon, chancellor of the Diocese of Rochester. As explained in the 1983 Revised Code of Canon Law and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the five forms of consecrated life provide ways for the Christian faithful, both clerics and laypeople, to grow in holiness by consecrating their lives to God in a special way, he said.

Those who discern a call to consecrated life profess the Catholic Church’s evangelical counsels — chastity, poverty and obedience — by means of vows or other sacred bonds, Father Condon said. What’s more, the vows are professed publicly and are approved by the church, he added.

"It’s not a private agreement between them and God. It’s between them and God, manifested for the good of the church," Father Condon said.

The catechism describes consecrated life and its various forms as "one great tree with many branches." Perhaps the most recognizable of those branches — and the most well-represented in the Diocese of Rochester — is religious life, Father Condon said, noting that several orders of men and women religious are present in this diocese. Among them are such orders of women as the Sisters of St. Joseph, Sisters of Mercy, School Sisters of Notre Dame and Discalced Carmelites, as well as such orders of men as the Capuchins, Jesuits, Redemptorists, Basilians and Trappists.

Religious orders fall under the heading "institutes of consecrated life," which is one of the traditional forms of consecrated life; the other two forms are secular institutions and societies of apostolic life, Father Condon said. According to the Code of Canon Law, a secular institution is "an institute of consecrated life in which the Christian faithful living in the world strive for the perfection of charity and work for the sanctification of the world especially from within." These institutes are for Catholics — both clerics and laypeople — who wish to live contemplative and apostolic lives while also living in the world, according to the United States Conference of Secular Institutes, and include such institutes as Caritas Christi, which has several members in the Rochester Diocese.

Societies of apostolic life constitute another form of consecrated life. Members of such societies "pursue the particular apostolic purpose of their society, and lead a life as brothers or sisters in common according to a particular manner of life," but these societies are differentiated from institutes of consecrated life because the members of the former do not take vows that incorporate them into religious institutes. Examples of such societies include the Society of St. Sulpice and the Paulist Fathers, Father Condon said.

The 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law also brought formal recognition to two ancient forms of consecrated life: hermits and consecrated virgins. Hermits, or people who live the eremitic life, devote their lives "to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance," the Code of Canon Law says.

And consecrated virgins are women who are consecrated to God by diocesan bishops through an approved liturgical rite. They live in the world and are dedicated to the service of the church through prayer, penance, service of her brothers and sisters, and apostolic activity, according to the catechism. Two consecrated virgins currently reside in the Diocese of Rochester, Father Condon noted.


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