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Friday, 13 April 2018



What is consecrated Life?
Forms of Consecrated Life
Summary of the Document: The Church in Africa (Ecclesia in Africa), September 14, 1995 John Paul II Document Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation

The church in Africa: brief history of Evangelization
African cultures have an acute sense of solidarity and community life.
The Second Vatican Council:  Evangelization and Inculturation

You shall be my witnesses to the ends of the earth
Purpose of consecrated life in ecclesia in Africa
Present-day problems: going back to the root ad adjumentum

From the very beginning of the Church there were men and women who set out to follow Christ with great liberty, and to imitate him more closely, by practicing the evangelical counsels. They led lives dedicated to God, each in his own way. Many of them, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, became Hermits or founded religious families. These Church, by virtue of her authority, gladly accepted and approved. The life is rooted in baptism. These states of life is constituted by the profession of evangelical counsels, though, the life is not rated to the hierarchy in the Church. The life is like a tree that grown with many branches, that is, this life has various forms of religious life lived in community. These states of life shall be examined in the light of the Document: Ecclesial in Africa by Pope John Paul II, 1994. The method of this presentation will follow the outline above.

Consecrated Life is a specific way of living out one’s baptismal commitment in a more radical way. It is a call to discipleship. As noted before, the life of the religious, since it is a unique vocation, means that it requires a personal conversion (Message for the Year of Consecrated Life, 2014). The Consecrated Life, deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord, is a gift of God the Father to his Church through the Holy Spirit. By the profession of the evangelical counsels the characteristic features of Jesus-the chaste, poor and obedient one-are made constantly "visible" in the midst of the world and the eyes of the faithful are directed toward the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realisation in heaven (Vita Consecrata, No: 1). In the history of the Church, there exist different categories of Consecrated Life. They include: Order of Virgins, Hermits, Contemplative, Apostolic Religious Life, Secular Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The Eremitic Life: Men and women hermits, belonging to ancient orders or new institutes, or being directly dependent on the bishop, bear witness to the passing nature of the present age by their inward and outward separation from the world. By fasting and penance, they show that man does not live by bread alone but by the word of God (cf. Mt 4:4). Such a life "in the desert" is an invitation to their contemporaries and to the ecclesial community itself never to lose sight of the supreme vocation, which is to be always with the Lord. (Vita Consecrata, No: 7)
Consecrated Virgins and Widows: the consecrate virgin committed themselves to the following Christ more closely, and consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and dedicated themselves to the service of the Church. Their way of living points to the eschatology image of heavenly Bride of Christ and of the life to come. Consecrated life establishes the woman living in the world (or the nun) in prayer and service of the Church.
Religious life: this is distinguished from other forms of consecrated life. Religious life in its various forms is called to signify the very charity of God in the language our time. From outset of the work of evangelisation, the missionary “planting” and expansion of the Church require the presence of the religious life in all its forms.
Secular institutes: A secular institute 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. They commit themselves to the evangelical counsels by sacred bonds and observe among themselves the communion and fellowship appropriate to their constitution.
Societies of apostolic life: alongside the different forms of consecrate life are societies off apostolic life whose members without religious vows pursue the particular apostolic purpose of their society, and lead a life as brother and sisters in common according to a particular manner of life. There are some of these societies whose members embrace the evangelical counsels according to their constitutions.
Consecration and mission: proclaiming the king who is coming. The members of this institutes of consecrated life dedicate themselves through their consecration to the service of the Church they are obliged in a special way to take task of mission. They follow Christ intimately, they encourage their brethren by their example, and striking witness that the world cannot be transfigured and offered to God without the spirit of the beatitudes.

 In the document, the Synod traced the Christian Churches of Africa whose origins go back to the times of the apostles and are traditionally associated with the name and teaching of Mark the Evangelist: “We think of their countless saints, martyrs, confessors and virgins, and recall the fact that from the second to the fourth century Christian life in the north of Africa was most vigorous and had a leading place in theological study and literary production. The names of the great doctors and writers come to mind, men like Origen, St. Athanasius and St. Cyril, leaders of the Alexandrian school, and at the other end of the North African coastline, Tertullian, St. Cyprian and above all St. Augustine, one of the most brilliant lights of the Christian world. And among many others we want also to mention St. Frumentius, known by the name of Abba Salama, who was consecrated bishop by St. Athanasius and became the first apostle of Ethiopia. The glory and splendor of the present period of Africa's evangelization are illustrated in a truly admirable way by the saints whom modern Africa has given to the Church. Pope Paul VI eloquently expressed this when he canonized the Ugandan martyrs in St. Peter's Basilica on World Mission Day 1964. We shall mention the great saints of the desert, Paul, Anthony and Pachomius, the first founders of the monastic life, which later spread through their example in both the East and the West”.

 The synod fathers highlighted some of the cultural values, which are truly a providential preparation for the transmission of the Gospel. Africans have a profound religious sense, a sense of the sacred, of the existence of God the Creator and of a spiritual world. The reality of sin in its individual and social forms is very much present in the consciousness of these peoples as is also the need for rites of purification and expiation. In Africa it is unthinkable to celebrate a feast without the participation of the whole village. Indeed, community life in African societies expresses the extended family. The Pope therefore prayed that Africa will always preserve this priceless cultural heritage and never succumb to the temptation to individualism, which is so alien to its best traditions. Therefore, the establishment of communal life where religious lived together, following the Gospel of Christ and sharing gifts, Charisms as the early Church did. Thus, the religious requires fidelity to the communal charisms (Message for the Year Consecrated Life, 2014).

The shadows and the dark side of the African situation described above can in no way be minimized, it is worth recalling here a number of positive achievements of the peoples of the continent which deserve to be praised and encouraged. I strongly encourage it to continue to bear this witness. The preferential option for the poor is 'a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness (Acts 2:42).A fraternal harmony which bears living witness to the Gospel will also be the goal of apostolic movements and religious associations. In them the lay faithful truly find a privileged opportunity to be the "leaven in the dough" (cf. Mt. 13:33), especially in areas concerned with the administration of temporal goods according to God's plan and the struggle for the promotion of human dignity, justice and peace.

"Pursuing the saving purpose which is proper to the Church does not only communicate divine life to humanity but in some way casts the reflected light of that life over the entire earth, most of all by its healing and elevating impact on the dignity of the person, by the way in which it strengthens the seams of human society and imbues the everyday activity of men with a deeper meaning and importance. To proclaim Jesus Christ is therefore to reveal to people their inalienable dignity, received from God through the incarnation of his only Son. Since it has been entrusted to the Church to reveal the mystery of God, who is the ultimate goal of man," continues the Second Vatican Council, "she opens up to man at the same time the meaning of his own existence, that is, the innermost truth about himself."

The name of Jesus Christ is the only one by which it has been decreed that we can be saved (cf. Acts 4:12). Following in the footsteps of the Second Vatican Council the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. She exists in order to evangelize. That is why St. Paul says, woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16). Evangelization must reach "individual human beings and society in every aspect of their existence. It is therefore expressed in various activities, and particularly in those which the synod examined: proclamation, inculturation, dialogue, justice and peace and the means of social communication." (Ecclesial in Africa,No: 56)

The laity are to be helped to become increasingly aware of their role in the Church, thereby fulfilling their particular mission as baptized and confirmed persons, according to the teaching of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christifideles Laici(170) and the encyclical letter Redemptoris Missio.(171) The Christian family, as a "domestic Church" built on the solid cultural pillars and noble values of the African tradition of the family, is called upon to be a powerful nucleus of Christian witness in a society undergoing rapid and profound changes. This is why the synod considered the evangelization of the African family a major priority, if the family is to assume in its turn the role of active subject in view of the evangelization of families through families. The assembly also paid due attention to the formation of the lay faithful, appropriately recognizing their indispensable role in the evangelization of Africa. In particular, the training of lay catechists received the emphasis which it rightly deserves.

 Christ challenges his disciples in Africa and gives them the mandate which he gave to the apostles on the day of his ascension: "You shall be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8) in Africa.
The proclamation of the good news by word and deed opens people's hearts to the desire for holiness, for being configured to Christ. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul addresses "those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1:2). "Entrance into the kingdom of God demands a change of mentality (metanoia) and behavior and a life of witness in word and deed, a life nourished in the Church by the reception of the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, the sacrament of salvation"(Ecclesial in Africa, No: 87.

Inculturation also has profound links with the mystery of Pentecost. Thanks to the outpouring and action of the Spirit, who draws gifts and talents into unity, all the peoples of the earth when they enter the Church live a new Pentecost, profess in their own tongue the one faith in Jesus and proclaim the marvels that the Lord has done for them. The Spirit, who on the natural level is the true source of the wisdom of peoples, leads the Church with a supernatural light into knowledge of the whole truth. In her turn the Church takes on the values of different cultures, becoming the sponsa ornata monilibus suis, "the bride who adorns herself with her jewels" (cf. Is. 61:10). Inculturation is a movement toward full evangelization (Ecclesial in Africa, No: 58)

Just as in the incarnation Christ assumed human nature in everything but sin, analogously through inculturation the Christian message assimilates the values of the society to which it is proclaimed, rejecting whatever is marked by sin. An inculturation wisely carries out purifies and elevates the cultures of the various peoples.  Vita Consecrata recognized this Spirit in the Church: These new forms of consecrated life now taking their place alongside the older ones bear witness to the constant attraction which the total gift of self to the Lord, the ideal of the apostolic community and the founding charisms continue to exert, even on the present generation. They also show how the gifts of the Holy Spirit complement one another.

According to the document, the bishops of Africa were faced with two fundamental questions. How must the Church carry out her evangelizing mission as the year 2000 approached? How can African Christians become ever more faithful witnesses to the Lord Jesus? In order to provide adequate responses to these questions the bishops, both before and during the special assembly, examined the major challenges that the Ecclesial Community in Africa must face (Ecclesial in Africa, No: 46).

The primary and most fundamental fact noted by the synod fathers is the thirst for God felt by the peoples of Africa. In order not to disappoint this expectation, the members of the Church must first of all deepen their faith. Indeed, precisely because she evangelises, the Church must "begin by being evangelised herself." She needs to meet the challenge raised by "this theme of the Church which is evangelised by constant conversion and renewal, in order to evangelise the world with credibility." (Ecclesial in Africa, No: 47)

From this point of view the liturgy is called to play an important role. As an effective way of proclaiming and living the mysteries of salvation, the liturgy can make a valid contribution toward the elevation and enrichment of specific manifestations of the culture of a people. It will therefore be the task of competent authority to see to the inculturation of those liturgical elements which, following artistically worthy models; can be changed in the light of current norms. This is achieve the fact that evangelisation is the theme of all these synodal assemblies for the salvific mission which she has received from Christ. (MISSION AD GENTES).

In the document, the Pope invited God's people in Africa—bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful to set their faces resolutely toward the great jubilee, which was celebrated. In this light, the life consecrated to God is characterised by the public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, in a stable state of life recognised by the Church. It is a way of life began from baptism; those living the life surrender their lives to God and dedicate themselves intimately to God’s service and to the good of the Church. The mandate that Jesus gave to his disciples at the moment of his ascension into heaven is addressed to the Church of God in all times and places. The Church as the family of God in Africa must bear witness to Christ also by promoting justice and peace on the continent and throughout the world. Drawn from the document Ecclesial in Africa, it is discovered that going back to the root (Aggornamentor) is the resolution that will make the Consecrated Life to arrive at authentic witnessing (Ecclesial in Africa, No: 47).

From the first centuries of the Church, men and women have felt called to imitate the Incarnate Word who took on the condition of a servant. They have sought to follow him by living in a particularly radical way, through monastic profession, the demands flowing from baptismal participation in the Paschal Mystery of his death and resurrection. In this way, by becoming bearers of the cross (staurophoroi), they have striven to become bearers of the Spirit (pneumatophoroi), authentically spiritual men and women, capable of endowing history with hidden fruitfulness by unceasing praise and intercession, by spiritual counsels and works of charity.

 The evangelical basis of consecrated life is to be sought in the special relationship which Jesus, in his earthly life, established with some of his disciples. He called them not only to welcome the Kingdom of God into their own lives, but also to put their lives at its service, leaving everything behind and closely imitating his own way of life.

The Church in Africa (Ecclesia in Africa), September 14, 1995 John Paul II Document Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation

The Holy Bible

The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Consecrated Life (Vita Consecrata) March 25, 1996, Pope John Paul II,  Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation

                    OJEBISI JEREMIAH
                      DATE: MAY, 2016

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