Vocations: November 2008 Archives

Benedict XVI arms.jpgAddress of the Holy Father Benedict XVI

To the Participants in the

Plenary Assembly of the Congregation

For Institutes of Consecrated Life

And Societies of Apostolic Life


Clementine Hall
Thursday, 20 November 2008




Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,


I meet you with joy on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life which is celebrating 100 years of life and activity. Indeed, a century has passed since my venerable Predecessor, St Pius X, with his Apostolic Constitution Sapienti Consilio of 29 June 1908, made your Dicastery autonomous as a Congregatio negotiis religiosorum sodalium praeposita, a name that has subsequently been modified several times. To commemorate this event you have planned a Congress on the coming 22 November with the significant title: "A hundred years at the service of the consecrated life". Thus, I wish this appropriate initiative every success.


Today's meeting is a particularly favourable opportunity for me to greet and thank all those who work in your Dicastery. I greet in the first place Cardinal Franc Rodé, the Prefect, to whom I am also grateful for expressing your common sentiments. Together with him I greet the Members of the Dicastery, the Secretary, the Undersecretaries and the other Officials who, with different tasks carry out their daily service with competence and wisdom in order to "promote and regulate" the practice of the evangelical counsels in the various forms of consecrated life, as well as the activity of the Societies of Apostolic Life (cf. Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus, n. 105). Consecrated persons constitute a chosen portion of the People of God: to sustain them and to preserve their fidelity to the divine call, dear brothers and sisters, is your fundamental commitment which you carry out in accordance with thoroughly tested procedures thanks to the experience accumulated in the past 100 years of your activity. This service of the Congregation was even more assiduous in the decades following the Second Vatican Council that witnessed the effort for renewal, in both the lives and legislation of all the Religious and Secular Institutes and of the Societies of Apostolic Life. While I join you, therefore, in thanking God, the giver of every good, for the good fruits produced in these years by your Dicastery, I recall with grateful thoughts all those who in the course of the past century of its activity have spared no energy for the benefit of consecrated men and women.


This year the Plenary Assembly of your Congregation has focused on a topic particularly 2 nuns.jpgdear to me: monasticism, a forma vitae that has always been inspired by the nascent Church which was brought into being at Pentecost (Acts 2: 42-47; 4: 32-35). From the conclusions of your work that has focused especially on female monastic life useful indications can be drawn to those monks and nuns who "seek God", carrying out their vocation for the good of the whole Church. Recently too (cf. Address to the world of culture, Paris, 12 September 2008), I desired to highlight the exemplarity of monastic life in history, stressing that its aim is at the same time both simple and essential: quaerere Deum, to seek God and to seek him through Jesus Christ who has revealed him (cf. Jn 1: 18), to seek him by fixing one's gaze on the invisible realities that are eternal (cf. 2 Cor 4: 18), in the expectation of our Saviour's appearing in glory (cf. Ti 2: 13).


Christo omnino nihil praeponere [prefer nothing to Christ] (cf. Rule of Benedict 72, 11; Augustine, Enarr. in Ps 29: 9; Cyprian, Ad Fort 4). These words which the Rule of St Benedict takes from the previous tradition, clearly express the precious treasure of monastic life lived still today in both the Christian West and East. It is a pressing invitation to mould monastic life to the point of making it an evangelical memorial of the Church and, when it is authentically lived, "a reference point for all the baptized" (cf. John Paul II, Orientale lumen, n. 9). By virtue of the absolute primacy reserved for Christ, monasteries are called to be places in which room is made for the celebration of God's glory, where the mysterious but real divine presence in the world is adored and praised, where one seeks to live the new commandment of love and mutual service, thus preparing for the final "revelation of the sons of God" (Rm 8: 19). When monks live the Gospel radically, when they dedicate themselves to integral contemplative life in profound spousal union with Christ, on whom this Congregation's Instruction Verbi Sponsa (13 May 1999) extensively reflected, monasticism can constitute for all the forms of religious life and consecrated life a remembrance of what is essential and has primacy in the life of every baptized person: to seek Christ and put nothing before his love.


Trap2.jpgThe path pointed out by God for this quest and for this love is his Word itself, who in the books of the Sacred Scriptures, offers himself abundantly, for the reflection of men and women. The desire for God and love of his Word are therefore reciprocally nourished and bring forth in monastic life the unsupressable need for the opus Dei, the studium orationis and lectio divina, which is listening to the Word of God, accompanied by the great voices of the tradition of the Fathers and Saints, and also prayer, guided and sustained by this Word. The recent General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, celebrated in Rome last month on the theme: The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church, renewing the appeal to all Christians to root their life in listening to the Word of God contained in Sacred Scripture has especially invited religious communities to make the Word of God their daily food, in particular through the practice of lectio divina (cf. Elenchus praepositionum, n. 4).


Dear brothers and sisters, those who enter the monastery seek there a spiritual oasis where they may learn to live as true disciples of Jesus in serene and persevering fraternal communion, welcoming possible guests as Christ himself (cf. Rule of Benedict, 53, 1). This is the witness that the Church asks of monasticism also in our time. Let us invoke Mary, Mother of the Lord, the "woman of listening", who put BVM sub tuum.jpgnothing before love for the Son of God, born of her, so that she may help communities of consecrated life and, especially, monastic communities to be faithful to their vocation and mission. May monasteries always be oases of ascetic life, where fascination for the spousal union with Christ is sensed, and where the choice of the Absolute of God is enveloped in a constant atmosphere of silence and contemplation. As I assure you of my prayers for this, I cordially impart the Apostolic Blessing to all of you who are taking part in the Plenary Assembly, to all those who work in your Dicastery and to the members of the various Institutes of Consecrated Life, especially those that are entirely contemplative. May the Lord pour out an abundance of his comforts upon each one.


Some data:

Currently, there are 12,876 monks living in 905 monasteries and 48,493 contemplative nuns living in 3,520 monasteries, two-thirds of which are found in Europe. Spain has, by far, the most of any country.

The story is carried here.



National Catholic Register Correspondent

June 8-14, 2008

WASHINGTON -- When five Dominicans were ordained on May 23 at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., it was the fruit of a long process.

St Dominic receiving the habit.jpgThe Order of Preachers, whose religious and priests are commonly called Dominicans after their founder St. Dominic, took a high profile role in Pope Benedict XVI's U.S. visit. And their profile is only getting higher.

The Dominican House of Studies -- the order's prominent seminary in Washington, D.C. -- recently announced plans to build a new academic center and theological library, confirming an increase in vocations and a broad expansion of the order.

The Dominicans' long-standing reputation for forming highly educated religious and priests appeals to many called to vocations these days, but study alone is not the draw, said Father John Langlois, master of students at the Dominican House of Studies.

"We see study as a contemplative activity," he said. "We seek to integrate it into our prayer life. It's pushing lectio divina [prayerful reading of Scripture] to a new level: This is a meditative study of theology, nourishing our life of prayer."

To that end, the study of St. Thomas Aquinas -- one of the Church's master theologians and a Dominican himself -- is an important emphasis for those in formation.

"They imbibe the teaching of Aquinas," said Father Langlois, who agreed that the Angelic Doctor is neglected even in Catholic education these days. "If they don't do it here, where are they going to do it?"

The new priests for the Dominicans are: Father Martin Philip Nhan, Father Pius Pietrzyk, Father Hugh Vincent Dyer, Father John Martin Ruiz-Mayorga, and Father Thomas Joseph White. There are as many stories as there are Dominicans.

"Our formation takes place in the context of our community life," said Father Langlois, "which models the life for the brothers. There's a fraternity with the older members who've been active for many years, and they share their experience. It's a complete integration of study, prayer, common life and the apostolate, from direct service with the poor to hospital and campus ministries to RCIA in parishes."

Even the order's prayers, while deeply liturgical and traditional, have their own ring to them.

"There are distinctive antiphons and Psalm tones," Father Langlois said, "as well as Dominican propers. There are some chants that are proper to the order. We do a fair amount of chant, and we're trying to integrate it more. While our Salve Regina and Regina Coeli are in the same modes as the Gregorian, they are distinctive, with their own flourishes."

Gabriel O'Donnell.jpgThis unique path within the living tradition of the Church comes down from the establishment of the order, said Father Gabriel O'Donnell, vice president and academic dean of the pontifical faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies.

"Our way is unique in that we are tied together by the decision of St. Dominic and St. Thomas," said Father O'Donnell, who has spent some of his life in diocesan seminaries. "We're tied inextricably together through liturgical life and community life; it's not possible to be formed for the priesthood without the whole life."

That corpus, as it were, goes beyond preparation for the priesthood. A more apt description, said Father O'Donnell, "is formation for a way of life in which one is a priest. You're not a Dominican and a priest; you're a Dominican priest."

The same charism cannot be mirrored in diocesan formation, which prepares a man for a way of life he carries with him from one parish to the next.

"Dominican formation," said Father O'Donnell, "is not preparatory; it is the way of life we continue until we die. Formation is never outside of the framework of the strong community of faith. The community takes responsibility for caring for each other, and there's a lot of freedom there."



Martin Farrell OP.jpgStill, Father O'Donnell admitted, community life has its challenges. "We're all a little bit eccentric. The greatest penance of Dominican life is the common life."

Brother Austin Litke, who's finishing his second year of theology at the Dominican House of Studies, agreed.

"Community life presents you with all kinds of involuntary penances, and they're always more efficacious than the ones we take on ourselves. If you embrace that, it creates a habit of deferring your will to another, and in the spiritual life that trains you to give your will to God."

The common life is, in fact, what drew Brother Austin to transfer to the Dominicans after studying for five years in diocesan seminaries as a collegian and first-year theologian.

"Back in my home diocese in rural western Kentucky, [diocesan priests are] pastors for likely two or three parishes. Being very busy in the ministry of parishes is a beautiful way of life, but I felt the draw of the common life. Part of it is temperament, but part of it is accountability, which forms character. The common life is a school of charity, day in and day out, and that's a challenge."

Brother Austin also agreed that study integrated with prayer and the common life takes a different kind of dedication.

"In diocesan seminaries you study in a way that you most likely won't again. Here, study is to be a part of our lives always, a formal commitment that distinguishes how we live our priesthood. There's a continuity of life here; there's no urgency to get ordained."

How seminarians are guided along that path -- how their formation is administered, in other words -- is a question specific to their ministry, said Father Stephen Boguslawski, president of the Dominican House of Studies and executive director of the John Paul II Cultural Center.

"The diocesan rector establishes the general tone of the seminary; he oversees the whole operation," he said. "He stands in for the bishop, and that means a high concentration of administration in one person. In Dominican formation, those responsibilities are diversified; I, for instance, oversee the intellectual development as well as our own" plan of studies.

Thumbnail image for OP arms.jpgThat expansion of responsibility extends down through the ranks, with the newest seminarians learning directly from Dominicans ordained for decades.

"There is a sense in Dominican formation," Father Boguslawski said, "that all are being led by their older brothers; in that sense it's more comprehensive. What happens in the choir or in the chapel is carried into the classroom, just as what happens in the library affects their manner of prayer."

This program of formation is working exceedingly well for the Dominicans, said Father David Toups, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' associate director of the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. "There's a very healthy integration of spiritual, human, academic and ministerial formation at the Dominican House," he said. "Section 115 of the "Program for Priestly Formation" speaks of spirituality as the integrating force of the other dimensions, and I see that happening there."

The author of "Reclaiming Our Priestly Character" -- a scholarly and spiritual treatise on the sacrament of Holy Orders -- Father Toups lauded in the Dominican House of Studies' formation what he sees in successful seminary programs across the country. "In all of his addresses, Pope Benedict XVI brings it back down to the basics: a personal, loving, and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. It's about teaching our young people how to pray. It's a genuine relationship with Christ that grounds everything."

Father Boguslawski also mentioned the importance of reaching youth.

"The rising generation is coming with a different set of challenges forged from the matrix of the culture. That's why the 'Program of Priestly Formation' will always undergo updating."

Jordan Kelly.jpgIn the meantime, the Order of Preachers will continue to serve according to their charism.

"From the very inception of our ministry," Father Boguslawski said, "the order was established to serve the Church and the bishops through the preaching office."

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.



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