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Dear Sr Laurel,

 

Please don't take my post  about the 'Desert of the world' personally , but as genuine reflections which search clarification. I do a lot of reflection on the New Evangelisation as you will note from the very name of my blog. Am just trying to have new ideas how the Church can make concrete efforts in this regard. I did note that the Holy Father took up this topic at the beginning of the Year of Faith and 50th anniversary of the Vatican Council II.

 

In fact, the Pope observed that “recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual “desertification”. But it is “in starting from the experience of this desert” it is possible to discover again “the joy of believing, its vital importance for us, men and women”. “In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life”.

“In the desert”, he concluded, “people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive”.

 

In his Wednesday general Audience in Rome today, the Holy Father has again taken up the topic of the Faith of Abraham.

 

We see the journey of God's chosen people through the desert [ Old testament] , culminating in the  Paschal Mystery of Christ  / the Eucharist in a way signifying the Promised land/ the New Commandment.  In today's globalized  world we have a New kind of Desert . Today , once again like Fathers of the Old testament - we need to start off on a journey. Christians  are the  manna / hidden Presence of Christ in this desert of the world.

 

When i speak of hermits embracing a life of 'Silent Leaven in the world' , it is similar to Secular Institutes but  in a different way. While Secular Inst. members usually witness with their lives in the economic, cultural, political spheres  to transform them ,  the hermits in the world  can make the difference through the Silence of Solitude  , as a hidden Presence , even without active ministry. I think like every other vocation in the Church,  some hermits have to earn their own living in some way , which can lead to interaction with people who CRY to God , thirst for God, for justice  , in their own deserts. A Christian  hermit can bring meaning to this void.

 

When  the Eremetical life  , monasticism developed in the early centuries of Christianity,  it was a movement to the desert in response to the cessation of persecution , to embrace  a different kind of martyrdom.  In those times  society was communitarian and traditional , so  some persons chose to move to real deserts or to embrace lives of Solitude by separating themselves from the world of relationships.Today's world is itself thirsting for relationships.

 

We know that Christianity is based on the Incarnation of Christ in the world that God Loves.  Hermits/ Monasticism   do not seem to fit in well with the Christian spirit of  incarnaton in the strict sense. Why did the Vatican Council II revive the order of hermits ? Perhaps the Holy Spirit could foresee  the deserts of the world today.

 

 

 

 

Religious life emphasizing 'separation from the world' although  sanctioned by the church law ,  is still showing significant decline in most parts of the world. I don't see this as something negative , but  something that has helped Laity realise their own vocation and call to Holiness and mission. This seems to show that the Vatican Council II has succeeded in its mission . Most religious today are moving closer to leading authentic lives in the midst of the world, closer in style to the Laity. It is  even said that Religious life with its world-renouncing  theology  will gradually decline and  there will be increase of the Lay associations and movements of consecrated life.

 

 

 

It is in the  context of signs of the times  that I see the Order of hermits  actually called to  re-evaluate its theology  [although church directives mention 'separation from the world' in the strict sense]. The Church does not need one more vocation that emphasises separation from the world.  Hermits in habits   can be a counter sign to say that the Solitude of Laity in illness, old age etc. can be redeemed only by separating oneself from the world and by wearing habits. It seems to say that the struggles / battles of the Laity in the deserts of today's world  are  inferior compared to the life and experience of  Hermits.

 

 

 

I fully respect the vocation of the  chronically ill  in today's world and how the suffering can be redemptive and of great salvific value to the Church and World.  It does not matter to me  whether illness leads to solitude  or  Solitude is freely chosen and embraced by a hermit. According to my opinion this kind of life is unnatural  in the anthropological / psychological/ social  sense and even theologically appears counter to the spirit of the Incarnation of Christ which the Church is called to live in the world. It seems to me the Church might have made a mistake  several centuries ago by  encouraging lives of separation from the world . This has indeed led to depreciation of the 'secular character' and  vocation to holiness  , of the Laity. The gap  between the Sacred and the Secular needs to be reduced and not increased by another vocation that emphasizes  separation , habits etc.

 

In fact I believe  Hermits in the deserts of the world can  act as 'Silent leaven in the world '  simply by their Hidden Presence  , even without active ministry.  Paradoxically  this vocation can really serve the New evangelisation as well as the First evangelisation  if  it embraces  the Desert of the world / its secularity in the strict sense  and  allows God to redeem it  through  them.

 

In a way Secular Institutes and Hermits can act as  Silent and Hidden Leaven in the World , without betraying  God's plan in the purpose of their charisms , in two distinct ways , one strictly as Presence to redeem  solitude or desert of the world and the other as involvement in the temporal sphere thus redeeming it. I do not see this as something impossible. Charisms do have their inner nature , but how they  fulfill God's purpose today needs re-evaluation. The nature of the vocation in the deepest sense will remain the same IT IS THE 'DESERT' THAT HAS CHANGED !

 

Even the Fathers of the Church spoke of CV in terms that  stressed on the vigilance to Christ's Second coming and futility of engaging in the temporal world , but  2000 yrs passed and we are still living  His middle coming  in the Eucharistic community that lives in the world. I think CV and Hermits are parallel diocesan vocations  called to re evaluate ancient theology and adapt to the signs of the times according to the spirit of Vatican Council II.

 

 

Well, all I can do is point out that your vision of eremitical life in almost entirely in accord with my own and that it is being lived and reflected on right now on every continent by hermits, both lay and consecrated. The only difference from what you have described is that they are not considered secular vocations by the Church herself. (She is, or seems to be, defining secular differently than you are.) As you say, we demonstrate with our lives that the desert has changed (though to be honest Anchorites living in urban centers and hermits doing similarly have pointed to that same wilderness for many centuries. Even the desert Fathers and Mothers renounced one desert (a Church which had become too enmeshed in temporal power, and thus. which allowed for a more nominal and half-hearted Christianity, etc) for the more recognizable desert nearby.)  The paradox of the eremitical vocation is that only to the degree it is truly NOT secular do we actually find the way to influence the secular prophetically. If the Kingdom message a hermit brings is that God alone is enough (and most of us and our eremitical tradition affirms that it is), it would not be effectively or convincingly proclaimed by one who has not left everything else behind in real ways.

 

Thus, it remains true that we do not build ourselves into the world of power, commerce, relationships, productivity, etc in the way secular vocations are free or even called to do; in fact we renounce such a life. Nor do we work directly for the justice of God in this arena as CV's living in the world and ministerial Religious are clearly called and commissioned to do --- except as occasional exceptions and spillover of our contemplative lives. The struggle in our lives for the Kingdom mainly takes place in our own hearts alone with God, not out in the world. Even so, I agree 1000% and would argue with anyone that this solitary struggle, especially to the extent it counters the prevalent individualism, narcissism, misanthropy,  unwarranted emphasis on activism, of our world and Church, is ALSO of tremendous benefit to these. We are each called to live the struggle for God's Kingdom in different ways, secular or Religious, lay or consecrated or ordained, God graces us in a myriad of ways.

 

best,

Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio

Stillsong Hermitage

Diocese of Oakland

http://notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com

Edited by SRLAUREL
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ETA: This is not aimed at anyone- just to lighten the mood.  :saint2:

I ask one question and this happens.

I mean this as respectfully as possible, but the exact nature and extent of consecrated virgins’ secularity is far from a settled question. I’m saying this not because I want to debate (I truly do

Well, all I can do is point out that your vision of eremitical life in almost entirely in accord with my own and that it is being lived and reflected on right now on every continent by hermits, both lay and consecrated. The only difference from what you have described is that they are not considered secular vocations by the Church herself. (She is, or seems to be, defining secular differently than you are.) As you say, we demonstrate with our lives that the desert has changed (though to be honest Anchorites living in urban centers and hermits doing similarly have pointed to that same wilderness for many centuries. Even the desert Fathers and Mothers renounced one desert (a Church which had become too enmeshed in temporal power, and thus. which allowed for a more nominal and half-hearted Christianity, etc) for the more recognizable desert nearby.)  The paradox of the eremitical vocation is that only to the degree it is truly NOT secular do we actually find the way to influence the secular prophetically. If the Kingdom message a hermit brings is that God alone is enough (and most of us and our eremitical tradition affirms that it is), it would not be effectively or convincingly proclaimed by one who has not left everything else behind in real ways.

 

Thus, it remains true that we do not build ourselves into the world of power, commerce, relationships, productivity, etc in the way secular vocations are free or even called to do; in fact we renounce such a life. Nor do we work directly for the justice of God in this arena as CV's living in the world and ministerial Religious are clearly called and commissioned to do --- except as occasional exceptions and spillover of our contemplative lives. The struggle in our lives for the Kingdom mainly takes place in our own hearts alone with God, not out in the world. Even so, I agree 1000% and would argue with anyone that this solitary struggle, especially to the extent it counters the prevalent individualism, narcissism, misanthropy,  unwarranted emphasis on activism, of our world and Church, is ALSO of tremendous benefit to these. We are each called to live the struggle for God's Kingdom in different ways, secular or Religious, lay or consecrated or ordained, God graces us in a myriad of ways.

 

best,

Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio

Stillsong Hermitage

Diocese of Oakland

http://notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com

 

By the way, there is no Order of Hermits. Unlike canon 604, Canon 603 never refers to hermits as part of an order or ordo. I understand that there was some discussion on whether to use the term ordo or the term status in speaking of consecrated virgins in authoring the canon on the vocation. The precedent was the "order of virgins" spoken of in the primitive church. However, in the primitive Church there was never an "order of hermits" so the post VII Church never adopted this usage for them. 

 

best,

Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio

Stillsong Hermitage

Diocese of Oakland

http://notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com

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Sr Laurel:.....................The only difference from what you have described is that they are not considered secular vocations by the Church herself. (She is, or seems to be, defining secular differently than you are.)



 


 

http://www.siena.org/FAQ-Article/lay-apostleship "WHAT DOES THE CHURCH MEAN - WHEN IT USES THE WORD "SECULAR"? When the Church uses the word "secular" she does not mean"worldly" or "anti-spiritual" or "anti-God". In Catholic theology, the word "secular" is a positive term that refers
to all that pertains to this life and this world. The secular is the earthly rather than the heavenly, that which is human rather than divine, the createdand visible and temporal rather than the invisible and eternal."

 

Meaning that we all have a secular dimension of some kind sharing in that secular
dimension of the Universal Church mentioned in Christifedeles Laici.  While
the laity also has a secular character.   There
is nothing secular or non-secular that is outside of the religious and spiritual
dimension of The Church and therefore of every baptised individual whose "every deed is holy" (see quotation below)



 

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_30121988_christifideles-laici_en.html

 

“The gospel parable sets before our eyes the Lord's vast vineyard and the
multitude of persons, both women and men, who are called and sent forth by him
to labour in it. The vineyard is the
whole world
(cf. Mt 13:38), which is to be transformed according
to the plan of God in view of the final coming of the Kingdom of God.

 

You Go Into My Vineyard Too 2. "And going out about the
third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and to them he said,
'You go into the vineyard too'" (Mt 20:3-4).


 

From that distant day the call of the Lord Jesus "You go into my
vineyard too" never fails to resound in the course of history: it is addressed to every person who
comes into this world.”

 


 

 

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_30121988_christifideles-laici_en.html

 

“During the celebration of the Eucharist these sacrifices
are most lovingly offered to the Father along with the Lord's body. Thus as
worshipers whose every deed is holy,
the lay faithful consecrate the world itself to God"(23).”



 

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Reading  the following message from the Pope I thought it appropriate to  paste it here :

 

http://www.zenit.org/article-36400?l=english

Pope's Message for Communications Day

Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization


VATICAN CITY, January 24, 2013 (Zenit.org).

Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Communications, released today by the Vatican.

* * *


Dear Brothers and Sisters,


As the 2013 World Communications Day draws near, I would like to
offer you some reflections on an increasingly important reality
regarding the way in which people today communicate among themselves. I
wish to consider the development of digital social networks which are
helping to create a new "agora", an open public square in which people
share ideas, information and opinions, and in which new relationships
and forms of community can come into being.


These spaces, when engaged in a wise and balanced way, help to foster
forms of dialogue and debate which, if conducted respectfully and with
concern for privacy, responsibility and truthfulness, can reinforce the
bonds of unity between individuals and effectively promote the harmony
of the human family. The exchange of information can become true
communication, links ripen into friendships, and connections facilitate
communion. If the networks are called to realize this great potential,
the people involved in them must make an effort to be authentic since,
in these spaces, it is not only ideas and information that are shared,
but ultimately our very selves.


The development of social networks calls for commitment: people are
engaged in building relationships and making friends, in looking for
answers to their questions and being entertained, but also in finding
intellectual stimulation and sharing knowledge and know-how. The
networks are increasingly becoming part of the very fabric of society,
inasmuch as they bring people together on the basis of these fundamental
needs. Social networks are thus nourished by aspirations rooted in the
human heart.


The culture of social networks and the changes in the means and
styles of communication pose demanding challenges to those who want to
speak about truth and values. Often, as is also the case with other
means of social communication, the significance and effectiveness of the
various forms of expression appear to be determined more by their
popularity than by their intrinsic importance and value. Popularity, for
its part, is often linked to celebrity or to strategies of persuasion
rather than to the logic of argumentation. At times the gentle voice of
reason can be overwhelmed by the din of excessive information and it
fails to attract attention which is given instead to those who express
themselves in a more persuasive manner. The social media thus need the
commitment of all who are conscious of the value of dialogue, reasoned
debate and logical argumentation; of people who strive to cultivate
forms of discourse and expression which appeal to the noblest
aspirations of those engaged in the communication process. Dialogue and
debate can also flourish and grow when we converse with and take
seriously people whose ideas are different from our own. "Given the
reality of cultural diversity, people need not only to accept the
existence of the culture of others, but also to aspire to be enriched by
it and to offer to it whatever they possess that is good, true and
beautiful" (Address at the Meeting with the World of Culture, Bélem, Lisbon, 12 May 2010).


The challenge facing social networks is how to be truly inclusive:
thus they will benefit from the full participation of believers who
desire to share the message of Jesus and the values of human dignity
which his teaching promotes. Believers are increasingly aware that,
unless the Good News is made known also in the digital world, it may be
absent in the experience of many people for whom this existential space
is important. The digital environment is not a parallel or purely
virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people,
especially the young. Social networks are the result of human
interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of
communication which builds relationships: a considered understanding of
this environment is therefore the prerequisite for a significant
presence there.


The ability to employ the new languages is required, not just to keep
up with the times, but precisely in order to enable the infinite
richness of the Gospel to find forms of expression capable of reaching
the minds and hearts of all. In the digital environment the written word
is often accompanied by images and sounds. Effective communication, as
in the parables of Jesus, must involve the imagination and the
affectivity of those we wish to invite to an encounter with the mystery
of God’s love. Besides, we know that Christian tradition has always been
rich in signs and symbols: I think for example of the Cross, icons,
images of the Virgin Mary, Christmas cribs, stained-glass windows and
pictures in our churches. A significant part of mankind’s artistic
heritage has been created by artists and musicians who sought to express
the truths of the faith.


In social networks, believers show their authenticity by sharing the
profound source of their hope and joy: faith in the merciful and loving
God revealed in Christ Jesus. This sharing consists not only in the
explicit expression of their faith, but also in their witness, in the
way in which they communicate "choices, preferences and judgements that
are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of
specifically" (Message for the 2011World Communications Day).
A particularly significant way of offering such witness will be through
a willingness to give oneself to others by patiently and respectfully
engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their
search for the truth and the meaning of human existence. The growing
dialogue in social networks about faith and belief confirms the
importance and relevance of religion in public debate and in the life of
society.


For those who have accepted the gift of faith with an open heart, the
most radical response to mankind’s questions about love, truth and the
meaning of life – questions certainly not absent from social networks –
are found in the person of Jesus Christ. It is natural for those who
have faith to desire to share it, respectfully and tactfully, with those
they meet in the digital forum. Ultimately, however, if our efforts to
share the Gospel bring forth good fruit, it is always because of the
power of the word of God itself to touch hearts, prior to any of our own
efforts. Trust in the power of God’s work must always be greater than
any confidence we place in human means. In the digital environment, too,
where it is easy for heated and divisive voices to be raised and where
sensationalism can at times prevail, we are called to attentive
discernment. Let us recall in this regard that Elijah recognized the
voice of God not in the great and strong wind, not in the earthquake or
the fire, but in "a still, small voice" (1 Kg 19:11-12). We
need to trust in the fact that the basic human desire to love and to be
loved, and to find meaning and truth – a desire which God himself has
placed in the heart of every man and woman – keeps our contemporaries
ever open to what Blessed Cardinal Newman called the "kindly light" of
faith.


Social networks, as well as being a means of evangelization, can also
be a factor in human development. As an example, in some geographical
and cultural contexts where Christians feel isolated, social networks
can reinforce their sense of real unity with the worldwide community of
believers. The networks facilitate the sharing of spiritual and
liturgical resources, helping people to pray with a greater sense of
closeness to those who share the same faith. An authentic and
interactive engagement with the questions and the doubts of those who
are distant from the faith should make us feel the need to nourish, by
prayer and reflection, our faith in the presence of God as well as our
practical charity: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but
have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (1 Cor 13:1).


In the digital world there are social networks which offer our
contemporaries opportunities for prayer, meditation and sharing the word
of God. But these networks can also open the door to other dimensions
of faith. Many people are actually discovering, precisely thanks to a
contact initially made online, the importance of direct encounters,
experiences of community and even pilgrimage, elements which are always
important in the journey of faith. In our effort to make the Gospel
present in the digital world, we can invite people to come together for
prayer or liturgical celebrations in specific places such as churches
and chapels. There should be no lack of coherence or unity in the
expression of our faith and witness to the Gospel in whatever reality we
are called to live, whether physical or digital. When we are present to
others, in any way at all, we are called to make known the love of God
to the furthest ends of the earth.


I pray that God’s Spirit will accompany you and enlighten you always,
and I cordially impart my blessing to all of you, that you may be true
heralds and witnesses of the Gospel. "Go into all the world and preach
the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mk 16:15).


             From the Vatican, 24 January 2013, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales.


 BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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:wacko: Thank you for sharing this important text.

I don't engage in social networking, but it has become a part of the fabric of our society and culture - along with discussion sites such as Phatmass etc.  I know that during the years in my previous parish when I was pushed to the outside, Catholic discussion sites conveyed to me a feeling of belonging to The Church still.  These sites rescued me from a sense of complete isolation from The Church.  And along the way I made close Catholic friendships that have lasted for years now via email exchanges.

My knowledge and understanding of my Faith has grown thanks to this computer - and for one point of growth only.  I am always conscious nowadays that the computer is actually an international window to the whole world and a window that increasingly all societies and cultures are using for one reason or another.  With the internet we can be as potentially present to the world as if we had the whole world as our personal audience in Hyde Park.  We need to be disciples of Jesus and His Gospel sitting before a keyboard just as much as any other place we may find ourselves.  Mea culpa!

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http://www.siena.org/FAQ-Article/lay-apostleship "WHAT DOES THE CHURCH MEAN - WHEN IT USES THE WORD "SECULAR"? When the Church uses the word "secular" she does not mean"worldly" or "anti-spiritual" or "anti-God". In Catholic theology, the word "secular" is a positive term that refers
to all that pertains to this life and this world. The secular is the earthly rather than the heavenly, that which is human rather than divine, the createdand visible and temporal rather than the invisible and eternal."

 

Meaning that we all have a secular dimension of some kind sharing in that secular
dimension of the Universal Church mentioned in Christifedeles Laici.  While
the laity also has a secular character.   There
is nothing secular or non-secular that is outside of the religious and spiritual
dimension of The Church and therefore of every baptised individual whose "every deed is holy" (see quotation below)



 


 



 

 

Dear Barbara,

 

Thank you very much for your reflections and references which I find really helpful ! The perspective of Laity does seem to work as a Corrective to  any discussion on other vocations in the Church of Christ. We often discover our own Identity and mission in a clearer manner when we see its relation with other Callings   given by God.

 

Can. 204 §1 Christ's faithful are those who, since they are
incorporated into Christ through baptism, are constituted the people of God.
For this reason they participate in their own way in the priestly, prophetic
and kingly office of Christ. They are called, each according to his or her
particular condition, to exercise the mission which God entrusted to the Church
to fulfil in the world.



 

Can. 207 §1 By divine institution, among Christ's faithful
there are in the Church sacred ministers, who in law are also called clerics -
the others are called lay people.

 

§2 Drawn from both groups are those of Christ's faithful
who, professing the evangelical counsels through vows or other sacred bonds
recognised and approved by the Church, are consecrated to God in their own
special way and promote the salvific mission of the Church. Their state,
although it does not belong to the hierarchical structure of the Church, does
pertain to its life and holiness.

 

 

As I was reading Christifideles Laici  I noticed a flow of thought   [The blue text is mine, the black in bold gives the flow of the themes and the red in bold is what leads to my Inference on the particular vocation of the Laity ]:

  • Human longing and the need tor religion
  • Sacredness of the human person
  • Jesus Christ himself, is the "good news" and the bearer of joy
  • Mystery of the People of God , the full belonging of the lay faithful to the Church and to its mystery.At the same time it insisted on the unique character of their vocation, which is in a special way to "seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and ordering them according to the plan of God"(14)
  • "By regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the baptized are consecrated into a spiritual house"(18).
  • Sharers in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ.
  • among the lay faithful this one baptismal dignity takes on a manner of life which sets a person apart, without, however,  bringing about a separation from the ministerial priesthood or from men and women religious.[ this makes me think that we cannot put the Laity and those with another special consecration as clergy or consecrated men and women - in two separate boxes. We all live in the same world existentially , have an equality of dignity and call to holiness  ].
  • The Second Vatican Council has described this manner of life as the "secular character": "The secular character is properly and particularly that of the lay faithful"(29).[ I would think ALL the baptized have a secular character from which some distance themselves to retain a secular dimension thus weakening the secular character.??- any clarifications welcome !]
  • The "world" thus becomes the place and the means for the lay faithful to fulfill their Christian vocation, because the world itself is destined to glorify God the Father in Christ.
  • "The secular character of the lay faithful is not therefore to be defined only in a sociological sense,but most especially in a theological sense. The term secular must be understood in light of the act of God the creator and redeemer, who has handed over the world to women and men, so that they may participate in the work of creation, free creation from the influence of sin and sanctify themselves in marriage or the celibate life, in a family, in a profession and in the various activities of  society"(39).
  • The call to holiness is rooted in Baptism

"Certainly all the members of the Church are sharers in this secular dimension but in different ways. In particular the sharing of the lay faithful has its own manner of realization and function, which, according to the Council, is "properly and particularly" theirs. Such a manner is designated with the expression "secular character"(32)." (Christifedels Laici)

 

 

The inference I derived from all the above is a theology of a Sacred Secularity / Consecrated Secularity /Eschatological Secularity which is " properly and particularly" belonging to the Laity due to their Secular Character.
 

 

Currently I'm  trying to put together some thoughts on Eschatological Virginity which according to one renowned theologian  - applies to EVERY Christian. I'm reflecting on this point and plan to soon share reflections on the charism of CV  defined in the Introduction to the Rite of Consecration as follows :

 

"The custom of consecrating women to a life of virginity flourished even in the early Church. It led to the formation of a solemn rite constituting the candidate a sacred person, a surpassing sign of the Church’s love for Christ, and an eschatological image of the world to come and the glory of the heavenly Bride of Christ. In the rite of consecration the Church reveals its love of virginity, begs God’s grace on those who are consecrated, and prays with fervor for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. "

 

If God wills I shall write on the above as well as elaboration on 'consecration to service" as mentioned in the Rite.

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  • The Second Vatican Council has described this manner of life as the "secular character": "The secular character is properly and particularly that of the lay faithful"(29).[ I would think ALL the baptized have a secular character from which some distance themselves to retain a secular dimension thus weakening the secular character.??- any clarifications welcome !]

 

From another perspective:  ALL the baptized have a secular 'dimension' ?? from which majority choose to /are called to 'develop' or 'mature into' a manner of life , a secular 'character'  with a Lay Identity and mission  as a Calling in itself ?

 

But this does not seem to click with the fact that every Christian is first a Baptized lay person  and later  some enter into a 'special'[in the words of the Church]   /   'different' [in my own words] form of consecration . ALL first have a Secular Character ? or a Secular Dimension ?

 

It seems so confusing, but also essential  to understand in which direction vocations in the Church should move with regard to Sacred Secularity. :sos:

 

Sponsa Christi, since you have a background in philosophy and are good at explaining such complicated matters , please  may I request you to share your reflections on  Secular 'character' and 'dimension'  if you have the time ? And anyone else too , if you can give clarification on this ?

 

Is there someone who has the Latin version of the Complete Rite of consecration to a life of virginity [ i wonder whether there is a new latin version written in yr 2011 when a new english translation was released] to share it here or send it to me by email . This will help understand the nuances  related to eschatology and consecration /dedication to service. :please:
 

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From another perspective:  ALL the baptized have a secular 'dimension' ?? from which majority choose to /are called to 'develop' or 'mature into' a manner of life , a secular 'character'  with a Lay Identity and mission  as a Calling in itself ?

 

But this does not seem to click with the fact that every Christian is first a Baptized lay person  and later  some enter into a 'special'[in the words of the Church]   /   'different' [in my own words] form of consecration . ALL first have a Secular Character ? or a Secular Dimension ?

 

It seems so confusing, but also essential  to understand in which direction vocations in the Church should move with regard to Sacred Secularity. :sos:

 

Personally, I believe the Church has given us ample clues about how She sees vocations are to be lived in the world.

 

Clerics:  There are two types of clerics.  Consecrated or "like consecrated", and secular (otherwise known as diocesan).  The writings of the Popes and the Directories of Formation are clear that secular priests and deacons (especially the married) are able to work and live "in the world".  (If having a family is not "living in the world", I don't know what is.)  All the married priests and deacons I personally knew engaged in a real world job besides ministering at the altar.  And apparently in my reading of the Directories (approved by the Vatican), this is normal unless the Church can afford to support a family had by a presumably pro-life priest/deacon.


Consecrated persons:  It appears that there are two types of consecrated persons. One type is separated from the world by virtue of their vocation:  religious/hermits.  The other type is not separated from the world by virtue of their vocation:  secular institutes/consecrated virgins. What we do know about all four of these vocations is that they all have a true consecration that is equally consecrating of the total self gift of the person.  In other words, the consecration is a separate form of living from the lay faithful (this is why not all the baptized are called to consecration and orders because the form is different and not all have what is necessary to be fulfilled in those other forms).  We have to look at what is common and what is different in consecrated life and what is different to understand what is fundamental to consecrated life and what is not. 

 

Some consecrated virgins look to the evangelical counsels and take from them the inspiration for a "radical" lifestyle (a lifestyle, by the way, which is termed "radical" by the Church for religious life but in no other vocation that I could find in the documents). Obviously, the fact that some cvs are religious nuns means that consecrated virginity is not intrinsically opposed to a radical lifestyle and the three vows.  But, it may be helpful to consider the fact that the evangelical counsels do not oblige a person to live separated from the world in and of themselves.  How do we know this?  Because the Pope says so in Provida Mater and related documents.  Remember, secular institutes take public vows and become consecrated persons but they live fully in the world with nothing in their lifestyle to distinguish them from non-consecrated persons.  The consternation of the Church was how can a consecrated person with a true consecration be secular?  And the Vatican/Pope responds that the consecration is true, equal to the other consecrations of the consecrated state, but a secular response to the evangelical counsels. 

 

This is very important.  If the consecration is equal and vows (in themselves) do not oblige a separation from the world, then we've got to conclude that the two strongest arguments for consecrated virgins to "live like sisters" have been eliminated.  We cannot argue that cvs must live a radical "distinct" lifestyle on the basis of the evangelical counsels because the Pope has already declared that vowed evangelical counsels don't necessarily imply or demand separation from the world.  We cannot argue that because consecrated virgins are consecrated (or in the olden terms in the "state of perfection") that she must live a distinctly unsecular lifestyle because truly consecrated persons (secular institute members) with a full consecration are not obliged to live in a distinct and visible way.

 

Now let's hop back to clergy.  It is interesting how ordination is compatible in and of itself with a religious or vowed style of consecrated life and it is compatible with secular living including marriage.  I would say that that speaks to consecration of virgins.  They are sacred persons but can live in either lifestyle (nuns or secular).  It is also interesting that consecrated virgins - like unmarried secular clergy- can join secular institutes or be in secular institutes.  If the vocation to consecrated virginity entailed a separation from the world or a distinctness or a visibily different manner of life, I suspect the Church would have forbidden membership in secular institutes.  Personally, I think that sacred secularity means just what clerical secularity can mean in the married priest/deacon:  that he is a witness in the world, living in the world, and apart from ministerial duties, looks like a normal secular person for all intents and purposes.  Sounds to me like the description of secular virgins.  Living in the world, being a witness in the world, and apart from her apostolates looking like a secular person for all intents and purposes.  I believe that secularity is not a hallmark of consecrated virginity but that it is compatible with consecrated virginity lived fully in the world just as it is with secular clerics.

Edited by abrideofChrist
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Dear AbrideofChrist,

 

Thank you for taking the time to respond. Some points which struck me and which i can reflect upon further are :

 

1. There are two types of clerics.  Consecrated or "like consecrated", and secular (otherwise known as diocesan) .

 

I have usually reflected on two types of clerics - Religious , and secular [diocesan]. Looking at the broader category of Consecrated life does give some more insights.

 

2.If having a family is not "living in the world", I don't know what is.

 

The vocation of CV is the theological locus for the Sacrament of marriage- hence both vocations can learn from each other about themselves.

 

3.consecrated virginity is not intrinsically opposed to a radical lifestyle and the three vows.  But, it may be helpful to consider the fact that the evangelical counsels do not oblige a person to live separated from the world in and of themselves.

 

The proposito [resolution] to Follow Christ  as mentioned in the Rite  , itself indicates  that the spirit of the evangelical counsels  is Implicit to the vocation  because in ancient theology Following Christ was not dissected into 3 evangelical counsels. Theology of CV was according to the Fathers of the Church and not according to St. Thomas Aquinas of the 12th century who influenced religious life. Since the Bride of Christ was born when Jesus' heart was pierced on the cross, I personally define it as Obedience to God's will  to the limit of Self-emptying [kenosis] and Virginity or espousal with Christ on the Cross. So the evangelical counsels defined in today's Church as Obedience, Poverty and Chastity are explained  differently in lives of CV and are more Implicit.

 

4.It is interesting how ordination is compatible in and of itself with a religious or vowed style of consecrated life and it is compatible with secular living including marriage.  I would say that that speaks to consecration of virgins.

 

I agree

 

5.Secularity is not a hallmark of consecrated virginity but that it is compatible with consecrated virginity lived fully in the world just as it is with secular clerics.

 

I very much agree.

 

Could say the same for hermits and religious that Secularity is not the hallmark of their vocations but they are compatible with living in the desert of the world.

 

 

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Dear AbrideofChrist,

 


 

5.Secularity is not a hallmark of consecrated virginity but that it is compatible with consecrated virginity lived fully in the world just as it is with secular clerics.

 

I very much agree.

 

Could say the same for hermits and religious that Secularity is not the hallmark of their vocations but they are compatible with living in the desert of the world.

Thanks for your reflections.  With regard to point #5, I would say it more strongly.  Secularity IS in harmony and along the intent of the Church for secular institutes/CVs.  Separation from the world is REQUIRED for religious and hermits.  All can live the desert of the world, but the two vocations will be fully separate from the world whereas the other two (if we just take "living in the world" cvs and not religious cvs) are fully within the world/secular.

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[[It is in the  context of signs of the times  that I see the Order of hermits  actually called to  re-evaluate its theology  [although church directives mention 'separation from the world' in the strict sense]. The Church does not need one more vocation that emphasises separation from the world.  Hermits in habits   can be a counter sign to say that the Solitude of Laity in illness, old age etc. can be redeemed only by separating oneself from the world and by wearing habits. It seems to say that the struggles / battles of the Laity in the deserts of today's world  are  inferior compared to the life and experience of  Hermits.

 

I fully respect the vocation of the  chronically ill  in today's world and how the suffering can be redemptive and of great salvific value to the Church and World.  It does not matter to me  whether illness leads to solitude  or  Solitude is freely chosen and embraced by a hermit. According to my opinion this kind of life is unnatural  in the anthropological / psychological/ social  sense and even theologically appears counter to the spirit of the Incarnation of Christ which the Church is called to live in the world. It seems to me the Church might have made a mistake  several centuries ago by  encouraging lives of separation from the world . This has indeed led to depreciation of the 'secular character' and  vocation to holiness  , of the Laity. The gap  between the Sacred and the Secular needs to be reduced and not increased by another vocation that emphasizes  separation , habits etc.]]

 

There is no doubt that the Church's relationship with secularity (itself a complex reality) has taken many forms and gone through a history of various expressions. We are living in a time of increased concern with secularism along with an increased appreciation for the secular as place of God's saving activity. It is in this context that the Church has reprised two remarkably different vocations to consecrated life, one characterized by greater separation from the world, and the other a secular one. These two vocations, the solitary eremitical and the consecrated virgin living in the world represent the two founts of religious life and two ways of dealing with the world as problem and as promise by proclaiming the Kingdom of God. I think that both are necessary to this project, and highlight different dimensions of the Kingdom of God just as they also speak to different groups of people especially well.

 

Eremitical life speaks especially well (though not only) to those who cannot participate in the world on its own terms and who thus seem (or are relatively) powerless to change it because of their marginality. For these persons the promise of the Kingdom comes in a different way than it does for the other group. CV's living in the world, it seems to me, speak especially well (though not only) to those who can and do participate in the world and they challenge them to do so in terms of the Kingdom of God. I don't think the problem is in the Church's use of various perspectives, gifts, or ways of relating to the secular to underscore different dimensions of the Kingdom's relationship with and to the world.  I think the problem is much more in her esteeming some forms of relatedness (and some calls to holiness) more than others. If the Church can truly embrace a notion of diverse vocations which are equally exhaustive calls to holiness (as Vatican II taught), the gap between sacred and secular could well be reduced. Thus, religious life would not be seen as a "higher call" but it would signal different values significant to the Kingdom and its realization.

 

All Christian vocations say both yes and no to the reality referred to as "the world". Incarnationalism is balanced by the eschatological stance, a yes to the here and now is qualified and conditioned by our reminder that it is not yet what it is meant to be. Our yesses and no's  can be spoken from within the situation or from the margins. The accents or emphases will differ but I think we have to say they are all important. All vocations reflect the incarnation, for Jesus' implicated God into every moment and mood of human existence ---- including desert  experiences or experiences of marginality. Similarly, all vocations reflect the eschaton; the Church needs them to adequately proclaim both dimensions of the Christ Event . Thus she honors a variety of vocations, some secular, some Religious, some eremitical, some consecrated, and among these, some lay, some ordained. The key is in respecting each one equally as indispensable and somehow unique in the graces and emphases they bring to the situation.

 

best,

Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio

Stillsong Hermitage

Diocese of Oakland

http://notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com

Edited by SRLAUREL
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Dear AbrideofChrist,

 

Thank you for taking the time to respond. Some points which struck me and which i can reflect upon further are :

 

1. There are two types of clerics.  Consecrated or "like consecrated", and secular (otherwise known as diocesan) .

 

I have usually reflected on two types of clerics - Religious , and secular [diocesan]. Looking at the broader category of Consecrated life does give some more insights.

 

2.If having a family is not "living in the world", I don't know what is.

 

The vocation of CV is the theological locus for the Sacrament of marriage- hence both vocations can learn from each other about themselves.

 

3.consecrated virginity is not intrinsically opposed to a radical lifestyle and the three vows.  But, it may be helpful to consider the fact that the evangelical counsels do not oblige a person to live separated from the world in and of themselves.

 

The proposito [resolution] to Follow Christ  as mentioned in the Rite  , itself indicates  that the spirit of the evangelical counsels  is Implicit to the vocation  because in ancient theology Following Christ was not dissected into 3 evangelical counsels. Theology of CV was according to the Fathers of the Church and not according to St. Thomas Aquinas of the 12th century who influenced religious life. Since the Bride of Christ was born when Jesus' heart was pierced on the cross, I personally define it as Obedience to God's will  to the limit of Self-emptying [kenosis] and Virginity or espousal with Christ on the Cross. So the evangelical counsels defined in today's Church as Obedience, Poverty and Chastity are explained  differently in lives of CV and are more Implicit.

 

4.It is interesting how ordination is compatible in and of itself with a religious or vowed style of consecrated life and it is compatible with secular living including marriage.  I would say that that speaks to consecration of virgins.

 

I agree

 

5.Secularity is not a hallmark of consecrated virginity but that it is compatible with consecrated virginity lived fully in the world just as it is with secular clerics.

 

I very much agree.

 

Could say the same for hermits and religious that Secularity is not the hallmark of their vocations but they are compatible with living in the desert of the world.

 

 

Secularity, again is not compatible with eremitical life, whether lay or consecrated. Again these vocations are DEFINED in terms of stricter separation from the world. They are DEFINED historically and by the Church as non-secular. Of course they are lived in the created realm (another meaning of the term world) but they lose all meaning if they become secular (a more limited or narrowly defined sense of the term "world"). One can hardly witness to the truth that God alone is enough for us if one builds oneself into the world of power, economics, relationships, etc and thus mitigates one's desert experience. Evenso, to the extent this world is TRULY a desert, anyone living on its margins and embracing an intentional desert life of stricter separation will speak to that world. Sometimes redefining terms loses the nature of the vocation. CV's cannot say that women embracing a "second virginity" can live as consecrated virgins. Similarly, an essentially non-secular vocation must really be non-secular if its proclamation is to remain intact.

 

By the way, Members of Secular institutes do not make public vows. Their vows are seen as semi-public (they are anomalous, a sort of weird exception) and they do not enter the consecrated state with such vows. Please feel free to check with the canonist on "Do I have a vocation?" I agree that the evangelical counsels themselves only to the extent that they do not absolutely separate from the world (that is, a person living a secular life can live them). All Christians are called to live the evangelical counsels and these certainly QUALIFY their relationship to the world (the word separate DOES fit here though it is not absolute), but PUBLIC vows (Religious poverty, Religious obedience, consecrated love lived in community, etc) DO separate more absolutely from the world. That is simply their canonically defined nature. I would argue that CV's are called to live the evangelical counsels in a way which qualifies their lives in the world in terms of the Kingdom, but are not called to public vows which would separate in ways which are incompatible with a secular vocation.

 

Sincerely,

Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio

Stillsong Hermitage

http://notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com

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Of

Sr Laurel : Of course they are lived in the created realm (another meaning of the term world) but they lose all meaning if they become secular (a more limited or narrowly defined sense of the term "world").

 

This seems to me to be that "secular dimension" of the Universal Church and therefore of all the baptized.  While certain vocations do not have the distinct "secular character" in which the vocation is lived out in the world and involved to some degree directly and intrinsically in the "power, economics and relationship" involvements of a "secular character".

Of course all and any vocation has the call to pray for the world and the "power, economics and relationship" aspect of this world - and in this there is unity with those vocations which have a distinct "secular character".  I don't think that religious and monastics (probably not hermits either in some cases) are ignorant of what is taking place in "the world" nor should they be and very often they can share the fruits of their contemplation and holy living "in the parlour" wherever 'the parlour' may occur and thus enlighten those striving in the world with their distinct "secular character" in their own vocations. And all this I consider is an embracing of that "secular dimension" of The Universal Church.

Hence there is a certain overlapping of the "secular dimension" and the "secular character". 

 

________________

I am not too sure what is embraced (definition) by the term "relationship" in the phrase "power, economics and relationship", since for one praying for the secular world is of itself a certain relationship with the secular world........altho I am always coming from a very rickety armchair trying more to understand than to state :) - and keep butting into this thread because understanding of the various vocations in The Church can enlighten me about my own vocation ........... and also enlighten in order to answer any questions that may come my way in my own life.

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Of

 

This seems to me to be that "secular dimension" of the Universal Church and therefore of all the baptized.  While certain vocations do not have the distinct "secular character" in which the vocation is lived out in the world and involved to some degree directly and intrinsically in the "power, economics and relationship" involvements of a "secular character".

Of course all and any vocation has the call to pray for the world and the "power, economics and relationship" aspect of this world - and in this there is unity with those vocations which have a distinct "secular character".  I don't think that religious and monastics (probably not hermits either in some cases) are ignorant of what is taking place in "the world" nor should they be and very often they can share the fruits of their contemplation and holy living "in the parlour" wherever 'the parlour' may occur and thus enlighten those striving in the world with their distinct "secular character" in their own vocations. And all this I consider is an embracing of that "secular dimension" of The Universal Church.

Hence there is a certain overlapping of the "secular dimension" and the "secular character". 

 

________________

I am not too sure what is embraced (definition) by the term "relationship" in the phrase "power, economics and relationship", since for one praying for the secular world is of itself a certain relationship with the secular world........altho I am always coming from a very rickety armchair trying more to understand than to state :) - and keep butting into this thread because understanding of the various vocations in The Church can enlighten me about my own vocation ........... and also enlighten in order to answer any questions that may come my way in my own life.

The relationship I am speaking of is more than praying for something from outside it. If one lives a secular life then they will participate actively in all the dimensions of that world even if their participation is qualified in terms of Kingdom values. For instance, a couple begins a family. They will, both as family and as individuals, participate actively in the economic sphere of the world not only through work and buying, but through banking, investments, taxes, etc. They will demand living wages, invest in education, buy property, and use money in all the ways families with growing children need to do and generally help drive the economic dimension of secular reality. Someone with a public vow of poverty will not do many of these things even if their congregation participates in a limited ways in some of them for the sake of their own existence and the Kingdom.

 

The same is true with regard to the world of power, political, corporate, industrial, etc. A person living a secular vocation is free to take any position in a company (etc), run for any office, etc without the permission of a legitimate superior. While they will try to do as God wills, their own wills do not need to accommodate the will of a legitimate superior. This isn't to say that they won't confer with family, friends, and those they respect, but they are free to exercise their own autonomy in a way in which those with public vows of obedience are not. Some offices, etc cannot and really ought not be held by those publicly vowed to obedience; despite the fact that some religious have been elected to these, Rome has frequently acted to demand they resign (or leave their vocations and be secularized). In 1983 the revised Code of Canon Law added a prohibition that no cleric (permanent deacons are not included here) can hold a public office. The bottom line is that those with public vows have accepted constraints in the way they can exercise their own freedom and responsibility and they are bound by these at every moment.

 

These constraints serve a necessary kind of freedom --- just as distancing in various ways can free one to act more objectively as well as for the other's good. In particular such limitations or qualifications allows for one to assume a prophetic stance toward the reality from which they are distanced. Of course the distancing is not an absolute separation (that would be almost impossible, especially if one was going to minister to others as well) but it is significant enough to define the reality being lived as Religious rather than secular (there is a secular dimension but not a secular character to these vocations).

 

Other vocations are called on to take the values and perspective of the Kingdom of God and change the structures of society from within. They are secular in character even while they may also be consecrated at the same time. A CV could work within the business world to help transform it from within; she could hold political office and work for its transformation as well as God's justice more generally precisely because her vocation is both consecrated AND secular in character. She can work to transform the entire secular world with her participation in it, not simply ministering TO IT but making it capable of ministry and proclamation of God's Kingdom as well. No vows constrain her in these things, though of course her consecration and relationship with God will transfigure everything. Still she is free in ways religious would not really be because of their vows and the canonical relationships which stem from these vows.

 

When I spoke of the way one is related to the world this was some of what I had in mind.

 

all my best,

Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio

Stillsong Hermitage

Dicoese of Oakland

http://notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com

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Thanks, Sister, for a very clear explanation enabling me to better grasp "secular dimension" and "secular character".  The role of the CV as you have stated it is as I have understood it - and as having a distinct "secular character".

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