29 – A Church or a movement, a community that is closed becomes ill. It has all of the sicknesses of isolation

Ever since the beginning of Christianity, certain men and women have been called to offer themselves entirely to God: they leave the world to dedicate themselves exclusively to prayer, fasting and penance in intimacy with the Lord. Many obtained such a fame of sanctity that they ended up attracting multitudes – their example awakened in many others the desire of imitating their lives of perfection. Small communities thus originated; and these became the starting point for the great religious orders of the future.
Regrettably, however, it is not unusual for some people – who lack supernatural vision – to consider this holy recollection as some kind of egoistic cowardice. They fail to understand the value of the oblation of contemplative souls in sustaining the evangelizing action of the Church. But, the Church knows well that the inaction of a missionary would be just as culpable as the abandonment of the contemplative life on the part of those called to such a sublime vocation.
In light of these principles, are certain generalized statements that strike a blow to the contemplative life reasonable, helpful, or even desirable?

Francis

Quote A

I repeat this often. A Church that does not go out is a Church of snobs. An ecclesial movement that does not go out on mission is a movement of snobs. Furthermore, instead of going out to find sheep, to bring, or help, or give testimony, they dedicate themselves to their little group, combing sheep, not so? They become spiritual hairdressers! That’s no good! To go out means to go out of ourselves. A Church or a movement, a community that is closed becomes ill.It has all of the sicknesses of isolation. A movement, a Church, a community that goes out makes mistakes, makes mistakes. But it is so beautiful to ask for forgiveness when we make mistakes. Therefore, do not be afraid. Go out on mission. Set out on the road. (Audience to the Schoenstatt Movement, October 25, 2014)

Quote B

Poverty as overcoming every kind of selfishness, in the logic of the Gospel which teaches us to trust in God’s Providence. […] A poverty teaches solidarity, sharing and charity, and is also expressed in moderation and joy in the essential, to put us on guard against material idols that obscure the real meaning of life. A poverty learned with the humble, the poor, the sick and all those who are on the existential outskirts of life. A theoretical poverty is no use to us. Poverty is learned by touching the flesh of the poor Christ, in the humble, in the poor, in the sick and in children.
Then there is chastity, as a precious charism that broadens the freedom of our gift to God and to others, with tenderness, mercy, closeness to Christ. […] But, please, let it be a “fruitful” chastity which generates spiritual children in the Church. The consecrated woman is a mother, she must be a mother, not a “spinster”! Excuse me for speaking like this, but motherhood in the consecrated life is important, this fruitfulness! May this joy of spiritual fecundity motivate your life; be mothers, as a figure of Mary, Mother, and of Mother Church. It is impossible to understand Mary without her motherhood; it is impossible to understand the Church apart from her motherhood and you are icons of Mary and the Church. (Address to the participants in the plenary assembly of the International Union of Superiors General, May 8, 2013)

Quote C

You will make mistakes, you will make blunders, it happens! Perhaps even a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such thing… But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move ahead… Open the doors, do something when life calls for it. I would rather have a Church that makes mistakes for doing something than one that gets sick for being closed up. (Audience/Dialogue with the board of directors of CLAR, June 6, 2013)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Table of Contents


I – Supremacy of the Contemplative Life over the Active Life
II – The Significance of Contemplative Life for the Apostolate
_____________________________________________________________________

I – Supremacy of the Contemplative Life over the Active Life


Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)
– Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, many founded religious families which the Church gladly welcomed

Saint Anthony of Padua
– The active life was instituted for the contemplative life

John Paul II
– The cloister does not ‘isolate’, but places in the heart of the Church, who manifests the pre-eminence of contemplation over action
– The life of the religious contemplatives proclaims the primacy of God

Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life
– The monastery is a place where God can be sought more freely
– The monastery represents what is most intimate to the Church – its heart

John Paul II
– Religious devoted to contemplation are a reason for pride for the Church, and contribute to the growth of the People of God
– Contemplative vocations are very necessary and enrich the entire life of the Church. This life neither excludes from the Church nor impedes efficacious apostolate

Benedict XVI
– The religious have at their disposal a wisdom that the world does not possess
– In a world growingly incapable of silence, the charism of the Charterhouse is a precious gift
– Your place is not on the fringes – you are in the heart of the Church

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)
– Communities entirely dedicated to contemplation hold an honorable place in the Mystical Body of Christ

Paul VI
– Cloistered religious are a sign of the presence of God

Saint Augustine of Hippo
– Nothing sweeter than to turn one’s gaze to the heart of the divine treasure

Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life
– Cloistered contemplatives conform to Christ Jesus – a unique way of sharing in Christ’s relationship with the Father
– In contemplation, one fulfils to the highest degree the First Commandment

John Paul II
– The life of cloistered nuns is an anticipation of the contemplation of God


II – The Significance of Contemplative Life for the Apostolate


Pius XII
– Nuns participate in the apostolate of love for neighbor through example, prayer and penance

Paul VI
– Cloistered religious are in solidarity with the entire Church

John XXIII
– The primacy in the service of God corresponds to the cloistered religious

Congregation for the Institute of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life
– Cloistered religious should not be considered as excluded from the Church

John Paul II
– Even some Christians, more sensitive to concrete compromise, consider contemplative life as an antiquated activity and even useless

Pius XII
– Contemplative nuns possess an entirely apostolic vocation

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)
– Great importance in the conversion of souls – the contemplative life

Benedict XVI
– Deep bond between pastoral service and the contemplative vocation

John Paul II
– Contemplative religious spread the Kingdom of God – their great contribution to evangelization
– The prayer of contemplative religious sustains the fervor of the priesthood
– An apostolate of greatest ecclesial and redemptive value – example Saint Theresa of Lisieux: the ‘Patroness of the Missions’
– You accompany the apostolic mission of evangelizers, your collaboration in the new evangelization is particularly important

Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life
– Cloistered nuns are the missionary heart of the Church

Benedict XVI
– The authentic missionary spirit St Thérèse of Lisieux, who never left her Carmel

John Paul II
– St Thérèse of the Child Jesus – model of missionary commitment and patroness of the missions

Pius XI
– Contemplatives draw down from heaven a shower of divine graces, without which evangelical laborers would reap a scanty crop

Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life
– The faithful should learn to honor the specific role of contemplatives
– Bishops are the chief guardians of the contemplative charism.


I – Supremacy of the Contemplative Life over the Active Life


Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

  • Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, many founded religious families which the Church gladly welcomed

Indeed from the very beginning of the Church men and women have set about following Christ with greater freedom and imitating Him more closely through the practice of the evangelical counsels, each in his own way leading a life dedicated to God. Many of them, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, lived as hermits or founded religious families, which the Church gladly welcomed and approved by her authority. So it is that in accordance with the Divine Plan a wonderful variety of religious communities has grown up which has made it easier for the Church not only to be equipped for every good work (cf. 2Tim 3:17) […] but also to appear adorned with the various gifts of her children like a spouse adorned for her husband (cf. Apoc. 21:2) and for the manifold Wisdom of God to be revealed through her (cf. Eph. 3:10). (Vatican Council II, Perfectae caritatis, no. 1, October 28, 1965)

Saint Anthony of Padua

  • The active life was instituted for the contemplative life

The contemplative life is not instituted for the active, but the active for the contemplative. (Saint Anthony of Padua, Sermons for Sundays and Festivals, Volume 1, Third Sunday after Easter, no. 14)

John Paul II

  • The cloister does not ‘isolate’, but places in the heart of the Church, who manifests the pre-eminence of contemplation over action

The abandoning of the cloister would mean to fall short in what is characteristic to one of the forms of religious life, by which the Church manifests before the world the pre-eminence of contemplation over action, of what is eternal over that which is temporal. The cloister does not ‘isolate’ the contemplative souls from the communion of the Mystical Body. Rather, it places them in the heart of the Church. (John Paul II. Address to the Plenary Session of the Sacred Congregation for the Religious and Secular Institutes, March 7, 1980)

  • The life of the religious contemplatives proclaims the primacy of God

Your life – with its separation from the world expressed concretely and effectively – proclaims the primacy of God and is a constant reminder of the preeminence of contemplation over action, of the eternal over the transitory. Consequently it suggests, as an expression and anticipation of the goal towards which the ecclesial community is heading, the future recapitulation of all things in Christ. (John Paul II. Address to Women Religious of the Bologna Area, no. 4, September 28, 1997)

Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life

  • The monastery is a place where God can be sought more freely

Whether in a place apart or in the heart of the city, the monastery, with its distinctive architectural form, is intended to create a space of separation, solitude and silence, where God can be sought more freely in a life not only for him and with him but also in him alone. (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, Verbi sponsa, no. 5, May 13, 1999)

  • A contemplative monastery represents what is most intimate to the Church – its heart

A contemplative monastery is a gift also for the local Church to which it belongs. Representing the prayerful face of the Church, a monastery makes the Church’s presence more complete and meaningful in the local community. A monastic community may be compared to Moses who, in prayer, determined the fate of Israel’s battles (cf. Ex 17:11), or to the guard who keeps the night watch awaiting the dawn (cf. Is 21:6).The monastery represents what is most intimate to a local Churchits heart, where the Spirit always groans in supplication for the entire community and where thanksgiving rises unceasingly for the Life which he sends forth each day (cf. Col 3:17). (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, Verbi sponsa, no. 8, May 13, 1999)

John Paul II

  • Religious devoted to contemplation are a reason for pride for the Church, and contribute to the growth of the People of God

Institutes completely devoted to contemplation, composed of either women or men, are for the Church a reason for pride and a source of heavenly graces. By their lives and mission, the members of these Institutes imitate Christ in his prayer on the mountain, bear witness to God’s lordship over history and anticipate the glory which is to come. In solitude and silence, by listening to the word of God, participating in divine worship, personal asceticism, prayer, mortification and the communion of fraternal love, they direct the whole of their lives and all their activities to the contemplation of God. In this way they offer the ecclesial community a singular testimony of the Church’s love for her Lord, and they contribute, with hidden apostolic fruitfulness, to the growth of the People of God. (John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata, no. 8, March 25, 1996)

  • Contemplative vocations are very necessary and enrich the entire life of the Church. This life neither excludes from the Church nor impedes efficacious apostolate

The contemplative life has occupied and continues to occupy a place of honor in the Church. Dedicated to prayer and silence, adoration and penance from within the cloister. […] The Church knows well that your silent and isolated life, in the exterior solitude of the cloister, is the yeast of renovation and the presence of the Spirit of Christ in the world. That is why the Council said that the contemplative religious ‘maintain an eminent place in the Mystical Body of Christ’ […] Your life of enclosure, lived in entire fidelity, does not exclude you from the Church nor impede an efficacious apostolate. Remember the daughter of Teresa of Jesus, Theresa of Lisieux, who was so close, from her cloister, to the missions and missionaries of the world. That, like her, ‘in the heart of the Church you shall be love’ […] The world needs, more than we might realize, your presence and your testimony. […] With respect to this, I would like to call on the Christian communities and their Pastors, reminding them of the irreplaceable place that the contemplative life holds within the Church. We should all value and profoundly esteem the dedication of contemplative souls to prayer, to praise and sacrifice. They are very necessary for the Church. They are living prophets and teachers to all; the forerunners of the Church toward the kingdom. Their attitude toward the realities of this world, that they contemplate according to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, enlightens us regarding the final possessions and makes us comprehend the gratuitousness of the salvific love of God. I exhort all, therefore, to attempt to awaken vocations among the youth for the monastic life; in the certainty that these vocations enrich the entire life of the Church. (John Paul II. Speech to the Cloistered Sisters in the Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila, November 1, 1982)

Benedict XVI

  • The religious have at their disposal a wisdom that the world does not possess

Men and women who withdraw to live in God’s company acquire by making this decision a great sense of compassion for the suffering and weakness of others. As friends of God, they have at their disposal a wisdom that the world — from which they have distanced themselves — does not possess and they amiably share it with those who knock at their door. I therefore recall with admiration and gratitude the women and men’s cloistered monasteries. Today more than ever they are oases of peace and hope, a precious treasure for the whole Church, especially since they recall the primacy of God and the importance, for the journey of faith, of constant and intense prayer. (Benedict XVI. General Audience, December 1, 2010)

  • In a world growingly incapable of silence, the charism of the Charterhouse is a precious gift

In recent decades, moreover, the development of the media has spread and extended a phenomenon that had already been outlined in the 1960s: virtuality risks predominating over reality. Unbeknownst to them, people are increasingly becoming immersed in a virtual dimension because of the audiovisual messages that accompany their life from morning to night. […] Some people are no longer able to remain for long periods in silence and solitude. I chose to mention this socio-cultural condition because it highlights the specific charism of the Charterhouse as a precious gift for the Church and for the world, a gift that contains a deep message for our life and for the whole of humanity. (Benedict XVI. Liturgy of Vespers in the church of the Charterhouse of Serra San Bruno, October 9, 2011)

  • Your place is not on the fringes – you are in the heart of the Church

This is why I have come here, dear Brothers who make up the Carthusian Community of Serra San Bruno, to tell you that the Church needs you and that you need the Church! Your place is not on the fringes: no vocation in the People of God is on the fringes. We are one body, in which every member is important and has the same dignity, and is inseparable from the whole. You too, who live in voluntary isolation, are in the heart of the Church and make the pure blood of contemplation and of the love of God course through your veins. (Benedict XVI. Liturgy of Vespers in the church of the Charterhouse of Serra San Bruno, October 9, 2011)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

  • Communities entirely dedicated to contemplation hold an honorable place in the Mystical Body of Christ

Communities which are entirely dedicated to contemplation, so that their members in solitude and silence, with constant prayer and penance willingly undertaken, occupy themselves with God alone, retain at all times, no matter how pressing the needs of the active apostolate may be, an honorable place in the Mystical Body of Christ, whose ‘members do not all have the same function’ (Rom. 12:4). For these offer to God a sacrifice of praise which is outstanding. Moreover the manifold results of their holiness lends luster to the people of God which is inspired by their example and which gains new members by their apostolate which is as effective as it is hidden. Thus they are revealed to be a glory of the Church and a well-spring of heavenly graces. (Vatican Council II,  Decree Perfectae caritatis, no. 7, October 28, 1965)

Paul VI

  • Cloistered religious are a sign of the presence of God

In a world like this which surrounds us, forgetful of God, indifferent toward God, and in denial toward God, you are tranquil testimonies, austere and genteel, recollected in your monasteries almost as though to observe a kind of religious enchantment. […..] Your presence is a sign of the presence of God among men. You sing, who hears you? You celebrate, who observes you? It is as though incomprehension surrounds you and solitude mortifies you. But it is not like this. It is possible for anyone to discern that you have started a fire; anyone can notice that from your cloisters light and heat flow out; anyone may stop, look and think. You are the sign for today’s world, a principle of reflection that is frequently beneficial and regenerating. (Paul VI. Address to the Abbots and Priors of the Monastic Congregations of the Benedictine Order, September 30, 1966)

Saint Augustine of Hippo

  • Nothing sweeter than to turn one’s gaze to the heart of the divine treasure

In effect, no one will exceed me in my desire to live in this certainty of absolute peace: [there is] nothing better, nothing sweeter than to turn one’s gaze to the heart of the divine treasure, ceasing the interior noise; it is a sweet and good thing; on the other hand, preaching, disputing, correcting, edifying, being preoccupied with each one individually, is a great responsibility, a huge load, a great weight and a terrible toil. (Saint Augustine. Sermon 339, 4)

Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life

  • Cloistered contemplatives conform to Christ Jesus – a unique way of sharing in Christ’s relationship with the Father

In a specific and radical way, cloistered contemplatives conform to Christ Jesus in prayer on the mountain and to his Paschal Mystery, which is death for the sake of resurrection. The ancient spiritual tradition of the Church, taken up by the Second Vatican Council, explicitly connects the contemplative life to the prayer of Jesus ‘on the mountain’, or solitary place not accessible to all but only to those whom he calls to be with him, apart from the others (cf. Mt 17:1-9; Lk 6:12-13; Mk 6:30-31; 2Pt 1:16-18). […] This association of the contemplative life with the prayer of Jesus in a solitary place suggests a unique way of sharing in Christ’s relationship with the Father. […] solitary cell, the closed cloister, are the place where the nun, bride of the Incarnate Word, lives wholly concentrated with Christ in God. The mystery of this communion is revealed to her to the extent that, docile to the Holy Spirit and enlivened by his gifts, she listens to the Son (cf. Mt 17:5), fixes her gaze upon his face (cf. 2Cor 3:18), and allows herself to be conformed to his life, to the point of the supreme self-offering to the Father (cf. Phil 2:5 ff.), for the praise of his glory. (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, Verbi Sponsa, no. 3, May 13, 1999)

  • In contemplation, one fulfils to the highest degree the First Commandment

The contemplative nun fulfils to the highest degree the First Commandment of the Lord: ‘You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind’ (Lk 10:27), making it the full meaning of her life and loving in God all the brothers and sisters. She moves towards the perfection of charity, choosing God as ‘the one thing necessary’ (cf. Lk 10:42), loving him exclusively as All in all. Through her unconditional love of him and in the spirit of renunciation proposed by the Gospel (cf. Mt 13:45; Lk 9:23), she accomplishes the sacrifice of all good things, ‘consecrating’ every good thing to God alone. This is so that he alone may dwell in the utter silence of the cloister, filling it with his word and presence, and the Bride may truly dedicate herself to the Only One, ‘in constant prayer and ardent penance’ in the mystery of a total and exclusive love. (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, Verbi Sponsa, no. 5, May 13, 1999)

John Paul II

  • The life of the cloister nuns is an anticipation of the contemplation of God

The monastic life of women and the cloister deserve special attention because of the greatesteem in which the Christian community holds this type of life […] Indeed, the life of cloistered nuns, devoted in a special way to prayer, to asceticism and diligent progress in the spiritual life, ‘is nothing other than a journey to the heavenly Jerusalem and an anticipation of the eschatological Church immutable in its possession and contemplation of God’. In the light of this vocation and ecclesial mission, the cloister responds to the need, felt as paramount, to be with the Lord. (John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata, no. 59, March 25, 1996)


II – The Significance of Contemplative Life for the Apostolate


Pius XII

  • Nuns participate in the apostolate of love for neighbor through example, prayer and penance

It is evident that these exclusively contemplative nuns participate in the apostolate of love for neighbor in its three forms: of example, of prayer and of penance. (Pius XII. Radio Message to the cloistered nuns of the world, August 2, 1958)

Paul VI

  • Cloistered religious are in solidarity with the entire Church

Your monastic vocation requires solitude and cloister; but you should never consider yourselves isolated and separated from the solidarity with the entire Church. You are not separate, we say, from the ecclesial communion; you are separated in order to dedicate yourselves to the special plan of your religious vocation. (Paul VI. Address to the Religious Superiors of the Benedictine Monasteries of Italy, October 28, 1966)

John XXIII

  • The primacy in the service of God corresponds to the cloistered religious

From here We are pleased to send an especially paternal greeting to Our dear daughters, who the cloistered life retains in each one of the houses in Rome and the world. To the cloistered religious corresponds, in fact, the primacy in the service of God, which is unceasing prayer, absolute detachment from everything and everyone, love of sacrifice, expiation for the sins of the world. (John XXIII. Address to the women religious of Rome, First Diocesan Synod of Rome, January 29, 1960)

Congregation for the Institute of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life

  • Cloistered religious should not be considered as excluded from the Church

It is not because monks and nuns are separated from other people that they should be considered as isolated and excluded from the world and the Church; rather, on the contrary, they are present to them ‘in a more profound manner within the familiarity with Christ’ (Congregation for the Institute of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life. Instruction Venite Seorsum, no. III, August 15, 1969)

John Paul II

  • Even some Christians, more sensitive to concrete compromise, consider contemplative life as an antiquated activity and even useless

Though profoundly loving our epoch, it is necessary to recognize that modern thought easily closes itself in subjectivism with respect to religions, the faith of believers, and religious sentiments. And this vision makes no exceptions with respect to the monastic life. This occurs to such a point, that public opinion and at times, unfortunately, inclusively some Christians – who are more sensitive to concrete compromise – find themselves tempted to consider your contemplative life as an evasion from the real; an antiquated activity and even useless. This misunderstanding might bring you suffering, even humiliations. I say to you as Christ: ‘Fear not, little flock’ (cf. Lk 12:32). A certain monastic flowering, that is manifesting itself in your country, should maintain you, moreover, in hope. (John Paul II. Address to the contemplative Sisters of the Carmel of Lisieux, June 2, 1980)

Pius XII

  • Contemplative nuns possess an entirely apostolic vocation

Mother Church requires that all of the canonically consecrated nuns of contemplation, combine perfect love of God with perfect charity toward neighbor. […] Therefore, may all nuns understand well that their vocation is fully and entirely apostolic, not constrained in any way by the limits of time, place or thing, but rather extends, always and in all places […] practiced principally through […] the example of Christian perfection; because their lives, even without the use of words, continually and significantly takes the faithful to Christ and to Christian perfection, and for the good soldiers of Christ it is like a standard or flag that excites them to real combat and stimulates them toward the crown. (Pius XII. Apostolic Constitution Sponsa Christi, no. 39, November 21, 1950)

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

  • Great importance in the conversion of souls – the contemplative life

Institutes of the contemplative life, by their prayers, sufferings, and works of penance have a very great importance in the conversion of souls, because it is God who sends workers into His harvest when He is asked to do so (cf. Mt 9:38) God who opens the minds of non – Christians to hear the Gospel (cf. Acts 16:14), and God who fructifies the word of salvation in their hearts (cf. 1Cor. 3:7). (Vatican Council II, Ad gentes, no. 40, December 7, 1965)

Benedict XVI

  • Deep bond between pastoral service and the contemplative vocation

I would like our meeting to highlight the deep bond that exists between Peter and Bruno, between pastoral service to the Church’s unity and the contemplative vocation in the Church. Ecclesial communion, in fact, demands an inner force, that force which Father Prior has just recalled, citing the expression ‘captus ab Uno’, ascribed to St Bruno: ‘grasped by the One’, by God, ‘Unus potens per omnia’, as we sang in the Vespers hymn. From the contemplative community the ministry of pastors draws a spiritual sap that comes from God. ‘Fugitiva relinquere et aeterna captare’: to abandon transient realities and seek to grasp that which is eternal. These words from the letter your Founder addressed to Rudolph, Provost of Rheims, contain the core of your spirituality (cf. Letter to Rudolph, n. 13): the strong desire to enter in union of life with God, abandoning everything else, everything that stands in the way of this communion, and letting oneself be grasped by the immense love of God to live this love alone. Dear brothers you have found the hidden treasure, the pearl of great value (cf. Mt 13:44-46). (Benedict XVI. Liturgy of Vespers in the church of the Charterhouse of Serra San Bruno, October 9, 2011)

  • The prayer of contemplatives sustains the fervor of the priesthood

In certain places in Africa, a monastery of contemplative religious has been established in the vicinity of the major seminary. Is it not especially meaningful that those who saw the necessity of promoting vocations to the priesthood, so as to enable the young churches to become fully implanted in the native soil, also professed their conviction that only the grace of God, humbly sought in constant prayer, could sustain the fervor of the priesthood? I ask you therefore, as a special request on this occasion, to make it one of the primary intentions of your prayers, to beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (cf. Mt 9:38). (John Paul II. Address to the Sisters of the Order of Carmel, Nairobi, May 7, 1980)

  • An apostolate of greatest ecclesial and redemptive value – example Saint Theresa of Lisieux: the ‘Patroness of the Missions’

Following the steps of Saint Benedict, or Saint Bernard, Saint Clare of Assisi or Saint Teresa of Avila, cloistered nuns assume, full time, this service of divine praise and intercession in the name of the Church. This form of life is also an apostolate of greatest ecclesial and redemptive value, which Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus illustrated magnificently in the course of her short existence in the Carmel of Lisieux. Let us not forget that Pope Pius XI proclaimed her as ‘Patroness of the Missions.’ (John Paul II. Address to women religious gathered in the Carmel of Kinshasa, Zaire, no. 4, May 3, 1980)

  • You accompany the apostolic mission of evangelizers, your collaboration in the new evangelization is particularly important

Dear sisters, you are the representatives of the special vocation of contemplative life that has passed through the history of the Church, reminding everyone of the urgency of constantly walking toward the definitive encounter with God and the blessed. […] How precious is your vocation of special consecration! It is truly a gift situated in the heart of the mystery of ecclesial communion, accompanying the apostolic mission of so many in their efforts to announce the Gospel. The collaboration that you are called to offer in the new evangelization is particularly important. (John Paul II. Address to cloistered religious, Loreto, September 10, 1995)

Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life

  • Cloistered nuns are the missionary heart of the Church

Cloistered nuns fulfil that mission by dwelling at the missionary heart of the Church, by means of constant prayer, the oblation of self and the offering of the sacrifice of praise. Their life thus becomes a mysterious source of apostolic fruitfulness (cf. Decree Perfectae Caritatis, 7; John Paul II, Vita Consecrata (March 25, 1996), 8; 59) and blessing for the Christian community and for the whole world. (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, Verbi Sponsa, no. 7, May 13, 1999)

John Paul II

  • St Thérèse of Lisieux – model of missionary commitment and patroness of the missions

Today, World Mission Sunday, we turn our attention especially to St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, whom this morning I had the joy of proclaiming a doctor of the universal Church. She is a model of missionary commitment and the patroness of the missions, although she never left the cloister of the Lisieux Carmel. (John Paul II. Angelus, Proclamation of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face as a ‘Doctor of the Church’, World Mission Sunday, October 19, 1997)

Pius XI

  • Contemplatives draw down from heaven a shower of divine graces, without which evangelical laborers would reap a scanty crop

It is, besides, easy to understand how they who assiduously fulfill the duty of prayer and penance contribute much more to the increase of the Church and the welfare of mankind than those who labor in tilling the Master’s field; for unless the former drew down from heaven a shower of divine graces to water the field that is being tilled, the evangelical laborers would reap forsooth from their toil a more scanty crop.[…] seeing that since they keep the rule of their Order not only accurately but also with generous ardor, and since that rule easily carries those who observe it to the higher degree of sanctity, it is impossible that those religious should not become and remain powerful pleaders with our most merciful God for all Christendom. (Pius XI. Apostolic Constitution Umbratilem, July 8, 1924)

Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life

  • The faithful should learn to honor the specific role of contemplatives

It is important that the faithful learn to honor the charism and the specific role of contemplatives, their discreet but crucial presence, and their silent witness which constitutes a call to prayer and a reminder of the truth of God’s existence. (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, Verbi Sponsa, no. 8, May 13, 1999)

  • Bishops are the chief guardians of the contemplative charism

As pastors and guides of all of God’s flock, the Bishops are the chief guardians of the contemplative charism. Therefore, they must nurture contemplative communities with the bread of the Word and the Eucharist, offering where necessary the spiritual assistance of properly trained priests. At the same time they share with the community the task of keeping watch so that, in today’s society marked by dispersion, a lack of silence and illusory values, the life of monasteries, nourished by the Holy Spirit, may remain genuinely and wholly directed towards the contemplation of God. (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, Verbi Sponsa, no. 8, May 13, 1999)

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