Consecrated Hearts-Ecclesial Documents
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Part I: Chapter
III, Article 9, Paragraph 4 - III
THE CONSECRATED LIFE
914 "The state of life which is
constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, while not
entering into the hierarchical structure of the Church, belongs
undeniably to her life and holiness."453
915 Christ proposes the evangelical
counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. The perfection
of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those
who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of
practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty
and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a
permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes
the life consecrated to God.454
916 The state of consecrated life is
thus one way of experiencing a "more intimate" consecration, rooted
in Baptism and dedicated totally to God.455 In the
consecrated life, Christ's faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit,
propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who
is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the
service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the
glory of the world to come.456
One great tree, with many
917 "From the God-given seed of the
counsels a wonderful and wide-spreading tree has grown up in the
field of the Lord, branching out into various forms of the religious
life lived in solitude or in community. Different religious families
have come into existence in which spiritual resources are multiplied
for the progress in holiness of their members and for the good of
the entire Body of Christ."457
From the very beginning of the Church there were men and women who
set out to follow Christ with greater liberty, and to imitate him
more closely, by practicing the evangelical counsels. They led lives
dedicated to God, each in his own way. Many of them, under the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit, became hermits or founded religious
families. These the Church, by virtue of her authority, gladly
accepted and approved.458
919 Bishops will always
strive to discern new gifts of consecrated life granted to the
Church by the Holy Spirit; the approval of new forms of consecrated
life is reserved to the Apostolic See.459
The eremitic life
always professing the three evangelical counsels publicly, hermits
"devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world
through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of
solitude and assiduous prayer and penance."460
921 They manifest to everyone the
interior aspect of the mystery of the Church, that is, personal
intimacy with Christ. Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of the
hermit is a silent preaching of the Lord, to whom he has surrendered
his life simply because he is everything to him. Here is a
particular call to find in the desert, in the thick of spiritual
battle, the glory of the Crucified One.
Consecrated virgins and
922 From apostolic times Christian
virgins461 and widows,462 called by the Lord
to cling only to him with greater freedom of heart, body, and
spirit, have decided with the Church's approval to live in the
respective status of virginity or perpetual chastity "for the sake
of the Kingdom of heaven."463
923 "Virgins who, committed to the
holy plan of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God
by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite,
are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and are
dedicated to the service of the Church."464 By this
solemn rite (Consecratio virginum), the virgin is
"constituted . . . a sacred person, a transcendent sign of the
Church's love for Christ, and an eschatological image of this
heavenly Bride of Christ and of the life to come."465
924 "As with other
forms of consecrated life," the order of virgins establishes the
woman living in the world (or the nun) in prayer, penance, service
of her brethren, and apostolic activity, according to the state of
life and spiritual gifts given to her.466 Consecrated
virgins can form themselves into associations to observe their
commitment more faithfully.467
925 Religious life was born in the
East during the first centuries of Christianity. Lived within
institutes canonically erected by the Church, it is distinguished
from other forms of consecrated life by its liturgical character,
public profession of the evangelical counsels, fraternal life led in
common, and witness given to the union of Christ with the Church.468
926 Religious life derives from the
mystery of the Church. It is a gift she has received from her Lord,
a gift she offers as a stable way of life to the faithful called by
God to profess the counsels. Thus, the Church can both show forth
Christ and acknowledge herself to be the Savior's bride. Religious
life in its various forms is called to signify the very charity of
God in the language of our time.
927 All religious, whether exempt or
not, take their place among the collaborators of the diocesan bishop
in his pastoral duty.469 From the outset of the work of
evangelization, the missionary "planting" and expansion of the
Church require the presence of the religious life in all its forms.470
"History witnesses to the outstanding service rendered by religious
families in the propagation of the faith and in the formation of new
Churches: from the ancient monastic institutions to the medieval
orders, all the way to the more recent congregations."471
928 "A secular
institute is an institute of consecrated life in which the Christian
faithful living in the world strive for the perfection of charity
and work for the sanctification of the world especially from
929 By a "life perfectly and entirely
consecrated to [such] sanctification," the members of these
institutes share in the Church's task of evangelization, "in the
world and from within the world," where their presence acts as
"leaven in the world."473 "Their witness of a Christian
life" aims "to order temporal things according to God and inform the
world with the power of the gospel." They commit themselves to the
evangelical counsels by sacred bonds and observe among themselves
the communion and fellowship appropriate to their "particular
secular way of life."474
Societies of apostolic life
930 Alongside the
different forms of consecrated life are "societies of apostolic life
whose members without religious vows pursue the particular apostolic
purpose of their society, and lead a life as brothers or sisters in
common according to a particular manner of life, strive for the
perfection of charity through the observance of the constitutions.
Among these there are societies in which the members embrace the
evangelical counsels" according to their constitutions.475
Consecration and mission:
proclaiming the King who is coming
931 Already dedicated
to him through Baptism, the person who surrenders himself to the God
he loves above all else thereby consecrates himself more intimately
to God's service and to the good of the Church. By this state of
life consecrated to God, the Church manifests Christ and shows us
how the Holy Spirit acts so wonderfully in her. And so the first
mission of those who profess the evangelical counsels is to live out
their consecration. Moreover, "since members of institutes of
consecrated life dedicate themselves through their consecration to
the service of the Church they are obliged in a special manner to
engage in missionary work, in accord with the character of the
932 In the Church, which is like the
sacrament- the sign and instrument - of God's own life, the
consecrated life is seen as a special sign of the mystery of
redemption. To follow and imitate Christ more nearly and to manifest
more clearly his self- emptying is to be more deeply present to
one's contemporaries, in the heart of Christ. For those who are on
this "narrower" path encourage their brethren by their example, and
bear striking witness "that the world cannot be transfigured and
offered to God without the spirit of the beatitudes."477
933 Whether their witness is public,
as in the religious state, or less public, or even secret, Christ's
coming remains for all those consecrated both the origin and rising
sun of their life:
the People of God has here no lasting city, . . . [and this
state] reveals more clearly to all believers the heavenly goods
which are already present in this age, witnessing to the new and
eternal life which we have acquired through the redemptive work
of Christ and preluding our future resurrection and the glory of
the heavenly kingdom.478
934 "Among the
Christian faithful by divine institution there exist in the Church
sacred ministers, who are also called clerics in law, and other
Christian faithful who are also called laity." In both groups there
are those Christian faithful who, professing the evangelical
counsels, are consecrated to God and so serve the Church's saving
mission (cf. CIC, can. 207 § 1, 2).
935 To proclaim the
faith and to plant his reign, Christ sends his apostles and their
successors. He gives them a share in his own mission. From him they
receive the power to act in his person.
936 The Lord made St.
Peter the visible foundation of his Church. He entrusted the keys of
the Church to him. The bishop of the Church of Rome, successor to
St. Peter, is "head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ
and Pastor of the universal Church on earth" (CIC, can. 331).
937 The Pope enjoys, by
divine institution, "supreme, full, immediate, and universal power
in the care of souls" (CD 2).
938 The Bishops,
established by the Holy Spirit, succeed the apostles. They are "the
visible source and foundation of unity in their own particular
Churches" (LG 23).
939 Helped by the
priests, their co-workers, and by the deacons, the bishops have the
duty of authentically teaching the faith, celebrating divine
worship, above all the Eucharist, and guiding their Churches as true
pastors. Their responsibility also includes concern for all the
Churches, with and under the Pope.
940 "The characteristic
of the lay state being a life led in the midst of the world and of
secular affairs, lay people are called by God to make of their
apostolate, through the vigor of their Christian spirit, a leaven in
the world" (AA 2 § 2).
941 Lay people share in
Christ's priesthood: ever more united with him, they exhibit the
grace of Baptism and Confirmation in all dimensions of their
personal family, social and ecclesial lives, and so fulfill the call
to holiness addressed to all the baptized.
942 By virtue of their
prophetic mission, lay people "are called . . . to be witnesses to
Christ in all circumstances and at the very heart of the community
of mankind" (GS 43 § 4).
943 By virtue of their
kingly mission, lay people have the power to uproot the rule of sin
within themselves and in the world, by their self-denial and
holiness of life (cf. LG 36).
944 The life
consecrated to God is characterized by the public profession of the
evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, in a
stable state of life recognized by the Church.
945 Already destined
for him through Baptism, the person who surrenders himself to the
God he loves above all else thereby consecrates himself more
intimately to God's service and to the good of the whole Church.
44 § 4.
454 Cf. LG 42-43; PC 1.
455 Cf. PC 5.
456 Cf. CIC, can. 573.
457 LG 43.
458 PC 1.
459 Cf. CIC, can. 605.
460 CIC, can. 603 § 1.
461 Cf. 1 Cor 7:34-36.
462 Cf. John Paul II, Vita consecrata 7. 463 Mt 19:12
464 CIC, can. 604 § 1.
465 Ordo Consecrationis Virginum, Praenotanda 1.
466 Cf. CIC, can. 604 § 1; OCV Praenotanda 2.
467 Cf. CIC, can. 604 § 2.
468 Cf. CIC, cann. 607; 573; UR 15.
469 Cf. CD 33-35; CIC, can. 591.
470 Cf. AG 18; 40.
471 John Paul II, RMiss 69.
472 CIC, can. 710.
473 Pius XII, Provida Mater; cf. PC 11.
474 Cf. CIC, can. 713 § 2.
475 Cf. CIC, can. 731 §§ 1 and 2.
476 CIC, can. 783; cf. RM 69.
477 LG 31 § 2.
478 LG 44 § 3.
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