The Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life recently released a new document focused on the role and vocation of religious brothers in the life of the Church. The document, entitled ‘Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church’, was presented at a press conference by the head of the Congregation, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, and its secretary, Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo.
Lay religious men, or brothers as they’re commonly called, make up about a fifth of all male religious in the Catholic Church today. They are men who are not ordained to the priesthood but are normally consecrated to a life of service within the different orders, societies or congregations.
In his presentation Archbishop Carballo noted that the origin of this figure in the Church dates back to the centuries following Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan recognizing Christianity as an official religion. From this point on, he said, people began using the faith for their own interests, losing the fervor of the first Christian communities who often lived in fear of their lives.
From that time on, men seeking to maintain an authentic witness to Christ’s teachings consecrated themselves to a life of solitude, or later, to a life of community service.
Cardinal Braz de Aviz explained that the document addresses the identity of the religious brother in three ways:
What about “refounding” – about which much was said by religious in the late twentieth century but which experts in the matter were quick to qualify as extremely difficult to bring about?
Concerning obstacles to our proper centering of and exploration of our life and charism, Fr. François Denaz (1811-1857), an early La Salette, had listed three principal ills, reminiscent of those presented in 1 John 2:15-16:
“Do not love the world or the things of the world. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eye, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world.
Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.
Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.
Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”