Vocation and Consecration for Mission

seated_attleboro.jpg(These reflections are based on selections from "The Consecrated Life; Crossroads & Directions" by Marcello Azevedo, S.J., published by Orbis Books, 1995, paper, 141 pgs.)

As the La Salette Rule of Life states: “After the example of Mary, Reconciler of Sinners, the Missionaries of La Salette consider it their duty to enter more deeply into the mystery of reconciliation. They do so through prayer, meditation, study and ministry.” (1 cp) We hope your reflection experience is a time of true grace and reconciliation for you.

Each series is made available especially for those connected with the Missionaries of La Salette—La Salette religious, lay associates and others. These can be used by individuals or groups in their continued meditation on the meaning and purpose of the La Salette Missionaries and allied groups. They can be used in personal prayer or in group discussions.

Meditation One—Make Disciples of All Nations:

Scripture: Matthew 28: 16 –20 (Make disciples of all nations)

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

“Lumen Gentium (the Vatican Council II constitution on the nature of the church) was one of the principal documents of the Council. It made it quite clear that religious vocations are not in and of themselves part of the hierarchical structure of the church.

…(As a consequence) religious life has great potential for mission presence and involvement around the world. Religious communities can be much more flexible and are potentially even more universal than the local church in which they work. The local church, which is institutional territorial, and programmatic, is often limited in its flexibility. Because they relate directly to an evangelical project but are not intrinsically a part of the hierarchical structure of the church, religious can be more open and adaptable. In fact, this is what we see down through history— multiple, diverse, parachurch expressions of Christian concern that are molded into new paradigms, each with a variety of apostolic possibilities. Indeed, congregations founded in response to one geographical or ecclesial challenge have often found themselves moving into a wider international theater. (chapter three, pgs. 28-29)
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Meditation Two—Expect “the New”:

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5: 14-17 (Whoever is in Christ is a new creation)

10For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer. So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.

If we keep in mind… regarding faith and culture, inculturated evangelization is no mere transfer or modification of languages and methods, rites and symbols, organizations and norms—of external ways of action and expression. This is nothing more than acculturation and adaptation. (True) inculturation must go deeper, to the foundations and roots of culture. (Evangelii Nuntiandi 19), to its values, criteria, worldviews, and ethos (i.e., the inspiration for the sociocultural praxis of a people).

…(Also the receivers of the message of the gospel) need not slavishly imitate the cultural forms in which the evangelizer communicates the gospel. Rather, they should be encouraged to rework the message from within their own cultural reality—their identity, history, values and worldviews—in the light of gospel inspiration… The unfolding of salvation history is a process of inculturation. (chapter four, pgs. 38-39)    

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Meditation Three—The Need for Ongoing Conversion:

Scripture: Luke 7: 1-10 (The Centurion: Not even in Israel have I found such faith)

When he had finished all his words to the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him. When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and save the life of his slave.

They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying, "He deserves to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us." And Jesus went with them, but when he was only a short distance from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; 10but say the word and let my servant be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come here,' and he comes; and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it."

When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him and, turning, said to the crowd following him, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." When the messengers returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

God uses the tempering of history and the plurality of cultures that are part of the diverse situations in which Israelites found themselves throughout their history—in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Canaan, Persia, and during the post-exilic, Hellenistic, late Judaic, and Greco-Roman periods—to convey various facets of the divine-human economy….
Accordingly, we cannot justify viewing any culture as absolute, not even Israel, as the only and unalterable form in which divine revelation can be expressed… Simultaneously, we cannot exclude any culture from its potential to become the bearer of revelation.

This same thing must go on permanently in the history of every culture, even if it was once evangelized. Evangelization is never fully achieved to a degree that cultures—like individuals—are dispensed from the need for continuing conversion and transformation…. No culture should pretend to be an absolute, unique, and ideal vehicle of revelation.

…For this reason there is room in every culture for growth and for changing deficient attitudes. …The gospel must be a teacher to culture. But every culture represents a potentially new interpretation and a unique contextualization of the gospel. Evangelizers from other cultures are, together with the gospel receptors, subjects of their own evangelization. (chapter four, pgs. 39-41)

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Meditation Four—Gifts That Differ:

Scripture: Romans 12: 6-13 (We have gifts that differ)

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in unity_01.jpgministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.

“The primary life objective of religious is to live out radical implications of the gospel in both the church and the world. Consecrated religious life, as a Christian vocation, is directly linked to evangelizing mission.

The international character of numerous religious communities, which are by definition multicultural in character, raises the issue of the connection among faith, life, and culture. For members of such congregations, this kind of connection is part and parcel of their daily being and doing, and of their apostolic praxis in evangelizing mission.

Inculturation, then, must be a central topic, not only in ecclesial praxis and theological and missiological reflection, but also in the consecrated life. This is particularly the case today, because until quite recently religious institutes have been characterized by a monocultural uniformity despite their internationality. Indeed, those communities have been mostly ruled according to the cultural assumptions and practices of the areas in which they were founded. There has been relatively little space given to constructive reflection on their actual multicultural experience. At the same time, scant attention has been paid to the cultures in which these communities, lived, worked, and were planted around the world.” (chapter four, pg. 42-43)

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Meditation Five—Our Charism:

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5: 18-20 (We are ambassadors of reconciliation)

And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

“Religious institutes and orders generally trace their origins to a founder. [In our case, the official founder was Philibert de Bruillard, then Bishop of Grenoble. However, some even consider our Blessed Lady our foundress.] stand515.jpg
…A unique intuition and divine dynamism act within founders in what is commonly called a founding charism. Founders respond positively to the divine challenge and dedicate their lives to achieving a goal. They may not always understand clearly the nature of their inspiration to create something new. But quite often the force of their charism attracts others who share the same concerns and prepare, as an apostolic body, to serve the church and the people of God.

Times change, however, and the church marches through history. Religious orders expand and spread into other latitudes. The significance and survival of their charisms depend upon their rootedness in the gospel, and on the independence and flexibility of adapting to new sociocultural contexts. Religious are not only followers but living continuations of Jesus and of their founders.

…In every period of history until the Parousia we must discover anew the pertinence of the gospel and of a founding charism in order to unveil its radical and authentic inspiration. Pope Paul VI invited religious to undertake renewal in his Motu Proprio to religious, Ecclesiae Sanctae. That document led to the rewriting of the constitutions of many institutes within a process of general chapters convened to undertake renewal and updating. These efforts benefited from historical studies on the origin and evolution of the orders. They also generated broad participation and involvement and resulted in an inevitable diversity of views on how to apply founding charisms in pastoral activity.

… Faithfulness (to their charism), ideally, will depend upon the capacity to discover the evangelical source of the charism in circumstances different from those in which it was originally manifested. Creativity supposes a capacity to sense, in the present, future implications of the original charism. (chapter four, pgs. 43-45)

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Meditation Six—The Poor Are Us:

Scripture: Luke 4: 16-21 (He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor)

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The option for the poor does not absolutize poverty or glorify the poor, as if poverty were desirable and therefore should remain. The poor are not, because they are poor, the perfect expression of the Christian message. Nor are they exempt from human limitations and sins.jesus heals_01.jpg
The option is not a naive pretense that the poor cannot aspire to social mobility to overcome their situation, certainly not the subhuman wretchedness that can be found in the Third World and also in parts of the First World. It does not entail patronizing the poor, manipulating their plight to serve the interests of some or to help others gain party votes.

The option for the poor is not a mechanism for bringing together and organizing the poor to gain political power or to increase trade-union membership. It is an existential option which emerges from the very depths of our being. It is demonstrated through poverty of spirit, by a solicitous and respectful concern for others, and by the capacity to be open to others without imposing ourselves on them.

To understand the option for the poor in these terms and to describe its broad spectrum of qualifications does not, however, guarantee that we are capable of applying it to our own lives and of translating it into apostolic service to our brothers and sisters. To achieve these goals we must let ourselves be carried by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. We must discover that the first poor for whom we have to opt are ourselves.

…We are not all called to do the same thing. Talents and vocations are diverse; charisms and roles are as different and varied as ministries and functions…
The poor of Jesus' time still abound in our fields and cities. …But our present world presents myriad other kinds—more complex and subtle—of poverty that distort and destroy human freedom. Today there are the landless, the jobless, the homeless migrants, those discriminated against. The poor among us are the illiterate, the famished, the indigent and sickly; those who suffer violence, the frustrated and manipulated.
(But) the group for which we must primarily opt comprises the victims of structured economic poverty.

…Most flagrant of all is the paradox of overwhelming poverty in an affluent and rich world. We are called to opt first for these poor, without by this excluding anyone else…In the religious life, this is a primary means of publicly affirming our consecration to the church's responsible and effective mission in the world. (chapter 5, pgs. 55, 59, 61, 62)

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Meditation Seven—Religious as “continuations of their community’s charisms”:

Scripture: John 4: 25-30, 39-42 (The Samaritan woman helps others to believe)

(At the end of his conversation with the Samaritan woman, she said to Jesus:) “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”risen_01.jpg At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” They went out of the town and came to him.

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.”

When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

Charisms… will survive to the degree in which they can be transplanted from their original socio-cultural milieu into present contexts without being cut off from their roots. This is how charisms become meaningful and significant in new and different historical contexts.

When charisms express a unique evangelical intuition-point to a particular need within the church, the religious vocation puts into practice its prophetic role. The prophetic dimension is, for the people of God and for the church, a healthy reminder of God's original purposes.

The charismatic-prophetic linkage makes the presence of Jesus real, not by a material imitation of what he was in his time, but by specific translations into what he would be today if he lived among us. This is a dynamic form of discipleship. Religious are not only imitators, nor even followers of Jesus and of the founders of their orders. They are also continuations. (They are) persons who—having been touched by the same gift (charism)—infuse it with new life, translating it into their present context (prophecy), in the light of our fundamental reference, Jesus our Lord. (chapter 6, pg. 68)

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Meditation Eight—Seeing Our Vows With New Eyes:

Scripture: Mark: 10: 18-30) (The rich young man went away sad)

An official asked Jesus this question, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother.’” And he replied, “All of these I have observed from my youth.”

When Jesus heard this he said to him, “There is still one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when he heard this he became quite sad, for he was very rich.

Jesus looked at him (now sad) and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard this said, "Then who can be saved?" And he said, "What is impossible for human beings is possible for God."

see_01.jpgThen Peter said, “We have given up our possessions and followed you.” He said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive (back) an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come.”

(Since Vatican II, we have experienced many transitions. Among them is) the passage from an overly individualistic, legalistic, and administrative understanding of the vow of poverty to a simpler and more austere personal and community lifestyle in solidarity with the poor.

The previous lifestyle of religious, while extolling personal austerity, accumulated wealth and courted the rich. The new way of life shows a greater willingness to share, both internally and externally and in more effective ways, because it is motivated by the reality of the poor…

(Also) we have moved from a concept of the vow of chastity which emphasizes the moral purity of individuals as the virtue of renunciation, mortification, and temperance, or as a functional means for the apostolate, toward understanding chastity and consecrated celibacy as an expression of affection fulfilled, personally and in community, offered in love to God and neighbor.
Consecrated chastity thus becomes a sign of the hope of the Kingdom, an anticipation of the authentic fulfillment of the end times, and a definitive expression of human love.

(Lastly) there is a transition from a view of the vow of obedience as renunciation of personal freedom and unilateral submission to the will of a superior, which was the only expression of the will of God to a concept of obedience that is intimately tied to mission and structured by it.
This leads to the perception that everyone is in obedience, those who serve in authority and the rest. They are all in obedience because everyone is responsible for some part of discernment that can help them to identify the will of the Lord for persons and groups, communities, and orders... The vow of obedience should be perceived as an active and personalized engagement in one's own freedom. (chapter six, pgs. 70-71)

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Meditation Nine—The Laity’s Place in the Prophetic Mission of the Church:

Scripture: 1 Peter 2:1-5, 9 (You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation)

Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, insincerity, envy, and all slander; like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk so that through it you may grow into salvation, for you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.laity_01.jpg
But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

We (should) encourage lay collaborators to join us in mission. They can share our responsibilities and tasks, all the while growing in our charisms and spirituality. This cannot be improvised or put off. And it isn't a one-way street with us religious dictating to the laity what they must think and do. We are talking about reciprocal relationships, wherein we become open to learn from the laity and receive suggestions and advice from them, while we share with them what we can…

Because all Christians share in this prophetic ministry through baptism, it would be disingenuous for religious to claim a monopoly on prophetism within the church. In fact, every ecclesial vocation receives and should practice in unique ways the prophetic gift. Nonetheless, a religious life without a prophetic dimension would be unintelligible. In the religious life, the public nature of commitment to a radical evangelical project is a constant reminder to activate the prophetic gift… We see a promising new ecclesial reality where laymen and laywomen are more highly valued.  (chapter ten, pgs. 121-122, 132-133)

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