More Spiritual Reflections

Spiritual Reflections


Reflections on Vita Consecrata

Sr. Dolores Banick, IHM
October 27, 2004

Reflections on Vita Consecrata

My reflections on Vita Consecrata, the post-synodal Apostolic exhortation of Pope John Paul II, and the subsequent instruction of the Vatican congregation for institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, starting afresh from Christ: a renewed commitment to consecrated life in the third millennium, will take as their organizing principle The Year of the Eucharist which we begin this October. The year of the Eucharist is a kairos moment—a particular moment of grace in our lifetime.

It is significant for the spiritual life of consecrated persons to view our consecration, our communion, and our mission, the three major dimensions of religious life, in light of the Eucharist itself, the center of our spirituality. To quote the instruction: the Eucharist, the memorial of the Lord's sacrifice, the heart of the life of the church and of every community, fashions from within, the renewed offering of one's existence, the project of community life and the apostolic mission.

At the consecration within the Eucharistic prayer at mass, the bread and the wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ. In his encyclical letter on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, the Holy Father likens the consecration of Mary to the Eucharistic consecration. He says: At the Annunciation Mary conceived the Son of God in the physical reality of his body and blood, thus anticipating within herself what to some degree happens sacramentally in every believer who receives, under the signs of bread and wine, the Lord's body and blood. Like Mary's fiat to the angel at the incarnation, so too is our amen at the reception of the body and blood of the lord. Isn't this a profoundly fruitful way to view our consecration as religious? For despite the wonderful diversity of charisms that distinguish the communities of religious women and men of the church, our interior transformation—like that of the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Christ—makes all of us the holy presence of Christ in our consecrated life through the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

As we receive Holy Communion at Mass, we find there too the community and wider communion to which we are called as women religious. St. Augustine reminds us that we become what we eat and drink—the very communion that identifies us as Christians in the world; the very communion that challenges us as women religious in church and society--in the words of the instruction: to make the church, the home and school of communion - communion between old and new charisms, communion with the laity, communion with bishops. Communion of old and new charisms helps congregations and institutes to rediscover their common gospel roots, while at the same time it instills the courage of interdependence, and the daring of inventiveness needed to respond to the signs of the times. Communion with the laity inspires interesting initiatives and new institutional forms of association as religious share the primacy of the spiritual in terms of prayer and silence with the laity, and with them, embark on new paths of pastoral service for peace and justice and in the preferential option of charity for the poor. Communion with the hierarchy, in the person of the pope and the diocesan bishop, ensures an ecclesial communion of mind and heart which is clearly witnessed in the world especially in face of the front-line moral issues which the magisterium must face.

Ite missa est. The mass is ended. Go in peace. This brief dismissal at the end of mass always has been interpreted to signify the mission in the world of all who have brought their gifts for consecration, and formed One Bread, One Body in communion. It is here too that religious find the challenge and strength to bring Christ's Eucharistic love into the everydays of human life: in the concrete service of charity; in protecting the rights of the human person; in spreading the gospel of life and of truth; in openness to ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue; in promoting global justice and peace; in securing ecological progress; etc., etc. Go forth in peace and take up the demanding task of being a reflection of the light of Christ...go forth in peace and, like Mary, become a woman of the Eucharist in your whole life. The Year of the Eucharist, then, presents a wonderful opportunity for all of us women religious in the Diocese of Scranton to "start afresh" in the consecration, in the communion, in the mission that is ours at the beginning of this third millennium.