Since the first Papal Approbation of the Constitutions of the Holy Family, dated Dec 18, 1903, reaffirmed in 1988, it has been a tradition that we renew our Vows on that date…
What is the significance of this gesture? Does it mean much to those of us who are already “perpetually professed”, or to those at the beginning of their religious life, who already renew their vows annually… ?
The answer to that question depends, of course, on each one us – however, we could reflect that this tradition links us to those who have gone before us… it is a corporate act… Not only am I renewing my vows in the presence of my community, but in union with all the members of our Institute… it is an act of belonging, and of fidelity.
A document entitled “The Gift of Fidelity, the Joy of Perseverance” has recently been issued by the Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes. Its chief aim is to look at the causes of defections from Religious Life, but here I’d like to quote some brief paragraphs which speak of fidelity:
Fidelity is engraved in the profound identity of the vocation of consecrated persons: it has to do with the meaning of our life before God and the Church. Coherent fidelity enables us to grasp and reclaim the truth of our own being, that is, to remain in God’s love.
Fidelity and coherence to the cause of Christ are not an instant virtue. They require deep awareness of the human, spiritual, psychological and moral implications of the vocation to consecrated life. God’s cause transcends, challenges, leads to a decision and a dedication of oneself to and for the service of the kingdom of God. In this service, personal convictions and community commitments are gifts experienced by the grace of conversion.
As men and women of discernment, consecrated persons become capable of reading the reality of human life in the light of the spirit, and thus they are able to choose, decide and act according to the divine will.
A journey of fidelity in perseverance demands looking at life as consecrated persons without closing one’s eyes when problems or difficulties arise. Consecrated persons on a journey of authentic fidelity recognize and discern their own story while, above all, they question themselves about “.fidelity born of love”. They discipline their own life so as not to deprive of meaning the attention to their interior life. They welcome the gift of divine grace, the promise and pledge of remaining of God’s love.
What allows us to remain in Jesus’ love is the observance of his commandments, the docile listening to his word. This listening changes the hearts of the disciples: from a heart of servants, it makes a heart of friends. It makes them friends in an authentic and lasting relationship with Jesus.
From our own “Vowed for Mission” :
Our consecration, as that of all baptised, is a call to communion at the service of mission. Our choice for living the vows of celibacy, poverty and obedience, in the context of Christian religious life is an expression of our passion for God’s purpose in the world. Responding freely and in faith to God’s call to us to follow Jesus, we commit ourselves to a particular way of loving, living freedom and justice, in and through community
And the Constitutions which we celebrate tell us:
Throughout our life, it is God’s fidelity which supports ours; it is on God’s call constantly renewed that we rely to sustain our daily response….
May this Advent enable us all to find and share light and hope in this dark time.