10 Commandments For Today's Consecrated Life

Interestingly, the Special Year of Consecrated Life extends to more than a year — Nov 21, 2014 - Feb 2, 2016! This year takes into consideration three significant events.

Mar 06, 2015

By Fr Jerry Rosario, SJ
Interestingly, the Special Year of Consecrated Life extends to more than a year — Nov 21, 2014 - Feb 2, 2016! This year takes into consideration three significant events. They are:

-- the 50th anniversary of Lumen Gentium (Nov 21, 1964);
--the Golden Jubilee of Perfectae Caritatis (Oct 28, 1965) and
--the 20th anniversary of Vita Consecrata (Mar 25, 1996).

Pope John Paul II encapsulated all the above developments on religious life in an annual celebration of the establishment of the World Day of Consecrated Life, which falls on Feb 2.

Taking all the above remembrances into substantial consideration, Pope Francis has gifted the Church with a special occasion to celebrate and challenge those who live their Consecrated life with the factors and features of our life in today’s post-modernistic world. He has done it, not only as the Successor of Peter but also, as one who himself is a vowed member in the Society of Jesus.

The beginning of Christian life for each person is with the Sacrament of Baptism. It demands every baptised person to be personally and profoundly committed to the Mission of God. If so, all the more demanding should be the Consecrated life..! We can also put it this way: If one is not ready for a challenge-packed Consecrated life, she or he should employ her/his honesty to bid good bye to it, in order to live well the foundational and fundamental baptized life.

On the other hand, if one has come forward to submit herself or himself to the Consecrated life, there should be in her or him a definitive determination and correspondingly, a dedicative disposition. No excuse, no escape henceforth from radical commitments while following the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth..!

Keep Going...! Keep Growing...!
When we want to “keep going” with the Consecrated life, then we should be ready to “keep growing.” That will not happen automatically. But, certainly it will happen animatedly. If so, we have to pilgrim through a well-animated process. For, no process would mean no progress. We have before us a special PROCESS —TIME of over 14 months now, GIVEN WITH GOD’S CHOICEST GRACES.

We are called upon to focus, all through this year, on the following TRIPLE SPECIFIC Rs: (a) Revisit the Past with Gratitude, (b) Reflect the Present with Passion, (c) Radicalise the Future with Hope. (Refer for details: Apostolic Letter of Pope Francis to the Consecrated women and men, 21 Nov 2014). Possibly, focus may not comprehensively get accomplished within the stipulated time. Still, it could and should set the ball rolling. And that too, with a big bang. All the more, due to this important datum which pertains us: the Indian Catholic Church has of late emerged to be the Capital of the Consecrated life. What does it mean..?

In the whole Catholic world today, India is blessed with the highest number of the Consecrated: around 130,000 and also, with over 2,200 novices. In Malaysia, we have about 579 Consecrated.

While thanking profusely the God of Vocation, we need to check with ourselves both individually and collectively: “Whether the quality has come down while the quantity has gone up..?” In order to push up the quality of our Consecration, A SELECT 10 COMMANDMENTS are commended below for our sincere and serious consideration:


First and foremost, we are to be witnesses, says Pope Francis. It is rather easy to be “the devotees of Jesus,” especially in today’s comfort-galore world. The demand is, whether or not the Consecrated ones are growing consistently into becoming more and more “the disciples of Jesus.” That has to be manifested by witnessing to the primary values of the Gospel of Jesus: Justice (for total Creation, including humanity) and Freedom (for every individual in terms of basic human rights with responsibilities) and Love (for society and in particular, for the least). Thereby, Consecrated men and women can reveal, in person and in practice, that the Gospel is not just “reading” Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. But much more, “realising” the values in one’s daily life, come what may.

The Consecrated have also given to themselves the challenge of witnessing to the Vows that are nothing but a radicalised furtherance of the Gospel values: OBEDIENCE to Justice and truth (Jn. 18:37), CHASTITY for inner Freedom to serve God’s Mission (Mt. 19:12) and POVERTY to be in Love with the poorest of the poor (Mt. 25:40).


Each religious congregration commemorates and celebrates the Charism of its Founder or Foundress. Charism is a special gift of the Spirit. Charism is, in a way, the unique stamp of a congregation. Charism, thus, gives a certain “distinctive identity” to a religious institute. “Charism is not a bottle of distilled water,” says Pope Francis. Even a cursory look into all the charisms of the varied congregations highlight powerfully one facet: CREATIVITY.

How come, then, the religious congregations and their members have got used to thrive on “traditional services” rather than searching for “creative services...?” A stimulating and stirring enquiry could be: “if my Founder/Foundress were alive today, what creative ministries would he or she initiate and, in the process, even cancel out certain ones that they themselves initiated once upon a time...?”


In one way or another, all the Founding Fathers and Mothers of our Consecrated communities were strikingly concerned with, and committed to, “the least and the lost” (Mt 25: 31-46). How come then, the Consecrated have steadily moved away from the poorest, even justifying it by saying “everyone is poor..?” It has come to be almost a mockery of the very divine call. How..? By whitewashing that everyone is poor, we have conveniently started serving the local Birlas, Tatas and Ambanis.

Much more, we have made our services to the poorest, only as “optional and additional.” In that sickening scenario, this special year places a special command to our religious communities to “get back to our roots,” and thus to befriend the marginalised and to be at their service. “Poverty is learnt by touching the flesh of the poor Christ, in the humble, in the sick, in the children,” says Pope Francis.


A Ministry is a ministry only when it has something to do with the “Mission-making.” Not with the “money–making..!” Even the posh matriculation schools and international “five-star” colleges are being scandalously labelled as “ministries..!” What a blatant contradiction.!? Have them but call them NOT ministries. Better to name them “commercial units,” competing with the corporate companies.

Every consecrated has to check with oneself, by or before the end of this Special Year: “Did I take my vows to serve the elite? Did I leave my parents and siblings... to run after the propertied and moneyed..? Did I give up a Sacrament called Matrimony to take up the non-sacrament called Consecrated life for the comfort-collecting and convenience-collating..?”


Before being a Christian, one has to be human. All the more, before becoming a Consecrated. Today, people at large assess the Consecrated as CEOs of NGOs. They may approach us since we tend to “manage” the institutions with some well-defined regulations.Would they like to take every one of the Consecrated (not just a few or some!) as their “role-models” with certain edifying humaneness.? Moreover, will they be ready to join our congregations..? If not, it means they are saying something without saying..!? “The Church is not a shop. She is not a humanitarian agency. The Church is not an NGO,” emphasises Pope Francis.

In this regard, there exists a general observation that we no longer have “role- models” to look up to. Modern societal scientists highlight that the role-model approach is rather outdated. Instead, one has to “compete and compare” with oneself and even, become a model to oneself.


“Terrorism of Gossiping has come to stagnate us. It is almost a contemporary leprosy that is found in the religious communities all around.” You know the author of this assessment. None other than Pope Francis.

One has to stop being “re-active.” Then, one has to start being “pro-active.” The latter invites us to be “part of the solution” whereas the former makes us “part of the problem.” If congratulating others could not be done, at least we should stop gossiping against..! At least that much, during this special year.


Propheticism is a non-negotiable facet of the Consecrated life. A prophet acquires an inner courage, born out of a well-informed and a well-transformed conscience. Pope Francis says, “The Consecrated have to be prophets, not pretend to be prophets.” In the words of Jesus, a prophet takes a risk-filled stand to say “Yes” when “Yes” has to be said and also to say “No” when “No” has to be said.

A prophet would not run away from the consequences and crosses of his or her Yes and No; but rely on the strength of the Lord to shoulder them with “thill and thrill.” They are all for 3G: “Greater Glory of God.”


The Consecrated, by their very vocation, are to be ever-ready for something that is “imaginative.” Even ready to take “the road less travelled.” Moreover, even ready to step out to “pioneer a new road.” The reason is simple: The Consecrated have nothing to lose. They can be “path–makers.” At once, dreamers and doers.

What about launching, then, some special Neighbourhood Ministries during this Special Year with some special sections of our given local society like this: the trans-genders, the internally displaced, the unorganised migrants, the separated couples, the children of single parents, the orphaned kids of the AIDS and HIV — parents.


We are now living in a rainbow world. Variety is beauty today. The Consecrated can take a lead in dialoguing with people of different religions, cultures and traditions. Church in the Modern World (its 50th anniversary is also this year, as published on 8th Dec.1965 by the council) recommends collaborative ministeries with all people of good will, in-order to birth “a new earth and a new heaven” (Rev 21: 1-2).

Net-working with others is a historical and, at once, missiological need today. More than the parish communities, the Consecrated communities are well-prepared for this “synergy-way of proceeding.” Then, why wait..?

Some of the religious congregations have already organised units of their “associates or collaborators.” Others who don’t have, can make the best of this special year to inaugurate them and thus, to “trust and entrust” the lay collaborators with our Charism-manifested apostolic activities..! In his latest apostolic letter to the Consecrated, Pope Francis recommends them to enter into dialogue with the Consecrated in the great religions of the world too (“witnesses to joy,” part 3/no. 4). “The Consecrated have to rejuvenate themselves spiritually to be able to wake up the Church within.”


The above nine commandments need a solid foundation: A Mystic spirituality rather than an ascetic one. That means, each and every consecrated becomes a prayer himself or herself. A prayerful personality, so to say. Not only “saying prayers” during hours of prayers; But much more, “living prayers.” In the words of Francis the Argentinean, the Consecrated have to rejuvenate themselves spiritually to be able to wake up the Church within. Also, to wake up the World and the Cosmos at large. In the words of Francis the Assisian, “Preach the Gospel by your daily life. If there is any need, use some words.”

Finally, the above “10 - BEING THIS... and ... BEING THAT” are just an elaboration of what the Consecrated life of today could be and if not, should be. The list is, indeed, a TALL-CALL. Still, each one has to prayerfully discern, and purposefully decide, to grow in at least one that is currently missing in one’s very life. No doubt, this Special Year brings in Special Graces to make the Consecrated Life Specially Real. With God’s favour, each Consecrated person could then acquire a certain holy boldness to say : “MY LIFE IS MY CHALLENGE and MY LIFE IS MY MESSAGE.”

--Fr Jerry Rosario, SJ, is an Indian Jesuit priest, a theologian, a spiritual counselor, a pastor, a professor, a writer, a social analyst, a retreat facilitator and a civil lawyer. Jerry has up to now authored 70 books and some of his books have become text books for University students.

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