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|Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life|
Fraternal life in community
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58. Just as the Holy Spirit anointed the Church in the Upper Room to send her out to evangelise the world, so every religious community, as an authentic Pneumatic community of the Risen One, is also, and according to its own nature, apostolic.
In fact, "communion begets communion: essentially it is likened to a mission on behalf of communion.... Communion and mission are profoundly connected with each other, they interpenetrate and mutually imply each other, to the point that communion represents both the source and the fruit of mission: communion gives rise to mission and mission is accomplished in communion".(72)
No religious community, including specifically contemplative ones, is turned in on itself; rather it is announcement, diakonia, and prophetic witness. The Risen One, who lives in the community, communicating his own Spirit to it, makes it a witness of the resurrection.
Before reflecting on some particular situations that religious communities, in order to be faithful to their specific mission, must face today in various contexts around the world, it is helpful to consider here the particular relationship between different kinds of religious communities and the mission they are called to carry out.
59. a) The Second Vatican Council made the following statement: "Let religious see well to it that the Church truly show forth Christ through them with ever-increasing clarity to believers and unbelievers alike -- Christ in contemplation on the mountain, or proclaiming the kingdom of God to the multitudes, or healing the sick and maimed and converting sinners to a good life, or blessing children and doing good to all, always in obedience to the will of the Father who sent him".(73)
b) The contemplative type of community (showing forth Christ on the mountain) is centred on the twofold communion with God and among its members. It has a most efficacious apostolic impact, even though it remains to a great extent hidden in mystery. The "apostolic" religious community (showing forth Christ among the multitudes) is consecrated for active service to others, a service characterised by a specific charism.
Among "apostolic communities", some are more strongly centred on common life so that their apostolate depends on the possibility of their forming community. Others are decidedly oriented towards mission and for them the type of community depends on the type of mission. Institutes clearly ordered to specific forms of apostolic service accent the priority of the entire religious family, considered as one apostolic body and one large community to which the Holy Spirit has given a mission to be carried out in the Church. The communion which vivifies and gathers the large family is lived concretely in the single local communities, which are entrusted with carrying out the mission, according to the different needs.
It follows that "common life lived in community" does not have the same meaning for all religious. Monastics, conventuals and religious of active life have maintained legitimate differences in their ways of understanding and living religious community.
c) It is generally recognised, especially for religious communities dedicated to works of the apostolate, that it proves to be somewhat difficult in daily experience to balance community and apostolic commitment. If it is dangerous to oppose these two aspects, it is also difficult to harmonise them. This too is a fruitful tension of religious life, which is designed to cultivate simultaneously both the disciple who must live with Jesus and with the group of those following him and the apostle who must take part in the mission of the Lord.
d) In recent years, the great variety of apostolic needs has often resulted in co-existence, within one institute, of communities considerably different from each other: large and rather structured communities exist alongside smaller, much more flexible ones, but without losing the authentic community character of religious life.
All of this has a considerable impact on the life of the institute and on its makeup, which is now no longer as compact as it once was, but is more diversified and has different ways of living religious community.
e) The tendency, in some institutes, to emphasise mission over community, and to favour diversity over unity, has had a profound impact on fraternal life in common, to the point that this has become, at times, almost an option rather than an integral part of religious life.
The consequences of this have certainly not been positive; they lead us to ask serious questions about the appropriateness of continuing along this path, and suggest the need to undertake a path of rediscovering the intimate bond between community and mission, in order creatively to overcome unilateral tendencies, which invariably impoverish the rich reality of religious life.
72) ChL 32.
73) LG 46a.
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