Religious Life in the Church

(from “Evangelica Testificatio,” the Apostolic Exhortation on the Renewal of Religious Life, June 29th, A.D. 1971.  Reproduced from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for June 1, 2008)

From the beginning, the tradition of the Church—is it perhaps necessary to recall it?— presents us with this privileged witness of a constant seeking for God, of an undivided love for Christ alone, and of an absolute dedication to the growth of His Kingdom.  Without this concrete sign there would be a danger that the charity which animates the entire Church would grow cold, that the salvific paradox of the Gospel would be blunted, and that the “salt” of faith would lose its savor in a world undergoing secularization.  From the first centuries, the Holy Spirit has stirred up, side by side with the heroic confession of the martyrs, the wonderful strength of disciples and virgins, of hermits and anchorites.

Religious life already existed in germ, and progressively it felt the growing need of developing and of taking on different forms of community or solitary life in order to respond to the pressing invitation of Christ:  “There is no-one who has left house, wife, brothers, parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not be given repayment many times over in this present time, and in the world to come, eternal life” (Luke 18:29-30).

Who would venture to hold that such a calling today no longer has the same value and vigor?  That the world could do without these exceptional witnesses of the transcendence of the love of Christ?  Or that the world without damage to itself could allow these lights to go out?  They are lights which announce the Kingdom of God with a liberty which knows no obstacles and is daily lived by thousands of sons and daughters of the Church.