In 2013, Pope Francis declared that there will be a Year of Consecrated Life. It will run from November 30, 2014 (First Sunday of Advent) and will close on the February 2, 2016 (World Day of Consecrated Life). Several books have been printed by multiple publishers to help us better understand the consecrated life. Two such books, which I will be reviewing today, are Radical Discipleship from Ignatius Press and Consecrated Life from Pauline Books and Media.
Radical Discipleship is the latest release from one of my favorite Cardinals, Francis Arinze. It begins with a brief glimpse at consecrated life in Scripture and the early Church. There are two examples from Scripture, which we should all know too well. The first is Jesus calling one man and telling him to leave the dead to bury their dead, and the other is about the rich young man whom he tells to sell all he has and give it to the poor. These two passages in Scripture always cause people to pause in shock, but it just goes to show you that the consecrated life isn’t for everyone, and it also requires great sacrifice. After these Scriptural examples, we get to read what the Early Church Fathers have to say about the consecrated life and are given examples of some of the first monastics, like St. Anthony of Egypt.
After this introduction, there are chapters which discuss the different types of consecrated life; the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; the community aspect of consecrated life; and consecrated life’s impact both on society and the Church. Chapter Three: The Consecrated Life in Numbers was a bit of a wake up call to me. It was only six pages long, but it also provided a stark reality on the dwindling numbers of those devoted to the consecrated life. All these numbers are from 2011, but let’s look at some of them. There are 7 billion people in the world with 1.2 billion (17.5%) being Catholics. Of the 1.2 billion Catholics, there are 400,000 priests. That is 1 priest for every 3000 Catholics. It is encouraging to see that there are 3 million Catechists out there, but that number should be hire as well, as it is 0.25% of all Catholics. The book then closes with blessings and challenges of consecrated life and the responsibility of the Church in promoting the consecrated life.
There is a lot of information packed in this brief book, but in true Cardinal Arinze fashion he makes his message simple and meaningful. If you are looking for a good introduction to the consecrated life, this is the book for you. I highly recommend this for seminarians and those discerning other vocations. I also recommend it for those who have already accepted their vocations or families of those with a member or potential member of the consecrated life. You will walk away from this book with a better understanding and deeper appreciation for the consecrated life and those who accept this vocation.
Consecrated Life was an apostolic exhortation given by Pope John Paul II on March 25, 1996. This was issued after a synod in October 1994, and like many elements of his papacy was leading up to The Great Jubilee of 2000. The documentary is divided into three chapters:
1. The Origins of the Consecrated Life in the Mystery of Christ and of the Trinity
2. Consecrated Life as a Sign of Communion in the Church
3. Consecrated Life: Manifestation of God’s Love in the World
The most interesting section to me was entitled “New possibilities of presence and action.” In this section, Pope John Paul II addresses women and their role in the Church. He nowhere states that women should be allowed to become priests, but he does stress that women’s gifts, though different than men’s, are equally important. He then goes on to stress the importance of two female saints, Teresa of Jesus and Catherine of Siena, who were the first two women to be named Doctors of the Church. He closes this section by saying “Women occupy a place in thought and action which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a ‘new feminism’ which rejects the temptation of imitating models of ‘male domination’ in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.”
This was a beautiful but theologically deep work penned by John Paul II. Like other works of his, Pauline Books and Media anniversary editions are uniform in size and contain commentary. This makes it perfect for individual or small group study. The only thing I would change about it is making it hardcover, but that is a small quibble. Be sure to check out other works of Pope John Paul II, such as Mother of the Redeemer and Guardian of the Redeemer.
Copyright 2015 Stuart Dunn.