2015, the Year for Consecrated Life in Catholic Church, has the slogan “Wake Up the World.” The call for celebration of the year, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II document on Consecrated Life, was a decision by Pope Francis whose personal motto is “Sharing Joy” (Evangelii Gaudium/Joy of Gospel, 2013). “Waking up the world by sharing joy” would capsulize the spirit of the year for Consecrated Life.
Communication is central to both ‘waking up’ as well as ‘sharing joy’! Communication, however, is a much-misread idea in religious circles today, interpreting it as related to media, which involves technology and creativity. Many consider that communication is reserved for those specialized in social media.
Communication shall not be reduced as mere mediated or technologized; rather it has to be understood in a broader missiological perspective. The missionary manifesto of Jesus involves a multi faceted communication, which personally addresses the poor, blind, captives and the oppressed (Lk 4:18-19). The purpose of Jesus’ life was to show people what the Father looks like (Jn 17:26; Mt 11:27). Jesus wants people to be happy by knowing God who is truth and goodness (Jn 17:13-26). Every consecrated person is called to communicate.
Communication and Community
When we think of communication in a religious context we visualize direct communication about Jesus or the Church. However, many forget that these are the final point of communication. Communication starts from the very person of oneself and in the ordinary contexts where one is.
A heartfelt communication is built through conversations and interactions. Indeed, everyone learns to communicate from his/her parents and in the familial contexts. Pope Francis has beautifully articulated: “The womb which hosts us is the first “school” of communication, a place of listening and physical contact where we begin to familiarize ourselves with the outside world within a protected environment, with the reassuring sound of the mother’s heartbeat” (WCD 2015). In the context of a religious community, we acquire skills to enter into meaningful dialogue with confidence and build union of hearts and hands in our religious and missionary contexts. Our consecration makes us mothers who are supposed to provide protection, reassurance and courage to the persons we are entrusted with.
However, it is rather unfortunate to hear stories from people who work with us being neglected, harassed and sometimes even persecuted. Some domestic staff, for example, do fear their house superiors for some reason. Some others complain of being nagged. Of course these may be personal issues, nevertheless they are equally communication crisis as well. It is apt to reflect deeply the way we communicate to others especially to the less privileged in our communities and mission.
Words and Deeds
Though consecrated persons shall be holy, some develop unbridled tongues going to the extent of cursing others for their silly mistakes. This may occur due to our disproportionate priority over materials and personal gains than the human life around. A kind of superiority overshadows us in all our dealings forgetting the worth and dignity of the position we hold.
How genuine we are in communicating the values of Christ to the outside world? While our 80 year-old mothers would go to any extent of hard work for her children and grandchildren in spite of their ails and aches, a religious person of 40 or 50 years old sometimes cannot even give a smile or do a kind deed in the pretext of holding responsibilities. They justify their negligence with the little physical weaknesses or tiresome schedules of work.
Often our personal problems and crisis in the community are expressed through nonverbal signs. These nonverbal signals include keeping deliberate silence, not facing the people with whom one has problems or conveying negative vibrations through facial expressions, body movements and postures.
Silence is a serious nonverbal sign of our miscommunication. Many religious keep a dangerous silence in occasions and places they are to speak up. They are scarcely courageous to speak when it is required, but unleash their tongues behind the back of others.
Not caring for others in the community or keeping grudge towards others are as worse as killing silence. If we don’t speak for truth and justice, the stones will rise and speak against us; if we are not thankful for the free gifts we receive daily, the mountains and trees will sing praises to the Lord. One needs to be grateful to others and to the Lord, and their words and deeds must be consistent.
Whenever we fail to smile at or face a person we are lacking charity and compassion and we are not joyful religious according to Pope Francis. Consecrated men and women are called to be joyful persons and it can be achieved only through communicating it joyfully. The very ‘being’ is vital than the ‘doing’ to witness the joy of the Gospel.
As we dedicate this year to reflect on our own call and its renewal it is important for us to pay attention to the way we communicate as well. Every consecrated person shares the call to witness to Christ through words and deeds. Let out smiles, walk, talk and the whole being radiate the joy of Christ within us. Let our relationships and interactions communicate that we are persons who give Christ to the world. Let us wake up the world by sharing joy.