Challenge of Consecrated Life in 21st Century

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In Rejoice, the letter to all the Consecrated people, Pope Francis raises a real challenge: “As a global network in which we are all connected, where no local tradition can aspire to a monopoly of the truth, where technologies affect everyone, the world throws down a continuous challenge to the Gospel and to those who shape their lives in accordance with the Gospel.”

The Pope is describing a situation of the Church in general and the religious men and women in particular. Authenticity of the Gospel, indeed is made visible through the authentic lives of consecrated men and women. While Gospel is challenged every now and then the dedicated life of consecrated men and women can be one of the channels for true Christian witness.

However, these challenges arise particularly because of a culture that is increasingly being connected through technology. Not only that dissemination of various versions of truth happens today, but it reaches innumerable number of people instantly. Ordinary people become sources of truth, and a few indeed claim that they alone are truth!

Vita Consecrata urges every consecrated men and women to overcome these challenges by bearing “witness to the Gospel through the communications media… Consecrated persons, especially those who have the institutional charism of working in this field, have a duty to learn the language of the media, in order to speak effectively of Christ to our contemporaries, interpreting their “joys and hopes, their griefs and anxieties”, and thus contributing to the building up of a society in which all people sense that they are brothers and sisters making their way to God” (VC 99). This urges us to approach media seriously and take it up for the work of evangelisation. People like St Chavara Elias are model for us in our journey with media along the path of evangelisation and social transformation.

Another aspect of the challenge raised by Pope pertains to collaboration and networking. Indeed this aspect is lacking very much in the Church and among consecrated men and women with an exception to few. If Christianity is all about coming and sharing together, religious life shall be an example par excellence for it.

The world is rethinking and reshaping how people share ideas and resources. It is reshaping the way people make their relationships. Church needs to learn the skills of network and collaboration. “Such collaboration, if prompted and sustained by a clear and strong Christian identity and respectful of the particular character of the consecrated life, can make the radiant power of the Gospel shine forth brightly even in the darkest situations of human life” (VC 56).

The consecrated men and women have to respond to these challenges very creatively as “the love of Christ impels” them (2 Cor 5:14). Let them be reminded that “the task of the consecrated life is to work in every part of the world in order to consolidate and expand the Kingdom of Christ, bringing the proclamation of the Gospel even to the most far-off regions” (VC 78).

Jose Vallikatt has his specialisation in the interdisciplinary area of media, religion and culture. He writes on various issues related the Church and media.

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