During the Year of Consecrated Life, the whole Church is invited to revisit, to study, and to celebrate the vocation of consecrated life. We wish to propose for our readers a list of key texts for use by study groups and individuals. Whether seeking to understand better the vocation of your son or daughter, or simply to hear how the Church has aided and cared for those in consecrated life, may you benefit from these texts.
“Essential Elements in the Church’s Teaching on Religious Life” (1983), Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes
Vita Consecrata (1996) Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, St. John Paul II
Every year on the Feast of the Presentation in the Temple, February 2, the pope has issued a special message for those in consecrated life and invited local diocese to host special prayer services or jubilee masses. St. Pope John Paul II established the World Days for Consecrated Life in 1997, following the promulgation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata (1996). In his first address in 1997, he describes the goal in a way that is very close to the goals of the Year of Consecrate Life as well:
The celebration of the World Day for Consecrated Life, which will be observed for the first time on 2 February, is intended to help the entire Church to esteem ever more greatly the witness of those persons who have chosen to follow Christ by means of the practice of the evangelical counsels and, at the same time, is intended to be a suitable occasion for consecrated persons to renew their commitment and rekindle the fervor which should inspire their offering of themselves to the Lord.
Documents from the Pontificate of Pope Pius XII
What is sometimes less known is that the popes of the 20th Century began recognizing and calling for renewal of religious life in the years immediately following the Second World War. Pope Pius XII issued three important documents which addressed the core elements of the vocation to consecrated life, while also calling on all communities to understand and renew their forms of consecration.
Pope Pius XII Writes to Newly Formed Secular Institutes of Consecrated Life
These documents also include Church law to respond to the flourishing new forms of secular institutes which were founded in the early 20th Century as new ways to witness to Christ in the world.
Motu Proprio Primo feliciter (1948), Pope Pius XII
Instruction Cum sanctissimus (1948), Sacred Congregation for Religious
Final Document of the Congress on Vocations to the Priesthood and to Consecrated Life (1998), “New Vocations for a New Europe”, Pontifical Work for Ecclesiastical Vocations