Bookmark and Share

A witness to the world's true destiny

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 8 February 1995 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. After describing the religious vocation, the Second Vatican Council states: "The profession of the evangelical counsels, then, appears as a sign which can and ought to attract all the members of the Church to an effective and prompt fulfillment of the duties of their Christian vocation" (LG 44). This means that the radical commitment of religious to follow Christ encourages all Christians to have a keener awareness of their own calling and to appreciate better its beauty. It helps them to accept joyfully the commitments that are part of their vocation and inspires them to take on tasks which meet the concrete needs of apostolic and charitable work. The consecrated life is therefore a sign which strengthens all in their service to the kingdom.

2. We seek to understand more deeply the meaning of this conciliar teaching. Indeed, we can say that the religious state makes the form of life assumed by the incarnate Son of God present in this age just as it has done throughout Christian history. Thus it reveals more clearly the Christ of the Gospel (cf. LG 44).

Those who now follow Jesus, leaving everything for his sake, call to mind the apostles who gave up everything in answer to his invitation. As a result, it has become traditional to speak of religious life as an apostolica vivendi forma. Indeed, after the example of Peter, John, James, Andrew and the other apostles, religious imitate and reproduce the form of evangelical life lived and taught by the divine Master. They witness to the Gospel as an ever living reality in the Church and in the world. In this way they too fulfill the words of Jesus Christ to his apostles: "You will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8).

3. The Council added: "The religious state clearly manifests that the kingdom of God and its needs, in a very special way, are raised above all earthly considerations. Finally it clearly shows all men both the unsurpassed breadth of the strength of Christ the King and the infinite power of the Holy Spirit marvelously working in the Church" (LG 44). In other words, life according to the evangelical counsels manifests the supernatural and transcendent majesty of the Triune God and, in particular, the sublime plan of the Father, who desires the complete gift of the human person as a filial response to his infinite love. It reveals the attractive power of Christ, the Incarnate Word, who takes over the whole of life to ennoble it by the highest participation in the mystery of Trinitarian life. At the same time, it is a sign of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, who infuses in all souls the gifts of eternal Love, who works all the marvels of redemption and spurs the human response of faith and obedience in filial love to its peak.

4. For these same reasons, for believers who are called to a secular commitment, consecrated life is a sign and witness of the world's true destiny, which goes well beyond all immediate and visible perspectives however legitimate or proper. According to the Council, by their state, "Religious give splendid and striking testimony that the world cannot be transformed and offered to God without the spirit of the Beatitudes" (LG 31).

The religious state seeks to put the gospel Beatitudes into practice and helps one to discover and love them, showing the deep happiness attained through renouncement and sacrifice. This is a striking witness, as the Council says, because it reflects a ray of the divine light that pervades the words, the call, the "counsels" of Jesus. It is also an outstanding witness, because the evangelical counsels, such as voluntary celibacy or gospel poverty, represent a particular way of life which has an irreplaceable value for the Church. It also has an unparalleled effectiveness for all those who, in the world, are more or less directly and consciously seeking God's kingdom. Lastly, it is a witness connected with the religious state as such. So it is natural that it should shine in noble religious figures who, with total dedication of soul and life, respond faithfully to their vocation.

5. The consecrated life is also a reminder of the value of the heavenly goods that Christianity teaches us to consider already present in view of the mystery of Christ, the Son of God who came down to earth from heaven and ascended into heaven as "the new Adam," the head of the new humanity called to share in God's glory. It is the doctrine of the Council explained in a beautiful passage: "The People of God have no lasting city here below, but look forward to one that is to come. Since this is so, the religious state, whose purpose is to free its members from earthly cares, more fully manifests to all believers the presence of heavenly goods already possessed here below. Furthermore, it not only witnesses to the fact of a new and eternal life acquired by the redemption of Christ, but it foretells the future resurrection and the glory of the heavenly kingdom" (LG 44).

The evangelical counsels thus have an eschatological meaning. In particular, consecrated celibacy proclaims the life to come and union with Christ the bridegroom. Poverty brings treasure in heaven; the commitment to obedience opens the way to possessing the perfect freedom of God's children, in conformity with the will of the heavenly Father.

Thus consecrated persons are symbols and witnesses that anticipate heavenly life here on earth. Earthly life cannot find its own perfection in itself but must be increasingly directed toward eternal life--a future already present, in germ, in the grace that begets hope.

6. For all these reasons, the Church desires that consecrated life should continue to flourish in order to reveal better Christ's presence in his Mystical Body, where today he lives and renews in his followers the "mysteries" revealed to us in the Gospel. The witness of consecrated chastity has shown itself to be of particular importance for today's world. It is the testimony of a love for Christ which is greater than any other love, of a grace that overcomes the forces of human nature, of a lofty spirit which is unflinching when confronted with the illusions and ambiguities caused by the demands of sensuality.

The testimony of both poverty, which religious offer as the secret and guarantee of greater spiritual wealth, and obedience, professed and practiced as an element of true freedom, is as important today as it was in the past.

7. The crowning virtue is charity, even in religious life--charity toward God, first of all. With it, consecrated life becomes a sign of the world "offered to God" (LG 31). In their total gift, including the conscious and loving association with Christ's redeeming sacrifice, religious show the world the way to true happiness, that is, the gospel Beatitudes.

This requires charity to one's neighbor, shown both in mutual love among those who live in community and in the practice of openness and hospitality, in aiding the poor and all the unfortunate, and in dedication to the apostolate. This is a witness of essential importance, which gives the Church her true gospel face. Consecrated persons are called to witness to and spread the "message...heard from the beginning: we should love one another" (1 Jn 3:11), thus becoming pioneers of the desired civilization of love."

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers frères et sœurs,

Chers pèlerins de langue française, je suis heureux de vous accueillir. Je vous demande de prier pour les jeunes, garçons et filles, qui se préparent à un engagement religieux ou qui sont dans une période de discernement de l’appel à tout quitter, qui retentit au fond de leur cœur. Qu’ils trouvent, dans leurs familles et dans l’glise, des adultes pour les guider! Je vous accorde de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to greet all the English–speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially the pilgrim groups from England and the United States. Upon all of you I cordially invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung richte ich meinen herzlichen Willkommensgru an Euch, liebe Schwestern und Brüder aus den deutschsprachigen Ländern. Mit meinen besten Wünschen für Euch und Eure Lieben in der Heimat erteile ich Euch von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo dar ahora la bienvenida a los visitantes de lengua española, saludando con afecto a las Religiosas de María Inmaculada, a los feligreses de Valdastillas, diócesis de Plasencia (España), así como a los peregrinos argentinos de Rosario y al grupo de estudiantes de la Universidad Católica de Chile.

Al alentar a las Religiosas, para que su vida sea siempre testimonio de consagración a Dios y de entrega a los hermanos a quienes sirven en los diversos apostolados, imparto a todos los presentes mi Bendición.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Queridos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Amados peregrinos, saúdo–vos cordialmente a todos, com menção especial para o grupo de sacerdotes de Portugal e os peregrinos brasileiros de São Paulo e do Rio de Janeiro. Esta visita a Roma vos faça generosos na realização do plano que Deus pensou para todos nós: o dom completo da pessoa humana como resposta filial ao seu amor infinito. Na certeza deste amor que envolve a vida de cada um e as vossas comunidades, a todos concedo a Bênção Apostólica.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Serdecznie pozdrawiam pielgrzymów z Polski, a w szczególności: z Wadowic – parafię św. Piotra, z parafii św. Józefa w Warszawie – pielgrzymkę osób niepełnosprawnych i przedstawicieli Katolickiego Stowarzyszenia Młodych (KSM), z Kotłowa w diecezji kaliskiej – pielgrzymkę z parafii Narodzenia Matki Bożej, z Ostrowa Wielkopolskiego – parafię św. Antoniego, z Poznania – pielgrzymkę franciszkańskiego zakonu świeckiego, z Lubinia w diecezji legnickiej – parafię św. Maksymiliana Kolbego, z Baranowa Sandomierskiego – Zespół Folklorystyczny, prócz tego grupę Polaków z Neapolu, grupę młodzieży z Krakowa i Florencji – “Małe Słowianki”, kapłanów archidiecezji katowickiej – przybyłych na 10–lecie święceń, “Schola Buziaczki” z Krzulęcina k. Gorzowa – siostry felicjanki, kolejarzy z całej Polski, a także inne osoby z kraju i emigracji, nie objęte powyższymi grupami.

Ai fedeli di lingua italiana

Rivolgo un saluto cordiale a tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana.

In particolare, sono lieto di accogliere il folto gruppo di ragazzi e ragazze provenienti dall’Irpinia. Carissimi, avete la fortuna di visitare Roma, di ammirare i suoi monumenti, testimonianze eloquenti di una storia millenaria di civiltà e di cristianesimo. Soprattutto avete potuto pregare presso le tombe degli Apostoli Pietro e Paolo. Fate tesoro di queste esperienze preziose! A voi ripeto ciò che ho scritto nella Lettera ai bambini: “Il Papa conta molto sulle vostre preghiere. Dobbiamo pregare insieme e molto, affinché l’umanità... diventi sempre più la famiglia di Dio, e possa vivere nella pace”. Vi sono grato per questa visita e vi benedico di cuore. Portate il saluto del Papa ai vostri familiari e ai vostri compagni.

Ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli

Il mio pensiero va ora ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli qui presenti. Carissimi, siamo nella Novena in preparazione alla memoria liturgica della Beata Vergine di Lourdes, che ricorre 1’11 febbraio, giorno in cui si celebra anche la Giornata Mondiale del Malato. Invoco su di voi, cari giovani, la protezione della Vergine Immacolata, affinché conservi sempre in voi un cuore puro e generoso. La Beata Vergine di Lourdes, a cui si rivolgono con fiducia tanti sofferenti provenienti da tutto il mondo, estenda il suo sguardo misericordioso su di voi, cari malati, aiutandovi ad accettare il vostro dolore in unione con Cristo, crocifisso e risorto. Maria accompagni anche voi, cari sposi novelli, nel vostro nuovo cammino familiare, rendendolo ricco di bene e sempre aperto alla vita.

Un forte appello affinché sia posto termine all’“inutile conflitto” che coinvolge Ecuador e Perù viene lanciato da Giovanni Paolo II durante l’udienza generale di oggi nell’Aula Paolo VI. Eccone il testo. 

Continuano a giungere sconfortanti notizie di combattimenti lungo la frontiera che separa l’Ecuador ed il Perù. Già sono numerose le vittime di quest’inutile conflitto che, con il passare dei giorni, si fa ognor più preoccupante.

Mi rivolgo, perciò, nuovamente alle Autorità dei due Paesi affinché facciano tacere il fragore delle armi e pongano termine al conflitto. Auspico, infine, che tutti coloro che hanno a cuore questa dolorosa situazione operino con impegno, secondo le loro possibilità, perché si ritrovi il cammino della pace e della concordia.

Affidiamo alla Regina della Pace le nostre speranze.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana