At midday yesterday, Benedict XVI received male and female superiors general from institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life.

In his address to the assembled religious, the Pope affirmed that “the service of authority calls for a constant presence, one capable of offering encouragement and proposals, of recalling the raison d’etre of consecrated life, and of helping the people entrusted to your care to respond with ever-renewed faithfulness to the call of the Spirit.”

“You are called,” he said, “to support and guide your brothers and sisters during uneasy times characterized by multiple snares. Consecrated people today have the task of being witnesses to the transfiguring presence of God in an ever more disoriented and confused world.”

After emphasizing the fact that “secularized culture has penetrated the hearts and minds of no small number of consecrated people, who see it as a form of access to modernity and a way to approach the modern world,” the Holy Father pointed out how “alongside an undoubted impulse of generosity – one capable of witness and of complete donation – consecrated life today also knows the trap of mediocrity … and of consumer mentality.”

“There is a need for courageous decisions at both an individual and community level, impressing a new discipline on the lives of consecrated people and bringing them to discover the all-inclusive dimension of ‘sequela Christi’ (following Christ).”

Being of Christ, Pope Benedict affirmed, “means keeping a living flame of love burning in your hearts, continually nourished by the richness of the faith, not only when it brings with it inner joy, but also when united to difficulties, aridity and suffering.” In this context, he recalled how inner life is nourished by prayer, and above all by daily participation in the Eucharist.

“In order to belong entirely to the Lord,” he went on, “consecrated people embrace a celibate lifestyle.” This also means “renouncing the need to display, assuming a sober and humble way of life. Male and female religious are called to show this also in the way they dress, with simple clothes that are a sign of poverty lived in union with Him, Who was rich and became poor to make us rich with His poverty.”

The Pope also referred to the “yoke” of those called to carry out “the delicate task of superior.” This yoke “will be all the lighter the more consecrated people know how to rediscover the value of the obedience they profess.”

“Male and female consecrated people,” the Holy Father concluded, “are called to be, in the world, a credible and luminous sign of the Gospel and its paradoxes, without conforming themselves to the mentality of this century, but transforming themselves and continually renewing their commitment, in order to better discern the will of God.”

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