By Sister Mary Colombiere, O.C.D.
A fast search on Google will show that just about anything that exists needs to be revitalized from Instant Coffee to Skin Care, from Blogs to Cities, from Outdoor Advertizing to Ad Campaigns. Is it any wonder that Religious Life also looks to revitalization? After all, how many reforms in religious life have stirred the Church over the ages?
In the document The Consecrated Life and Its Role in the Church and in the World by the 1994 World Synod of Bishops in Article 14 it states, “The first thing that must be understood about the consecrated life is that it is a gift from God through the church in the service of humanity and that there is an urgent need to revitalize the charism at its origin.”
Following the Second Vatican Council a number of documents were written to clarify and assist religious communities in their updating and renewal, such as Perfectae Caritatis, “The adaptation and renewal of the religious life includes both the constant return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original spirit of the institutes and their adaptation to the changed conditions of our time. This renewal, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Church, must be advanced…”(#2).
We even find the word “revitalized” in Essential Elements (#25) published in 1983. This should not surprise us if we take a look at the meaning of the word “revitalize”, which is to imbue (something) with new life and vitality or to breathe new life into. Isn’t that what we do in all of our renewals, retreats, days of prayer, gatherings, etc.? Isn’t that what happened in the Upper Room at Pentecost fulfilling Jesus’ own words, “I have come that you may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10)?
Religious life is an adventure, alive with the joy of Christ, meant to be lived to the fullest. If we are to breathe new life into those we serve, we must first breathe new life into ourselves and into own religious family. Returning to our original charism shows us how that new life was first breathed into the community of which we are now members. It reminds us of the joy we discovered when we first came into contact with our community and yearned to become a member of it. Revitalizing that charism enables us to pass it on to others that they too may be drawn into this profusion of life.
As part of ongoing renewal each of us needs to ask ourselves what we are doing to breathe new life into our Sisters, into our works, into all those that God places in our path. Then someday when others look at the memorial cards passed out at our funerals they will pay less attention to the date of birth and the date of death but will be inspired and revitalized by all the time in–between.