God Is Enough
We sisters are often asked to explain what our life as consecrated women is like. Each time I am asked to do this, the same question
lingers in my mind. How can I explain the in-explainable? Human words can never explain supernatural realities.
Vatican II did a stellar job in explaining the consecrated life. The convocation of Vatican Council II was one of the most extraordinary graces given to the Church by the Holy Spirit in the twentieth century. This Church Council was extraordinary in a number of ways. A Council is usually called in response to some current crisis affecting the Church, like a heresy that threatens the dogma of the Catholic Faith.
Vatican II, however, was convened as a response to any heresy. It was called by Pope John XXII as a pastoral council. Pastoral in this sense means shepherding. Shepherding involves caring for the flock, tending to needs, strengthening, encouraging, restoring, leading by example to guide people on in their pursuit of holiness.
The Holy Spirit seems to have been proactive in moving Pope John XXIII to call a Council. To be sure, there did not seem to be any grave problems affecting the church of the early 1960s. Our Churches were full on Sundays, our schools overflowing with young students, our seminaries and convents crowded. However, trouble was just around the corner and the Holy Spirit saw it coming. The troubles of the mid-1960’s were about to bloom.
Today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we are still “unpacking” the richness of the decrees that the Council Fathers gave us through the 16 documents issued from 1962-1965. Of particular importance was the universal call to holiness as expressed in Chapter V of Lumen Gentium (Light to the Nations). Chapter VI further explains this call to holiness as lived by those living the consecrated life of a religious.
Religious, who consecrate themselves to the Lord by the three evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, were reminded of their special responsibility to be recognizable signs of this universal call. Sisters are servants of the Church, not because they are nurses, teachers or social workers but because they are witnesses to the one call that is the vocation of every Christian, to be a follower of the Lord Jesus.
“This practice of the counsels, under the impulsion of the Holy Spirit, undertaken by many Christians, either privately or in a Church-approved condition or state of life, gives and must give in the world an outstanding witness and example of this same holiness. (Lumen Gentium Paragraph 39, line 215)
Holiness is the same for everyone who is baptized. One grows in holiness by hearing the word of God and keeping it, by participation in the Eucharistic Liturgy, prayer, self-denial and charity. Each of these elements is part of its basic structure of the consecrated life. Each sister proclaims just by the living out of her daily life that there is more to life than what one sees on this earth. Consecrated women are called to live heaven now, and to witness everyone that in heaven where there will be no marriage or possessions.
The joyful witness of consecrated religious says to the world, “See, God is enough!”