Summary of Catechism paragraphs 914-945:
- Every Christian – each one of us, no matter our individual circumstances – is called to holiness, but some are called to give themselves totally to Christ in the consecrated life.
- This is characterized by the profession of the “evangelical counsels” of poverty, chastity in celibacy, and obedience, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church.
- The evangelical counsels are not to be viewed in the negative sense of giving things up, but rather in the positive sense: they provide the freedom to live single-heartedly for God alone.
- Consecrated life therefore focuses on our ultimate goal – our final destiny with God; as a result, it serves as a powerfully attractive sign of the mystery of eternal life in the Kingdom, the pearl of great price.
- From the beginning of the Church, faithful souls have responded to God’s invitation to seek deeper union with Him; this life of intense dedication has taken various forms over the ages, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Who even now continues to raise up new communities.
- Its most ancient expressions include hermits, who offer prayer and penance in solitude, and consecrated virgins, who are dedicated to the service of the Church.
- Communities of monks and nuns began to form in the early centuries, often by gathering around a holy individual who became their founder; from these groups, which first arose in the Middle East, “religious life” developed.
- Religious life is distinguished from other forms of consecrated life by its liturgical character, life led in common, public profession of vows, and witness to the union of Christ with His Church.
- These communities reflect their own distinct spiritual heritage: e.g., the Carmelites are inspired by the prophet Elijah; the Jesuits were founded by St. Ignatius Loyola; and the Benedictines, Franciscans, and Dominicans owe their names to their saintly founders.
- Religious orders, in all of their brilliant variety, have been a great gift to the Church throughout history; they proclaim the Gospel around the world, perform innumerable works of charity, and act as prayer warriors on our behalf.
Live Your Faith
Even if not called to consecrated life, we still live by the evangelical counsels in a way proper to us.
Although not bound by a vow of poverty, we should be detached from our possessions, and generously give to those in need (including the consecrated who rely on our financial support).
The unmarried are obliged to be chaste, and spouses should be faithful to one another in marriage.
While we don’t formally profess obedience, we are encouraged to curb our selfishness and practice self-denial.