The Seven contemporary Virtues of the consecrated

The International Congress on Religious life held in Rome2004 proposed seven virtues for the religious to make Jesus’ life tangible and visible to our contemporary world. These virtues are complementary to the traditionally known list of virtues and they make the religious credible witnesses of Jesus in the post-modern world. We present these virtues with practical applications for the benefit of formation of missionaries.

The seven virtues are:

  • Depth of evangelical discernment, authenticity
  • Hospitality and gratitude
  • Nonviolence
  • Liberty of spirit
  • Audacity and creative capacity
  • Tolerance and dialogue
  • Simplicity: Finding value in the poor and the least

These contemporary virtues- enable us – as John Paul II suggested- “to quench thirst, to heal wounds, to be the healing balm on open wounds, respond to the longings of our brothers and sisters for joy, for love, for liberty, and for peace” (Message to the Congress, no.3).

How do we begin to interiorize these virtues and live them every day? In what ways are these “contemporary virtues” bring a new face to consecrated life? It is a simple means of making available to the Spirit all our spiritual faculties of imagination, intuition, feelings, memory and thinking to help us come to insight, wisdom and understanding of God’s ways in our life. Here we need time to consider under God’s gaze the realities of our everyday life, to ponder and exult in them, to worry with God and walk with Him. It is how we bring Faith, Hope and God’s Love in to the world. All seven virtues we are going to deal with in our reflections are interrelated to one another. Each virtue is like a window or an opening into a consecrated person’s soul that enables others to see the God within. These virtues serve the purpose of consecrated life according to Vita Consecrata, as an “extension or continuation of Jesus’ life” (VC.22)

1.Depth: Evangelical discernment and Authenticity

Introductory Reflection:

Often there is a lack of awareness of what is happening inside of a religious due to manifold works (apostolate) that a religious do in his busy well programmed schedule of the day. In fact majority of people are looking for a religious with sufficient spiritual depth based on Gospel values on which they can count on at any situation. Our modern day culture and mass media especially internet and iphone technology holds people prisoner in an artificial world, a world of make-believe. It alienates people more and more from their own cultural images, from their original language, their own history and above all from their own spiritual heart which is the source of their energy where God dwells. Let us consider the following:

Consider the story of the Hindu sanyasin who questioned the Catholic religious who assembled in Bangalore, India by saying, “why so many westerners folk to India for seeking God and God experience into Hindu monasteries and not to the catholic religious houses?”

In fact many of our religious candidates find it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is not. The inauthentic world they find themselves in only promotes an inauthentic self which only heightens their sense of alienation. If we go deeper into the human psyche, this alienation reveals a deep desire for meaning and sense. There is in each human heart a deep longing to be authentic, not to be hypocrites, nor to be superficial either. The contemporary virtue of “depth” promotes authenticity, of being genuine, honest with self and with others.

There are two levels at which we feel the need to be authentic. The first level is the relationship between what we are inwardly and how we act and appear outwardly. Authenticity is when these two are in harmony. Generally we desire harmony between the inner person and the outer persona. It creates great tension and guilt within us when there is dichotomy between what we are inside and how we manifest ourselves outside.

Secular humanism in our postmodern world can never satisfy the human heart as St. Augustine says, “My heart is restless until it rests in thee” (Confessions) It simply leaves the human heart restless and unsettled, without a home. It is something like written on our hearts that we are inauthentic until what we are within corresponds to the eternal reality that gives meaning to all things.

In the context of today: This virtue of depth is a fruit of an on-going relationship with Jesus. The whole life of Jesus was grounded in the awareness of his relationship with the Father. This relationship is marked by trust and obedience to His will.

As consecrated men of God and disciples of Jesus today, we cultivate the virtue of depth by living, a life of discernment and authenticity, a life patterned to the gospel values. A religious missionary’s ultimate frame of reference is Jesus the Word made flesh and the values he espouses in fidelity to God’s will. We are challenged to recover and reclaim this virtue if we are to lead others as our holy founder Antony Mary Claret along the path where they can find their ultimate meaning in God. Religious life demands to give witness, first of all to our relationship with God, which is founded in a deep and authentic relationship to Jesus and His Gospel values.

Questions for reflection:

  1. How often you experience people looking forward to see you to gain something from your spiritual depth to find solutions of their daily life? And how do you help them based on your gospel values?
  2. How often you gain joy and peace of mind from your deep relationship with God in the midst of a turmoil occurred in your community life or in your apostolate?
  3. Passion for God invites us to search for Him within yourself and in the world you live. The centrality of God in religious life can be maintained through prayer, meditation and contemplation of the word of God. How about you?
  4. Through our life we stress the primacy of God as He is the beginning and end of everything. He is God who is experienced not as an idea but as the living reality with whom we can dialogue, hear and listen to in our language of prayer. What about your experience of God?

  Suggestions for action: Finding every day some time to be alone with yourself to get in touch with the depth of your being in prayer. How do you experience his presence in silence?

Prayer: Arrange one hour of prayer as a community in deep silence and at the end, sharing one another the personal process involved in going deep in to one’s own mystery. Each one can share any evangelical discernment one made at any time of one’s life from deep personal reflections.

Fr. Manuel Ezhaparampil cmf