We’ve moved past Vatican II’s look at the call to holiness of all believers, and are into the examination of religious life. Today’s theme seems to center on setting a good example for others.
Religious should carefully keep before their minds the fact that the Church presents Christ to believers and non-believers alike in a striking manner daily through them. The Church thus portrays Christ in contemplation on the mountain, in His proclamation of the kingdom of God to the multitudes, in His healing of the sick and maimed, in His work of converting sinners to a better life, in His solicitude for youth and His goodness to all (people), always obedient to the will of the Father who sent Him.(Cfr. Pius XII Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis, 19 iun. 1943: AAS 35 (1943) p. 214 s.)
Christ is presented through the public witness of religious women and men. The problem of relevance is addressed also, and a caution for folks not to take lightly the charisms of those who have professed poverty, chastity, and obedience in a religious order. Not everything is as it seems on the surface, and great freedom is to be found when a person willingly models her or his life along that of Christ’s sacrifice:
All (people) should take note that the profession of the evangelical counsels, though entailing the renunciation of certain values which are to be undoubtedly esteemed, does not detract from a genuine development of the human persons, but rather by its very nature is most beneficial to that development. Indeed the counsels, voluntarily undertaken according to each one’s personal vocation, contribute a great deal to the purification of heart and spiritual liberty. They continually stir up the fervor of charity. But especially they are able to more fully mold the Christian (individual) to that type of chaste and detached life, which Christ the Lord chose for Himself and which His Mother also embraced. This is clearly proven by the example of so many holy founders. Let no one think that religious have become strangers to (other people) or useless citizens of this earthly city by their consecration. For even though it sometimes happens that religious do not directly mingle with their contemporaries, yet in a more profound sense these same religious are united with them in the heart of Christ and spiritually cooperate with them. In this way the building up of the earthly city may have its foundation in the Lord and may tend toward Him, lest perhaps those who build this city shall have labored in vain. (Cfr. Pius XII, Alloc. Annus sacer, 1. c., p. 30. Alloc. Sous la maternelle protecrion, 9 dec. l9S7: AAS 50 (19S8) p. 39 s.)
Contemplatives unseen by the world have a sound and significant role to play, not only in the life of the Church, but of the mainstream of the world’s existence. What LG 46 does not mention specifically is the contemplative gift for hospitality. Any guest is welcomed at a monastery. Contemplatives are all too ready to introduce others to their way of living.
Therefore, this Sacred Synod encourages and praises the men and women, Brothers and Sisters, who in monasteries, or in schools and hospitals, or in the missions, adorn the Bride of Christ by their unswerving and humble faithfulness in their chosen consecration and render generous services of all kinds to (hu)mankind.
So it’s not just about caramels, fruitcakes, honey, and computer services.