Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
of the Holy Father John Paul II
On the consecrated life and its mission in the Church and in the world
The prophetic character of the consecrated life
84. The prophetic character of the consecrated life was strongly emphasized by the Synod Fathers. It takes the shape of a special form of sharing in Christ’s prophetic office, which the Holy Spirit communicates to the whole People of God. There is a prophetic dimension which belongs to the consecrated life as such, resulting from the radical nature of the following of Christ and of the subsequent dedication to the mission characteristic of the consecrated life.
The sign value, which the Second Vatican Council acknowledges in the consecrated life, is expressed in prophetic witness to the primacy which God and the truths of the Gospel have in the Christian life. Because of this pre-eminence, nothing can come before personal love of Christ and of the poor in whom he lives.
The Patristic tradition has seen a model of monastic religious life in Elijah, courageous prophet and friend of God. He lived in God’s presence and contemplated his passing by in silence; he interceded for the people and boldly announced God’s will; he defended God’s sovereignty and came to the defense of the poor against the powerful of the world (cf. 1 Kg 18-19).
In the history of the Church, alongside other Christians, there have been men and women consecrated to God who, through a special gift of the Holy Spirit, have carried out a genuinely prophetic ministry, speaking in the name of God to all, even to the Pastors of the Church.
True prophecy is born of God, from friendship with him, from attentive listening to his word in the different circumstances of history. Prophets feel in their hearts a burning desire for the holiness of God and, having heard his word in the dialogue of prayer, they proclaim that word with their lives, with their lips and with their actions, becoming people who speak for God against evil and sin.
Prophetic witness requires the constant and passionate search for God’s will, for self-giving, for unfailing communion in the Church, for the practice of spiritual discernment and love of the truth. It is also expressed through the denunciation of all that is contrary to the divine will and through the exploration of new ways to apply the Gospel in history, in expectation of the coming of God’s Kingdom.
Father Jesús Castellano Cervera, O.C.D. was one of the group of religious who served as experts and auditors at the 1994 Ninth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that convened in Rome from 2 – 29 October 1994. The topic of discussion among the synod members was “The Consecrated Life and Its Role in the Church and in the World”.
In 1995 at the international Encuentro for the Familia Teresiana of Saint Enrique de Ossó, Father Jesús Castellano shared a few of his impressions of the 1994 Synod from the Carmelite perspective. We are grateful to Father Iván de Jesús Mora Pernía, O.C.D. for transcribing Father Castellano’s remarks so that we might share them with our readers. The Spanish translation is our own.
We were able to note from within the Synod the presence of Carmel in the Church through the resonance of our figures who frequently were called exemplary witnesses and models of consecrated life in history. Thérèse of Lisieux was in first place among our most remembered saints. There were those who officially requested in the synod hall that she should be declared a Doctor of the Church. Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross and other saints of ours were named very frequently. From the patriarchs of the Eastern Churches came a word of thanks for the history of Carmel in their Churches and for the patient presence that is still alive in the regions of the Middle East such as Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt. The Secretary-General of the Synod at the end had a very special memory for St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, “that woman who has been an excellent witness of consecrated life in the mission of the Church” and made her famous texts resonate in the Synod hall: “In the heart of the Church I will be love”. John Paul II in the final homily of the Synod wanted to remember how our three best-known saints are present in the history of the holiness of the Church written by the religious: Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross at the time of the Protestant Reformation, and Thérèse of Lisieux, closest to us.