- Apostolic Religious Life in America Today: A Response to the Crisis
In Perfectae caritatis, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council called for the renewal of consecrated life. In particular, in PC 2, the Fathers maintained that renewal ought to be directed toward the charism put forth by the community's founder and the signs of the times to make consecrated life more relevant today.
Recognizing that the results of efforts to renew consecrated life in the United States have been mixed, Apostolic Religious Life in America Today: A [End Page 303] Response to the Crisis, offers a critique of the implementation efforts and revisits a theology of consecrated life that recognizes its vitality in the Church. Here, editor Father Richard Gribble, C.S.C., has collected papers presented at a September 27, 2008 symposium on apostolic religious life at Stonehill College in North Easton, Massachusetts.
Apostolic Religious Life in America Today is divided into two parts. The five papers presented in the book's first part, "Present Situation and the Challenge of Renewal," address Vatican II's call for renewal of consecrated life and the efforts undertaken in that regard. His Eminence Cardinal Franc Rodé, then Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, addresses the lessons to be learned from the renewal efforts as consecrated life moves to the future (19-40). He places importance on sound formation programs and the active promotion of vocations (36-39). Sister Sara Butler, M.S.B.T. considers five challenges that religious communities face (41-66). She particularly develops the topics of competing ecclesiologies within religious communities and the need to return to the founding charism (54-66). Sister Elizabeth McDonough, O.P. presents an overview of the Vatican II documents relevant to the renewal of consecrated life (67-90). She acknowledges that the renewal of consecrated life has not been as successful as envisioned (89), but looks to the future with a renewed dedication to the promises made "to give our very self to God alone, forever" (90). Father Joseph T. Lienhard, S.J. reflects on the importance of common signs and symbols, such as the religious habit, common meals and community prayer, which were frequently jettisoned under the auspices of renewal (91-100). He maintains that the signs and symbols of religious life have changed. To renew apostolic life, Father Lienhard urges religious to reflect on the appropriateness of the signs and symbols they currently present (99-100). Lastly, Most Reverend Robert Morlino develops the theme that obedience plus forgiveness leads to love, enabling a consecrated religious to live the vowed life (101-107).
Part II, "Religious Life and the Renewal of Love," includes three papers on the theological and philosophical foundations of the consecrated life. Sister Gill Goulding, C.J. presents a theology of consecrated life in the tradition of Ignatius Loyola and Hans Urs von Balthasar (111-126). Father Kurt Pritzl, O.P. calls for a reflection on the lived reality of members of the laity, especially those married and raising children, to bring about true renewal of religious life (127-143). Lastly, Father Hugh Cleary, C.S.C. reminds the reader [End Page 304] of the witness value of consecrated life and the need for both the community and its individual members to conform themselves to Christ (144-154).
While the papers presented in Apostolic Religious Life in America Today are more theologically based than canonical, this book would be of interest to consecrated religious and those who counsel them. Father Gribble and the individual authors of the papers should be commended for their work in addressing the current issues facing consecrated life in the United States.
School of Canon Law