85. Now we want to turn our attention to the special task of a few groups of Servants in the new evangelization: lay members, the elderly members of the Order, and the members of contemplative communities.
86. With regard to lay Servants -and we use the term “lay’ in all its theological richness-, it’s necessary to keep in mind that our communities intend a life of radical fraternity. Our lay members are essentially involved in the project of radical fraternity, being at the same time a need, a test and a memory for all. With good reason our Constitutions state: “We are all servants and that is what we call our selves. We all have the same dignity … and we are all equal” (art. 9). In line with this text the 1989
General Chapter declared that the Order, “in its option for a world without divisions and inequalities…. encourages all to a profound conversion, so that all divides and all that obscures the transparent quality of our fraternal life be removed from our communities” (n. 86).
87. The transparent quality of our fraternal wit ness has a by no means marginal meaning for the work of evangelization. In fact, a first contribution to the proclamation of the gospel comes from our living together in charity. If there are divisions in the community how can we proclaim the credibility of the kingdom of the Father, for this kingdom is also a kingdom of brothers and sisters?
88. Lay Servants are for the whole Order a theological memory of its originating identity: the Order is a particular state of life and not a hierarchical ministry. Our vocation is in fact rooted in baptism and not in the sacrament of orders. Lay Servants are also a historical memory of the Seven Founders, most of whom were living in the lay state; priestly ministry came later as an expression and extension of their religious consecration. The priests of the Order will always be Servants who are priests and not priests who are also Servants; it is the religious charism that grounds and gives meaning to full equality among all Servants.
89. On the other hand, evangelization is the mission of every baptized person. By their state of life, as well as through their example of faith and of humble and efficacious service, lay Servants have a unique place of their own in the work of evangelization. Their evangelical witness is of evangelizing value and benefit, first of all, to the other members of the community, who are privileged to have these fully lay members. The piety and tireless work of these lay members throughout history is so well known and appreciated that we need not praise them again here.
90. Lay members have, besides, a unique role in the general ministry of the church and can by their baptism take on many pastoral tasks, such as catechesis, lectio divina, animation of the liturgy, the visiting of the sick, as well as many other activities that fit in with the charismatic and prophetic role of religious.
91. In vocation work our communities should be careful to present clearly the possibility of living our charism outside the clerical state as lay Servants. We are aware that much remains yet to be done to retrieve a rich presence of the authentically lay members of our communities.
92. Servants who are senior in age also have a place of their own in evangelization work. In their prayer, more intense in later years, and by their courageous acceptance of their condition, these Servants carry out a most useful service for the apostolic activity of their communities.
93. Their presence is especially fruitful through the evangelical and evangelizing example they offer to the other members of the community: the example of their faith, patience, perseverance, kindness and attentiveness to others, poverty, wisdom, counsel, and other Christian virtues.
94. The elderly will also be able to find some pastoral involvement where their life experience and spiritual wisdom will be fruitful: for example, sacrament of reconciliation, spiritual direction, and pastoral encounters.
95. With regard to those Servants who, following upon a constant tradition of the Order, choose different forms of hermetical life, they too should have a sense of being called to evangelization work, they should take part in it wholeheartedly ac cording to their special style of life. Their unceasing prayer to the Lord will be an echo of the cries and hopes of their brothers and sisters involved directly in evangelization efforts. They will take upon them selves the burdens of other evangelizing Servants and will keep them “profoundly present in the heart of Christ” (LG 46b). The source of apostolic vitality is the contemplation of the love of God. For this reason the witness offered to the primacy of God and of God’s love is an inexhaustible source of evangelizing energy for all the others.
96. Contemplative communities can contribute more directly to evangelizing activities in several specific ways:
– by offering hospitality to those directly involved in evangelization for the sake of physical and spiritual renewal;
– by welcoming into their communities those peo ple, especially young people, who are searching for the sources of the fullness of life;
– by celebrating the sacred mysteries in a dignified and dynamic way so that, as St. Paul says, “if some nonbeliever or someone not initiated came along, he or she would fall down in adoration of God and proclaim the presence of God among you:” (1 Cor 14, 24-25).
Questions for community reflection
1. Exchange ideas on the theme of retrieving the presence of lay Servants in the Order. What would the advantages be and what can the community do to favor this?
2. What do we do to promote the evangelizing capacities of the elderly in our communities?
3. What value do we attribute to contemplation and to contemplative Servants in terms of evangelization?