An attentive and critical reflection on the way consecrated life is lived today reveals that many consecrated persons are trying to enjoy ”freedom from” without being clear what is the “freedom for”. Consequently many of them are free for themselves and live selfish lives, enjoying worldliness without being responsible for the actions and attitudes. Thus, they are free from the responsibility of a family, but they are immersed in family affairs. They are free from the responsibility of owning money and other possessions, but they are immersed in money and property business. They are free from the powers, but they are immersed in the greed for power and position. This shows that the privilege of “freedom from” guaranteed by the consecrated life is not responsibly used for that purpose for which it is intended. Instead it is selfishly used for personal gratification, profit and glory or name.
All the requirements demanded by consecrated life: vows, constant prayer and community life are oriented to make the person concerned integrally free. The three vows are only concrete expressions of my freedom from the fundamental capacities and rights as a person: free will, ownership and love. Through obedience I say “no” to all my personal projects of life; through poverty I say “no” to all my right to own and possess; through chastity I say “no” to my right to love a woman and to establish my own family. Through constant prayer I keep myself free from all my internal clinging and slanting: pride, selfishness, jealousy, greed, avarice, anger, laziness and from all attachments and conform my nature and behaviour to that of Christ. Through community living I transcend the human and natural perspectives and relate myself with my community members on the supernatural and faith perspective enjoying the freedom of the new family of Jesus . Hence a consecrated person is totally free, internally and externally. He is completely fulfilled and happy because he has journeyed from ahamkara, to atmabodha to atmanivedana and reached stitaprajna because he experiences the fulfilment of all his desires (aptakama) through the fulfilment at the level of the spirit (atmakama).
But what for is this freedom? The fundamental mission of consecrated life is to be “witnesses” of Christ or the Gospel in the Church and in the world. This is articulated through the apostolicity of consecrated life. The witnessing is expressed in multiple forms through the apostolic dimension of religious life. This is not “religious work, engagement or occupation”. It is a way of living which may or may not imply activities. The activities do not make the apostolicity, but the witness and testimony through the activities do. Hence the freedom experienced by the consecrated persons is meant to bring the witnessing dimension to all the activities of the consecrated persons: being free for the community, for the religious family, for the Church, for the poor people. It is expressed in the love, in the generosity and in the availability of the religious in whatever they engaged in, educational, therapeutic, pastoral, social or spiritual.
Our communities are suffering and are weakened in their witness because the religious are using the “freedom from” to be free for their own families, their own needs in the form of money, possessions, gadgets, comforts, vehicles, media instruments, positions, glory and fame. The voice of God is re-echoing again “who will go for me… whom shall I send?” We can hear the responses of the modern religious too, “Here I am, I am free but for my own thousand things,, not for you”.
“Trials are nothing else but the forge that purifies the soul of all its imperfections.”
“May my life be a continual prayer, a long act of love.”
“God gives me courage in proportion to my sufferings. I feel at this moment I couldn’t suffer any more, but I’m not afraid, since if they increase, He will increase my courage at the same time.
“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing make you afraid. All things are passing. God alone never changes. Patience gains all things. If you have God, you will want for nothing. God alone suffices.”
Faith “is like the feet wherewith the soul journeys to God, and love is the guide that directs it.”
“The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light.”
“Strive to preserve your heart in peace; let no event of this world disturb it.”
“don’t wait until tomorrow to begin becoming a saint.”
“Let us love, since that is what our hearts were made for.”
“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”