The Congregation comes, meets, clarifies and clears the way for a new convent

Archbishop José Rodríguez CarballoEarlier this week, representatives of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (the Curia dicastery for all religious orders and groups) visited the Netherlands for meetings with the religious superiors, the Conference of Dutch Religious and the bishops. The delegation consisted of the Congregation’s secretary Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo (pictured), and office manager Daniela Leggio.

Archbishop Rodríguez Carballo addressed the gather superiors of the Netherlands on Tuesday and appealed for a religious ‘refoundation’. He called for careful discernment of vocations, good Christian formation (with special attention for affectivity and sexuality), and a “creative loyalty”. What would the religious founders do hic et nunc? An answer to that question includes an appeal to radicality. The archbishop spoke of a threefold choice that needs to be made in regards to the aforementioned refoundation: the choice to put Christ at the heart of things, to discern between primary and secondary aspects of religious life, and a missionary existence.

knr congregatioThe religious superiors also took the opportunity to ask questions. Dr. Leggio answered one of the questions, about the refoundation of religious life, with a counter-question: She said that everyone should ass him- or herself the question of what his or her duty in the here and now was. She said that many questions in the Netherlands revolved around rights: what is allowed and what isn’t? But those questions miss the mark: legal regulations are intended to give direction to life. Rules must be at the service of living the charism of all those various Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

On Wednesday the delegation met with a group of bishops and representatives of the Conference of Dutch Religious. Participating bishops were Frans Wiertz (Vice-President of the Bishops’ Conference and bishop of Roermond), Jan van Burgsteden (auxiliary bishop emeritus of Haarlem-Amsterdam), Jan Liesen (bishop of Breda), Theodorus Hoogenboom (auxiliary bishop of Utrecht) and Jan Hendriks (auxiliary bishop of Haarlem-Amsterdam). Bishop van Burgsteden, member of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, is the sole active religious member of the Bishops’ Conference, and holds the portfolios for Religious and Secular Institutes and New Movements. Bishop Hendriks writes that the bishops and the delegation discussed questions about the contacts between bishops and religious institutes.

And, in the margins of the meeting the Congregation also give permission for the establishment of new Benedictine convent in the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam. The convent of Mary, Temple of the Holy Spirit is a daughter house of the abbey of abbey of Sant’Angelo in Pontano, Italy, and has already been housing fourteen sisters since last May. The convent is located right next to the parish church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Aalsmeer. The formal canonical establishment of the convent will take place some time in the future, now that the road has been cleared by the Congregation’s permission.

klooster aalsmeer

Rules and regulations

I heard a nice little parable a few days ago that discussed how it can sometimes seem – to believers and nonbelievers alike – that the relationship between God and His people is only about rules; that it comes down to us having to follow His rules in order to be happy. In essence that is true, of course, but not because of some divine need to be obeyed.

It is rather like a man in a dark room who has to open the curtains to let in light. But he doesn’t want to get up out of his chair to do it. He wants the light, nothing more, but doesn’t believe he should have to do anything to get it. Our relationship with God is like that too. God is life, and our choice for life, in whatever form or shape or context, requires a decision to get out of our chair and pull open the curtains, so to speak. Not because God otherwise holds it back, but because it is a simple and logical requirement. Just like curtains don’t open by themselves.

Rules are therefore not simple rules for the sake of being rules. Rather, they are necessities to acquire what we want or need. If God desires lasting happiness for His people, and I’d like to think He does, He will provide us with the means to achieve that. In that sense He is indeed our Father: parents ideally raise their children in a framework of rules, not out of some need to be despots, but because they want the best for their children, who are yet unable to achieve happiness and fulfill their potential by themselves.

That is how we should consider the recent ruckus about Communion and who can receive it. In order to let the life of God enter us, we must be able to receive it. We must get up and make the changes in ourselves to remove the obstacles that can block that life. God’s love is not human love, it far exceeds it. The latter must therefore never block the former, since that would be detrimental to the people. And if there’s one thing God would not want, it is to keep His people back.