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Paul Vadakumpadan, Shillong says,
SIGNS AND BEARERS, NOT WORKERS AND FUNCTIONARIES
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Shillong, Oct. 6. The Year 2015 is dedicated in a special way to consecrated life.



Just as the modern secular culture is seriously affecting Christian life, it is also affecting consecrated life. The number of new members has dropped. The number of those who leave is increasing. Recently, Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary of the congregation for institutes of consecrated life said that during these past few years, an average of 3000 religious have left annually. That is alarming. Often we have claimed that India is different. But the number of those leaving is sizable also here. The fact that economic prosperity is now within reach of those who are educated and hard working has also something to do with the changing scenario.

There are different possible responses to this situation. We have persons, sometimes even in responsible positions, who tend to deny or at least under-estimate these facts. There are reports of even unworthy motives being offered to attract vocations, like studies abroad. This is sad, bad and mad. It is bound to fail. On the other hand there are those who look only at the negative side. As Archbishop Carballo pointed out, while we should not ignore shadows, there is no need to wallow in them. There are also positive indications like the beautiful example of life and mission offered by many religious,  young and  not so young.

One often hears the question, unless we get new recruits, how will we carry on our works? If rendering service is seen as the motive for getting more vocations, we are in a maintenance vicious circle. More people to continue the work and more works to absorb the personnel available. Murphy`s Law says, ``Work expands to occupy the workers available``. There is a temptation especially in a country like India to see religious life as providing cheap labour. Perhaps.  Two words one hears very often in religious circles are work and achievement. Everything seems to be in terms of work and achievement: identity, motivation, mission. Are we looking for workers or witnesses, functionaries or missionaries, achievers or animators?  

Every vocation has only one purpose: to be a sign and bearer of God`s love. The value of religious life is in the witness it can offer. The Pope`s invitation to religious to ``wake up the world`` with their testimony of faith, holiness and hope is most apt today.  Our presence becomes meaningful and relevant only in this context. Hence too the absolute relevance of the religious community.  ``It is by your love for one another that everyone will recognise you as my disciples`` (Jn 13:35). No wonder the greatest casualty of modern life is community. In an intensely individualistic world, an equally individualistic form of religious life has little to attract well intentioned youngsters. It is salt that has lost its taste.

The nature of some of our works makes one wonder why God should send special vocations to continue them. For example, it is very difficult to justify recruitment of good village girls and boys in order to have religious personnel who will run prestigious schools in cities for the benefit of those who can pay fees. Perhaps God is sending us a powerful message even through the crisis of vocations.  

Consecrated life being Christian life lived radically will have other implications as well: More emphasis on the life of Christ than on the life of the founder/ress, on Gospel values than on the special values upheld by various groups, on what is common among all disciples of Christ than on what distinguishes groups of disciples, on what is Christian and Catholic than on what is characteristic of a particular tradition, on missionary outreach and less on guarding one`s turf. Otherwise, we can have the comic-tragic situation of highly committed members of one group looking negatively at members of another group.  We may have men and women who flaunt their religious identity but at the same time indulge in personal ambition and sectarian politics, to the extent of becoming B teams of some political parties or organisations.

If the purpose of consecrated life is to wake up the world, it is more relevant today than ever before, because large numbers of people are asleep. Signs and bearers of God`s love can wake them up. That is precisely what consecrated life is about.





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