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This document will consider the application of the Rule of the Order of Saint Charbel to matters of Government of the Order. As such it will form part of the Constitutions of the Order, although it is not intended to be limiting in any way to the authority conferred by 'The Rule' upon the Supreme Moderator appointed to govern the Order.

The document is intended for use as a guide to assist members of the Order, and aspirants, to better understand the structure and exercise of authority within the Order.

The Document is in draft form at present and will be included at a later stage.




1.1 The garb of the Order of Saint Charbel is distinguished by the dark brown Scapular surmounted by a large white Cross on the front panel, with an embroidered emblem at the centre of the Cross, depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary side by side. (Ref. R 4.1)

1.2 The Scapular is to extend three (3) inches short of shoulder width and to hand nine (9) inches above the ground front and back..

1.3 Novices and Professed of the First, Second and Third Branches, (Priests, Brothers, Sisters and Lay Men and Women) all wear the Scapular of the Order.

1.4 Members of the Fourth Branch when within the Community, wear the Scapular of the Order.

1.5 Postulants do not wear the Scapular of the Order.


2.1 The First and Second Branch Members (Priests, Brothers and Sisters) wear a cream-coloured tunic tied with a white cord.

2.2 The Third Branch Members wear a beige coloured tunic tied with a white cord.

2.3 The tunic is to be the same design, with a zipper in the front from the collar to the waist - for both men and women - except for a high collar on the women's tunic. The bottom of the tunic is to be hemmed to stand five (5) inches above the ground.

2.4 The tunic is to be loose fitting and worn with a cord tied around the waist, with the ends hanging level with the bottom of the Scapular - to the left for the men and to the right for the women. Only the Professed Religious wear knots in the cord, signifying the Vows taken.

2.5 Tunics are to be worn by: Novices and Professed of the First and Second Branches, and Novices and Professed of the Third Branch.

2.6 Tunics are NOT worn by Postulants of the Order.

2.7 Tunics are NOT worn by the members of the Fourth Branch, who wear the Scapular only.


3.1 Novices of the Religious Sisters of the Second Branch, and Lay Women of the Third Branch, wear a short white Veil hanging to shoulder length, with a rounded shape at the bottom edge. The Sister's veil has a cream-coloured border, and the Lay Women's veil has no border.

3.2 Professed lay women of the Third Branch wear the same short white veil as the Novices in the Third Branch, but with a beige border, colour matched to the tunic.

3.3 Professed Sisters in Temporary Vows wear a short white veil with a brown border (colour matched to the Scapular). The veil is worn shoulder length, with a rounded shape at the bottom edge.

3.4 Professed Sisters in solemn vows wear a long white veil with a brown border. The veil is worn hanging to mid back, with a rounded shape at the bottom edge.

3.5 The Mother Superior wears the same veil as in 3.4, but hanging to the waist.


4.1 Male Novices and Professed of the First, Second and Third Branches, wear the Hood in matching material to their Tunic, and attached to the tunic by press-studs or velcro strips.

4.2 The Hood is worn over the back of the Scapular.


5.1 All Postulants, Novices, and Professed, Priests, Brothers and Lay members of the Third Branch wear a fifteen (15) decade brown wood Rosary with the Saint Benedict Crucifix.

5.2 The men wear the Rosary hung on the cord of the Habit on the right side.

5.3 The women wear the Rosary hung on the cord of the Habit on the left side.


6.1 For colder climates, additional clothing will be essential, and no restrictions are placed on the clothing worn under the Habit for the reasonable comfort of the member.

6.2 Members have two options in regard to footwear: either shoes or sandals may be worn, depending on the climate.

6.3 Professed Members will always wear the full Habit in the Community. When travelling outside the Community, Religious will wear whatever is permissible in the country, but preferably clerical dress. If clerical dress is not permissible, the clothing worn must be modest and dignified, in keeping with the Sacred Calling. Lay members, when travelling outside, should also dress in a modest and dignified manner, remembering their calling.


7.1 In colder or temperate climates it may be necessary to wear additional clothing over the Habit for protection against cold, snow and rain. To effect a standard in these conditions, a cloak is proposed as an addition to the Habit.

7.2 The cloak should be brown, to match the colour of the Scapular, and made of thick, warm material, preferably wool or wool blend. It is to go over the shoulders, with tie, hook or button at the top, and reaching to five (5) inches above the ground.




The Novus Ordo Mass may be said in either the vernacular or in Latin, according to the Roman Missal. The Tridentine Mass may be said according to the 1962 Roman Missal, as laid down by the Holy See.


There are 21 Eastern-Rite Churches. They are listed below according to the five Mother Churches from which they were generated. (see L'Osservatore Romano, No.45, 5/11/90)

I Alexandrian
1.  Coptic (Patriarchate)
2.  Ethiopian (Patriarchate)
II  Antiochian
3. Malankar
4.  Maronite (Patriarchate)
5.  Syrian (Patriarchate)
III  Constantinopolitan or Byzantine
6. Albanian
7. Byelorussian
8. Bulgarian
9. Greek
10.  Hungarian
11. Italo-Albanian
12.  Melkite (Patriarchate)
13.  Romanian
14.  Russian
15.  Ruthenian
16.  Slovak
17.  Ukrainian
18.  Yugoslavian
IV  Armenian
19.  Armenian (Patriarchate)
V  Chaldean
20.  Chaldean (Patriarchate)
21.  Malabar



This sample schedule is only a suggested possibility. It is to show the concept of a blend of Prayer and Work in a typical day for the Community. Each Community will vary from this schedule according to the local needs and circumstances.


In order to foster the spirituality of the Order, the Religious will structure their day according to the simple program: One-half Day of prayer and one-half Day of work. This is completely flexible, and adapted for the individual Religious to choose.

6:00am The day begins.

7:00am Mass for the Religious - and any other members desiring at this time.

9.00am Morning Prayer for all Community members, in which they dedicate the coming day to God. The first Community Rosary could be said at this time.

9:30am Work time begins for those Religious desiring to work at this time.


The Religious may freely choose to work or pray at this time from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm

12:30pm  Clean-up time for those Religious working from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm.

1:00pm Eating together, where possible, for all Branches.

2:00pm One-half Day Work / One-half Day Prayer begins:


The Religious may freely choose to work each Day at this time, from 2:00pm to 5:30pm.

5:30pm Clean-up time for Religious working from 2:00pm to 5:30pm.

6:00pm Evening Meal, together where possible - for all Branches.

6.30pm Mass if required.

7.15pm Mandatory Community Prayer by all Branches. Prayer ends with Benediction when possible.

8.00pm Close for all.

9.00pm Night Prayer for Religious. All Religious are to leave the Third Branch areas before this time, and vice versa.

The word `all' means those who are available, as from time to time certain Religious may be involved in activities which cannot be left unattended. All Religious are expected to attend Community Prayers unless some cause intervenes.


6.30am The Third Branch begins its day between 6.30.am and 7.00.am. Children are made ready for school; preparations begin for the coming day's activities. Some members would have already been up even earlier to begin work on the farm - on tasks such as milking.[In practice there is much flexibility, and no obligation for everyone to strictly rise at this time. Every Community is different according to local circumstances.]

8.30am Morning Mass for families.

9.00am All members of the Third Branch gather together in the Chapel for morning prayers. The first Community Rosary could be said at this time.

9.30am Work begins and the children go off to school, with the adults attending farm and domestic activities.

12.noon Mass for those unable to attend earlier, followed by Community Prayers.

1.00pm Eating together, where possible - for all Branches.

2.00pm Work continues and school resumes.

3.00pm The members of the Community stop whatever they are doing in order to recite the Holy Wounds Chaplet or similar prayer.

3.30pm Work continues, and school concludes for the day.

5.30pm Work concludes for the day.

6.00pm Evening meal together, where possible - for all Branches.

6.30pm Evening Mass, if required.

7.15pm Mandatory Community Prayer by all members of the three Branches. Prayers end with Benediction when possible.

8.00pm Close for all.

(1) The word "all" means all those who are available, as no doubt some individuals, from time to time, will be involved in activities which cannot be left unattended.

(2) Because of work commitments, family members are not obliged to attend the same Mass, thus ample opportunity is given for all concerned.

(3) All members are expected to attend Community Prayers.

(4) On two Saturdays each month the days are to be free for families to work in their own household. Other Saturdays are to be Community work days.

(5) All Sundays are free, except for Mass and Rosary. The exceptions to this will be Easter, Lent, Christmas, Special Feast Days - where the Sundays concerned are days of prayer.

(6) After Holy Mass, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is to have the highest place in every member's devotions, and it is the wish of the Supreme Moderator of the Order that Perpetual Adoration be undertaken in every Community as soon as numbers permit.

(7) The times of Community Prayer during the day are not to exceed half an hour each.




1.1 The Rule of the Order requires that Communities be formed encompassing, wherever possible, all Branches of the Order - Priests, Brothers, Sisters, Families and Singles. It is self evident however, that a new foundation will probably commence with one Branch, and most probably with a group of lay people joining together and pooling their resources to initially establish the Community. It is envisaged that in this pooling of resources the fledgling Community could purchase all lands and build the homes for its founding members.

1.2 The Rule also requires that Communities be formed around a farm property, with the objective of achieving self-sufficiency through agricultural production and/or cottage industries.

1.3 A new Community might be founded in the following way:

(a) Several families could sell existing properties and by pooling their resources, purchase a farming property with several homes on it, or with the scope to site new homes on it, or alternatively:
(b) One person or family might buy a property, or allow their own property to be used as a foundation for the new Community.
1.4 Because of the members' financial vulnerability in this early stage, the Community should be securely bonded. Members joining to form a Community in this way should have a legally binding contract drawn up to ensure that none of the parties to the venture can withdraw their resources (i.e. land, property, equipment, farming implements, or money) from the Community for a specified period, e.g. five years, even if they wish to leave. This commitment should only be dissolved if all the parties agree to cancel the contracts made.

1.5 In this initial stage, all members who have contributed to the establishment of the Community should have an equal say in its growth and in Community decisions. Knowledge, spirituality, finance or property should not provide any pretext for precedence.

1.6 Once a property has been obtained, representatives from each of the founding families should come together to form the initial Community Council. The first step of the Council should be to apply, in writing, to the Major Superior of the Order in the Region (or to the Supreme Moderator of the Order if there is no regional establishment of the Order), for acceptance of their proposal to form a Community of the Order of Saint Charbel. If approval is given for the new Community - until a Superior can be appointed - an experienced member of the Order from another Community may be delegated to assist the new Community Council in its initial task of preparing a development program for the Community. This program will address the following issues:

(a) Priorities for building works; organising the farm or industry; family needs; the need for outside work; and income of members.
(b) Application of the Rule and Constitution to the extent practicable in the particular circumstances, so that each member of the new Community may begin to live, as fully as possible, the prayer life and apostolic work of the Order.
(c) The necessity for establishing a Community Chapel, even if it is very rudimentary in its first stage, as a matter of highest priority, so that Community Prayer life might flourish from the outset.
(d) The Branches of the Order the founding members might enter. Initially many may opt for the Fourth Branch, but it must only be with the intention of embracing the Novitiate of the Third Branch as soon as circumstances permit.
(e) Spiritual Direction of members, and Formation in the life of the Order.
1.7 Because of the planning constraints on rural properties prevalent in many countries - and perhaps, financial limitations - there may be difficulties in housing all the families on the property. It may be necessary therefore for some Community members to live in nearby towns, until such problems are resolved. The Supreme Moderator of the Order has determined that this should not be a barrier to families entering the Novitiate of the Third Branch. Families in this situation are encouraged to join the Third Branch and embrace Community life as fully as the circumstances permit.


2.1 The Order of Saint Charbel is a new form of Consecrated life and looks upon the Supreme Pontiff, Pope John Paul II, as its highest authority. It does not come under the jurisdiction of any local Ordinaries, rather it is governed through the Order's own governmental structure (which does include Bishops).

2.2 Before establishing a Community, a representative of the Order must advise the local Bishop. The Diocesan Bishop's permission is not necessary in establishing the Community, but out of courtesy to his position, he must be notified. Each Community should try to work cooperatively with the local Church Authorities.

2.3 Even in its infancy, the Community must be governed by the Supreme Moderator through the Major Superior and the appointed Community Superior - who may, temporarily, be a layman.

2.4 Initially, members of the Community may have to receive the Sacraments from local Church Authorities, so there should be good and close communication between the two.


3.1 When initiating a Community, adequate research should be made into the regulation and laws of Federal, State and Local Authorities.

3.2 Items which may require investigation include:

  • land zoning for planning purposes.
  • water / sewerage, and other environmental factors.
  • electricity
  • housing / accommodation and regulations governing the same.
  • animal husbandry.
  • crops
  • cottage industries
3.3 For taxation purposes, all financial documentation must be initiated immediately and kept regularly up-to-date to provide ready access for Governmental bodies and officials belonging to the Order.


4.1 Self sufficiency is one of the objectives of Community life and the Order, and it is expected that in most cases the new Community will be established on a rural property, with farming as the primary means of support.

4.2 The farm should be large enough to feed at least twelve families and some twenty or so Priests and Religious of the Order. However, a larger agricultural production, and/or cottage industry, could produce goods which might be sold or bartered. It is unlikely that every Community can produce the whole spectrum of its day to day needs, and bartering will become a part of Community life.

4.3 Adequate research into potential crop growth and management of property should take place. The need for cottage industries must be examined with a view to their practicability and financial viability.

4.4 The Community must look on itself as a close-knit family, and should initiate this family-type concept in its approach to farm life.

4.5 All members of the Community should take an active interest in the planning and implementation of the farm Community.

4.6 The necessity may arise for several members to supplement the income of the Community by working outside.


5.1 If it is not feasible to set up a Co-operative or an Incorporated Association representing several families to own the land, it would be preferable that Community property be in the name of one family, until the property is transferred to the Order.

5.2 During the early stages, there should be a clear distinction made between Community property and private property. Lists should be made to determine what belongs to each individual family, what belongs to the Community, and what is donated by families to the Community.

5.3 What is bought by Community funds for the Community remains the Community's and does not belong to those who may have assisted in the purchasing.

5.4 The Community cannot claim the right to obtain any individual's private assets, whether financial or in property.

5.5 When members come into the Community, what is brought into the Community for family use remains their private property and continues to remain theirs indefinitely. However, this does not mean that Community members cannot borrow each other's private property; but if goods are borrowed, it should be clearly understood that they are to be for either Community use or private use. In this way, if equipment is used for a Community project it is the Community which is responsible; if an individual uses another member's property for personal use, the individual is responsible.

5.6 All materials in the Community should be catalogued with a system of checks being available, so that all materials are accounted for.

5.7 Materials in the Community stockpile should not become one individual's, indirectly, through persistent use, but should always belong to the Community.

5.8 Materials should not be abused by the inexperienced. Similarly, while materials are classified as `Community' they should be treated as if they were `private', and utmost care should be taken so that materials return in the same condition as when taken etc.

5.9 All records of ownership of material possessions should be properly documented, for the protection of the family as well as the Community.


6.1 Materials that are not essential in the private life of the individual may be pooled together for the whole Community to use, but a record should be kept of all such items. It is to be noted that members living in the Community are not required to pool their resources until the period of their Novitiate is completed. If they choose to do so during their Novitiate, it must be pointed out to them that these resources may not be available, should they wish to leave the Community.

6.2 Each family should have something to offer the Community, and the resources are not material items only, as knowledge, experience and skills are of equal, or possibly more, worth.

6.3 The Community must not become dependent upon affluent new members to secure resources for development. During a new member's Postulancy or Novitiate their material possessions remain their own.

6.4 It is recommended that at all times some mode of transport be always available on the Community property in case of emergency situations.


7.1 Most countries have National or Private Health Care Benefit facilities. During the Postulancy and the Novitiate all members should retain the upkeep of private benefits, since there is always the possibility, that during this period, they may wish to leave the Community.

7.2 Until the Community is self-sufficient, it will not be in a position to cover costs of members' medical, dental and other treatment - and even after their profession it may be necessary during the formative stages, for all Community members to retain some form of Health cover.

7.3 Each Community should have some sort of medical stockpile in the form of a medical cabinet. It would be extremely beneficial to the Community if a number of its members were trained, and became proficient, in administering First-Aid.


8.1 Although we may live in Community and trust in the protection of God, we must use common sense while living in an imperfect world, and prudence suggests that appropriate measures be taken to insure the infant Community from possible natural disasters in order to prevent financial ruin resulting from crop destruction - or destruction of buildings and/or equipment.

8.2 The Community should have an adequate insurance cover for essential material assets, as well as sufficient cover for public liability. This is especially important if large numbers of pilgrims may be visiting Community Shrines or Chapels.

8.3 The Community should also make adequate preparation for the future by retaining a stock of food, fuel, tools and workshop supplies; spare parts for machinery, and so on.


9.1 Professed members of the Order should not receive any form of government unemployment assistance.

9.2 Individuals who wish to join the Community and whose sole source of income is through government unemployment assistance, may be permitted to do so during their postulancy and Novitiate.

9.3 Unemployment Benefits may be received by members, provided they seek employment as prescribed by the law of the land. However, once a Community becomes self-sufficient, the member is not permitted to remain on Unemployment Benefits, as this would constitute defrauding the Government.

9.4 It is permissible for elderly or disabled members receiving pensions to retain these for their personal use during their Probationary period and Novitiate, but when Professed they will be required to pay this to the Order.


10.1 The need may arise for several members to work outside the Community so as to gain the financial support to assist self-sufficiency. Ideally the Community should be self-sufficient, but from time to time - especially during the foundation stage - the need may arise to obtain goods which the Community cannot provide.

10.2 Postulants and Novices may also need to work outside the Community to support their families.



The Maronite Church takes its name from Saint Maron, an anchorite from the vicinity of Antioch, who, in the second half of the fourth century, withdrew from the world into a monastery, not far from Apames in Syria, to live with and for God, as did those men of Eastern monasticism who were thirsty for God.


Maron was famous for his holiness and, through him, the Lord granted many healing Graces, both physical and spiritual, to the great number of people who went to him. Maron, at the price of both his life and that of his monks, fervently defended the Catholic doctrine, as solemnly defined in the ecumenical Councils held in that region, and which was defended by the Supreme Pontiff.


Maronite history is marked by loyalty to the Pope; by martyrdom in its defence and by the almost visceral love for religious freedom and tolerance. The willingness to welcome religious minorities that have made Lebanon their refuge is an essential part of the Maronite traits which have made Lebanon the homeland of minorities. Both Christians and non-Christians recognise these characteristics of the Maronite Church and her leading role in Lebanon. An eminent position has always been reserved for the Maronite Patriarch, as a symbol of national unity and as guardian of the characteristics of Lebanon.
The Maronites are theologically, liturgically and spiritually of Syrian-Antiochean tradition. Before Arabic, their language today, they used to speak and pray in Syriac.

The Maronite Church has a patriarchal structure. The Patriarch bears the title of "Patriarch of Antioch and of All the East". Antioch was the See of Saint Peter before Rome.


There are three monastic Religious Orders in the Maronite Church which trace their origins to Saint Anthony the Great:

  • the Lebanese Maronite Order with about four-hundred (400) monks;
  • the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary with about one-hundred-and-fourteen (114) monks;
  • and the Antonian Maronite Order with about one-hundred-and-twenty (120) monks;
There is also a Religious Congregation of the Maronite-Lebanese Missionaries (Kreimists) of patriarchal right, with approximately fifty (50) Religious.

The Religious also offer pastoral ministry in the parishes, and in the houses of religious formation; their cultural activity has greatly developed in recent years. The Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, run by the Lebanese Maronite Order, is the seat of a pontifical faculty of theology.


The Maronite Religious Orders of women are:

  • the Antonine Sisters
  • the Religious of the Lebanese Maronite Order
  • the Sisters of the Holy Family
  • the Sisters of Saint Therèse of the Child Jesus, and
  • the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist
Candidates for the Priesthood of the diocesan clergy are prepared in the patriarchal seminary of Ghazir, founded at the end of the last century by the Society of Jesus. Other candidates are prepared in the diocesan seminary of Saint Anthony in Karm Saddè in the Archdiocese of Tripoli.


(unofficial translation from French)

Pope John Paul II

Solemn Eucharistic Celebration for the opening of the Synod on the Consecrated Life. All forms of consecration reunited by the same calling: the Living Word of God


We could [say] that the horizon of the Kingdom of God has been revealed to us and continues to be revealed to individuals, through the bias of vocations to the Consecrated Life.

Have we not assisted, in these last years, this marvellous flourishing of Secular Institutes and Societies of Apostolic life that do so much good for the Church? We are also assisting in the birth of new forms of consecration, in particular in the midst of movements or ecclesial association; forms which express, in a closer way, our present culture, the constant tension of the religious life, pulled by contemplation of the mystery of God and the mission towards our brothers.

It must be that the members of the religious Communities and Institutes of Consecrated Life inspire themselves on the primitive Church model (cf.Ac.2,42), to engage themselves in a renewed burst, nourished by the teachings of the Gospel, and to the Sacred Liturgy and, especially, to the Eucharist - and to perseverance in prayer, and in communion with the Holy Ghost, so as to be only one heart and only one soul. (cf.Perfectae Caritatis.15.)

(excerpt from the L'Osservatore Romano - October 4th, 1994 No. 40(2335)



Dear Members of the Order of Saint Charbel:

I wish to address the issue of achieving self-sufficiency within each Community in the Order. What does this mean? Each member and each Community must be able to be sustained and maintained on all levels -- that is: financially, and with all requirements such as food, employment, accommodations, etc., in such a way that the Order need not depend upon the outside world for anything other than those items which are impossible for us to make or grow. It is also essential for all concerned that no member of the Order need be dependant for income outside the Order, because this would defeat the purpose.

There are many ways in which self-sufficiency can, and must be, achieved -- taking into account the three Evangelical Counsels which must govern the spirit and the heart of each soul who enters the Order. In a special way we refer to the Vow of Poverty. You are fully assured that the Order cannot expand unless these measures are strictly adhered-to.

To Set-up A Community

The Rule & Constitutions should be consulted and fully understood right at the outset (see APPENDIX A in particular). A Community of Third Branch members may be formed with only one family -- or several members of the Order -- being involved, but it is desirable to have more join-in as soon as possible, so as to spread the financial burden.

Helpful Hints:

1. A property which can be utilised as a small farm -- around five acres -- should be jointly owned at first, then later transferred to the Order. The property should have some living accommodations available so that greater expenditure is not immediately necessary for this purpose. (Mobile homes -- or similar means -- are suggested as a temporary way of increasing accommodation).

2. All income is to be pooled so that expenditures can be controlled for the benefit of the whole.

3. Communities are to seek ways of producing goods and items which will utilise the work force within, using the talents of all. 'Small Cottage Industries' are a good way of expanding self-sufficiency, eg.: crafts; farming, large or small -- anything that will bring in an income. But one of the quickest ways of becoming self-sufficient is through purchasing, or establishing, grocery stores -- nearby, in a village or town -- where you will also be able to sell your own products: fruits, vegetables, home crafts, etc.

The purpose of acquiring such stores and/or establishing industries is so that all members are working for the Order -- even though this is in the outside world -- and all finances are constantly retained or recycled into the Communities. All who are in the 'outside workforce' of the Order should be based on rotating shifts so that the time spent by each in the 'outside world' is minimised, ensuring that the spirit of the Order is not diminished, or lost, by such exposure to the worldliness out there.

Upon the establishment of cottage industries and generation of farming produce has been achieved by the Community a small store can be built on the Community property; thereby, much time and travel is saved. There are many regulations drawn-up on how this can be achieved; see the Rule and Constitutions.

It is to be understood that self-sufficiency can only come about if all members are willing to sacrifice all for the Order and is spirit. Once the Order has achieved some decree of self-sufficiency the stores can be sold, provided that the projected -- and necessary -- income for the maintenance of the Community has been achieved. Eventually all Communities will be able to barter their goods with each other; thus the self-sufficiency will have reached its ultimate purpose.



(New Forms of Evangelical Life)


Apostolic Exhortation of the Holy Father John Paul II
'The Consecrated Life'
Given in Rome, on 25th March, 1996

62. The Spirit, who at different times has inspired numerous forms of consecrated life, does not cease to assist the Church, whether by fostering in already existing Institutes a commitment to renewed faithfulness to the founding charism, or by giving new charisms to men and women of our own day so that they can start institutions responding to the challenges of our times. A sign of this divine intervention is to be found in the so-called new Foundations, which display new characteristics compared to those of traditional Foundations.

The originality of the new communities often consists in the fact that they are composed of mixed groups of men and women, of clerics and lay persons, of married couples and celibates, all of whom pursue a particular style of life. These communities are sometimes inspired by one or other traditional form adapted to the needs of modern society. Their commitment to the evangelical life also takes on different forms, while, as a general rule, they are all characterized by an intense aspiration to community life, poverty and prayer. Both clerics and lay persons share in the duties of governing according to the responsibilities assigned to them, and the apostolate focuses on the demands of the new evangelisation.

If, on one hand, there is reason to rejoice at the Holy Spirit's action, there is, on the other, a need for discernment regarding these charisms. A fundamental principle, when speaking of the consecrated life, is that the specific features of the new communities and their styles of life must be founded on the essential theological and canonical elements proper to the consecrated life. (cf. Canon 573) This discernment is necessary at both the local and universal level, in order to manifest a common obedience to the one Spirit. In dioceses, Bishops should examine the witness of life and the orthodoxy of the founders of such communities, their spirituality, the ecclesial awareness shown in carrying out their mission, the methods of formation and the manner of incorporation into the community. They should wisely evaluate possible weaknesses, watching patiently for the sign of results (cf. Mt 7:16), so that they may acknowledge the authenticity of the charism. In a special way, Bishops are required to determine, according to clearly established criteria, the suitability of any members of these communities who wish to receive Holy Orders.

Worthy of praise are those forms of commitment which some Christian married couples assume in certain associations and movements. They confirm by means of a vow the obligation of chastity proper to the married state and, without neglecting their duties towards their children, profess poverty and obedience. They do so with the intention of bringing to the perfection of charity their love, already "consecrated" in the Sacrament of Matrimony. (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 48) However, by reason of the above-mentioned principle of discernment, these forms of commitment cannot be included in the specific category of the consecrated life. This necessary clarification regarding the nature of such experiences in no way intends to underestimate this particular path of holiness, from which the action of the Holy Spirit, infinitely rich in gifts and inspirations, is certainly not absent.

In view of such a wealth of gifts and creative energies, it seems appropriate to set up a Commission to deal with questions relating to new forms of consecrated life. The purpose of this Commission will be to determine criteria of authenticity which will help discernment and decision-making. Among its other tasks, this Commission will evaluate, in the light of the experience of recent decades, which new forms of consecration can, with pastoral prudence and to the advantage of all, be officially approved by Church authority, in order to be proposed to the faithful who are seeking a more perfect Christian life.

New associations of evangelical life are not alternatives to already existing Institutions, which continue to hold the pre-eminent place assigned to them by tradition. Nonetheless, the new forms are also a gift of the Spirit, enabling the Church to follow her Lord in a constant outpouring of generosity, attentive to God's invitations revealed through the signs of the times. Thus the Church appears before the world with many forms of holiness and service, as "a kind of instrument or sign of intimate union with God, and of the unity of mankind". (cf. Lumen Gentium, 1) The older Institutes, many of which have been tested by the severest of hardships, which they have accepted courageously down the centuries, can be enriched through dialogue and an exchange of gifts with the Foundations appearing in our own day.

In this way the vigour of the different forms of consecrated life, from the oldest to the most recent, as well as the vitality of the new communities, will renew faithfulness to the Holy Spirit, who is the source of communion and unceasing newness of life.

 65. The Synod Assembly paid special attention to the formation of those who wish to consecrate themselves to the Lord, and recognized its decisive importance. The primary objective of the formation process is to prepare people for the total consecration of themselves to God in the following of Christ, at the service of the Church's mission. To say "yes" to the Lord's call by taking personal responsibility for maturing in one's vocation is the inescapable duty of all who have been called. One's whole life must be open to the action of the Holy Spirit, travelling the road of formation with generosity, and accepting in faith the means of grace offered by the Lord and the Church.

 Formation should therefore have a profound effect on individuals, so that their every attitude and action, at important moments as well as in the ordinary events of life, will show that they belong completely and joyfully to God. Since the very purpose of consecrated life is conformity to the Lord Jesus in his total self giving, this must also be the principal objective of formation. Formation is a path of gradual identification with the attitude of Christ towards the Father.

84. The prophetic character of the consecrated life was strongly emphasized by the Synod Fathers. It takes the shape of a special form of sharing in Christ's prophetic office, which the Holy Spirit communicates to the whole People of God. There is a prophetic dimension which belongs to the consecrated life as such, resulting from the radical nature of the following of Christ and of the subsequent dedication to the mission characteristic of the consecrated life. The sign value, which the Second Vatican Council acknowledges in the consecrated life, is expressed in prophetic witness to the primacy which God and the truths of the Gospel have in the Christian life. Because of this pre-eminence nothing can come before personal love of Christ and of the poor in whom he lives.

 The Patristic tradition has seen a model of monastic religious life in Elijah, courageous prophet and friend of God. He lived in God's presence and contemplated his passing by in silence; he interceded for the people and boldly announced God's will; he defended God's sovereignty and came to the defence of the poor against the powerful of the world (cf. 1 Kg 18-19). In the history of the Church, alongside other Christians, there have been men and women consecrated to God who, through a special gift of the Holy Spirit, have carried out a genuinely prophetic ministry, speaking in the name of God to all, even to the Pastors of the Church. True prophecy is born of God, from friendship with him, from attentive listening to his word in the different circumstances of history. Prophets feel in their hearts a burning desire for the holiness of God and, having heard his word in the dialogue of prayer, they proclaim that word with their lives, with their lips and with their actions, becoming people who speak for God against evil and sin. Prophetic witness requires the constant and passionate search for God's will, for self-giving, for unfailing communion in the Church, for the practice of spiritual discernment and love of the truth. It is also expressed through the denunciation of all that is contrary to the divine will and through the exploration of new ways to apply the Gospel in history, in expectation of the coming of God's Kingdom.

85. In our world, where it often seems that the signs of God's presence have been lost from sight, a convincing prophetic witness on the part of consecrated persons is increasingly necessary. In the first place this should entail the affirmation of the primacy of God and of eternal life, as evidenced in the following and imitation of the chaste, poor and obedient Christ, who was completely consecrated to the glory of God and to the love of his brethren. The fraternal life is itself prophetic in a society which, sometimes without realizing it, has a profound yearning for a brotherhood which knows no borders. Consecrated persons are being asked to bear witness everywhere with the boldness of a prophet who is unafraid of risking even his life.

Prophecy derives a particularly persuasive power from consistency between proclamation and life. Consecrated persons will be faithful to their mission in the Church and the world, if they can renew themselves constantly in the light of the word of God. Thus will they be able to enrich the other faithful with the charismatic gifts they have received and, in turn, let themselves be challenged by the prophetic stimulus which comes from other sectors of the Church. In this exchange of gifts, guaranteed by full harmony with the Church's Magisterium and discipline, there will shine forth the action of the Holy Spirit who "gives [the Church] a unity of fellowship and service; he furnishes and directs her with various gifts, both hierarchical and charismatic".

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