TOC IN ASIA
By Joe Generoso III
Last March 27, Pope Benedict XVI told Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales (our recently elevated Cardinal), before he left Vatican, that the Philippines would play an important role in Asia in the next years. The Pope told this to him not once, but twice.
And just a month before that (prior his elevation as Cardinal last Feb. 22), during an interview with CNS (Catholic News Service) in Vatican, Archbishop Frank Cardinal Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, announced that Pope Benedict XVI is seeking to revitalize the faith life of the church, a "spiritual reform" that must begin with the world’s men and women religious. He spoke about the challenges facing religious life and the directions being set under Pope Benedict. Incidentally, the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life is the person who approves and confirms the TOC Rule of Life.
Since the Second Vatican Council, continued Cardinal Rode, some orders have abandoned their traditional fields of apostolate, only to lose themselves in uselessness or unproductive activities. The result, according to him is stagnation.
In Canada, for example, he said it is "mathematically certain" that, if things do not change, by the year 2040 the majority of existing religious congregations will disappear. However, he added that Asia has enjoyed a boom in vocations (up about 40 percent in recent years), and similarly, Africa has witnessed a tremendous increase in religious vocations except that some problems in the structure of formation and programs of study were encountered.
According to Cardinal Rode, one positive sign that’s receiving considerable Vatican attention is the growth of lay movements, many of which are tied to religious orders for their spiritual formation. "Throughout the history of the church, religious orders and congregations were always the ones pushing forward, bringing dynamism and a call for holiness. They were always on the front lines," declared Cardinal Rode, a 71 year old Slovenian, and a member of the Vincentian order.
Now, therefore, as contemplatives, we should consider these developments as providential and not just coincidental. We should reflect on what God’s message to us is; what is He trying to tell us as Lay Carmelites in the Philippines? What should our role in Asia be?
Whatever this role may be, are we prepared to assume it? Let us examine ourselves. What sort of spiritual preparation should we undertake to be effective in our role? I guess it is in this context we should view the statement of Pope Benedict when he says "spiritual reform".
When we speak of reforms, we are always at the forefront of them. We started ours many years ago and we are still at it. Though a little delayed, we are now seeing some results - members have begun to realize the real purpose of joining the Third Order and some of those who joined for the wrong reason have left. Those who joined for the right reason have started to seriously discern their vocation before applying to the next level of formation and they are starting to learn the real implications of being a final professed.
When Pope Benedict said, "the Philippines will play an important role in Asia in the next years", he did not give any specific time frame. It may happen next year, or it may happen three or four years from now. What is more important is, when that time finally comes will we, the Lay Carmelites in the Philippines, be ready to play that role of being "on the front lines, pushing forward, bringing dynamism and a call for holiness?"