“Prayer, penance and the example of their own life”

Sister praying

Last weekend, I posted a poll, asking “In their work of building up the Body of Christ, religious do this first by what? Most respondents got the answer right, choosing “Prayer, penance and the example of their own life.” Only one person thought that another reason was primary (education of children). My question in this poll drew from the Second Vatican Council’s decree, Christus Dominus, which states:

  • “All Religious have the duty, each according to his proper vocation, of cooperating zealously and diligently in building up and increasing the whole Mystical Body of Christ and for the good of the particular churches. It is their first duty to foster these objectives by prayer, works of penance and the example of their own life…”

Our society is big into “producing.” People’s worth, unfortunately is measured by what the “produce” and how “successful” they are. All of us are subject to the trap of this mind frame. However, religious life, like other human life, cannot be reduced to “what we do.” Relationships are primary: first, our relationship with God, and relationships with others.

The third chapter of our congregation’s constitutions explains well the role of prayer in our religious life: “[I]individual private prayer…strengthens our loving friendship with Christ, helps us to achieve unity, and strengthens us in fulfilling our responsibility toward the Church and the world…Our prayer should help us to remain united with Him in all that we do.” Communal prayer is also important, as our Constitutions state, “Our communal prayer is the center and the source of strength for our communities.”

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

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