Documents in Brief

Documents in Brief

Human Beings Trafficked for Profit

Feb 10

The three most profitable “businesses” in the world are deeply damaging to human beings—sale of arms, sale of drugs and sale of human beings. From being the third most profitable, trafficking in humans has become the second most profitable industry, since (unlike drugs) a human being can be sold again and again. Think of girls promised jobs in our cities, then gang-raped and sold to brothels where they meet violence and degradation every day. Often they were led there by people they knew and trusted, including some family members.
A recent Vatican document addresses this issue.

read more
Documents in Brief

Holy Sport!


The Vatican’s First Document on Sports

On June 1st, 2018, the Pontifical Council for Laity, Family and Life, released a document entitled, “Giving the Best of Yourself: A document about the Christian perspective on sport and the human person”

The document sees sports as (1) a formative vehicle (a rich source of values and virtues that help us to become better people and better Christians); (2) a “meeting place” for people of all ages, races, classes, and cultures that can counteract the tendency towards individualism; (3) a pastoral instrument for “encounter, formation, mission, and sanctification.”

There had been an earlier view that the Church had a negative attitude on sports due to a wrong understanding of the body. But, the Church sees sports as beauty and form of art which help us encounter God, who is the source of all beauty. Sports show and can promote human values.

Virtue of Sports:

Virtue has something to do with balance and moderation in life. St. Thomas Aquinas argues that a virtuous person should not be working all the time, but also needs time for play and recreation. The virtues of patience, temperance, humility, harmony and courage are fostered during sports in relation to beauty, truth, joy and goodness.

Educative Value of Sports:

Athletes have the mission to be educators as well, since sports can effectively inculcate many higher values, such as loyalty, friendship and team-spirit. Sports can be a school of teamwork that helps us overcome selfishness. The individuality…


To read the entire article, click  Subscribe

Fr. Gilbert Choondal SDB

read more
Documents in Brief

Gaudete et Exsultate


Pope Francis’ Formula for Holiness

Pope Francis released an Apostolic Exhortation entitled, Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and be Glad) on 9 April 2018. Normally, an Apostolic Exhortation arrives after a synod. Often, they’re written following a gathering of bishops, known as a synod—but not always, as was the case with Gaudete et Exsultate. Some experts put apostolic exhortations third in the rank of papal documents, after apostolic constitutions and encyclicals. Francis’ Gaudete et Exsultate will be his third apostolic exhortation, after Evangelii Gaudium, widely considered the roadmap of this pontificate, and Amoris Laetitia (On family). This document is basically a reflection of Vatican II’s universal call to holiness (Lumen Gentium 40). Here are the five basic themes of the document.

  1. Be human, Be Holy

Holiness is not associated with the beatified or canonised alone. Francis mentions holiness of the ordinary, “saints next door.”  He sees holiness in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, and in elderly religious who never lose their smile. He calls it as a middle class of holiness (7). Doing works of mercy is higher to acts of worship. Francis invites us to holiness, invoking St. Thomas Aquinas to argue that “works of mercy towards our neighbour” give greater glory to God than even acts of worship (106). This is the holiness in being ordinary in an extraordinary way: St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the French Carmelite who found holiness in doing small tasks; St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuit founder who sought to find God in all things; St. Philip Neri, the founder of the Oratorians, who was renowned for his sense of humour. Francis offers examples of everyday sanctity, like a loving parent raising a child; as well as “small gestures” and sacrifices that one can make, like deciding not to pass on gossip. He even mentions that saints are ordinary people, with lots of imperfections (22).

  1. Misleading Views

Francis warns of two false forms of holiness that can lead us astray: Gnosticism and Pelagianism (35). The first is Gnosticism, from the Greek word gnosis, to know. Gnosticism is the old heresy that says that what matters most is what you know. No need to be charitable or do good works. All you need is the correct intellectual approach. Today Gnosticism tempts people to think that they can make the faith “entirely comprehensible” and leads them to want to force others to adopt their way of thinking. “When somebody has an answer for every question,” says Francis, “it’s a sign that they are not on the right road (41).” In other words, being a know-it-all is not going to save you. The second thing to avoid is Pelagianism, named after Pelagius, the fifth-century theologian associated with this idea. Pelagianism says that we can take care of our salvation through our own efforts. Pelagians trust in their own powers, don’t feel like they need God’s grace and act superior to others because they observe certain rules.

  1. Humour and Holiness

Christian joy is usually accompanied by a sense of humour (126). Francis mentions three saints who had a sense of humour: Saint Thomas More, Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Philip Neri. Ill-humour is no sign of holiness (126). He warns of an individualistic and consumeristic culture that offers passing pleasures of life. The real joy is in sharing and being shared. “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20:35). “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). Francis puts it right when he mentions the beatitudes in one’s life. “The word “happy” or “blessed” thus becomes a synonym for “holy.” It expresses the fact that those faithful to God and his word, by their self-giving, gain true happiness (64).”

  1. Beatitudes and Holiness

Pope Francis writes that “Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy when he gave us the Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-12; Lk 6:20-23),” such that “the Beatitudes are like a Christian’s identity card” (63). The Beatitudes are a roadmap for holiness. As you might guess from the document’s title, the Beatitudes—“Blessed are you when…”—are central to this exhortation. The Beatitudes are not only what Jesus means by holiness, they are also a portrait of our Lord himself. So, we are called to be poor in spirit, meek, peacemakers, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on. He concludes each beatitude with a simple and practical exhortation for all. For example: “Seeing and acting with mercy: that is holiness. (82).”

  1. Formation to Holiness

What are the ways to be holy? Stated positively, the Christian should rather be patient and meek (112-121); joyful (122-128); bold and passionate (129-139); communitarian (140-146); and constantly prayerful (147-157). Pope Francis calls for following and becoming more like Jesus, a life-long effort which leads us to and is sustained by the Eucharist. To attain holiness, there is a spiritual battle that we need to face. “The Christian life is a constant battle. We need strength and courage to withstand the temptations of the devil and to proclaim the Gospel (158).” He encourages us to exercise the process of discernment in matters both small and great. Finally, Francis exhorts all to pray “in dialogue with the Lord, a sincere daily “examination of conscience (169).”

  1. Quotable Quotes

No Individual Holiness: “In salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual (6).”

Saints Next Door: “Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them ‘the middle class of holiness’ (7).”

Helping hands better than chanting lips: “Here I think of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who asked which actions of ours are noblest, which external works best show our love for God. Thomas answered unhesitatingly that they are the works of mercy towards our neighbour, even more than our acts of worship (106).”

The devil is real: “Hence, we should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea (161).”

Humorous saints: “Far from being timid, morose, acerbic or melancholy, or putting on a dreary face, the saints are joyful and full of good humour (122).”

Contemplatives in Action: “It is not healthy to love silence while fleeing interaction with others, to want peace and quiet while avoiding activity, to seek prayer while disdaining service….. We are called to be contemplatives even in the midst of action, and to grow in holiness by responsibly and generously carrying out our proper mission (26).”

Jesus through Saints: “Every saint is a message which the Holy Spirit takes from the riches of Jesus Christ and gives to his people (21).”

Ordinary Holiness: “There are inspirations that tend solely to perfect in an extraordinary way the ordinary things we do in life (17).”

Imperfect Saints: “Not everything a saint says is completely faithful to the Gospel; not everything he or she does is authentic or perfect (22).”

Faithful to Our Deepest Self: “Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest self (32).”

True Happiness: “The word ‘happy’ or ‘blessed’ thus becomes a synonym for ‘holy.’. It expresses the fact that those faithful to God and his word, by their self-giving, gain true happiness (64).”

To subscribe to the magazine     Contact Us

read more
Documents in Brief

Fake News and Journalism for Peace


This is the message of Pope Francis, for World Communications Day which will be celebrated on the Sunday before Pentecost, 13 May 2018. The World Communications Day was established by Pope Paul VI in 1967 as an annual celebration that encourages us to reflect on the opportunities and challenges that the modern means of social communication afford us to communicate the Gospel message. The celebration came in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, which realised it must engage fully with the modern world.

Here is the summary of the message of Pope Francis for the World Communications Day 2018.

Purpose of Communication

  • Communication is God’s plan.
  • We communicate essentially for fellowship.
  • Communication helps us to express and share all that is true, good, and beautiful.

What is Fake News?

  • In general, it refers to the spreading of disinformation on line or in the traditional media. It has to do with false information based on non-existent or distorted data.
  • The effectiveness of fake news is primarily due to its ability to mimic real news, to seem plausible. Secondly, this false but believable news is “captious,” inasmuch as it grasps people’s attention by appealing to stereotypes and common social prejudices, and exploiting instantaneous emotions, like anxiety, contempt, anger and frustration.
  • It is based on deliberately evasive and subtly misleading rhetoric and at times the use of sophisticated psychological mechanisms.

Purpose of Fake News

  • To influence political decisions, and serve economic interests.
  • To grab power.
  • To manipulate the reader.

Evil Effects of Fake News (1,2)

  • Fake news spreads fast. Even authoritative denials cannot contain the damage.
  • Lack of healthy confrontation and other sources of true information.
  • Unmasking fake news becomes difficult due to many people who interact in homogeneous digital environments (e.g., lack of use of other media of information).
  • Fake news discredits others, presenting them as enemies, to the point of demonizing them and fomenting conflict. It leads to arrogance and hatred.
  • It appeals to the insatiable greed so easily aroused in human beings.

Our Response to Fake News Culture (2-4)

  • There are several efforts in net and media to raise awareness on fake media.
  • Teach people how to discern fact from fake.
  • Recognise truth from falsehood through their fruits: negative effects (conflicts, division…) or positive effects (e.g., constructive dialogue, mature relationships…)?
  • Journalism is not a job but a mission, to protect news.
  • Information is not based on speed of the news or audience impact but people who receive it. Journalists form people by generating goodness, trust, communion and peace through news.
  • Promote journalism of peace as opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans, escalation of shouting matches, verbal violence and sensational headlines.
  • Promote journalism by people for people, of voice for the voiceless and less concentrate on breaking news and sensationalism.


  • There is no such thing as harmless disinformation; on the contrary, trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences. Even a seemingly slight distortion of the truth can have dangerous effects.
  • The heart of information is not the speed with which it is reported or its audience impact, but persons.

Concluding prayer to turn to the Truth

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.

Help us to speak about others as our brothers and sisters.

May our words be seeds of goodness for the world:

where there is shouting, let us practise listening;

where there is confusion, let us inspire harmony;

where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity;

where there is exclusion, let us offer solidarity;

where there is sensationalism, let us use sobriety;

where there is superficiality, let us raise real questions;

where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust;

where there is hostility, let us bring respect;

where there is falsehood, let us bring truth.


To subscribe to the magazine     Contact Us

read more
Documents in Brief

Family Ministry: Ten Things Priests and Religious Can Do

April 10

Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), the post-synodal apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis, was presented in MAGNET in September 2016. This article looks at the ways in which it invites priests and religious to be meaningfully involved in family ministries. (The numbers in parenthesis refer to the Document.)

1. Visit Families: Family visits are formative and educative. Pastors, together with women religious, should organize family visits, and animate families in a friendly way.
“When visiting our people’s homes, we should gather all the members of the family and briefly pray for one another, placing the family in the Lord’s hands.” (227)

2. Accompany Couples after their Marriage: Priests, religious and lay animators should accompany couples, especially to face the challenges of the first years of marriage.
“It is all the more essential that couples be helped during the first years of their married life to enrich and deepen their conscious and free decision to have, hold and love one another for life.” (217)

3. Create a Family Cell at the parish: Help families facing problems. Know experts who can help, and put families in touch with them.
“Parishes, movements, schools and other Church institutions can help in a variety of ways to support families and help them grow…The parish office should be prepared to deal helpfully and sensitively with family needs and be able to make referrals, when necessary, to those who can help.” (229)

4. Catechise the Family: “We pastors have to encourage families to grow in faith. This means encouraging frequent confession, spiritual direction and occasional retreats. It also means encouraging family prayer during the week, since ‘the family that prays together stays together.’” (227)

5. Animate the Sunday Liturgy: Prepare the Sunday Liturgy in such a way as to help parents.
“Many are touched by the power of grace experienced in sacramental Reconciliation and in the Eucharist, grace that helps them face the challenges of marriage and the family.” (38)

6. Form Pastors and Religious towards Family Ministry: The formation curriculum needs to be redesigned to include family ministries, and include pastoral experience with families.
“Along with a pastoral outreach aimed specifically at families, this shows the need for a more adequate formation… of priests, deacons, men and women religious, catechists and other pastoral workers.” (202)

7. Renew the SCC/BCC in the parish: “The main contribution to the pastoral care of families is offered by the parish, which is the family of families, where small communities, ecclesial movements and associations live in harmony.” (202)

8. Promote Adult Catechesis: A proper catechesis of the parents helps them deal with the moral and spiritual formation of their children.
“The Church is called to cooperate with parents through suitable pastoral initiatives, assisting them in the fulfilment of their educational mission.” (85)

9. Promote the Language of Mercy: Pastors should be agents of God’s merciful love, not harsh judges.
“The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement… The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for ever; it is to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart.” (296)
At times “we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.” (310)

10. Invite a Family: As we visit their homes, invite a family once a month to share your prayer life or community life. Invite a poor family to have a meal with your community.
“Let us not forget that the Church’s task is often like that of a field hospital.” (291). “The family has always been the nearest hospital.” (321)

To subscribe to the magazine     Contact Us

read more
Documents in Brief

Keep Watch

March 13

Keep Watch is a Letter from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life released on 8 September 2014. It was released during the Year of Consecrated life (30 November 2014 to 2 February 2016). Basically, it speaks about Consecrated Life as a Journey, a journey like the Exodus, trying to search for the face of God and move beyond passing concerns. Here are the major points of the document.

A. Consecrated Life as Exodus

The journey of the Israelites was a journey with God through the symbols of a cloud by day and a flame by night. “At every stage of their journey, whenever the cloud rose from the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would resume their march. If the cloud did not rise, they waited and would not march until it did. For the cloud of the LORD rested on the tabernacle by day, and a fire shone within the cloud by night, for all the House of Israel to see. And so it was for every stage of their journey (Ex 40:36-38).”  This evocative icon of Exodus indicates a modern image of Consecrated Life. It includes our modern moments of stop and go, pause and resume, patience and enterprise.

Exodus is full of symbols and metaphors: The burning bush, crossing the red sea, journey through the desert, the theophany on mount Sinai, fear of the lonely wilderness, the gift of the law of the covenant, the column of cloud and fire, manna, water. The symbol of the desert signifies arid solitude and loneliness, lack of basics of life (water, vegetation, friends, life).

The Symbol of the Cloud (anan): It is a guide for the journey, at times stopping for long time, thus causing inconvenience and provoking complaint, then, rising and moving to show the way. The cloud indicated constant watchfulness, test of faith, patience, and final destination indefinitely postponed, leading to total obedience.  The symbolic meaning of the cloud is interpreted as the angel of God (Ex14:19), presence of God, used again and again in psalms and wisdom books, and even in the New Testament (cloud during the birth of Jesus, the Transfiguration, the Ascension).

Consecrated Life Today: It is a kind of journey guided by the cloud in the Post-Conciliar era. It is a journey of exodus. There have been moments of creative fidelity, inventiveness, enthusiasm; so too fragile certainties and bitter disappointments, like walking in darkness at times and watchful prayer. Consecrated life is an unknown voyage (Wisdom18:3), a journey that demands total obedience, trust and faith. It is like the journey of Abraham, who was asked to move to an unknown destination.

B. Living the Exodus

Consecrated Life has evolved into the present form through a journey like Exodus. This evolution can be seen during the second half of the last century:

  • 1947: Introducing Secular Institutes was a revolutionary gesture in the Church.
  • 1950: The Vatican called the first World Congress of all Religious.
  • 1964: Lumen Gentium, 6th Chapter (on religious life) brings an ecclesial identity to Religious Life.
  • 1965: Perfectae Caritatis. Decree giving importance to fraternal life and formation (educational formation of religious).
  • Pacem in Terris introduces new concept (“signs of the times”), rights and duties, human dignity and even UN Universal Declaration of the Human Rights. Consecrated life has tried to meet these demands, inviting religious to the image of the cloud with trust and obedience through the voice of the Church.
  • The theology of Charism begins with Vatican II though not mentioned in Vatican II.
  • 1971: The word charism first appears in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelica Testificatio of Paul VI.
  • The Church guided the Consecrated Life in the last fifty years on these seven main themes:
  • The foundational charism,
  • life in the spirit nourished by the Word (lectio divina),
  • fraternal life in common,
  • initial and continuing formation,
  • new forms of apostolate,
  • the exercise of authority and
  • attention to different cultures.

 C. Consecrated Life as Elijah’s Life

The monastic life is compared to the life of Prophet Elijah: Solitude, asceticism, passion for the covenant, fidelity to the law, defence of poor and passing the mantle as prophetic sign (6). Elijah defends the poor in condemning Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Encountering the poor widow, fighting for her life, depression in the desert at Beersheba and surviving on bread and water, prophetic defence against Baal–these are the other life events that can be compared to Consecrated Life today. He goes through purification and reaches enlightenment finally at Mount Horeb.  In the experience of dark nights, he experiences the theophany of God in the gentle breeze.  God is a whisper, not visible but present. Elijah’s begging for rain in a crouching position and taking refuge in a cave in crouching position indicate the image of an unborn baby.  Thus, he gives rebirth to the new paths of the living God.

Religious men and women should not lose sight of the movement of the cloud. We should try to recognise God in small and frail signs. We might hear an echo of Elijah’s servant, who repeats, searching the horizon: There is nothing! (1 Kgs 18:43). We are called to the grace of patience, to wait and return to searching the sky even seven times (12).

D. Centrality of the Gospel in Religious Life

Religious Life is following the Gospel (8).  “St. Dominic showed himself everywhere as an evangelical man in words and deeds.”  For Francis of Assisi, the Rule is: “The life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ;” For Clare of Assisi: “The form of life of the order of four sisters… is this: ‘To observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.’” In the rule of the Carmelites, the fundamental precept is that of “meditating on the Law of the Lord day and night.” James Alberione affirmed that the Pauline Family: “Aspires to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the full.”   Little Sister Magdeleine has said: “We must build something new; something new that is old, that is the authentic Christianity of the first disciples of Jesus. We have to take up the Gospel word for word.”  Every charism of consecrated life is rooted in the Gospel.


We are called to move along these paths, opposing the dia-bolical that divides and separates, and liberating the sym-bolical, meaning the primacy of the bond and relationship present in the complexity of created reality (15).

The heart of that bond is God, revealed in Jesus Christ.

To subscribe to the magazine     Contact Us

read more
Documents in Brief



A Document on the Contemplative Dimension of Religious Life

Contemplate is a circular letter published by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on 15 October 2015.  This document is continuation and culmination of the two documents that were released during the Year of Consecrated life (2014 November to 2016 February), namely, Rejoice and Keep Watch.  This circular is an invitation for all Religious (Institutes and Societies) to “evaluate their contemplative dimension in their daily life; to recognize the mystery of grace which sustains them, excites their passion and transforms them.” The document draws much from the Song of Songs.

Seven Steps Towards Contemplation

  1. Song of Songs at the Heart of Contemplation

The Song of Songs is a celebration of beauty of love between man and woman. It is a love that leads to exodus—crossing streets and squares (Song of Songs 3:2). It is a symphony of spousal love that includes the restlessness in searching for the beloved (dodim’) and goes beyond to the whole universe to experience this love (ahaba’). Consecrated men and women need to encounter Christ in sacred places as well as in the streets and squares (2).

  1. The Gaze of Contemplation

To contemplate means to think deeply, to observe something attentively, in a way that provokes amazement (4). This is normally seen in the way we gaze at nature. This gaze helps one to go beyond what is gazed and to search for the beauty’s creator (Wisdom 13:1-9). The centre of Christian contemplation is Christ crucified. Contemplation, therefore, is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “In the simple of worlds of a peasant of Ars to his holy Curé (St. John Mary Vianney): “I look at him and he looks at me (5).” Hence, contemplation is basically gaze on God and the work of His hands (Psalm 8:4).

  1. Contemplation as a Search for the Face of God

To love means being ready for the daily apprenticeship of the search (8). The “Song of Songs” presents love as a search, searching for the beloved in the darkness of the night, through streets and squares, facing dangers and struggles (SS.3:2,3). “It is your face, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face.” (Ps 26:8). This search is to change the searcher in relation to the beloved in dedication and commitment, as in the case of the woman in her search of her bridegroom (SS 2:5; 5:8).

  1. An Experience of the Dark Night of the Soul

Our search is a call to humility because we recognise “potential atheists’ in ourselves. Seeking God requires crossing through the night and even staying there for some time (14).  In scripture, the night is the time of distress, interior struggle, and spiritual warfare, as we see happen to Jacob at the Jabbok (Genesis 32: 25). Francis of Assisi, St. John of the Cross, and Mother Teresa are some of the saints who experienced the struggle of the mysterious “presence-absence”of God.

  1. Religious Life as a Way of Beauty

Encountering God is experiencing beauty. St. Augustine realised it through the process of his conversion. “Late have I loved thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new.”  This way of beauty is in silence, contemplation, struggle and pain (22,23). This beauty calls to ecstasy, leading one out of the self in the movement of love. “My beloved is mine and I am his” (SS 2:16). The beauty in the Bible appears as the signature of divine and human gratuitousness (44). In our journey as consecrated persons, we need to recognise the traces of Beauty, a path towards God.

  1. Religious Life as a Call towards Prayerful Contemplation

Prayerful contemplation is the identity mark of a religious in intimate relationship with his/her Beloved. Prayer brings us back to the centre of our being. It gives us over to Jesus, while it heals our self and restores our unity. It is a journey within, a journey that leads us to experience the God within.

  1. Consecrated Persons as Participants in the Dance of Creation

Consecrated men and women are participants in the dance of creation as singers and guardians. Singers: Called to revive our identity as creatures, we give praise in the immense symphony of the universe. Guardians: Called to watch over the beauty and harmony of creation, like sentinels waiting for the dawn (60). The canticle of Francis of Assisi (Laudato Si’….) continues to resonate today with a call to wonder and recognise the original beauty that marks us as creatures.

Quotes from the Text:

  1. “Just so, in this life, two persons of reasonable intelligence, who love each other dearly, seem able to understand each other without making any signs, merely by their looks.” (St. Teresa of Jesus) (5)
  2. “The greatest challenge (of religious) is the ability to continue to see God with the eyes of faith in a world which ignores his presence.” (6)
  3. “Contemplation is mind, hearts and knees.” (Pope Francis) (9)
  4. “Saint Benedict, the tenacious seeker of God, affirms that a monk is not one who has found God; he is one who seeks God for a lifetime.” (12)
  5. “The Divine Master is at the bottom of our soul as at the bottom of Peter’s boat… At times, it seems as though he sleeps, but he is always there, ready to save us, ready to answer our requests.” (Bl. Charles de Foucauld)
  6. “Without holiness, good turns chaotic; without good, beauty becomes accidental. Good and Beauty shine however with just one voice” (45).
  7. “A new relationship with nature is not possible without a new heart, one that can recognise the beauty in every creature, the unique dignity of man, the need for relation, and openness to a you in which everyone recognises the same origin, the divine You” (61).

To subscribe to the magazine     Contact Us

read more
Documents in Brief

Making Christ the Brother Visible. Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church


Religious Priests and Religious Sisters are well known in the world. Religious Brothers, however, are a relatively invisible group even within the Church. The Brothers are technically referred to as “lay religious” men. They are “lay” in the sense that they are not ordained priests. However, as religious, as consecrated persons, they are equal to the religious priests and sisters. They all take the same vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and live in community. It may surprise some to know that in early Christianity, the monks were mostly non-ordained Brothers. Even today, the vast majority of religious in the Church are non-ordained people – the Brothers and the Sisters.

Knowing well that the vocation of the Brother is “not always well understood and appreciated within the Church” (#1), the Vatican has recently brought out a document with the title, “Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church”. It is a document addressed not only to the Brothers, but to all religious, priests and lay faithful. The content of this document is good for all those who want to know about, appreciate and promote the vocation of the religious Brother in the Church (#2).

The document presents the identity of the Brother in the threefold perspective of mystery, communion, and mission. At the heart of the identity of the Religious Brother is “fraternity” or “brotherhood”, which is a gift that is received (mystery), a gift that is shared (communion) and a gift that is given away (mission).


“Brother” is the name traditionally given to the male non-ordained religious in the Church since the beginning of consecrated life. It is the title Jesus gives to his disciples after his resurrection (Jn 20:17). This title represents a significant way of being the prophetic memory of “Jesus the Brother”, who told his followers, “You are all Brothers” (Mt 23:8). The Brother reflects the face of “Christ the Brother”: simple, good, close to people, welcoming, generous, and serving.

These religious are called to be “brothers of Christ”, the firstborn among many brothers (Rm 8:29), brothers to one another in mutual love and working together, brothers to everyone in their witness to Christ’s love for all, especially the lowliest, the neediest, and brothers for a greater brotherhood in the Church (#11).

The first ministry that Brothers develop in the Church as religious is “to remind the people of the fundamental values of the Gospel” and to “respond with holiness of life to the love of God poured into their hearts (#7). In other words, they are called to be “signs”. They are also called to be a leaven in the dough, as expert guides in the spiritual life, fraternally accompanying other believers and helping them discover the riches of the Christian tradition or simply as Brothers who share their own experiences with other brothers for mutual benefit (#10).

The feature of the person of Christ that he specially underlines in his life is that of brotherhood or fraternity, a fraternity open to all, especially the least, the humble, the oppressed, the unloved — those who “are less likely to experience the good news of God’s love in their lives”.


The Religious Brother, living his lay state through a special consecration, is witness to the value of the common priesthood received in Baptism and Confirmation.  His religious consecration is in itself an exercise in the fullness of the priesthood of all the baptised (#16). “Brother” is the title Jesus gives his disciples after his resurrection (#17).

The Religious Brother lives chastity especially as an experience of the love of God by which he feels driven to a universal love and to become a promotor of communion through the testimony of his brotherhood. He lives poverty as one who has received freely, in the person of Jesus, the precious pearl of the Kingdom of God. Because of it he makes himself available to build brotherhood and serve all in charity, especially the poorest. He lives obedience specifically as a common search for the will of the Father, in brotherhood, with the commitment to walk together with one mind and heart and gladly accepting the human mediations indicated by the Rule of the institute. (#18)

The Brother develops his ability to read deeply the signs of the times, to understand in them God’s call to work according to His plan, to discover the presence of God in people, especially among the poor (#19).


The mystery of communion of its very inner life becomes a gift shared by the Brothers in the community. The gift received and shared will also be given away in the mission.  The foundation supporting the religious community is, above all, the gift of fraternity that it has received (#21).

It seems appropriate then to refer to these communities of Brothers as fraternities of service, in the sense that the ecclesial ministry assumed by the community of Brothers gives it its distinctive identity in the Church (#23). Common life, an essential characteristic of the religious life of Brothers, is intended to lead to brotherly communion… called to be experts in communion. Their brotherhood will create brotherhood (#24).

The prophetic experience of fraternity on the part of the Brothers is accompanied by a commitment to take on the lifestyle of Jesus.  Consecrated celibacy allows them to be brothers to all, rather than living an exclusive love. Poverty, the choosing of a moderate and simple lifestyle, means sharing goods in order to experience fraternal communion with others. And obedience, by which all come together in the common project, in the same witness and the same mission, while respecting the diversity of gifts and individual personalities. This prophetic experience requires an initial break with the place of origin, with family, friends and other people, only to regain them later, being deeply part of a new family, in a new framework of universal brotherhood (#25). The community of Brothers lives its prophetic mission counter-culturally, because e its lifestyle is opposed to what the world promotes.


The mission entrusted to the disciples when being sent to evangelise, refers not only to proclaiming the spiritual message but also to liberation from what oppresses the people and their human development, because “between evangelisation and human advancement, there are in fact profound links (EN 31). The services provided by the Religious Brothers “are all a participation in Jesus Christ’s own ministry as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (#28).

The Church exists to evangelise. The same has to be said of consecrated life and specifically the Religious Brother: “The task of devoting themselves wholly to “mission” is therefore included in their call… Indeed more than in external works, the mission consists in making Christ present to the world through personal witness. This is the challenge, this is the primary task of the consecrated life (#28).

Brothers offer themselves s guides in the search for God, accompanying their contemporaries in their faith journey (#29).  Consecrated persons are called to be coherent in their commitment to always live for the poor and to the extent that their charism demands, with the poor and like the poor (#30).


Many Religious Brothers carry out their mission exercising a secular profession, whether it is in the health service, education, assistance to immigrants, the accompaniment of the young at risk, etc. They thereby give witness that their commitment to the Kingdom also implies the effort to build, in the here and now, a more human and inhabitable world, and that the love of Christ is linked to love of humanity, especially the weakest and the neediest members. Today, more than ever, the world needs consecrated persons who form the heart of secular realities (#31). Many of these services represent true ministries. In this way, “the religious brother seeks and points to God in the secular realities of culture, science, human health, the workplace, and the care of the weak and disadvantaged.

To subscribe to the magazine     Contact Us

read more
Documents in Brief

The Gift of the Priestly Vocation – A Framework for the Formation of Priests


The Church needs holy, healthy and humble priests, and that requires careful selection and training of candidates. In fact, the Church considers the formation of future priests, both diocesan and religious, as one of her most important and demanding tasks. In December 2016, the Vatican brought out a new set of guidelines for the formation of seminarians, entitled The Gift of the Priestly Vocation. The salient features of this document are given below. Although the document is directly about the formation of priests, most of the guidelines are valid for any person doing ministry in the church, such as religious and lay leaders. (The numbers in brackets refer to the paragraph numbers in the document.)


The period of initial formation begins when a candidate enters the seminary and it goes on till he is ordained a priest. The new document visualises initial formation as a journey in four stages: 1) the Propaedeutic or Preparatory Stage; 2) the Discipleship Stage (the period of philosophical studies); 3) the Configuration Stage (the period of theological studies); and 4) the Pastoral Stage (the period of vocational synthesis).

  • The Preparatory (Propaedeutic) Stage

The present document makes the propaedeutic or preparatory stage mandatory for all those who wish to enter seminaries. In India it has already been the practice for many decades and it is often referred to as the “minor seminary” stage. It gives the aspirant a chance to acquire an initial and overall familiarity with Christian doctrine. It is a time of serious vocational discernment and growth in spiritual life. It is to be lived in a community, distinct from the major seminary, with its own programme and its own team of formators.

  • The Stage of Discipleship (philosophical studies)

The disciple is one whom the Lord has called to “stay with Him” (Mk 3:14), to learn the secrets of the Kingdom of God, and to live in a deep relationship with Him. In this stage, special attention is given to the human dimension of formation, emphasising systematic work on the personality of the seminarian (62). The lack of a well-structured and balanced personality would be a serious hindrance to the continuation of formation for the priesthood (63). This is the stage to work towards a solid physical, psycho-affective and social maturity required of a priest.

  •  The Stage of Configuration to Christ (Theological Studies)

Here the focus is on the configuration of the seminarian to Christ. It demands that the seminarian enter profoundly into the contemplation of the person of Jesus Christ, making the relationship with Christ more intimate and personal (68). This stage allows the gradual grounding of the seminarian in the likeness of the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep, gives his life for them, and seeks out the ones that have wandered from the fold.

  • The Stage of Vocational Synthesis (Pastoral Stage)

This stage begins with the Order of Diaconate. At this stage, the seminarian leaves the seminary and launches his pastoral life. During this stage, the candidate is asked to declare freely, consciously and definitively his intention to be a priest, having received diaconal ordination (74). This stage will normally take place outside the seminary, at least for a significant period.


In each of the above four stages, the process of formation has four dimensions, namely: Human Dimension, Spiritual Dimension, Intellectual Dimension and Pastoral Dimension.

Human Formation

The objective of human formation is to help seminarians become humanly balanced, serene and stable. Only in this way will it be possible to have priests with friendly traits, who are authentic, loyal, interiorly free, affectively stable, capable of weaving together peaceful interpersonal relationships and living the evangelical counsels without rigidity, hypocrisy or loopholes.

Human formation is the foundation of all priestly formation, and it promotes the integral growth of the person. Psychologically, it focuses on acquiring a stable personality, characterized by emotional balance, self-control and a well-integrated sexuality. Developing an aesthetic sense (sense of beauty) is also part of human formation.

A sign of the harmonious development of the personality is a mature capacity for relations with men and women of various ages and social conditions.

Spiritual Formation

Spiritual formation is all about establishing a deep personal relationship with God. It is nourished by prolonged and silent prayer (102). Some practical steps that the document proposes for nurturing spiritual life are: the practice of Lectio Divina, which consists in a prayerful reading and profound meditation on the Word of God (103), a living faith in the Eucharist and daily participation in it (104), the Liturgy of the Hours, frequent and regular celebration of the sacrament of Penance (106), the practice of asceticism and interior discipline, and spiritual direction, which is a privileged means for the integral growth of the person (107).

The evangelical counsels too have an important role in the spirituality of the priest. Following the Master with faith and freedom of heart, the seminarian learns to make a gift of his own will by obedience to the service of God and their fellow men (109).

Those who prepare for priesthood in the Latin Church ought to recognise and welcome celibacy as a special gift of God (110). It would be gravely imprudent to admit to the sacrament of Orders a seminarian who does not enjoy free and serene affective maturity (110).

Seminarians should cultivate the spirit of poverty in practical ways (111). They should be formed to imitate Christ, who “became poor although he was rich” in order to enrich us. They should have a special place in their hearts for the poorest and weakest. They ought to be witnesses to poverty through simplicity and austerity of life, so as to become sincere and credible promoters of true social justice. (111).

Intellectual Formation

Intellectual formation is aimed at achieving a solid competence in philosophy and theology, along with a general educational preparation, enough to allow them to proclaim the Gospel message to the people of our own day in a way that is credible and can be understood. It seeks to enable them to enter into fruitful dialogue with the contemporary world. As Vatican II stated, the knowledge of philosophy and theology helps us to hear, distinguish and interpret the many voices of our age, and to judge them in the light of divine word, so that revealed truth can always be more deeply penetrated, better understood and set forth to great advantage (116).

Pastoral Formation

Priestly formation must always be permeated by a pastoral spirit. Formation should make future priests experts in the art of pastoral discernment, that is, the ability to listen deeply to real situations and capable of good judgement in making choices and decisions (120). The gaze of the Good Shepherd who seeks out, walks alongside and leads his sheep, will form a serene, prudent and compassionate outlook in him. Priestly ministry means, as Pope Francis says, being shepherds ‘with the smell of the sheep,’ who live in their midst to bring the mercy of God to them.

Special attention must also be given to preparing seminarians for the particular requirement and methods of pastoral accompaniment for children, young people, the sick, the elderly, the disabled, those who live in situations of isolation or poverty. The pastoral care of families should receive special attention (124).

Special attention is to be given to the homily, since it is the touchstone for judging a pastor’s closeness and ability to communicate to his people (177).


The Ongoing Formation begins from the time one is ordained a priest and goes on till the end of his life. It is intended to ensure fidelity to the priestly ministry in a continuing journey of conversion, in order to rekindle the gift received at ordination (81). The priest himself is primarily responsible for his own ongoing formation. It is the bishop’s responsibility to ensure that newly ordained priests are not immersed in excessively burdensome or delicate situations. It is good to set up a system of personal accompaniment of young priests to promote and maintain the quality of their ministry and to help them to meet their first pastoral challenges with joy and enthusiasm.

To subscribe to the magazine     Contact Us

read more
Documents in Brief

Preachers, Please Listen!


In his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis has devoted 20 pages (out of 212) —that is, nearly ten percent of the document— to the homily and its preparation. He begins in a lighter vein by quipping that both the people and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them! Then he goes on to make very practical and down-to-earth suggestions on what a homily should be and what preparation it demands. This is perhaps the first time that an Apostolic Exhortation gives so much attention to the homily. I have tried to summarise his thoughts by gathering them under six headings: 1. The Homily: what it is and what it is not, 2. The Preacher, 3. The Message, 4. The Style, 5. The Preparation, and 6. The Marks of a Good Homily. (Numbers in brackets refer to the paragraphs in Evangelii Gaudium).


The liturgy is a dialogue between God and his people. The homily is meant to facilitate this dialogue (143). The homily, in fact, is God speaking to his people with the preacher as a facilitator. The preacher is an instrument to express God’s word and the people’s own feelings so that afterward they can continue the conversation, says Pope Francis. At the same time, the homily is not a “form of entertainment” (138). Neither is it supposed to be a weekly commentary on current events; nor is it a lecture on biblical exegesis (138). It is not even meant to be a catechetical session or even a meditation. This does not mean that exegesis, doctrinal instruction and catechesis have no place whatsoever in a homily.

The homily should guide the assembly and the preacher to a life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist (138). It is quasi-sacramental, since faith comes from what is heard (142) and it is meant to help form a people to be evangelized evangelizers, not an exclusive or elite group.


Pope Francis says several things about the preacher of the Word. First of all, people today thirst for authenticity, and want preachers who speak of a God they know (150). They look for credible witnesses. The preacher should be close to people, approachable, welcoming, warm, joyful, unpretentious, ready for dialogue, and patient.

For this reason, the preacher needs to keep his ear to the people and find what they need to hear (154). He must first contemplate the Word, then contemplate his people, their habits, aspirations, limitations, worldviews, learning their language, so that he can link the homily to their human situation that needs God’s word (154). The homily is the touchstone for judging a pastor’s closeness and ability to communicate to his people. (135)  The preacher must know the heart of his community (137).  In short, the preacher’s task is to look at the world through the lens of the Word of God and indicate where God is working in the “here and now” of the community and in the individual lives of believers.


The message, Pope Francis says quoting John Paul II, is the “joyful, patient, progressive preaching” of the incarnation, birth, life, saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ — in other words, the “kerygma.” To preach the kerygma, the preacher must first believe it. The centre and hero of the homily has to be Jesus, not the minister.

Earlier in the exhortation, Pope Francis speaks of the proportion that has to be maintained in preaching. For example, if in the course of the liturgical year a parish priest speaks about temperance ten times but only mentions charity or justice two or three times, an imbalance results, and precisely those virtues which ought to be most present in preaching and catechesis are overlooked. The same thing happens when we speak more about law than about grace, more about the Church than about Christ, more about the Pope than about God’s word” (38).


Pope Francis says good preaching means not just knowing what to say but knowing how to say it (156). He laments that preachers often don’t take the trouble to find the proper way to proclaim the message. He says it is a great act of love of neighbour to refuse to offer a product of poor quality to the people (156). Quoting Pope Paul VI, he says “the faithful expect much from preaching, and will greatly benefit from it, provided that it is simple, clear, direct, and well-adapted” (158).

The pope exhorts preachers to use imagery. “An attractive image makes the message seem familiar, close to home, practical and related to everyday life.” A good homily, he says, should have “an idea, a sentiment, an image” (157).


Preparation is so important that one should devote to it a “prolonged time of study, prayer, reflection and pastoral creativity” (145), says Pope Francis. Pastors who don’t have enough time to prepare their homilies should re-set their priorities, even if less time will be given to other important activities. A preacher who doesn’t prepare, he says, “is not spiritual but dishonest and irresponsible with the gifts he has received” (145). The preparation should begin with prayer and humility of heart to recognize that ‘we are neither masters nor owners of the Word, but only its guardians, heralds and servants.’ We need to be ready to put aside all other concerns, and give it our time, interest and undivided attention (146). The Pope recommends that preachers have recourse to lectio divina, which consists of reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation (152).


  • It should be Scriptural. The biblical text has to be the foundation of our preaching. The preacher must “develop great personal familiarity with the word of God” (149). Exegetical and linguistic aspects are not enough, but “a docile and prayerful heart” is needed (149). The Word must become “incarnate in the preacher’s daily life” so that the preaching becomes, in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, “communicating to others what one has contemplated” (150). We must “be penetrated by the word” (150) before we think about proclaiming it to others. If the Word has not really touched the preacher’s life, “he will indeed be a false prophet, a fraud, a shallow impostor” (151).
  • It should be simple. Simplicity shows itself in the language we use, so that people can understand it (158). To adapt language to the people, we need to share their lives and pay loving attention to them. The preacher must maintain clarity and thematic unity so that people can easily grasp his line of argument. He should use familiar, practical, everyday imagery, to make the message memorable. Images can help people to “savour the message, awaken desire and move the will” (157).
  • It should be positive. The homilist should point out not so much what shouldn’t be done, but rather what we can do better, says Pope Francis. It should indicate the positive and attractive values, filling listeners with hope, liberating them from negativity. “Positive preaching always offers hope, points to the future, does not leave us trapped in negativity” (159).
  • It should be brief. The homilist must keep to the point and learn to say it all in a few words. “It should be brief and avoid taking on the semblance of a speech or a lecture … If it is too long it will upset the balance and rhythm of the liturgy” (138). It is wise to follow what the Bible says about brevity in speech, Speak concisely, say much in a few words” (Sirach 32:8), says Pope Francis. This remains a big challenge to many homilists. We all need to learn the art of saying much in a few words.

Perhaps it is appropriate to mention here that, a year after Evangelii Gaudium, the Church brought out another document entirely dealing with preaching — the Homiletic Directory. This 120-page document should be a necessary reference point for all engaged in the ministry of preaching.

– Fr. K. J. Louis SDB is a well-knownwriter, editor and preacher.

To subscribe to the magazine     Contact Us

read more