A close relationship with Christ through religious consecration
By Adolphe Khasa, sx
In the conception of Saint Guido Maria Conforti, Religious life implies vowed and apostolic life. These two lives are so tightly bound together that they form a singular excellence. For Saint Guido M. Conforti the combination of the apostolic life and the profession of religious vows constitute the most perfect life according to the gospel. Simpler, it is the concrete way with which a Xaverian lives the gospel or incarnates Jesus Christ in his life. Quoting Saint Anselm, Saint Guido M. Conforti illustrates the unity of vowed and apostolic life with the example of a man who offers both the plants and its fruits. In brief, a total abandon to God.
In Saint Guido M. Conforti’s point of view, religious life remains the proper of those who live in a certain intimacy with Christ. Intimacy here goes in the sense of a close, deep and personal religious relationship between two persons, namely, the person of Christ and that of a religious. This profound relationship gives rise to the Evangelical Counsels. In fact, these Evangelical counsels are piece of advice that Jesus Christ freely gives to his close friends, the religious. Thereby, they act as a practical means that Jesus Christ offers to the religious to maintain and nourish this friendship for the salvation of the consecrated and for the glory of God.
Generally speaking, these Evangelical counsels are commonly known in the term of religious vows. Thus, they are three: chastity, poverty and obedience. With chastity and poverty, the religious detaches affectively and effectively from earthly things and from any sort of possession. With obedience, the religious entrusts his will to God through his superior who serves as mediator between God and him. Thanks to the vow of obedience, the religious imitates Jesus Christ who is the first to obey to God by accepting to redeem humankind. In a word, thanks to religious vows a man becomes akin to angels, that is, utterly abandoned to God and dependent on divine providence, free from any kind of possession and ready to fly anywhere that the wind of the Holy Spirit, through the superior, blows.
Apart from the three preceding vows, a Xaverian has another vow in the light of which the three others are perceived. This vow is that of mission. The latter enables a Xaverian to incarnate the apostolic spirituality of his Saint patron, Francis Xavier. In fact, Saint Francis Xavier was a great contemplative in action. His life was gospel-centered. His spirituality can be summed up in three points: the love of God, the love of the neighbor and a great missionary zeal to gain more souls for God through the gospel. Furthermore, talking about the love of God as the foundation of the sanctity which is expressed by a life-giving flame of Christian life, Saint Guido M. Conforti speaks of Francis Xavier as “a saint who emulated the seraphim.” Likewise, a Xaverian follows the footsteps of Saint Francis Xavier. Simpler, the Xaverian is the personification of Christ: the love of God and neighbor, a total devotion to the people to whom he is sent, gospel-centered life and missionary zeal in order to transform the world into a single family through the preaching of gospel.
To conclude, our religious life combines the three vows, that is, Obedience, Chastity, and Poverty and plus the vow of mission out of which we imitate the apostolic spirituality of Saint Francis Xavier, our patron. All these vows are not separated from each other, for they are interdependent or interconnected. Consequently, our religious life which, of course, is lived in a community is signposted by the four vows that bear the hallmark of the Xaverian charism. Thus, the religious life remains a peculiar friendship with Jesus Christ through these practical and concrete means called religious vows.