Dictionary of Oblate Values  vol.: 1  let.: E

ENDS OF THE CONGREGATION

In the present-day organization of religious Congregations, one inevitably finds the presence of a twofold end: one that is general or common to all Congregations and the other specific or peculiar to each institute. After a long process in treating of this issue, the Holy See gave a clear formulation to this requirement, especially in the Norms of the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars of June 28, 1901.

The general or common end consists in a striving for Christian perfection through the practice of the evangelical counsels. The ascetics of the first Christian centuries, and then the monks, had no other goal in view other than to follow Christ in a radical way. Very early on, however, the monks, the Benedictines in particular, carried out ministry both inside and outside the monastery. But this same ministry, even if it became an ordinary element of life, still remained something accidental and secondary with regard to monastic life.

The Canons Regular of the 10th to the 12th centuries displayed a tendency toward what we today call a specific end. As their name indicated, they were ecclesiastics bound to the service of a specific church, but they became "regulars" because they decided to live according to a rule of monastic life. For Saint Norbert, for example, personal sanctification was to manifest itself externally in preaching and parish ministry. This always remained a secondary consideration, while liturgical prayer and the Divine Office remained their principal duty. The Mendicant Orders continued on in the same direction with a more specific determination of their own particular end.

In the 16th century the Clerics Regular appeared. Together with the religious life they set for themselves an eminently active goal to the point that one could say that they launched a new kind of religious life. It is in the Rule of Saint Ignatius that we see the appearance of a clear formulation of the two ends: personal sanctification and the apostolate. This Rule exercised a great influence on the organization of religious Congregations founded from that time on, especially during the 19th and 20th centuries. The latter came into existence with the specific goal of putting themselves at the service of the Church. They often started with a simple coming together of people who were leading a kind of evangelical life, but not bound by solemn vows. They followed a way of life of milder discipline, or at least very different from the life of the monks - a lifestyle which was much more directed toward the apostolate in all its forms or towards works of mercy.

According to a 1964 study conducted on a broad spectrum of constitutions, most of the respondents considered that the apostolate was all that much more fruitful to the extent that the members led holy lives, that is, that the general end is directed toward the specific end. For others, the works were presented as a means of attaining perfection.1 [1]


[1] CARMINATI, Angelo, I fini dello stato religioso e il servizio della Chiesa, Turin, 1964, 167 p.

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