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Magisterial Documents: Vita Consecrata

Magisterial Documents: Vita Consecrata

Apostolic Exhortation on the Consecrated Life Pope John Paul II
25 March 1996

The full document is available on the internet.

Brief History

Vita Consecrata, On Consecrated Life, is a reflection on the proceedings of the world Synod of Bishops held in Rome in October 1994. It is a large document of 109 articles and covers, as far as possible, every form of consecrated life. Mary appears in articles 18, 23, 28, 34, 94, 95, 97, and 112. In each case she is upheld as an example of the consecrated life - both in the active and the contemplative aspects - in relation to the Trinity and the Church, to prophetic witness and evangelization. The main image used is the biblical scene of the Visitation. At the conclusion of the document, Pope John Paul II invokes Mary in prayer to sustain consecrated persons on their journey.

Finally, the document also asks all consecrated persons, "according to their own traditions, to renew daily their spiritual union with the Blessed Virgin Mary, reliving with her the mysteries of her son, especially by saying the rosary." (VC 95)

In actuality, there are few elements in terms of Marian teaching. The text can be characterized as a call for members of the consecrated life to return to the Marian model and to Marian consecration. A minor theme in post-Vatican II Marian documents consists in pointing out the Way of Beauty as Mary exemplifies it. To concentrate on the divine beauty reflected in Mary and the fullness of human created beauty is to concentrate on the ideal and the goal of the Christian life.


Introduction 1-13
Chapter 1
"Confessio Trinitatis" Origins in the Mystery of Christ and the Trinity 14-16

I. In Praise of the Trinity 17-22

II. Between Easter and Fulfillment 23-28

III. In the Church and for the Church 29-34

IV. Guided by the Spirit of Holiness 35-40

Chapter 2
"Signum Fraternitatis" A Sign of Communion in the Church

I. Permanent Values 41-58

II. Continuity in Spiritual Work: Faithfulness in Change 59-62

III. Looking to the Future 63-71

Chapter 3
"Servitium Caritatis" Consecrated Life: God's Love Manifest in the World 72-74

I. Love to the End 75-83

II. A Prophetic Witness 84-95

III. Some New Fields of Mission 96-99

IV. In Dialogue with Everyone100-103
Conclusion 104-112

Core Marian Passages

The Virgin Mary, model of consecration and discipleship

Mary is the one who, from the moment of her Immaculate Conception, most perfectly reflects the divine beauty. "All beautiful" is the title with which the Church invokes her. "The relationship with Mary most holy, which for every believer stems from his or her union with Christ, is even more pronounced in the life of consecrated persons ... Mary's presence is of fundamental importance both for the spiritual life of each consecrated person and for the solidity, unity and progress of the whole community".Mary in fact is the sublime example of perfect consecration, since she belongs completely to God and is totally devoted to him. Chosen by the Lord, who wished to accomplish in her the mystery of the Incarnation, she reminds consecrated persons of the primacy of God's initiative. At the same time, having given her assent to the divine Word, made flesh in her, Mary is the model of the acceptance of grace by human creatures. Having lived with Jesus and Joseph in the hidden years of Nazareth, and present at her Son's side at crucial moments of his public life, the Blessed Virgin teaches unconditional discipleship and diligent service. In Mary, "the temple of the Holy Spirit,"all the splendour of the new creation shines forth. Consecrated life looks to her as the sublime model of consecration to the Father, union with the Son and openness to the Spirit, in the knowledge that acceptance of the "virginal and humble life"of Christ also means imitation of Mary's way of life.In the Blessed Virgin Mary, consecrated persons also find a Mother who is altogether unique. Indeed, if the new motherhood conferred on Mary at Calvary is a gift for all Christians, it has a specific value for those who have completely consecrated their lives to Christ. "Behold your mother!" (Jn 19:27): Jesus' words to the disciple "whom he loved" (Jn 19:26) are particularly significant for the lives of consecrated persons. They, like John, are called to take the Blessed Virgin Mary to themselves (cf. Jn 19:27), loving her and imitating her in the radical manner which befits their vocation, and experiencing in return her special motherly love. The Blessed Virgin shares with them the love which enables them to offer their lives every day for Christ and to cooperate with him in the salvation of the world. Hence a filial relationship to Mary is the royal road to fidelity to one's vocation and a most effective help for advancing in that vocation and living it fully. 28

The living image of the Church as Bride

In the consecrated life, particular importance attaches to the spousal meaning, which recalls the Church's duty to be completely and exclusively devoted to her Spouse, from whom she receives every good thing. This spousal dimension, which is part of all consecrated life, has a particular meaning for women, who find therein their feminine identity and as it were discover the special genius of their relationship with the Lord.

moving sign of this is seen in the New Testament passage which portrays Mary with the Apostles in the Upper Room, in prayerful expectation of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:13-14). We can see here a vivid image of the Church as Bride, fully attentive to her Bridegroom and ready to accept his gift. In Peter and the other Apostles there emerges above all the aspect of fruitfulness, as it is expressed in ecclesial ministry, which becomes an instrument of the Spirit for bringing new sons and daughters to birth through the preaching of the word, the celebration of the Sacraments and the giving of pastoral care. In Mary the aspect of spousal receptivity is particularly clear; it is under this aspect that the Church, through her perfect virginal life, brings divine life to fruition within herself.The consecrated life has always been seen primarily in terms of Mary — Virgin and Bride. This virginal love is the source of a particular fruitfulness which fosters the birth and growth of divine life in people's hearts.Following in the footsteps of Mary, the New Eve, consecrated persons express their spiritual fruitfulness by becoming receptive to the Word, in order to contribute to the growth of a new humanity by their unconditional dedication and their living witness. Thus the Church fully reveals her motherhood both in the communication of divine grace entrusted to Peter and in the responsible acceptance of God's gift, exemplified by Mary.God's people, for their part, find in the ordained ministry the means of salvation, and in the consecrated life the incentive to make a full and loving response through all the different forms of Christian service. 34

Invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

  1. Mary, image of the Church, the Bride without spot or wrinkle, which by imitating you "preserves with virginal purity an integral faith, a firm hope and a sincere charity",sustain consecrated persons on their journey towards the sole and eternal Blessedness.

To you, Virgin of the Visitation, do we entrust them, that they may go forth to meet human needs, to bring help, but above all to bring Jesus. Teach them to proclaim the mighty things which the Lord accomplishes in the world, that all peoples may extol the greatness of his name. Support them in their work for the poor, the hungry, those without hope, the little ones and all who seek your Son with a sincere heart.To you, our Mother, who desire the spiritual and apostolic renewal of your sons and daughters in a response of love and complete dedication to Christ, we address our confident prayer. You who did the will of the Father, ever ready in obedience, courageous in poverty and receptive in fruitful virginity, obtain from your divine Son that all who have received the gift of following him in the consecrated life may be enabled to bear witness to that gift by their transfigured lives, as they joyfully make their way with all their brothers and sisters towards our heavenly homeland and the light which will never grow dim.We ask you this, that in everyone and in everything glory, adoration and love may be given to the Most High Lord of all things, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 112


AAS (1996);
Origins 25:41 (1996): 681-719

© This material has been compiled by M. Jean Frisk and Danielle M. Peters, S.T.D.
Copyright is reserved for The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.
Most recently updated in 2018.

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