Vatican City, Feb 2, 2010 / 09:04 am
Speaking with Vatican Radio on Tuesday, Cardinal Franc Rodé called to attention the need for the Church to place greater emphasis on the vocation of the religious brother.
The number of lay brothers has experienced an "enormous decline" in the last few decades, explained the cardinal, who is prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. He noted that in Christian schools alone, the presence of consecrated brothers has been greatly affected, comparing 16,000 in 1965 to today's total of less than 5,000. Additionally, he reported, the decrease in brothers is greater even in mixed congregations of priests and brothers. "So, there is a problem and we need to do something."
Cardinal Rodé explained that the congregation believes the drop is due to a "lack of attention" from the Church for the figure of the consecrated lay brother. "Neither Vatican II, nor the post-conciliar documents have reaffirmed the importance of this vocation," he pointed out, adding that only allusions are made to the ministry.
However, by next fall, the cardinal noted, the congregation hopes to release a document reaffirming the value of the consecrated lay brother in the Church as a "figure that has a meaning in itself, that has its own identity."
A brother is not someone who "hasn't wanted or been able to... become a priest," he continued. The vocation of the brother has a particular mission in the Church, which is proved, in the history of the important roles of lay brothers in education and as saintly witnesses.
Cardinal Rodé also spoke of his plans to release a separate document reinforcing the "absolute necessity" of prayer for the religious life, which is made difficult by the "busy" world we live in today.
It's possible, he added, that the document could include a section written by Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera addressing the importance of liturgical formation of young religious and its correspondence to the will of the Church.