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242

Part One

One great tree, with many branches

917

“From the God-given seed of the counsels a wonderful and

wide-spreading tree has grown up in the field of the Lord, branch-

ing out into various forms of the religious life lived in solitude or

in community. Different religious families have come into exist­

ence in which spiritual resources are multiplied for the progress in

holiness of their members and for the good of the entire Body of

Christ.”

457

918

From the very beginning of the Church there were men and

women who set out to follow Christ with greater liberty, and to imitate

him more closely, by practicing the evangelical counsels. They led lives

dedicated to God, each in his own way. Many of them, under the inspira-

tion of the Holy Spirit, became hermits or founded religious families. These

the Church, by virtue of her authority, gladly accepted and approved.

458

919

Bishops will always strive to discern new gifts of conse-

crated life granted to the Church by the Holy Spirit; the approval

of new forms of consecrated life is reserved to the Apostolic See.

459

The eremitic life

920

Without always professing the three evangelical counsels

publicly, hermits “devote their life to the praise of God and salva-

tion of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the

silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.”

460

921

They manifest to everyone the interior aspect of the mys-

tery of the Church, that is, personal intimacy with Christ. Hidden

from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a silent preaching of

the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life simply because he is

everything to him. Here is a particular call to find in the desert, in

the thick of spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One.

Consecrated virgins and widows

922

From apostolic times Christian virgins

461

and widows,

462

called by the Lord to cling only to him with greater freedom of

heart, body, and spirit, have decided with the Church’s approval

457

LG

43.

458

PC

1.

459 Cf. CIC, can. 605.

460 CIC, can. 603 § 1.

461 Cf.

1 Cor

7:34-36.

462 Cf. John Paul II,

Vita consecrata

7.

2684

2719

2015

1618-1620