Decree 13: “Religious Life in General,” General Congregation 31 (1966)

The delegates of the 31st General Congregation introduced a series of decrees, historian John Padberg notes, “on the adaptive renovation of religious life in the Society” with the following statement concerning religious life in general (see the congregation’s historical preface in Jesuit Life & Mission Today (2009), pg. 21). The decree uses inspiration from some of the teachings emerging from the Second Vatican Council. It states that the “intimate connection between the religious and apostolic aspects” life within the Society of Jesus “ought to animate our whole way of living, praying, and working. The delegates followed this decree with seven others on Jesuit religious life: on prayer, on devotion to the Sacred Heart, on chastity, on obedience, on poverty, on community life and religious discipline, and on reading at the table.

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1.     The Second Vatican Council profoundly investigated the mystery of the Church in relation to the conditions of our times. In that investigation it cast a special light upon the religious profession of the evangelical counsels both as a means of attaining sanctity by special grace and as a way of fulfilling service to God and man.

2.     Inserted by baptism into the Mystical Body of Christ, strengthened by confirmation with the power of the Holy Spirit, and consecrated into a royal priesthood and a holy people, we receive a more special consecration for the divine service in the Society of Jesus by the profession of the evangelical counsels, so that we may be able to bring forth richer fruits from the grace of baptism.

3.     Since the goal to which the Society directly tends is “to help our own souls and the souls of our neighbor to attain the ultimate end for which they were created,” it is necessary that our life—of priests as well as scholastics and brothers—be undividedly apostolic and religious. This intimate connection between the religious and apostolic aspects in the Society ought to animate our whole way of living, praying, and working, and impress on it an apostolic character.

4.     To attain this end which the Society places before itself and “for the conservation and growth not only of the body . . . but also of the spirit of the Society . . . those means which join the instrument with God and dispose it to be rightly governed by the divine hand are more efficacious than those which dispose it towards men.”

5.     For the spiritual life is a participation in the life of the most holy Trinity dwelling within us so that we may be made conformed to the image of the Son of God “so that He may be the firstborn among many brethren,” for the glory of God.

This life involves the whole man and all his activities, by which he as a Christian corresponds to every impulse received from God. It does not consist only in individual acts of devotion, but ought to animate and direct our whole life, individual and community, together with all our relations to other persons and things. It is nourished and fostered by every grace by which God turns to us and communicates Himself to us, especially by His word and the sacraments of Christ.

We for our part respond by the obedience of faith in which we give ourselves freely to God, “offering the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals,” celebrating as the high point of our life the sacred liturgy of the Lord’s Eucharist, participating in the sacraments of Christ, and offering ourselves through love in all our actions, especially those which are apostolic, and all our hardships and joys.

6.     In order to promote the adaptation and renewal of religious life among all Jesuits, the 31st General Congregation has made these decrees in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.




Original Source (English translation):

Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees & Accompanying Documents of the 31st35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, ed. John W. Padberg. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009, General Congregation 31, Decree 13, “Religious Life in General,” pg. 97–98 [202–209].

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