On the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel 2017 the new decree, given by Bishop Alan Williams, came into effect, establishing the community as a public association of the faithful destined to become an Ecclesial Family of Consecrated Life. Ecclesial Families of Consecrated Life such as Verbum Dei, Iddentes, the Community of the Beatitudes, The Spiritual Family ‘The Work’, The Franciscan Fraternity of Bethany are all new forms of consecration.
The universal call to holiness is the motor that propels all the states of life in the Church. The structure of an ‘Ecclesial Family’ wants to express that in this common call of all the baptised there is equality, dignity, and the primary mission of all the faithful, depending on their particular state of life. As the 1997 document ‘In Verbo Tuo’ enunciates so beautifully, saints are needed in all states of life. As a small reflection of the people of God, sharing the same charismatic consecration, we encourage each other and help each other blossom into the person God has called us to be. The structure of an ecclesial family entails central governance and a government structure proper to each branch. This richness derives from the spirituality and ecclesiology of communion and the governance will evolve and develop as the community grows. It is wonderful to be aiming at this kind of structure of consecrated life at a time when the Church is looking at these forms more closely and providing the necessary help to be faithful to the founding charism.
Our love for God, the Church and the world cannot but lead us to live a life of service for the local and universal Church. All members of this Ecclesial Family (consecrated men and women and secular members: married and single people, diocesan priests and consecrated virgins) share in the spirituality of the COLW i.e. share in a charismatic consecration. At the centre of their lives is the desire to live in faithfulness to God’s loving call and to hasten the coming of his Kingdom by living in the Divine Will. They aim to become, like Mary, ‘a house of God, a hearer of the Word and a bearer of the Spirit’. Secular members enter into a bond of spiritual communion and fraternal assistance with their consecrated brothers and sisters, in order to be nourished by the grace given to COLW and to enable it in its mission of spreading the joy of the spirituality of Walsingham. Pope Leo XIII said that ‘When England returns to Walsingham, Mary will come back to England’. The sooner this happens, the sooner will Christian values return to our country and beyond.
All forms of consecrated life are not an end in themselves, but come into being for others in the Church and in society. This is why the Church, after discernment, recognises a charism. The gift of a charism shared between people of different states of life in an Ecclesial Family means that the outreach can be extended even further than one could dare to dream or imagine. As Jean Vanier, one of the prophets of our time said, “One of the marvellous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.” The more we live our vocational and incarnational charism of a contemplative life in the Divine Will, the more will the benefits of our life and service be felt beyond time and space.