Within the Church there are various vocations. There is married life, the single life, and life as an ordained priest. There is also what is known as the consecrated life. If truth be told, all these vocations are consecrated to God as all the baptised are part of God’s holy people.
However, historically there has been this vocation known as the consecrated life. Religious orders like the Benedictines and religious congregations like the Redemptorists, live the consecrated life. This way of life is marked by the taking of vows – traditionally, chastity, poverty and obedience.
The vows are not ends in themselves. In all orders and congregations vows are taken to open the members up to the presence and action of God in their lives. That is true of Redemptorists as well. However, with Redemptorists, the vows open us up to the action of God first and foremost for the sake of our mission, for it is in mission that we meet the God to whom we are consecrated, and we meet him too in the poor for whom our mission exists.
Moved and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, the members spare no effort to arrive at a total gift of themselves. They aim to become, through Christ, a response to the Lord ‘who first loved them’ (1 Jn.4:10). They express this response in the profession of the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience”(Constitutions of the Redemptorists, No. 56).
Much of Redemptorist consecrated life can be summed up in a beautiful insight of St Alphonsus. It was his insight of “distacco”. Distacco is an Italian word that is a little hard to translate into English. Maybe the closest is “detachment” or “not clinging”. It means not clinging to other persons, human or divine. It means not clinging to possessions, ideas and schemes. It means not clinging to particular prayers, customs or traditions. It means not clinging to being heard, accepted or noticed.
Distacco means getting past all that impedes in order to love God who is truly other and to love other persons as truly other. Our Redemptorist mission depends on living this way, for our mission is always on behalf of the God who is other for the sake of the poor who are other. For only in otherness can there be relationship, free and tender. Relationship in turn engenders love and respect in our mission. And so it is through distacco that our Redemptorist lives are respectfully poured out for the other.
...They will endeavour in all sincerity to understand those values that are held in esteem by other peoples though they may not perhaps appeal to themselves or their own culture. From this will be born that fruitful dialogue which brings to light the rich endowments God has entrusted to different peoples.(Constitutions of the Redemptorists, No. 66)