Interculturality, Catholicity and Consecrated Life
Arturo Sosa, S.I.
When approaching an issue of such complexity and historical density, there is the risk of being superficial, falling prey to cliches or confining oneself to useless considerations. To avoid deflecting attention away from the purpose of this meeting, I think it would be best to leave behind the intercultural problems which for many centuries were related to evangelization, especially those having to do with the relationship between the evangelizing mission and the colonization processes which took place in various continents from the 15th century onwards1. We are invited to consider the huge intercultural challenges to the future of mankind, the Church and Consecrated Life, according to the approach proposed by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.
The purpose of these reflections is only to begin an exchange on an issue that we experience in our daily life and perceive as an opportunity and a challenge to Consecrated Life. They are far from exhaustive and were written as they came to me, with the freedom afforded by the form of an essay, a literary genre which allows for the expression of one’s ideas without a “critical apparatus”, that is, it lets not just the mind but also experience and the heart speak.
Culture, Inculturation and Interculturality
In the interest of intellectual honesty, I should begin by clarifying the concept of culture referred to in this text. Culture is a word that can be used colloquially and scientifically in very different ways. Considering the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council as a common ground2, I will take the concept of culture used in the Apostolic Constitution Gaudium et spes (apologies for the lengthy quotation):
The word culture in the general sense refers to all those things which go to the refining and developing of man’s diverse mental and physical endowments. He strives to subdue the earth by his knowledge and his labor; he humanizes social life both in the family and in the whole civic community through the improvement of customs and institutions; he expresses experiences and aspirations of men throughout the ages; he communicates and preserves them to be an inspiration for the progress of many, even of all mankind.
Hence it follows that culture necessarily has historical and social overtones, and the word “culture” often carries with it sociological and ethnological connotations; in this sense one can speak about a plurality of cultures. For different styles of living and different scales of values originate in different ways of using things, of working and self-expression, of practicing religion and of behaviour, of establishing laws and juridical institutions, of developing science and the arts and of cultivating beauty. Thus the heritage of its institutional forms the patrimony proper to each human community; thus, too, is created a well-defined, historical milieu which envelops the men of every nation and age, and from which they draw the values needed to foster humanity and civilization.3
For the purpose of these reflections, I would like to highlight the relational aspect of the concept of culture. Culture is the fruit of the exercise of human freedom. Human beings freely establish relations through which they seek to give a meaning to their existence, and to their personal and social daily life. Cultural relations are born of the human need to give a shared meaning to community life (ideals, values, attitudes,…), establish the way of producing, distributing and consuming the material goods necessary for life (economic relations), and make decisions on the destiny and governance of civil society (political relations)4. Religions form an important part of the sense, symbols and meaning attributed to the life of a human group through culture5.
Human relations are historical and hence dynamic and changing. It follows that culture changes, it does not exist for its own sake nor is it part of a sort of social DNA which is passed on unchanged from generation to generation. At the same time, it is personal and shared. Each person is unique and unrepeatable; he or she identifies him or herself through culture. At the same time, culture is an identity that is socially shared with other human beings, each one of whom is also unique and unrepeatable.
Inculturation6 encompasses two complementary aspects. The first is the process of becoming inculturated in one’s culture, in other words, becoming critically aware of it. Without inculturation into one’s culture, one cannot achieve personal maturity or fully participate in social life. The critical conscience of one’s own culture is the condition to relate positively to cultural diversity. Inculturation into one’s own culture requires knowing and going beyond the social and intergenerational barriers of the social group to which one belongs. It is a process through which the human being dis-covers the reality of which he is a part and through which he is able to re-cognize his richness and limitations. Going beyond social barriers and age differences is a liberating process which enriches the person that is able to do it.
The second aspect is inculturation into another culture. It’s like moving to the home of another family where one arrives as one is and in which one learns about another universe of social relations according to which meaning is given to life, the community is organized, and the necessary goods are produced and distributed. There is always a dialogue between the culture which one comes from and that which one comes into. One reaches the other’s house carrying one’s own cultural baggage, from which one enters into dialogue with the new cultural reality in which he or she has decided to settle. This is why I am using the image of “moving into someone else’s house” and not that of a mere “visit” from which one returns home. Coming to another person’s house with the intention of moving in triggers a true fertilization of one’s own culture which results in being able to identify with the culture one comes into to the point of becoming a true part of it. I am certain that many of you here today have had this sort of experience.
Some biblical references may help us in this reflection. The Lord humanizes his chosen ones by having them set out on a journey. For example, Abram lived in his home, in harmony with his surroundings, his family and himself. He listens to the Lord who says to him “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.7 Abram does so and becomes Abraham, father of the faith and the origin of a multitude of diverse descendents. He did not cling to his personal tranquillity or the stability which he enjoyed in his culture. He was able to relativize it recognizing only God as Absolute, and faced the culturally unknown with the support of his full trust in God, taking with him his cultural identity and being open to anything new that a new journey might bring him.
The Lord heard the clamour of the people of Israel who had been made slaves in Egypt8. To deliver them, the Lord asks them to be on their way, to change their direction and head for a promised land, different from anything they have ever known. In the desert they are confronted with the new and miss their habits, even the security which slavery offered them. The process leading to the Promised Land and to a new cultural situation is long and difficult. So much so, that it required more than one generation.
The mystery of the incarnation, too, may be read as a process of inculturation. The contemplation proposed by Ignatius of Loyola in the spiritual exercises9 invites us to imagine the Trinity as a community of different persons who share the same nature and form a single God, who decides the salvation of humankind. For this, he calls on his Son to go out into the human world and become one of many. Saving the other begins with recognizing him, going out of one’s position to become incarnated in his reality, taking on all of the consequences that this entails.
From this same perspective, let us consider the well-known text of the letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians 2:6-810. Jesus, without losing his divine nature, his “culture”, took the human form and identified with the human conditions unto death.
Indeed, the Gospels describe Jesus, whom we recognize as the universal man, as being inculturated into a concrete human reality from which he has to learn how to open up to others. The story about his encounter with the Syrophoenician woman11 shows us a Jesus who reacts spontaneously according to the culture in which he was raised. After that, he reaches out to the woman’s needs and overcomes the barriers of his culture to encounter mankind in need of salvation. Jesus Christ, from his human experience, also liberates us from cultural patterns.
To the men and women religious of my generation, becoming inculturated in Venezuela was a wonderful adventure. Most of the congregations present in the country, both men’s and women’s, participated in this movement. Their goal was to make consecrated life happen in Venezuela”. And it did … in those who came from Europe or the United States, in the Venezuelan women and men who heeded the call to the different charisms, in a young and stammering Church, seeking her role in a complex economic, political and social process.
Consecrated life at the end of Vatican II in Venezuela was multicultural, with a prevalence of men and women religious having come from Europe, especially Spain. It was an experience which led them to genuinely approach the world of the poor, both urban and rural, let themselves be evangelized by their faith and share their own. These men and women joined in the efforts to improve people’s lives starting with Catholic schools, and promote grassroots organizations, movements of youth, workers, farmers, indigenous women … In the world context of the cold war, Venezuelan society was trying to leave behind decades of military dictatorships to progress towards modern development in democracy, sowing oil, an expression which at the time reflected a widely shared dream. Becoming inculturated as consecrated men and women in such a context gave substance to the experience of God who was calling us to be witnesses of Hope amid the people.
Inculturation is always an incomplete process. Social contexts change a great deal and very rapidly. Cultures also evolve according to the trends characterizing local and international settings. That is why inculturation from the perspective of consecrated life requires the capacity for joint discernment, based on a true life in the Spirit on the part of the men and women religious involved in the process. Discerned inculturation is the companion of the evangelizing mission of consecrated life, which serves the mission of Christ whilst trying to resemble Him as much as possible.
Inculturation has led consecrated life to experience multiculturality as a normal condition for congregations and their communities all over the world. Living out the multicultural dimension peacefully was the fruit of sincere inculturation and was a very important step in our experience as consecrated persons.
Being Christian, members of the Catholic Church, sharing the charism of a particular Religious Congregation helps us to live the multicultural dimension in peace and as a source of personal and communitarian enrichment. Following Christ in the Church, according to a developed spirituality, creates shared spaces in which we can experience cultural differences as part of fraternity according to the values of the Kingdom of God.
At the same time, we must warn against the temptation of creating a Catholic, Carmelite, Jesuit, Franciscan or Dominican culture or subculture which overlaps with or empties the cultures of the members of the Church or the congregations. The Gospel of Jesus would thus be so universal that it would become incarnated in any culture and bring about its humanization. In other terms, to be a Christian one must not divest himself from his own culture in order to adopt a non-existent Christian culture. To be a Christian one must open up to conversion, which requires the experience of mercy and forgiveness of sins, which leads to reconciliation with God through the encounter with the other and with one’s own reality. All cultures need this healing experience to grow in humanity.
Equally, it must be recognized that consecrated life generates “cultural”12 spaces through the sharing of a charism and spirituality that give meaning to our life and provide a shared identity. Indeed, we recognize that there is something familiar about the members of each congregation and even between men and women religious of different congregations. We feel immediately at home when we go to other communities. Since the time of Father Arrupe, we Jesuits have frequently used the expression our way of proceeding to refer to substantive elements of what might be considered as the “culture” of the Society of Jesus with which we identify. What’s more, in the formula for vows, at the end of the novitiate, the novice promises to “enter into the order, understanding all things according to the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus”.
The “cultures” of religious congregations are also dynamic and evolve according to history. We cannot fall prey to the temptation of considering the charism to be intangible and unchangeable, as something external to and different from the cultures of the persons that live it and their cultures. The call of Vatican II to go back to our sources is not an attempt to freeze the charism as an intangible “culture” that is passed on unchanged from generation to generation. On the contrary, it is a call to creative fidelity to the dynamics of incarnation shown by Jesus and to openness to the present-day challenges to the mission of Consecrated Life as part of the Church, whose raison d’etre lies in evangelizing history.
Interculturality as a Way to Catholicity
Vatican Council II clearly perceived the important changes that humankind would be confronting. It sensed the unfolding of the process which today we describe as the shift from the industrial age to the information age. The rapid technological advances, especially in the area of communications, access to information, the growing human mobility and globalization in all spheres of life are emblematic features of the changing times. We experience the impact of this change in age in many details of our daily life, and perhaps we are less aware of the many, deep and significant changes which are taking place in cultures and relations between generations.
Globalization has prompted ambiguous processes. When referring to globalization, some scholars make a distinction between two different terms13 to indicate the dominant trend of the process. They refer to one aspect of globalization as the tendency to standardize behaviours and human cultures as a result of the change in age. A consequence of this is the decrease in cultural diversity. Therefore, it is a trend which seeks to create a single cultural global space. The attempt is made to impose everywhere those forms of economic organization and socio-political interaction that will prove to be favourable to transnational capital.
The other aspect of globalization considers the tendency to recognize the creativity expressed in cultural diversity as the main richness of the exponentially growing process of human exchange throughout the planet. From this point of view, universalization is intended as the extended interaction between culturally different human groups that are capable of sharing a common vision on the interests of all of humanity. What I wish to make clear here is the need to discern between the different tendencies and the possible results of globalization trends.
Globalization has multiplied migration flows all over the world. If the growing human mobility is dominated by the trend to make all cultures uniform, this will result in a progressive restriction of cultural exchange, which will jeopardize multiculturality. It will be a phenomenon whose impact will be akin to that caused by the loss of biodiversity on the planet’s environment. If we look at the other aspect of the globalization trend, instead, it could multiply opportunities for multicultural spaces and open up many possibilities to interculturality. It would also allow for the spiritual experience of religions as dimensions of cultures, thus encouraging the overcoming of the various forms of fundamentalism. In 2008, the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus expressed this concept in the following way:
We live in a world of many religions and cultures. The erosion of traditional religious beliefs and the tendency to homogenise cultures have strengthened a variety of forms of religious fundamentalism. Faith in God is increasingly being used by some to divide people and communities, to create polarities and tensions which tear at the very fabric of our common social life. All these changes call us to the frontiers of culture and of religion.14
Perhaps it may be clearer to use the term catholicity to indicate the concept of universality which we aspire to as a result of the globalization processes. We might then ask ourselves about the relationship between catholicity and interculturality.
Catholic is the human being who is capable of feeling that he is a member of humankind because he has become critically conscious of his own culture (inculturation), is capable of joyfully recognizing that of other human beings (multiculturality) and of relating to others, and is enriched by the variety of which his own culture is part (interculturality). Universality lived in this manner may become a drive to social justice, fraternity and peace.
Catholicity is the dimension that enables us to understand universality from the perspective of the spiritual experience of Jesus of Nazareth’s God. As previously pointed out, incarnation is an essential component of the Church’s faith. Jesus was born at the periphery of the Empire, in a small nation under colonial rule; he became an active part of his people; he gave his life to proclaim freedom as God’s gift with words and deeds; he was crucified and once he rose from the dead, he sent his followers to spread his message of salvation among all cultures. The community of Jesus’ followers, the Church, had to overcome its local frontiers amid great tension, to go beyond its cultural boundaries and experience catholicity as universality with local roots. That is why Vatican Council II can state the following:
The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.15
Interculturality16 is thus the way of access to Catholicity, for it recognizes cultural differences as the revelation of the countenance of mankind created in God’s image and likeness, and is enriched by the ever deeper exchange between them. Therefore, interculturality is not an end in itself but the means through which we create the conditions to fully live the human dimension. Interculturality contributes to the humanization of persons, cultures and peoples.
The reflection on interculturality takes us beyond the recognition that there are and there have been many cultures in the world (multiculturality) and causes us to focus on the effort to build bridges and establish a smooth communication between them. Interculturality is a complex process not devoid of conflicts.
Interculturality is not a “meeting between cultures” intended as an alternative movement to inculturation. Interculturality is not about creating a supra, meta or transcultural sphere or space17.
The recognition of different cultures and the ability to live in multicultural contexts, respecting and even enjoying diversity is an important step forward. A temptation of Consecrated Life is to take multiculturality as an expression of its universality. Perceiving multicultutality merely as the peaceful coexistence between persons of different cultures would mean missing out on the opportunity to experience catholicity within one’s own religious communities. When regarded as the opportunity to accept the challenge of engaging in an enriching exchange between cultures, multiculturality leads to the experience of interculturality as a contribution to the fully human universality that we have called catholicity.
A simple description of interculturality is that of “a mutual exchange between cultures that can lead to the transformation and enrichment of all those involved.”18 However, it may be worth remembering that interculturality does not replace nor does it oppose inculturation. On the contrary, it is a deepening of that process. Without inculturation there can be no interculturality, for no-one gives what he does not have.
Interculturality is a participatory process which interacts with the historical, social, economic and political context in which it unfolds. It is a process that, as previously stated, makes the development of cultures more dynamic by brining about changes which foster the universal dimension of humanity.
Incarnation, the Catholic Church and Vatican II
Vatican II takes the catholicity of the Church seriously. It The Church as the universal People of God, stating that she is for this world, she is in dialogue with all, and that everyone can participate in her. The Church is not for herself but for the world, she is there to proclaim the friendship that God offers all human beings.
With his liberating love, God desires all men to be saved19. The Church is a sign or sacrament of this desire for universal liberation. It is a Church that has been sent to all cultures and from all cultures to contribute to the liberation of all men and all peoples. That is because she is a “Church that goes forth” – as described by Pope Francis- engaged in the promotion of a dignified life for all human beings. A Church that reaches out to all, that is, that follows the way of interculturality.
Vatican Council II recalls that the Catholic Church is not “the light”20. The Church enlightens because she reflects Christ who is the light of the world, as we proclaim in the Easter liturgy. The Church does not bring the “truth”; instead she promotes the encounter with Christ as the way to full humanity: love, justice and peace. She is Catholic because she is “open to the diversity and fullness of human life”21.
According to this logic, Catholicity can only be accomplished in intercultural communication. Inculturation and interculturality are processes which enrich those that embark upon them. As Church and Consecrated Life, we have been enriched by cultural diversity, by inculturation in the afore-mentioned dimensions. We may be enriched even further if we deepen interculturality. These processes start with welcoming diversity as God’s gift. Recognizing diversity allows for the experience of a diverse God, the One and Triune God, a community of love that communicates its love in many ways. La amazing diversity and complexity of creation leads to recognizing the richness of God’s love.
Interculturality follows the kenotic model of Jesus’ incarnation. As Jesus explains to Nathaniel, it requires that one be born anew. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born anew”. The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit22. No-one is born intercultural. Inculturation and its transition to interculturality require a process of formation and inner transformation akin to incarnation, to being born anew. At this time of human history, Consecrated Life and the Church are receiving this call with great vigour.
Gaining a deeper understanding of the Gospel is a process of interculturation23. Consequently, the opportunity to deepen interculturality as a characteristic of our Consecrated Life is the one means available to us to better understand the Good News that we are called to proclaim all over the world and in all manifestations of human life.
Interculturality, Faith, Justice, Dialogue and Reconciliation
The way of interculturality provides new opportunities to the mission of the Church in the present-day world. Any consideration of humanity’s present situation would be quick to emphasize its deep divisions. We live in societies afflicted especially by poverty and the lack of conditions to guarantee a dignified life for most of the world’s population24. The societies in which we live are afflicted by inequalities that have become structural, and are thus preserved and multiplied. They are afflicted by ideologies which become the source of discrimination between human beings, races, castes and even entire people. They are afflicted by religious fundamentalisms which support inhuman structures. They are afflicted by violence, which has become commonplace in all societies, and they are especially wounded by wars which make more remote the possibility of leading a normal life. Pope Francis points out that these are not different crises seeking solutions, but a single crisis, the crisis of the model of human relations created thus far. He invites to continue to contribute to the effort of inventing and putting into practice an alternative model that is more in tune with human aspirations, which the Gospel summarizes as the dimensions of God’s Kingdom: justice, peace and love.
As Christians, we have received the gift of faith. We believe that another world is possible because Jesus became incarnated among us, gave his life and died on the cross to forgive everyone’s sins, and after rising from the dead, he now shares in the life of God who has promised us his kingdom. At the service of this faith, founded in it, we engage in the ministry of reconciliation between human beings, between human beings and creation, and between human beings and God. These are three concurrent dimensions of the call of the crucified-risen Christ to achieve the liberation of mankind.
As I have tried to describe above, interculturality is an opportunity to better fulfil the ministry of reconciliation to which we have been called. Interculturality sets us on the way of true universal citizenship, which starts with the recognition of all and every individual human being, people and their cultures, as they are, without any differences or distinctions. It is a way that leads to Social Justice through reconciliation. The social justice to which we aspire cannot be achieved by patching up the current model of social relations, with their structures of power. It requires new power structures according to a new model to design and forge reality, a task, I repeat, to which we are called to contribute.
Venturing into interculturality requires that we increase and fine tune our capacity for dialogue, a necessary dimension of this process. A dialogue which is inter-religious and inter-cultural and at the same time intra-religious and intra-cultural, as I have tried to explain previously in this text. The various forms of resistance and obstacles to this are before everyone’s eyes.
The increase in migration flows throughout the world may serve as an example. Mobility has characterized mankind from its very origins. Today, we are witnessing an exponential increase in human mobility thanks to technological development and the trend towards globalization in the new historic age in which we live. Although voluntary, freely chosen mobility has grown, most present-day migrants are forced to leave their countries by poverty, the violation of human rights, war, social violence and human trafficking. Among the causes for increased involuntary migration flows are resistance and obstacles to intercultural dialogue. As previously stated, ideological radicalism, religious fundamentalism and power struggles are at the root of the poverty, violence and wars which force migrants to leave their home, family, region or country in search of better living conditions.
Resistance to migration flows is also growing in host countries. The manipulation of national identity which gives way to intolerant nationalism and political personalism, disguised as “populism”, and which seek to establish autocracies, are two forms of resistance to a welcoming interculturality present in many parts of the world, certainly in Europe and the United States of North America.
What are the implications of accepting the call to the ministry of reconciliation, considering interculturality as a dimension of the new evangelization?
The first is deepening with a critical vision the origins of the charism of every religious family and its historical development. Interculturality requires the contextualization of each culture and its expressions, including the religious expressions. The founders of religious congregations responded to specific situations in their respective contexts according to their experience of faith. Every congregation in the course of its history has engaged in a process of discernment on how to live the charism in different and evolving contexts. It seems that Ignatius of Loyola was aware of the need to consider the different contexts when carrying out the mission. In writing the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus he repeats, almost like a refrain, that norms have to be understood according to persons, times and places. This requires a critical view of the history of the Church in which Consecrated Life is born and develops.
In the present day, the Catholic Church lives the times of Vatican II against the backdrop of a process of great change in the history of mankind. Hence, deepening the critical vision of one’s charismatic tradition is a demanding task for each religious congregation and it is necessary for the future of Consecrated Life.
A second consequence to which I would like to refer is the need to make community spiritual discernment the ordinary way to take decisions on the mission in every context in which Consecrated Life is inculturated. We observe a growing number of international and multicultural religious communities. What’s more, with greater or lesser strategic awareness, this type of communities is actually fostered. Moreover, the topic of this meeting suggests that we want intercultural communities.
Intercultural communities are located within a given cultural context which cannot and should not be neglected. It is an inculturated interculturality, that is, it is set within a local context which requires learning a language, adopting a life-style, food, housing, transportation… At the same time, it demands openness to interculturality.
The challenge of languages is not insignificant. The tension between sharing the same language in the community, even in the congregation, and mastering the local language of the place in which the mission is carried out is part of the normal life of men and women religious. This tension must not disappear. Learning the local language(s) is one of the best missionary traditions of consecrated life. Being able to actually communicate within the community and with the whole congregation requires one or more common languages. On the one hand, vocations coming from different cultures and multicultural religious communities bring into groups a multiplicity of languages. On the other hand, formation and communication needs within a given congregation lead to the adoption of one or more common languages. This is one of the tensions inherent in interculturality which deserves being addressed with an open mind.
What inspires and leads to interculturality is a mission that is shared, discerned together, planned sensibly and evaluated realistically. This requires men and women religious with a true life in the Spirit, nourished by the Eucharist, who are capable of thinking freely and critically and give themselves generously to the mission. Giving life to the community and looking after the spiritual health of its members is a permanent dimension of the mission.
The third consequence has to do with both initial and ingoing formation. Experience can confirm how difficult it is to receive ongoing formation in Consecrated Life. However, the times in which we live make it an imperative need, without which an effective mission and the continuity of each congregation’s charism are unthinkable. The experience of inculturation has required spiritual availability and formation. Interculturality also requires these two elements, and that may be a great novelty considering the different ages and cultures of men and women religious. One of the greatest challenges of formation to interculturality is knowing and considering the youth cultures existing in the different present-day social contexts25.
How should initial and ongoing formation plans address the plurality of contemporary religious and cultural experiences with a view to achieving a vision that is spiritually integrated and enriched by diversity?
The answer to this question should lead us to examine26 the practices of religious life. Some may be defined as innovative, such as communal austerity in a more ecological perspective and shared goods as well as life of prayer as a condition for spiritual discernment, inter alia.
Others, such as obedience and chastity, will have to be considered in greater depth for they will have to be subjected to the scrutiny of diversity. Obedience places before us structures and ways of exercising religious authority as tools to seek and find God’s will for people, communities and apostolic works. Diversity also calls for an ethical, philosophical and theological analysis of human affectivity, its manifestations in ways of living out sexuality and the meaning of religious celibacy27.
The formation process consists in making the transition, consciously and with the accompaniment of another, from inculturation (contextualized formation) to a stepwise internationalization process which leads to the experience of multiculturality and paves the way to interculturality.
Initial and ongoing formation is also called to accompany the restructuring processes of Consecrated Life28 which increasingly grapple with the cultural issue in its different dimensions. These include the incorporation of young religious29 and their cultures30 into international and multicultural communities, which strive to integrate interculturality as a normal dimension of consecrated life.
The cultural dimension should also be introduced into vocational discernment. We know that not everyone is in the position to live what consecrated life proposes according to a foundational charism. Vocational discernment seeks to examine whether those who are searching are heeding a call of the Spirit and whether they are suitable for living out religious consecration. Introducing the cultural dimension in this discernment process means assessing the candidate’s openness to diversity, which begins with respect for the other and a critical vision of one’s own culture. The candidate’s ability to live in a multicultural milieu and their aptitude for interculturality will then have to be evaluated.
The encounter with others requires a formation process in dialogue with many dimensions at the same time: the context, cultures, the charism, history, personal processes, intellectual preparation … Only with the help of God’s grace may it be possible to open up to the experience of interculturality as a dimension of our Christian, religious and missionary life.
1 The deepening or critical conscience of these historic processes is of utmost importance, and the study of history must not be neglected. Neverhteless, in this paper I wish to look ahead, and thus this interesting topic would be somewhat of a departure from the purpose of this meeting.
2 The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council is also the reference to define the historical time to which these reflections refer. It also coincides with the time I have lived in the Society of Jesus, which I joined in September 1966. I thus would like to share with you a number of reflections on interculturality as a challenge to consecrated life, in particular to the life of the Society of Jesus, in the postconciliar period and based on my personal experience. These are preliminary reflections which need to be further developed, both academically and spiritually. This meeting is an excellent opportunity to do this.
3 Gaudium et Spes, 53
4 Stating the relational nature of culture and recognizing the equality of all cultures (there are no superior or inferior cultures) does not mean proposing cultural relativism, which gives way to moral relativism. There is no support for the false principle whereby anything that leads to naive tolerance is legitimate.
5 Cfr. STANISLAUS, L. – UEFFING, M. (eds.), Interculturalidad, Estella (Spain), Ed. Verbo Divino, 2017, pages 18-22 as an interesting synthesis of the elements of culture.
6 Inculturation is a concept which goes beyond that of deculturation (painful abandonment of one’s culture) and acculturation (passive or involuntary acceptance of another culture). Cfr. MELLA, Pablo, ¿Qué significa formar interculturalmente a un jesuita en América Latina? Mimeo, Centro Bonó, Dominican Republic, 2016
7 Gen 12:1
8 Ex. 3:7. The book of Exodus provides a detailed narration of this process.
9 N. 101-109
10 Though he was in the form of God Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
11 Mk 7:24-30.
12 In this paragraph, I use the word “culture” or “cultural” within inverted commas because we cannot quite speak about a “culture” when we refer to that which unites and identifies us in Consecrated Life. Nevertheless, this identifying element helps us to understand the challenge of interculturality for Consecrated Life.
13 Not in all languages is it possible to make this distinction clearly.
14 GC 35. Decree 3, no. 22
15 Gaudium et Spes, no. 1
16 The characteristics of the phenomenon to which we are referring by the term interculturality and the relatively new reflection surrounding it advise against the formulation of a normative concept that may conceal rather than shed light on its reality.
17 Cfr. STANISLAUS, L. – UEFFING, M., op. cit, p. 586.
18 STANISLAUS, L. – UEFFING, M., op. cit., p. 23.
19 1Tim 2:4; cfr Jn 3:17.
20 Jn 1:9.
21 STANISLAUS, L. – UEFFING, M., op. cit., p. 396.
22 Jn 3: 7-8.
23 STANISLAUS, L. – UEFFING, M., op. cit., p. 405.
24 A dignified life or a good life requires not only meeting basic needs such as food, health care, housing, quality education, work for self-support, etc. It also involves being an active subject of civic life and being able to make free decisions to fulfill one’s dreams (aspirations).
25 Youth cultures challenge us in many ways. I mention this as a pending issue, which goes beyond the purpose of this meeting.
26 Ignatius of Loyola recommends a permanent examen of one’s actions. He invites us to become aware of God’s presence in our life. The examen begins with a thanksgiving action for the gifts received and weighs what we do against God’s will for our lives.
27 Cfr. MELLA, P., loc. cit.
28 For different reasons and at a different pace, all religious congregations have undertaken a restructuring process of their organization and governance. Accompanying this process in a constructive way is crucial to achieve a meaningful transition of the mission, which will be open to the incorporation of persons and innovative forms of collaboration.
29 Understanding youth cultures and establishing a dialogue with them is one of the great challenges of evangelization. In convening the Synod of 2018, Pope Francis has invited the Church to listen to the voice of the youth. Consecrated Life, too, can take advantage of this opportunity to listen to and examine its perception of youth cultures and its impact on them.
30 The relationship with digital space or cyberspace is one of the aspects to consider critically when evaluating youth cultures and formation programs in consecrated life.