by charity. We all need one another: the spiri-
tual good which I do not own and possess, I
receive from others.”
The prayer of religious communities lifts
the entire church. Likewise, good works and the
pursuit of justice shape society to more closely
resemble the reign of God. A life of chastity,
poverty, and obedience gives powerful witness
to faith in Jesus without a word being uttered.
“Consecrated men and women,” according to the
1996 apostolic letter Via Consecrata, “are sent
forth to proclaim by the witness of their lives the
value of Christian fraternity and the transform-
ing power of the Good News, which makes it
possible to see all people as sons and daughters
of God, and inspires a self-giving love towards
everyone, especially the least of our brothers
and sisters. Such communities are places of
hope.” That hope is what attracts new members.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, religious com-
munities of men and women rise up, serve a
purpose, thrive, and live on or come to an end.
This ebb and flow has occurred for 2,000 years
and will continue for millennia to come as new
members around the world take vows and join
their lives to communities to live out the gospel
in radical ways in joyful hope.
What follows on the next pages is a time-line of the major events in the history of consecrated life through the ages.