4. Prophetic and Contemplative Community

“I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” – Joel 2:28c.

“The anointing of the Holy Spirit, with which we have been anointed to evangelize the poor, is the participation of the fulness of Christ. Therefore, those of us who have been called to follow the Lord and to collaborate with Him in the work entrusted to Him by the Father, we must assiduously contemplate Christ and imitate him, penetrated from his Spirit, until we are no longer the ones who live, but it is Christ who truly lives in us. Only in this way will we be valid instruments of the Lord to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven” – Constitutions, 39.


The XXII General Chapter (1997) focused its discernment on the prophetic dimension of our missionary service of the Word. In this way, the Chapter showed its intention to apply to the Congregation one of the most fruitful perspectives of the Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, fruit of the Universal Synod of Bishops of 1994: The prophetic witness.[1]

Likewise, our XXV General Chapter placed special emphasis on a dimension of community, until then little highlighted: the ad-oration, “Adoration of God in the Spirit.” Adoration is the response to invitation to contemplate with “open eyes,” “the heavens and earth, which are filled with the glory of God.”

Guided by these two Chapter proposals, we want to delve into the mystery of our missionary community, from the perspective of prophecy and the perspective of contemplation and worship. We do so in this order, so as not to fall into the “contemplata aliis tradere” (to give to others what is contemplated), but rather in the unitary vision of the “contemplativus in missione” (contemplative in the mission). For this reason, the title of this pamphlet is: Prophetic and Contemplative community.

1. Prophetic Communities

All forms of life in the church are called to be prophetic. Moses put it very well when he expressed a very intimate desire and exclaimed, “I wish all the people prophesied!”[2] Consecrated life is called to enhance – in a humble way – the prophetic and luminous dimension of the whole church.

Talking about the “prophecy” of Consecrated Life raises misgivings. We are heirs to great prophetic traditions. But who among us spontaneously feels a “prophet”? Which community would call itself a “prophetic community”?

It is not difficult for us, however, to recognize that there are prophetic people, actions and prophetic initiatives among us, and that we are heirs to a congregational prophetic tradition that we admire: our Father Founder,[3] our first missionaries who extended the mission in distant places, in other cultures, with very few means, and risking their health;[4] and the prophecy of so many martyr sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary…[5] We also evoke the prophetic testimony of what we have called “prophecy of ordinary life” and which we have discovered as prophetic traits in some of our brothers.[6]

However, talking about prophetic communities is very risky, even though we know that this is God’s call to us at this time, and in the contexts in which we live. This is also the call of the Mother Church: she highlights the prophetic dimension of Consecrated Life. The Second Vatican Council gave rise to this by presenting religious life as a sign that manifests, witnesses, prefigures, proclaims, and testifies.[7] The Apostolic Exhortation “Vita Consecrata” has been the ecclesial document that has most broadly developed the prophetic dimension, especially in the third part where it presents the Consecrated Life as “Servitium Caritatis.”[8] J.R.M. Tillard rightly said that Consecrated Life “empowers the prophetic wing of the Church.”

Taguat Br BautismoAnd for this reason, we wonder whether our communities enhance the prophetic wing of the particular Church in the context in which we find ourselves.

A fascinating fact is that today our Congregation does not want an exclusive monopoly in its prophetic potential, but rather a “shared prophecy” between us and many other people and communities. We begin with our “charismatic family” in the Church. Thus, we are also called to stand in solidarity and create patrons of other prophetic movements, while bringing our “Claretian” prophetic distinctiveness.

Community prophecy will be possible if we are very attentive to the signs of the times, the signs of the Spirit in the place, and the historical moment in which we are and that calls for a prophetic style and action.

2. Prophetic style and prophetic action in community

We feel called — as a Congregation and community of Claretian missionaries — to express our prophetic gift in various keys: (1) The prophecy of hospitality or embracing the difference; (2) The prophecy of the meaning of life; (3) the prophecy of voluntary impoverishment; (4) the prophecy of realism; (5) prophetic joy in community; and (6) prophetic wisdom and imagination.

  • The Prophecy of Hospitality and Community Interculturality: Embracing the Difference.

Hospitality makes us servants of God’s Covenant with our land and all the peoples who inhabit it. Without hospitality, our communities become self-referential and even hostile and violent towards those who are different. Exclusion is becoming the primary sin of globalization processes. Hospitality, however, enables us to welcome “the other,” the outsider, the stranger. Today hospitality is regarded as an authentic theological category:[9] its highest expression is seen in the Crucified Son of God who opened his arms to receive us, excluding no one, while we were still sinners and unfaithful to his Covenant. In our Congregation, hospitality is missionary, and it leads us to approach and welcome the “other:” those in need, the marginalized, the excluded, the awkward, those of another culture, religion, race and genre. Hospitality to the “other” makes us more compassionate, less institutional and more liminal. For this reason, we have created institutional spaces for the shared mission with the laity, cultural insertion, communities embedded in the midst of poverty; and we are opening ourselves up to gender diversity.[10]

  • The prophecy of the meaning of life

If before the question was how to live according to God, now the question is how to live, just like that? The disconnection with God makes everything else banal. Modernity has de-sacralized the world and idolized realities that it had desacralized. For many people, science is today’s “theology” that explains everything; economics is the god that solves everything; people love money and science. But the new gods are unfaithful; they do not always accompany the human person; they abandon him in despair when he faces difficulties, illness, and death. In the Consecrated Life, we proclaim that “the gods and lords of the earth, do not satisfy us.”[11] We rebel prophetically against the idolatry of money, sex, and power through our vows. Through our dissenting voice and behavior, we try to be prophets of the meaning of life. Where there is transcendent hope, there is meaning.

  • The Prophecy of voluntary Impoverishment (poverty)

Voluntary poverty unmasks “the misery of prosperity.”[12] Those who seek only economic prosperity do so at the expense of their health, culture, education, and moral enrichment. The idol of the new economy is disgraceful because the rich no longer need the poor to get rich: after the misfortune of the exploitation of the poor, the worse misfortune has come that they are no longer exploitable now as they are already discarded. Money is supposed to free us from our concerns; but unconsciously, it becomes our ultimate concern. To have money you have to pay a high price, which makes you miserable. Who will be able to free human beings from the bondage of economy? In this context, voluntary poverty emerges as a liberating, anti-idolatrous alternative, as a denunciation of the misery of prosperity. Voluntary poverty calls for us to reject certain things, to renounce comfort, and the accumulation of objects and money to overcome the anguish of death. Also, in the context of the mission, economy has to be ostensibly de-idolized to become only a means. The prophetic imagination will give way to new ways of gratuity, of faith in the providence, of non-market missionary presence, of services not focused on profit.

  • The prophecy of realism, of ordinary life

Without realism in our life, we become anxious and easily moves towards depression. Without authenticity, the utopias and visions lose their transformative capacity becoming spectacular, but not energizing. We need “Christian realism,”[13] or “prophetic realism.” The principle of reality asks us – on the one hand – not to want things that exceed our charismatic capacity (the talent received!), but also – on the other hand – that we exploit all its possibilities.

In our communities we do not have spectacular charisms or high intensity prophecies. We are groups of pilgrims who, amidst distress, darkness and temptation, make a pilgrimage – with all God’s people – to the new Jerusalem. Being a community also involves pruning more than a bit of the edges of individual charisms and prophecies. In our collective prophecy, differences are integrated. That is why our prophecy is of low intensity, which is exercised over a very long period of time. In this prophetic model, realism prevails over utopia, the day-to-day life over any spectacular event, the century over the moment. In our Congregation, we have called it the “prophecy of ordinary life.”[14]

Prophetic imagination and prophetic realism maintain a permanent tension and contrast. The Jesus of the three temptations in the wilderness is for us the paradigm of realistic prophecy. The apocalyptic Jesus who weeps before Jerusalem is for us the paradigm of utopian prophecy. Both types of prophecy, the realistic and the apocalyptic, have coexisted with tension throughout history.

  • Prophetic joy in community

Our postmodern and globalized culture obsessively seeks happiness which is confused with pleasure and is intended to achieve through consumption, waste, and enjoyment of sexuality. Health and sexuality have become increasingly prevalent obsessions. Anyone who does not live up to the cultural body stereotypes and sexuality has little value.[15] The desire for happiness is greater than the actual enjoyment of it. Anything that does not generate pleasure is considered unhappiness. It is evident that this culture affects us consecrated persons. But in our ascetic tradition, we have resources that allow us to cultivate our countercultural prophecy. We know the art of keeping adversity at bay so that it does not overpower us. We know that not all adversity is a punishment, and that nothing is achieved effortlessly. We know that we can live with suffering and find redemptive power in it. Many of our brothers show a happy and blessed countenance, because in them the Beatitudes of Jesus are happening. The most fascinating result of Consecrated Life is when it maintains hope, good humor and joy, in the midst of the tragedies in the world and in personal lives, and can maintains a “permanent euphoria.” This does not prevent us from recognizing, by prophetic realism, that this dimension of prophecy is mediated by the prophecy of tears.[16] The alternative living that Consecrated Life proposes entails the symbolic passage through Gethsemane, through religious or political judgment, public disgrace or the climbing and falling on the way of Calvary. Like Jesus, we must also weep for losses and in the face of the tragedy of cultures that close their doors to God’s visit. The prophetic beatitude believes that “blessed are those who weep” because God will wipe the tears from their eyes. Therefore, crying can be transformed to smile and hope, regardless of everything.

  • Wisdom and Prophetic Imagination

There is a growing sense of nostalgia for “wise” men and women who are capable of guiding humanity in times of confusion, chaos and change. Wisdom is a gift of the Spirit, which interconnects and unifies our knowledge, feelings and experiences. The gift of wisdom connects and integrates the three stages of time: past, present and future. Biblical prophecy has much to do with the gift of Wisdom. Wisdom is bestowed upon certain people to enlighten and guide humanity towards the Church. The person graced with this gift not only has the capacity to know about what is happening, but he or she also penetrates the mystery of reality and is granted to “open the book and untie its seals”; he or she uses the “seven eyes” of the Spirit to perceive reality and history; he or she is granted the sensitivity of God. Therefore, the wise person is solidly grounded and serves as a support and guide to others

He is a guide who sees, who feels, who reflects in himself the wisdom of God. Wisdom is transcultural. The wise are people who revalue cultures, open them up to new horizons and give them solidity. Wisdom is the best mediation to enable intercultural dialogue and the alliance of civilizations. That is why, in these times of transformation, of intercommunication, of mutual dependence, wisdom is an invaluable gift. Prophetic wisdom is a necessary gift to overcome fundamentalist visions, dogmatisms, and condemnatory attitudes towards “what is different”. The gift of wisdom sees alternatives, where there seems to be a dead end, it discovers life where death prevails. Wisdom is serene, imaginative, creative; it makes the unpredictable certain, the difficult easy, the unrealistic viable. Jesus is the Wisdom of God who proclaimed: “Learn from me … for my yoke is easy to bear and my burden is light.

We are at a time when our communities can enhance the prophetic wing of the Church, precisely in the realm of wisdom. The fact that in the oldest regions of the Congregation we are aging is not a disgrace, but the opportunity to spread the gift of wisdom to God’s people and society. Prophecy and wisdom will lead us to discover the possible gift of spiritual paternity that is granted to us. This is how “our elders will prophesy.” It is the prophecy of wisdom.

Authentic prophecy is to dare to sail against the current in the tide of linearity and conventionalisms. In such daringness is born a change of vision and thought, bring in the grace of an authentic “meta-noia.” Whoever has received the grace of such a change, of such an experience, becomes something like a detonation, like an explosion within an accustomed group. The prophetic ministry that we need today must emerge as a new nonlinear, integrative and relational consciousness.

The prophetic community style energizes us to be attentive to the challenges of our time, our places and to give them prophetic response. The last General Chapter raised the following appeals to us by God: (1) The cry of Mother Earth; (2) The cry of the poor for justice; (3) The dream of peace and reconciliation; (4) The meaning of life and its care; and (5) the new digital and technological continent.

3. Contemplative community

Contemplation is a form of prayer, but it is also a way of being and acting in the community “on mission.”[17] Contemplation is not closing our eyes, looking inward, and imagining transcendent issues that have little to do with the issues that concern humanity today. And “if God so loved the world that he sent his only Son,” how are we going to contemplate him disconnected from this world? The “mystique of the open eyes” (J.B. Metz) tells us that God is not found “digging pits in the soul” (Erich Przywara), or by moving away or freeing ourselves from the real world, but by relocating to other levels of perception. But how to do this?

The contemplative stance opens us to ambiguity, paradox and the unknown; it separates us from a set of preconceived ways of being and thinking. To come into contact with our God, to follow Jesus and to be open to the Spirit is to do one of the most difficult, but essential inner work. It leads us to love the world, as God loves it.

Seeking God seriously in our real world is a demanding and dangerous adventure. It means exposing oneself to God in a human reality that so often questions and denies him; because God is questioned and denied wherever there is injustice, violence, savagery, death, natural disasters, illness, depression… Dietrich Bonhoeffer sought God in such circumstances – in the concentration camp and in the context of the world war! He found him in suffering; and he said to himself, “Only a God who suffers can save me.” Another contemplative and mystical experience was that of Etty Hillesum, in the last phase of her stay in the Auszchwitz extermination camp, which allowed her to write in her journal: “And if God does not help me to move on, I have to help God.”[18]

Our consecrated life is contemplative when it discovers God – saddened, suffering, marginalized, discarded – in the victims; when identified with the Crucified one it cries out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me”; it is contemplative when it discovers divine energy everywhere, around us and through everything: as a personal dynamic manifested in reciprocity, creativity, inclusion, and hospitality. In us, that energy is embodied. Everything is part of the mystery of how God is bringing them to birth from all eternity because he is “eternal father – eternal mother”. God’s energy is always working on behalf of creation.[19] A contemplative is the one who feels grounded in God, incorporated into Jesus Christ, and allows the Holy Spirit to breathe and move through him/her. The desire to live more contemplatively is the work of the Spirit.

Contemplation opens our hearts to listening to “the others” for truth, without focusing on what we would like to hear or receive from them. In the contemplative space, we do not seek to control the other. We discover that we do not always have the best response to what challenges us. When we choose to become more contemplative, we become more capable of realizing the differences and understand them, without putting a derogatory label on them. One learns to “deny oneself,”[20] which is an indispensable condition for following Jesus.

We live at a rapid pace, with so much frenzy, that we are unable to contemplate for lack of personal and collective time. Contemplation requires time and we don’t have it! Ordinarily we “react” to situations, but we do not “respond” because we say we do not have time. We do not enter into the space of contemplation because we are afraid of being paralyzed, without activity, without love of work. because we are afraid of being paralyzed, without activity, without doing any “work”. And yet, the truth is that authentic contemplation is a source of creative and generative capacity. Mystics and contemplatives know that true contemplation ends in action and that often action is more radical because it has its roots in contemplation.

The contemplative environment gives rise to “different” encounters in which there is place for pause, stillness, no immediate need to speak or to grab the microphone, but never passivity, apathy, or uneasiness. Contemplation is not about being silent, cloistered in our thoughts: it is letting ourselves be touched by the Spirit, letting Him pour into our hearts and transform them. And this requires a certain discipline. There is synergy when we forget ourselves and listen to others attentively and lovingly.

In Pauline texts, we find exhortations such as “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit,”[21] “do not quench the Holy Spirit,”[22] so that we do not impede the Spirit from breathing and blowing life into us. The Church is the realm of the influence of the Holy Spirit: “where the Spirit is there is the Church; and where the Church is, there is the Spirit” (St. Irenaeus).

Karl Rahner’s well-known definition that a 21st-century Christian “will either be a mystic or nothing” applies to our community. It is an invitation to embark on the journey towards the mystical so that our life has meaning and is appealing.

4. Liturgical Community – When Contemplation Becomes ADORATION

We should not forget that one of the fundamental characteristics of the Missionary Community is its contemplative and liturgical dimension.[23] It is very important, to be a community inserted in the “Missio Dei,” to know God, to contemplate in silence, to worship God, to celebrate God’s presence and to seek God’s will passionately:

“Be still, and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations; I am exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).

The “missio Dei” that defines our missionary and community life must become the great center of our contemplation. This has a lot to do with the community liturgy. A liturgy configured by the “missio Dei” gives shape, nourishes and it sends forth the missionary community as Jesus did: “As the Father sent me, so I send you.”[24]

Sometimes we think that the most important thing in the liturgy is to make it attractive to people’s tastes. Liturgy should not be manipulated in that sense. It is not theater, nor is it a show for characters to win over people by their skillful performance. In liturgy the Spirit creates alternative visions and recounts God’s loving will for the world and our concrete history.[25]

A liturgy shaped by the mission is passive and active at the same time, as the community of the book of Revelation. By liturgy we refer to the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours, the community celebration of reconciliation, the celebration of prayer and anointing to alleviate our psychic and physical illnesses and insurmountable addictions. The community in the state of liturgy is an assembly of Christians in mission with God, partners of the Holy Spirit, who embody the Gospel of Jesus Christ.[26] The ite missa est should not be a routine formula, but the daily sending that configures the community.

The ecclesial liturgy is for our community the spiritual eco-system – prophetic and contemplative – in which the whole spectrum of life is integrated every day. The liturgical year with all its colors and seasons and feasts is an authentic path of spirituality that we traverse as a community along with all the people of God. The liturgical community does not isolate itself, nor does it separate itself from history. In every liturgical moment the community feels connected to the Holy Spirit who turns the gifts into the body and blood of Jesus and offers them to us in communion – as food and drink:

“That is why we ask you to keep these gifts holy to the outpouring of your Spirit so that they may be for us the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Eucharistic Prayer II, first epiclesis).

It is also the Spirit that causes the “Word” we hear outwardly proclaimed to penetrate the depths of our hearts and transform us. The Spirit is the primary generator of communion in community:

“We humbly ask you, that the Holy Spirit gather in unity all of us who partake of the Body and Blood of Christ” (Eucharistic Prayer II, second epiclesis).

For personal And community reflection

1. What traits of prophecy are most present in our community and what are we missing?

2. How do we understand and how does the contemplative dimension of our lives become present in us?

3. What does the liturgy mean to our community in all its expressions – the liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic celebration, the celebration of Reconciliation and eventually the celebration of the Prayer and Anointing of the Sick? Talk about it.

4. Let us pray together the poem of the Prophet: we all recite the part of the script, a soloist the rest.



[1] Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, 84-95; Claretian missionaries, Statement of the XXII General Chapter “In prophetic mission” (Rome 1997), 1, p. 8.

[2] Number 11:25.

[3] “Our Father Founder was anointed by the Spirit of Jesus. He found stimuli for his missionary vocation in the prophets, especially in Jesus, a simple and delightful prophet, close to the people, but also a sign of contradiction, persecuted to death on the cross. Claret was granted a strong sensitivity to the wrongs of his time. He founded our Congregation and transmitted the “missionary form” in how to prophetically prolong the project” EMP, 17.

[4] “During the nearly 150 years of existence our congregation has delved into the Claretian charism and its prophetic dimension. Our brothers were present in places of mission that others considered impossible access because of their special difficulty (Equatorial Guinea, Chocó…)” EMP, 18.

[5] “There were those who gave their lives for Jesus and for their brothers and sisters without backing down. The Church has proposed as a prophetic example in our Martyrs of Barbastro” EMP, 18.

[6] “Many assumed an apostolic style of life marked by simplicity, itinerary, selfless service to the Church, community and congregational spirit, and permanent missionary intercession, such as Father’s. Clotet and Avellana. The “missionary form” has come true in many of us: priests, deacons, brothers and students” EMP, 18.

[7] This is what the Second Vatican Council refers to in LG 44 when it presents the profession of evangelical councils as a “sign” that can and should effectively attract all members of the Church to fulfill without failing the duties of Christian life. And it also indicates that this way of life has the mission of Imitate and Represent in the Church the lifestyle of Jesus, and Manifest of Witness to prefigure, proclaim and show a new and eternal life conquered by redemption, the power of the glorious Christ. The reason for being of religious life is “to be a sign” expressed by seven verbs or actions. The recipients of these actions are the members of the Church, all the faithful, all men. Subsequent documents have highlighted the prophetic dimension of religious life: “In the variety of its forms, fraternal life in common has always manifested itself as a radicalization of the common fraternal spirit that unites all Christians. The religious community is a palpable manifestation of the communion founded by the Church and, at the same time, a prophecy of the unity to which it tends as its ultimate goal” (Fraternal life in community, n. 10).

[8] “The profession of the evangelical councils presents them as a sign and prophecy for the community of brothers and sisters and for the world” (VC, 15). In the exhortation there is also a broad section dedicated to “prophetic witness of consecrated life in the face of the great challenges of our time” (VC, 84-95).

[9] Cf. Hans Boersma, Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross. Reappropriating the atonement tradition, Baker Academic, 2004; Leonardo Boff, Virtues for another possible World. The Hospitality: right and Duty of All, Sal Terrae, Santander 2006; Luke Bretherton, Tolerance, hospitality and education: a theological proposal, In SCE, 17. 1 (2004), 80-103; Byrne, Brendan, The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke’s Gospel, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2000; InnerarityD, Ethics of the Hospitality, Peninsula, Barcelona 2001; Pohl, Christine, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1999; Richard, L, Live The Hospitality God, OIUMSA, Buenos Aires, 2000.

[10] It is interesting to evoke here the circular of Fr. Mathew Vattamattam, Superior General, on Interculturality and our community relations.

[11] Psalm 16.

[12] Cf. Pascal Bruckner, The Misery of Prosperity, Tusquets, Barcelona, 2002. Pascal Bruckner published it in 2002 and won the “Book of Economy 2002” award. The title echoed Marx’s phrase “misery of philosophy.”

[13] Cf. Reinhold Nieburh, Christian realism and political problems, Scribners, New York 1953.

[14] “The prophecy of ordinary life, prevalent among us, is what makes possible the great prophecy of extraordinary moments. It is shown in prayer, as an expression of friendship with God, in the relentless search for his will, in relationships in which tenderness, vital joy, compassion, faith in the other, service” EMP, n. 24, pp. 37-38.

[15] Pascal Bruckner, Perpetual euphoria (On the duty to be happy) Tusquets. Barcelona, 2001. Cf. Id., The temptation of innocence, 1996

[16] Cf. A. Arvalli, Religious life as a prophecy? The tears of a difficult unfinished transition, “Believe Today” 27 (2007), pp. 131-144.

[17] “As we contemplate the situation of the world, the Church, the Congregation, and our own lives in the light of the Missionary Definition, we have felt the call to discover how Jesus walks beside us, to listen to his word, to sit at his table, and to light, to return to the community to be sent back”: Claretian missionaries, Statement of the XXIV General Chapter “Men who burn in charity,” n.51, pp. 61-62.

[18] Etty Hillesum, Daily, July 11, 1942.

[19] Cf. Anna Hunt, What are they saying about the Trinity, Paulist (Australia), 1998.

[20] Mt 16:24.

[21] Eph 4:30.

[22] 1Tess 5:19.

[23] “We will encourage each of us to give a priority place in our lives to attentive listening to the Word, the worthy celebration of the Eucharist, daily prayer and Cordimarian piety. We will also take care of the monthly retreat and the Spiritual Exercises and that the community provides us with the necessary rhythms and conditions for all this” HAC, N. 54, 1, p. 63.

[24] Jn 20:21; Cf. Andrew Rider, “Mission-Shaped Liturgy,” International Review of Mission 95 (2006) 352-358.

[25] Cf. Timothy Miller (ed.), Spiritual and Visionary Communities: out to save the World, Burlington, Ashgate, 2013.

[26] Tim Suttle, Public Jesus: exposing the nature of God in your community, Kansas City, The House Studio, 2012.