Summary of Perfectae Caritatis
The growth and fruit of religious communities assists the Church in her mission and equips “her for every good work.” (PC, 1) Religious “bind themselves to the Lord in a special way” (PC, 1) through the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience. “The purpose of the religious life is to help the members follow Christ and be united to God through the profession of the evangelical counsels…even the best adjustments made in accordance with the needs of our age will be ineffectual unless they are animated by a renewal of spirit. This must take precedence over even the active ministry.” (PC, 2)
Religious, through their vows, renounce the world and live for God alone. (PC, 5) As such, their very lives are dedicated entirely to serving Him and this is a special consecration that more fully expresses baptism. (PC, 5) Religious seeking to live the evangelical counsels must firstly strive to love God and neighbor for through this they more perfectly fulfill their vows.
As for those communities that are dedicated to contemplation, they are indeed an important and honorable part of “the Mystical Body of Christ, whose ‘members do not all have the same function.'”(PC, 7) Each community of religious, active or contemplative, has its own special gifts of grace allotted to them and they are called to live out these in their apostolic tasks.
The evangelical counsel of chastity is an especially powerful witness in the modern world for it speaks against those “false doctrines which scorn perfect continence as being impossible or harmful to human development.” (PC, 12) Living a joyful life of poverty and in obedience to one’s superiors does the same. It is highly beneficial that religious should live in community. “Common life, fashioned on the model of the early Church where the body of believers was united in heart and soul…should continue to be lived in prayer and the communion of the same spirit.” (PC, 15) The missionary spirit should be preserved and fostered in all religious communities and the fostering of religious vocations should be a priority of both priests and families.