We wrote a couple of days ago about Vultum Dei quaerere, the Holy Father’s new apostolic constitution addressing female contemplative life. We remarked that, frankly, the document was a little mysterious to us; it seemed very specific, but ultimately obscure in its specificity. Ann Carey, at the National Catholic Register, has answered some of our questions with a lengthy, detailed background piece. Carey’s sources present Vultum Dei as a necessary update to Pius XII’s 1950 apostolic constitution Sponsa Christi, addressing particular concerns that have cropped up among cloistered religious since then:
For example, formation was a topic stressed by Pope Francis in the new document, and Sister Gabriela noted that formation had been “a major concern” that religious voiced to the CICSAL in response to the questionnaire.
“Contemplative life is so special and so demanding that it demands good formation specific to the life,” she said.
The prayer and liturgical life of the nuns also was stressed in the document, and this is related to formation as well.
“Our life will depend on our spirituality,” she said, “and the depth of our spirituality determines how well we are going to live our vocation. Cloistered life doesn’t make any sense if you don’t have a deep prayer life. It’s our relationship to Our Lord that makes the life, that demands the enclosure.”
Sister Gabriela explained that this need for good formation, plus the difficulty for modern young people to make a commitment and trust authority, no doubt prompted a change in which the Pope raised the required number of years in formation before final vows from a minimum of six years to nine years.
We still have some questions about Vultum Dei quaerere, but Carey’s informative piece has cleared up some of the mystery. Read the whole thing.