The following comes from a July 22 Catholic News Agency article by Elise Harris:
Amid modern challenges emerging from a culture which provides increasingly easier access to outside distractions, Pope Francis has issued new norms for women’s cloistered communities, which place a special emphasis on prayer and the centralization of communities.
He cautioned that the “silent and recollected peace of mind and heart” lived in contemplative live “can meet with subtle temptations.”
The most serious of these, he said, is what the Desert Fathers called “the midday devil,” referring to “the temptation to listlessness, mere routine, lack of enthusiasm and paralyzing lethargy.”
He also cautioned against the temptations presented by the current digital culture, which “has a decisive influence in shaping our thoughts and the way we relate to the world and, in particular, to other people.”
“Contemplative communities are not immune from this cultural climate,” he said, and while recognizing the benefits of media and communications, particularly in the process of formation, urged a “prudent discernment” aimed at ensuring these means are truly put at the service of the community, “and do not become occasions for wasting time or escaping from the demands of fraternal life in community.”
The new norms also encourage communities of the same spirituality, such as Franciscans, Benedictines, Carmelites, etc., to centralize into one federation, however, the specifics of these federations haven’t yet been defined.
Pope Francis’ Apostolic Constitution “Vultum Dei Quaerere,” or “Seek the Face of God” on cloistered women religious was signed June 29, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and was released July 22, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene.
An apostolic constitution is the highest level of decree to be issued by a Pope, and is addressed to the public. They typically focus on solemn matters of the Church such as the promulgation of laws or definitive teachings.
As a means of assisting contemplative women to “attain the goal of their specific vocation” amid the rapid changes in modern society and the temptations that come with them, he issued new norms on 12 areas of discernment and renewal for consecrated life, particularly the monastic tradition.
Monasteries, he said, “are to pay special attention to vocational and spiritual discernment, ensuring that candidates receive personalized guidance,” and must ensure that “ample time” is set aside for the initial formation process.
While establishing international and multicultural communities is good and a sign of the universality of the community’s charism, Francis stressed that “the recruitment of candidates from other countries solely for the sake of ensuring the survival of a monastery is to be absolutely avoided.”
In order to ensure this doesn’t happen, “certain criteria are to be determined,” he said. He also stipulated that to ensure “a high quality of formation,” monasteries should promote common houses for initial formation.
Since prayer “is the heart of contemplative life,” Pope Francis also established that “each monastery is to review its daily horarium (schedule) to see if it is centered on the Lord.”