“Full and authentic religious life is possible only by dependence on God’s grace and by a divine love of the life—love of the evangelical counsels, of the rule and constitutions, of the practices and way of life, and of one’s brothers and sisters in the life. It is said of Saint Dominic repeatedly in the acts of canonization that he loved poverty. [“He loved poverty very much, and zealously incited the brethren to have a similar love. Asked how he (Brother John of Spain) knew this, he answered that Brother Dominic gloried in the poorest clothing, and that, having given up all temporal things, he often exhorted the brethren to love poverty, and this is the presence of the witness.” Saint Dominic: Biographical Documents, edited with an introduction by Francis C. Lehner, O.P. (Washington, D. C.: The Thomist Press, 1964), page 117; see also pages 110; 116; 120-1; 126; 129-30; 134; and 140.]
Such an observation is appropriate to acts of canonization, for love of poverty, the active desire for and wanting of poverty, is a sign of sanctity. Already in the early Dominican community there were tendencies to eat delicacies, ride horses, acquire rich vestments, accept properties, and expand small cells, all of which Saint Dominic attempted to prevent.[Biographical Documents, pages 110; 118; 120; 126; and 143]
Perfectae Caritatis specifies the process of “a continuous return. . . to the original inspiration behind a given community” and endorses the principle that “loyal recognition and safekeeping . . . be accorded to the spirit of founders” for appropriate renewal to take place. [PC §2 (page 468). VC §93 (pages 167-8) beautifully connects the perfection of charity to saintly founders in a passage worth quoting at length: “One of the concerns frequently expressed at the Synod was that the consecrated life should be nourished from the wellspring of a sound and deep spirituality. This is a primary requirement, inscribed in the very essence of the consecrated life by the fact that, just as every baptized person, and indeed even more so, those who profess the evangelical counsels must aspire with all their strength to the perfection of charity. This commitment is clearly evidenced in the many examples of holy founders and foundresses, and of so many consecrated persons who have borne faithful witness to Christ to the point of martyrdom. To tend toward holiness: this is in summary the programme of every consecrated life, particularly in the perspective of its renewal on the threshold of the Third Millennium” (emphasis in the text).]
This process and this principle for renewal are not just for the sake of recalling ideals, as important as that is, but for rekindling the love that animated the original community through its founder, something that tends to dissipate with time and growth in numbers.”
From a talk by Fr. Kurt Pritzl, O.P., entitled “Apostolic Religious Life in the Post-Vatican II Church: Ongoing Challenges of Renewal—Perfect and Imperfect Love.” Father Pritzl’s text is available in pdf format at the Stonehill College Symposium on Apostolic Life site (here) and will appear in an edited volume of proceedings from CUA Press later this year with the title: Apostolic Religious Life in America Today, A Response to the Crisis, ed. R. Gribble (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2011).