Mainstream religious life, at least in my cultural context, faces some large and fundamental challenges. Hardly anybody would disagree with that. What we disagree on is how to go forward. Some think we need to retrieve what has been lost and restore what once was. Others see our trouble as having failed to complete or commit to the process of renewal and updating called for by Vatican II. Sometimes I think I have an opinion on this, and sometimes I don't. More and more I feel like most of what I hear in this debate has hardened into unwisdom.
But here's one thing of which I am increasingly convinced: A religious must be maximally willing to lose his life for Jesus Christ through the charism of which the Holy Spirit has made him a steward. At the same time, however, a religious must be maximally unwilling to lose his soul to the state of religious life as a human institution.
The most dangerous temptations religious face both individually and corporately seek to invert this stance, to help us find ways to protect our lives from the invitation of the charism while simultaneously tricking us into losing our souls and salvation to the institution.
It is a difficult and, at times, harrowing discernment to follow this stance in the small moments of daily life as well as the larger contours of one's vocation. But it is the burning love of the Crucified within, and it is salvation.