ROME — Consecrated members of secular institutes must strive to “come out of the sacristies” and bring Christ to the world, Pope Francis said.
In a Feb. 2 letter to Jolanta Szipilarewicz, president of the World Conference of Secular Institutes, the pope said the calling to go out in the world must also include “a commitment to make the world, not worldliness, present in the church.”
“This does not mean returning to the sacristy but being ‘receptive antennas’ that transmit messages” of hope to both the world and the church, he said.
The pope’s letter was written to commemorate the 75th anniversary of “Provida Mater Ecclesia,” Pope Pius XII’s apostolic constitution that recognized secular institutes as a form of consecration in the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis said the document was, “in a certain sense, revolutionary” and since then, has led to the “development of many ecclesial movements and communities” in the church.
Encouraging secular institutes to continue to be a “creative and prophetic force,” he also highlighted the challenges they face in balancing the relationship between their secular and consecrated nature.
While their consecration makes it “easy to assimilate yourselves to religious,” they must also live out “the baptismal character that characterizes the secular lay institutes.”
“Be animated by the desire to live a ‘holy secularity’ because you are a lay institution,” he said. “You are one of the most ancient charisms and the church will always need you. But your consecration must not be confused with religious life. It is baptism that constitutes the first and most radical form of consecration.”
The secular nature of lay institutions, he explained, are a “distinctive trait” that shows them how to be present both in the church and in the world “as a seed, as leaven.”
“I prefer to say that you are hidden within realities, just like the seed in the earth and the yeast in the dough,” the pope said. “And of a seed or yeast it cannot be said that they are anonymous. The seed is the beginning of life, the yeast is an essential ingredient for the bread to be fragrant.”
“I therefore invite you to deepen the meaning and manner of your presence in the world and to renew in your consecration the beauty and desire to participate in the transfiguration of reality,” he added.
Members of secular institutes, he added, can also help to curb the “social and ecological degradation of today’s world.”
Recalling the good Samaritan, the pope said that Christ did not use the parable to “denounce the wickedness of brigands and the world, but rather the self-referential and closed religious mentality” that is “disembodied and indifferent.”
“I think of you as an antidote to this,” Pope Francis said. “Consecrated secularity is a prophetic sign that exhorts us to reveal with our life — more than with words — the love of the Father, to show it daily on the roads of the world.”
“Today it is not so much the time for persuasive and convincing speeches, it is above all the time for witnessing because, while apologetics can be divisive, the beauty of your life attracts,” he said. “Be witnesses that attract!”