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The letter of Pope Francis to the Secular Institutes 75 years after the Provvida Mater

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The letter of Pope Francis to the Secular Institutes 75 years after the Provvida Mater

On February 2, 2022, Pope Francis, on the 75th anniversary of the publication of the Apostolic Constitution Provvida Mater Ecclesia, promulgated by Pope Pius XII, which recognized the form of witness and associated and consecrated life of those particularly committed lay Catholics, wanted to underline the importance for the whole Church of this following the evangelical counsels and the form of special consecration for the lay faithful.

Pope Francis addressed this letter to the President of the World Conference of Secular Institutes, also referring to the Motu proprio Primo feliciter of March 12, 1948, which indicated as “Institutes” that association of men and women who, while remaining in the saeculum, had and they have chosen to live a special consecration beyond Baptism.

Pope Francis thanks every member of the Secular Institutes “for the service and for the witness” and invites “to invoke the Holy Spirit in a particular way to renew in each member … the creative and prophetic force that has made it [degli Istituti Secolari] such a great gift to the Church, before and after the Second Vatican Council “.

The Pope underlines the importance of these charisms which make the precious and effective “relationship between secularity and consecration” an invigorating presence in the realities of everyday life.

Each baptized person, as such, is certainly called to be evangelical leaven in the world. A lay person who has embraced the sequela Christi in a Secular Institute must feel the “desire to live a holy secularism …”. And Pope Francis continues underlining that: “You are one of the most ancient charisms and the Church will always need you”.

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Accepting to accept the vocation to be consecrated or associated, that is, “belonging to God” in a specific path dictated by this or that charism aroused by the Spirit, through the intuition of a Founder and approved by the Sacred Pastors, means being invigorating presences for the Kingdom of God, where we are and where we work.

Pope Francis emphasizes that the concept of “holy secularism”, which is specific to a member of a Secular Institute, should not refer to an ethical concept, that is to “be good”, but to the identity of “being reserved” for God for the life of the world, that is, “founded in an everlasting communion with God and among us. This irreversible union is the root of all holiness, and it is also the strength to separate us in turn from worldliness. Baptism is therefore the source of every form of consecration ”.

The evangelical counsels (or vows) are inserted on this essential source, which are the seal for the consecrated layman of the commitment to the Kingdom which allows everyone belonging to a recognized and “institutionalized” charism to “reveal the original vocation of the world, his being at the service of man’s path of sanctification. The specificity of the charism of Secular Institutes calls us to be radical and at the same time free and creative in order to welcome from the Holy Spirit the most appropriate way of living Christian witness. You are institutes ”, that is, belonging to a cetus that the Church has recognized and sends to illuminate what is in need of the evangelical light as its heralds, to give meaning to the journey of humanity and treasuring the benefits of redemption.

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It is not a do-it-yourself commitment, but a vocation and mission in the sequela Christi, in which the Church trusts and entrusts herself for witness, conversion and life in the world.

The characteristic of those belonging to Secular Institutes is not separation from the world, such as a religious or monastic vocation, but secularity which “indicates a precise evangelical way of being present in the Church and in the world: as a seed, a leaven … You are hidden – he says. Pope Francis – within realities, just like the seed in the earth and the yeast in the dough…. The seed is the premise 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. There is a new step to take. You originally chose to come out of the sacristies to bring Jesus into the world and this is the specificity of the consecrated layman. Today the exit movement must be completed by a commitment to make the world (not worldliness!) Present in the Church…. You have experienced numerous changes in advance. But your experience has not yet sufficiently enriched the Church. The movement of prophecy that challenges you today is the next step to the one that saw you born. This does not mean returning to the sacristy, but being receptive antennas, which transmit messages ”.

The Pope recalls that in Christian asceticism “consecrated secularity is a prophetic sign that exhorts us to reveal the love of the Father with life, rather than with words, to show it daily on the roads of the world“.

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He quotes the parable of the Good Samaritan and recalls what St. Paul VI had said to the leaders of the Secular Institutes (September 20, 1972): “You are an advanced wing of the Church in the world” and adds: “Today I ask you to renew this spirit of anticipation of the journey of the Church…. You are in the world to testify that it is loved and blessed by God. You are consecrated for the world, which awaits your witness to access a freedom that gives joy, which nourishes hope, which prepares the future ”.

May the faithful know that in the Church there is a vocation for the world that bears prophetic hope to be welcomed and to be the voice and face for a world in need of listening and evangelical choice and for a Church that cannot ignore those signs of the times, which make she is a Mother and a Teacher for those who often walk in darkness.

This is the mission of Secular Institutes to be known, lived and promoted as a singular vocation that qualifies the laity for the Kingdom of God.

* Episcopal Vicar for the Laity and Culture – Diocese of Trieste

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