At the time Pius XII thought [les instituts séculiers], with the decree Provida Mater Ecclesia, it was a revolutionary gesture of the Church. The secular institutes are really a courageous gesture of the Church at that time; to give structures, to give an institutionality to the secular institutes. And from that time until now, the good that you do in the Church is so great and so courageous, because it takes courage to live in the world. So many of you come and go, alone in apartments; some in small communities.
Every day, living the life of a person who lives in the world, and at the same time welcoming contemplation: this contemplative dimension towards the Lord and also in the oppositions of the world, contemplating reality, contemplating the beauties of the world, but also the great sins of society, its deviations, all these things, and always in spiritual tension. Because of this, your vocation is fascinating, because it is a vocation where salvation is at stake, and not only that of people, but of institutions. There are so many secular institutions needed in the world. For this reason I think that with Provida Mater Ecclesia the Church has made a truly revolutionary move!
I wish you to always keep this attitude of going ‘beyond’, and not only ‘beyond’, but ‘beyond’ and ‘in the middle’, where everything is played out: in politics, economy, education, family… there! You may be tempted to think, “But what can I do? When this temptation comes to you, remember that the Lord spoke to you about the seed of the grain! Your life is like the seed of the grain, it is like the yeast. It consists in doing everything possible so that the Kingdom may come, grow and be great, but also that it may welcome many people, like the tree born from the mustard seed. Think about it Small life, small gestures. Normal life, but which germinates, sows, makes grow. This will give you comfort. The results of a ‘balance sheet’ on the Kingdom of God cannot be seen. Only the Lord makes us perceive something… We will see the results in the afterlife.
That’s why it’s important that you have a lot of hope! This is a grace that you must always ask the Lord for: the hope that never disappoints. Never disappoints ! A hope that goes forward. I would advise you to read chapter 11 of the Letter to the Hebrews very often, this chapter of hope. And to learn that so many of our fathers walked this path and did not see the results, but greeted them from afar. Hope… That’s what I wish for you. Thank you so much for all that you do in the Church; thank you so much for your prayer and your actions. Thanks for the hope. Remember:: be revolutionary!
And here is the prepared text that was given to the participants:
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
I welcome you on the occasion of your Assembly and greet you by saying: I know and appreciate your vocation! It is one of the most recent forms of consecrated life recognized and approved in the Church, and, perhaps because of this, is not yet fully understood. Don’t be discouraged: you are part of the poor and moving Church of my dream!
By vocation, you are lay people and consecrated persons like others and in the midst of others, you follow an ordinary life, without the external sign, without the support of a community life, without the visibility of an organized apostolate or a specific work. You are only rich in the total experience of God’s love and that is why you are able to know and share the worries of life in its multiple aspects, maturing it in the light and strength of the Gospel.
You are the sign of that Church of dialogue of which Paul VI speaks in the Encyclical Ecclesiam suam: “One does not save the world from the outside – he says; it is necessary, like the Word of God who became man, to assimilate, to a certain extent, the forms of life of those to whom one wants to bring the message of Christ; without claiming privileges that distance, without maintaining the barrier of an incomprehensible language, it is necessary to share common customs, provided they are human and honest, especially those of the smallest, if one wants to be heard and understood. Even before speaking, we must listen to the voice and, even more, to the heart of man; we must understand him and, as much as possible, respect him and, where he deserves it, go in his direction. We must make ourselves brothers of men by the very fact that we want to be their pastors, their fathers and their teachers. The climate of dialogue is friendship.
The theme of your Assembly, “In the Heart of Human Events: Challenges of a Complex Society”, shows the domain of your mission and prophecy. Be in the world but not of the world, carrying in you the essential of the Christian message: the love of the Father who saves. Be in the heart of the world with the heart of God.
Your vocation makes you attentive to each person and their deepest needs, which often remain unspoken or hidden. In the strength of the love of God that you have met and known, you are capable of intimacy and tenderness. Thus you can be very close, to the point of ‘touching’ the other, his wounds and his expectations, his demands and his needs, with this tenderness expressing an attention that removes all distances. Like the Samaritan who passed by, saw and had compassion. This is the movement to which your vocation commits you: to pass by each person and to make yourself close to each person you meet, because the fact that you live in the world is not simply a sociological condition, but a theological reality that calls you to a conscious, attentive attitude that knows how to perceive, see and touch the flesh of the brother.
If this does not happen, if you have become distracted, or even worse, if you do not know this contemporary world but only know and frequent the world that is easier or more attractive to you, then it is urgent to convert! Your vocation is by nature “outgoing”, not only because it brings you to the other, but also and above all because it asks you to live where every person lives.
Italy is the nation with the largest number of secular institutes and members. You are a leaven that can produce good bread for so many people, that bread that we are so hungry for: listening to needs, desires, disillusions, hopes. Like those who have gone before you in your vocation, you can give hope to the young, help the old, open the road to the future, defend love everywhere and in every situation. If this does not happen, if your ordinary life lacks witness and prophecy, then, I repeat, it is urgent to convert!
Never lose the impetus to walk on the roads of the world, in the awareness that walking, even with an uncertain and limping step, is always better than staying in place, closed in on one’s own questions or certainties. The missionary passion, the joy of the encounter with Christ that pushes you to share the beauty of the faith with others, removes the risk of remaining stuck in individualism. The thought that proposes man as a craftsman of himself, guided only by his own choices and desires, a thought often clothed in the apparently beautiful garb of freedom and respect, risks undermining the foundations of consecrated life, especially that of the secular. It is urgent to re-evaluate the meaning of belonging to your vocational community which, precisely because it is not based on common life, finds its strength in the charism. For this reason, if each one of you is for others a precious possibility of encounter with God, it is a matter of rediscovering the responsibility of being prophetic as a community, of seeking together, with humility and patience, a word of meaning that can be a gift for the country and the Church, and of witnessing to it with simplicity. You are like antennae ready to gather the seeds of newness raised by the Holy Spirit, and you can help the ecclesial community to take on this look of goodness and find new and courageous ways to reach everyone.
Poor among the poor, but with a burning heart. Never stop, always on the way. Together and sent, even when you are alone, because consecration makes you a living spark of the Church. Always on the way with this virtue which is a pilgrim virtue: joy!
Thank you dear brothers and sisters, for what you are.
May the Lord bless you and may the Blessed Virgin protect you.
And pray for me!