Provida Mater Ecclesia
Apostolic Constitution
Pius XII

l. An impressive chain of witness through the ages Popes, Councils, Fathers, the wide sweep of Church history, the building of Canon Law show how lovingly and earnestly the Church, far seeing Mother that she is, has cared for her best loved children, those who commit the whole of life, like slaves to Christ the Lord, following him through thick and thin along their freely chosen way of the evangelical counsels. She has given them wise precepts for the ordering of their life to make them ever worthy of so heavenly an enterprise, so angelic a vocation.

2. From the very first era of Christian history, when the Church could be said to be still in its cradle, she explained with authority those doctrines and examples of Christ and the Apostles which draw us to perfection. There is teaching, given with sureness of touch, on how to lead a life dedicated to perfection, how best to combine its essential features.

3. Thanks to the consistent active involvement of Church and Ministry in the promotion of, and care for, a life of complete dedication and consecration to Christ, "the first Christian communities were ready-made seed-beds for the evangelical counsels", good soil with the promise of excellent fruit. In the Apostolic Fathers and the older Christian writers there is abundant evidence that in the various local churches the profession of a life of perfection had developed to a stage where it had begun to constitute an order or social class ('ascetics', 'the continents', 'virgins') widely accepted, approved and esteemed.

4. Faithful to Christ her spouse, ever true to herself, guided by the Holy Spirit, moving with unerring and unhesitating steps through the long ages of her history, from the earliest beginnings to the formation of Canon Law, the Church has gradually developed the discipline of the state of perfection.

5. To those who chose to make public external profession of perfection in any form the Church, like a good mother acquiescing in a child's request, has always given every kind of help for so holy a purpose. For individual profession of perfection always "coram Ecclesia" in the face of the Church, and public it was provided that the Church herself should receive it and recognize it. But the Church has always wisely given it the seal of her sanction and strenuously defended it and given it many canonical effects. This is seen in the primitive and venerable Blessing and Consecration of Virgins which had its own liturgical rite.

6. From the time of the "Peace of Constantine", this care for the profession of perfection was, as the situation demanded, directed chiefly to public profession properly so called, i.e. made by groups united in fellowship for this purpose, approved and established by favor or command of Church Authority.

7. We have only to look at the glorious calendar of religious men and women through the ages to see how a canonical religious life is closely interwoven with the holiness and catholic apostolate of the Church itself. The relationship is integral to the Church and to the Religious Orders and Congregations, which by the grace of the life giving Spirit has grown gradually and steadily in deeper and firmer self consistency and unity and in wonderful variety of forms.

8. It was to be expected, as in fact it happened, that the field of juridical structure should reflect this development. Faithful to the guiding hand of God's wisdom and providence the Church so legislated for the canonical state of perfection as to make it one of the cornerstones from which the edifice of ecclesiastical discipline would be built.

9. In the first place the public state of perfection was given the standing of one of the three chief ecclesiastical states of life, a new canonical category was created. No other class of "canonical persons" was thought necessary, only religious (cleric or lay), (Canon 107). This deserves profound reflection. The existing "orders of canonical persons" were considered to arise by divine law from the nature of the Church as hierarchically constituted and structured: to these was thus added an ecclesiastical institution (canons 107, l08/3). This class, "religious", a state between the two and compatible with either, was created for no other reason than that it is closely identified with the essential purpose of the Church, sanctification effectually sought in ways congruous to so sublime a purpose.

10. Public profession may in fact of itself produce nothing. The Church therefore with progressively rigorous requirements restricted the approval of this canonical state of perfection to associations founded by the Church itself, that is to Religious (Canon 488/l) who received from the Church both canonical existence and approval of their way of life: in practice this meant approval, after trial and slow mature consideration, in virtue of the Church's teaching office not only in theoretical terms but in real life lived, and, tried and retried by the test of experience, seen to be lived.

11 . The Code of Canon Law is so strict and uncompromising on this point that no exception whatever is contemplated. No canonical state of perfection is recognized unless the profession is made in a Religious Order or Congregation.

12. Finally, as the state of perfection has the status of a legal entity with its appropriate discipline, the Church made the wise provision that, for clerical Orders or Congregations, in all things that pertained to the Religious as clerics, the Order or Congregation itself would take the place of the diocese and admission would be equivalent to clerical incarnation. (canons 111 § 1, 115, 585). In the Code all the existing laws on Religious were assembled, reviewed, and given a definite formulation. Confirmation, cumulative from various contests, was given to the canonical acceptance of "states of perfection" as also to their legal standing. To Pope Leo XIII canonical provisions "Conditae a Christo" a supplement was given, to complete the picture by the admission of Congregations of simple vows to the status of Religious. With this it could be thought that the whole terrain was mapped out. But a further possibility had to be envisaged. There were associations which had deserved well of Church and State but had not all the specific features and legal formalities (public vows for instance) which go with a canonical state of perfection. Yet they were closely akin to Religious since they had everything that makes a life of perfection in the plain meaning of those words. With these, too, the Church must be concerned. They must be given in some way full and equal canonical standing in the manner and degree appropriate to their nature. This was accordingly done by an addendum to the section on Religious (Tit. XVII, Lib. II).

12. These wise and prudent laws, proofs of the Church's love and concern, made full provision for those very many who had set their hearts on leaving their secular condition and embarking upon a new way of life canonically approved, the life of Religious, a life consecrated and ordered solely and exclusively for the achievement of perfection.

13. But God's merciful kindness does not discriminate between man and man. At his ways and purposes we can only wonder. He has sent out his invitation, time and time again, to all the faithful, that all should seek and practice perfection, wherever they may be. So it has came about in the working of Divine Providence that many chosen souls even in the midst of the world, so vicious and corrupt, especially in our times, have opened out to him like flowers to the sun, souls not only full of burning zeal for that perfection to which each single soul is called, but capable in the midst of the world with a vocation that is from God of finding new and excellent ways of seeking perfection together in associations suitable to the needs of our times and yet well adapted to the search for perfection.

14. Every man and every woman may, in the hidden world of the human heart, (the canon lawyer would call it forum internum) reach out to perfection. This context of high personal endeavor we heartily commend to the prudence and zeal of spiritual directors. Our concern here is with the visible structure, the forum externum, associations which undertake to guide their members along the way that leads to perfection.

15. We do not mean every kind of association of people who are sincerely committed to secular Christian perfection. We are thinking of those which for all practical and essential purposes are closest akin to the states of perfection already recognized in the Church, and in particular to the Societies without public vows (Tit. XVII, of the Code) which have their own external ways of association, different from the common life of Religious. This convergence of essentials, as between these two kinds of association, is seen in the following common features: they have an internal organization with rules and regulations and distributed responsibilities: full membership involves freedom from incompatible commitments: they profess the evangelical counsels: they have their definite ways of ministry and apostolate.

16. One can see the hand of God with the emergence during the early years of the nineteenth century of such groups. The purpose then was to follow the evangelical counsels in the world and to be free to take on those imperative tasks of charity from which in those iniquitous times the religious communities were practically debarred.

l7. These earliest Institutes gave progressive factual proof of their worth. They had wise and exacting standards for admission. The training was well thought out and of sufficient duration, their method of shaping the members' daily life in the world was a combination of firmness and freedom to more. God's blessing was on their efforts, his grace was with them. It became quite clear that a strict and effectual consecration of oneself to the Lord in the world, much the same as that of Religious, was possible not only in the interior life but also in visible form, and that this did in itself constitute a most useful means by which apostolic action could reach and permeate the secular environment. For these reasons "these Societies have repeatedly been given, equally with Religious Congregations, the hallmark of official praise from the Holy See".

18. The successful development of these Institutes showed their varied potential for souls and for the Church.

19. In such Institutes it is quite possible to lead a life of perfection in spite of any difficulties arising from time, place and circumstances. For those who wish to do that but cannot or should not join a Religious Community, an Institute is often the answer. The effectiveness of Institute life in the Christian renewal of families, of secular professions, of society in general, through people's daily contact, from the inside of the secular scene, with lives perfectly and totally dedicated to God's sanctifying work in them is obvious. These Institutes also open the way to many forms of apostolate and service in times, places and circumstances from which priests and Religious are excluded by the nature of their calling, or which for other reasons are not accessible to them.

20. On the debit side of the account experience proved that this kind of free lancing in the life of perfection without the help and support of common life and a religious habit had its difficulties and dangers which showed up from time to time as they could in the nature of the case be expected to do. There was no surveillance by the diocesan bishop who might well be ignorant of its presence in his diocese nor by superiors who often lived at a distance. There was great discussion about where they stood in Canon Law and what the Holy See had intended in giving them approval.

2l. In 1889 Pope Leo XIII had issued a Decree on the subject to the following effect: Although it was permissible to encourage and approve such Institutes the Congregation itself encouraged and approved them not as Religious Congregations but only as pious sodalities which did not have the existing canonical requirements for such status, in particular a real religious profession, since the vows (where they had vows) were private not public, that is received by a lawful Superior in the name of the Church. Such encouragement and approval could be given only on condition that the respective Ordinaries were given full information and responsibility. These statements and regulations were effective at the time in clarifying the nature of these Institutes without impeding their development and progress.

22. Quietly and without publicity the Secular Institutes have proliferated in the last forty years. They have taken many and various forms and some of them are completely self-contained while others are linked in various ways with existing Religious Orders, Congregations or Societies.

23. The Apostolic Constitution Conditae a Christo said nothing about Secular Institutes, being concerned only with Religious Congregations. The Code of Canon Law did not contemplate them because the time was not ripe for giving them canonical structure. The matter was deferred to future legislation.

24. In the light of all this, acutely conscious of Our responsibility in this field and not insensible to the claim of paternal love which these generous seekers of holiness in the world make upon us, We decided that what was needed was a wise, clear cut differentiation of Institutes with full and authentic life of perfection as the test of authenticity; We were aware of the danger of thoughtless and feckless founders and the consequent proliferation of Institutes. We were also persuaded that deserving Institutes should have their own law based on their own meaning and purpose and condition. We have therefore decided to do for Secular Institutes with this present document what Pope Leo XIII did for Religious Congregations of Simple Vows with the Apostolic Constitution Conditae a Christo.

25. This present document is the result. It was first examined by the Holy Office, then, in Our name and under Our own guidance, it was reviewed and given its final wording by the Sacred Congregation for Religious. We hereby approve it. In general and in detail as here under each statement, decree and constitution has our Apostolic authority.

26. The executive body with delegated plenary powers is the Sacred Congregation for Religious.

The Law of Secular Institutes

Art. I

Societies, clerical or lay, whose members make profession of the evangelical counsels, living in a secular condition for the purpose of Christian perfection and full apostolate shall be distinguished from all other associations (C.I.C. Pars Tertia, Lib. II ) by the name of Institutes or Secular Institutes and shall be governed by this present Apostolic Constitution.

Art. II

§ 1. Not having the three public religious vows (canons 1308 1 and 488, l ) and being under no obligation to lead the canonical common life under the same roof (canons 487 and 673 ff.), Secular Institutes:

l. In law, normally, neither are nor, properly speaking, can be called Religious Orders or Congregations (canons 487 and 488, 1) or Societies of Common Life (c. 673, 1 );

2. They are not bound by the legislation made for Religious Orders or Congregations as such: nor can they follow it except in cases where, by way of exception, some point of this legislation in particular legislation for Societies without public vows is lawfully adapted and applied to them.

§ 2. Without prejudice to existing common relevant canonical norms, Institutes are governed by these prescriptions as their own proper law framed in view of their proper natural conditions:

l. The general norms of this Apostolic Constitution as being the proper Statute of all Secular Institutes.

2. Norms laid down from time to time by the Sacred Congregation for Religious as need arises and in the light of experience, whether by way of interpreting the Constitution applying it, or improving upon it in general or in given cases.

3. Particular Constitutions approved in accordance with Articles V-¬VIII (below) which prudently adapt the general norms of law and the particular norms described above (nos. l, 2) to the various purposes, needs and circumstances of each Institute.

Art. III

§ l. For canonical establishment as a Secular Institute a Pious Association, over and above the common canonical requirements of Pious Associations must have the following distinctive features:

§ 2. In respect of their consecration of life and profession of Christian perfection: besides the exercises of piety and self denial which are a necessary part of the search for perfection of Christian life, those who desire to be formal members in the strict sense of the word, of a Secular Institute, must in fact tend to this perfection in the distinctive ways here specified:

1. By profession made before God of celibacy and perfect chastity in the form of a vow, oath, or consecration binding in conscience, according to the norms of the Constitutions.

2. By a vow or promise of obedience, a permanent bond enabling them to devote themselves entirely to God and works of charity or apostolate and to be constantly, in all they do, subject to and under the moral guidance of Superiors in accordance with their Constitutions.

3. By a vow or promise of poverty whereby their use of temporal goods is not free but defined and limited in accordance with the Constitutions.

§ 3. In respect of the incorporation of members and the bond thereby created: the bond of union between a Secular Institute and those who are in the strict sense of the word its members must be:

l. Stable as laid down by the Constitutions, either perpetual or temporary to be renewed at the lapse of a specified period (c.488, l );

2 Mutual and full so that, in the way specified by the Constitutions, the member hands himself over completely to the Institute and the Institute looks after the member and is responsible for him.

§ 4. In respect of common residences or houses: Secular Institutes while not requiring canonical common life, or life under one roof (Art. II, l ) must, as need or practical utility requires, have one or more houses, namely:

l. Residence for Superiors, especially General or Regional.

2. A house or houses where members in initial and final training may live or meet or hold retreats and similar gatherings.

3. A house or houses for members who, because of illness or circumstances, cannot look after themselves or who ought not to live on their own or in lodgings.

Art. IV

§ l. The point of reference for the government and care of Secular Institutes is the Sacred Congregation for Religious without prejudice to the rights of the Sacred Congregation for the spread of the faith, as provided in Canon 252 § 3, in respect of Societies and Seminaries for Mission work.

§ 2. Associations which are of a different nature from those described in Art. I or which are not wholly committed to the aim and object there set out, as also those which lack any of the features listed in Articles I and III of this Apostolic Constitution, are subject to the legislation laid down for Associations of the Faithful in canons 684ff. and come under the Sacred Congregation of the Council without prejudice to the provisions of c. 252 § 3 for Mission territories.

Art. V

§ l. Secular Institutes may be founded and given canonical existence (as in Canon l00 l and 2) by Bishops, but not by Vicars Capitular or Vicars General.

§ 2. Such foundations should not be made or permitted without previous consultation of the Sacred Congregation for Religious in accordance with c. 492 and with Art. VI here following:

Art. VI

§ l. The information to be sent to the Sacred Congregation when applying for permission to make a foundation should follow the lines of the information sent when a diocesan Congregation or Society of Common Life is to be set up. With the variations arising from the nature of the case as indicated from time to time by the same Sacred Congregation.

§ 2. The permission is an endorsement in the given case of the Bishop's right to make such foundations. Particulars of the foundation should be sent to Rome for registration.

Art. VII

§ l. By approval or decree of praise from the Holy See a Secular Institute becomes an Institute of pontifical right (c. 488, 3;673 2).

§ 2. The requirements for such approval are, in general, the same as for Congregations or Societies of Common Life (nos. 6 ff.). The variations arising from the nature of the case are indicated from time to time by the Congregation.

§ 3. Approval of the Constitutions of the Institute is given in stages: a first approval, a further approval where opportune and a definitive approval. The procedure is as follows:

l. First discussion at a meeting of the Consultors Commission under the Chairmanship of the Cardinal Secretary of the Congregation or his deputy --- the text presented and submitted with supportive arguments by at least one Consultor.

2. A plenary meeting of the Sacred Congregation under the chairmanship of the Cardinal Prefect for detailed reconsideration and decision. Expert Consultors, including, where necessary or opportune, selected specialists, take part in this meeting.

3. The Cardinal Prefect or the Secretary at a personal Audience submits the decision to the supreme authority of the Sovereign Pontiff.


In addition to their specific Secular Institute legislation, Institutes come under the jurisdiction of Local Ordinaries in accordance with the canons relevant to non-exempt Congregations or Societies of Common Life.

Art. IX

The structure of responsibilities and authority within the Institutes may follow the model of Religious and Societies of Common Life, due allowance made (and approved by the Sacred Congregation) for the nature, purposes and circumstances of each.

Art. X

The rights and obligations of Institutes already founded, and approved by Bishops (after consultation of the Holy See) or by the Holy See itself, are not affected by this Apostolic Constitution.

To this present document we give the full force of our Apostolic Authority.

Rome, St. Peter's, February 2, feast of the Purification of our Lady, 1947, the eighth of our pontificate.

Pius PP. XII

Primo Feliciter
Motu Proprio
Pius XII

l. The first anniversary of Provida Mater Ecclesia has come and gone, and it has been a year of blessings. As we look around upon the Catholic scene we now see a multitude of souls "hid with Christ in God" stretching out towards sanctity in the midst of the world, their whole lives joyfully consecrated to God, with "great heart and willing mind" in the new Secular Institutes. We cannot but give thanks to the Divine Goodness for this new host which has come to increase the army of those who profess the evangelical counsels in the world; and also for this great help which in these sad and disturbed times has most providentially strengthened the Catholic apostolate.

2. The Holy Spirit who unceasingly remakes and renews the face of the earth, daily disfigured and blasted by all manner of atrocious evil, by special grace has called a multitude of our sons and daughters his blessing be upon them! to the serried ranks of the Secular Institutes, to make of them in this nonsensical shadow world to which they do not belong but in which, by God's wise ordering, they must live, a salt, a seasoning, kept salt by the vocation given, unfailing, a light which shines out and is not overcome in the darkness of the world, and the little yeast, always and everywhere at work, kneaded into every kind of society, from the humblest to the highest, to permeate each and all by word, example and in every way, until it forms and shapes the whole of it, making of it a new paste in Christ .

It is our desire and intention that these Institutes, so many of them, sprung up all over the world to our great comfort through the outpouring of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, be directed effectively according to the norms of Provida Mater Ecclesia and thus fulfill abundantly the promise that is in them of a great harvest of sanctity, and that they be prudently marshaled and wisely deployed to fight the battles of the Lord in the field of common apostolic endeavor and in those which they find for themselves. With this in mind we confirm with great joy and after mature reflection the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia, and hereby enact the following canonical provisions.

4. I. There is no longer any acceptable reason for Societies, cleric or lay, professing Christian perfection in the world, and clearly and fully conforming to the features and requirements prescribed in Provida Mater Ecclesia for a Secular Institute to be left, or remain on a purely personal option in the canonical status of ordinary Associations of the Faithful (canons 684 725). They are now to be given the form and status of Secular Institutes, as being most suitable for their nature and needs.

5. II. The transference of an Association of the Faithful to the higher canonical status of a Secular Institute must not obscure, even in special cases, the proper and specific character of the Institutes, namely, that they are secular and that this is the real nature of their calling.

Everything about them must be clearly secular. There will be no paring down of the full profession of the Christian perfection, solidly founded on the evangelical counsels and essentially the same as that of Religious, but perfection is to be lived and professed in the world, therefore adapted to secular life, all along the line, i.e. in all things that are lawful and compatible with the duties and apostolate of such a life of perfection.

6. The whole life of a member of a Secular Institute, sacred to God by the profession of perfection, must become an apostolate so continuous and holy, with such sincerity of mind, interior union with God, generous self forgetfulness and courageous self denial, such love of souls, as to nourish, unceasingly renew and outwardly express the spiritual reality within. This apostolate of one's whole life is so deeply and sincerely experienced in the Secular Institutes as to give the impression that, with the help and guiding wisdom of Divine Providence, the thirst for souls and zeal for their salvation have not only happily given occasion for a consecration of life but have largely imposed their own way and form upon it and, in a way which could not have been predicted, to have created and met a need which is not confined to a specific apostolate but is a new general way of consecrated life. Not only is this apostolate something that happens in the world, but it may almost be said to grow out of the world: its existence is in professions, activities, forms, places, circumstances of a secular nature, and so it must remain.

7. III. Secular Institutes do not come under the canonical discipline of Religious. As a general rule Provida Mater Ecclesia neither requires nor allows the application to Secular Institutes of legislation made for Religious. But some features of Religious life may be compatible with the secular nature of Institutes, are no impediment to the total commitment of life and are in keeping with the provisions of Provida Mater Ecclesia : these may be retained.

8. IV. Secular Institutes may have inter-diocesan and international structure and organization (art. IX) and this certainly should make for an increase of vital energy, survival value and effectiveness. But in this connection a number of things have to be taken into account, e.g. the aim and purpose of a given Institute, the degree of expansion intended, the Institute's actual stage of development and maturity, its condition and circumstances and so forth. A federal basis is also a possibility not to be ruled out or under estimated, implying retention and reasonable encouragement of local characteristics, national, regional, diocesan, provided that these are sound and retain a true sense of the catholicity of the Church.

9. V. Secular Institute life is a life totally consecrated to God and souls, in the world, with the approval of the Church. Its structure extends already in various degrees beyond the bounds of diocese or nation. These features more than justify the classification given to Secular Institutes in Provida Mater Ecclesia as states of perfection canonically recognized and structured by the Church itself and their assignment to the competence and responsibility of the Sacred Congregation which has care and government of public states of perfection. Therefore, saving always, according to the tenor of the canons and express requirements of Provida Mater Ecclesia (Art. IV, l and 2), the rights of the Sacred Congregation of the Council in what concerns pious sodalities and pious unions of the faithful (c. 250 § 2) and of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in what concerns societies of ecclesiastics at the seminaries for foreign missions, all societies wherever they may be including those which have ordinary or pontifical approval, as soon as it is clear that they have the features and requirements proper to Secular Institutes, are to be put into this new form, according to the above mentioned norms (cf no. I); and, to preserve unity of direction, they become at the level of universal government the exclusive responsibility and concern of the Sacred Congregation of Religious in which a special Section has been created for this purpose.

l0. VI. To Moderators and assistants of Catholic Action and of other associations of the faithful, in which so many excellent young people are learning to lead a thoroughly Christian life and to be apostles, we commend those who feel that God is calling them further, either to Religious life in an Order or Congregation, or to a Society of common life, or, to a Secular Institute. Such holy vocations are to be generally assisted. These providential Secular Institutes are also to be given a helping hand in this way, and their collaboration, where compatible with the rules of existing associations is to be sought and welcomed.

11 . All the provisions and decisions herein contained are the executive responsibility of the respective authorities, i.e. the Sacred Congregation of Religious, the other Congregations here referred to, Local Ordinaries, Directors of Societies.

Rome, at St. Peter's, 12th March 1948, the beginning of the tenth year of Our Pontificate.

Pius PP. XII

Sacred Congregation for Religious
Cum Sanctissimus

l. When Pope Pius XII promulgated the Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia he assigned to the Congregation for Religious, as having competence in this field, the executive responsibility for carrying it into effect. This means that as need arises, and as experience suggests, the Congregation should legislate for Secular Institutes in general and in particular cases by way of interpreting Provida Mater or by supplementary and practical legislation (Art. II, 82.2).

2. Complete and fixed legislation is not at present feasible - it would restrict the development of the Institutes but there are points which have in fact been imperfectly understood or interpreted, and these need to be clarified and settled taking into consideration the Motu Proprio Primo feliciter. The present document is intended to give the broad lines, the fundamentals, which will keep Secular Institutes on the right lines.

3. In accordance with Art. V, 2 and Art. VI of Provida Mater, approval and foundation of a Secular Institute is reserved to Bishops, after consultation of the Sacred Congregation for Religious. It is not therefore possible for an association to assume the title of a Secular Institute on the grounds that it has the requisite qualifications, viz. that it is an association professing Christian perfection and devoted to apostolate in the world, and that it conforms with Articles I and III of Provida Mater Ecclesia.

4. All associations which qualify as Secular Institutes, including those in Mission territories, come under the Sacred Congregation for Religious (Art. IV, l and 2) and the provisions of Provida Mater Ecclesia. As laid down in Primo feliciter (no. V), they may not continue as simple associations of the faithful (as in the Codex Book 2, Part IV). But see no. 5 below.

5. By "Bishop" in par. 2 above, is meant exclusively the Local Ordinary. The petition for leave to make the foundation must be accompanied by the information listed in the Norms for the founding of a Congregation (S.C.R. 6 March 1921, 3 8) as these may be applicable to Secular Institutes (Art. VII). Six copies of the draft Constitutions are also required, in Latin or one of the languages accepted in the Curia, and Directories and other documents relevant to the spirit and way of life and organization of the Institute. The Constitutions should contain and express the nature of the Institute, the kind or categories of members, the government, the form of consecration (Art. III, 2), the bond arising from membership (Art. III, 3), the house of residence (Art. III, 5 4), training methods and devotional customs.

6. Associations canonically founded or approved by Bishops before the promulgation of Provida Mater Ecclesia, as also those which had received some form of pontifical approval as lay associations, may apply for recognition as Secular Institutes of diocesan or pontifical right. Each case will be considered on its own merits in the light of Art. VI and VII of Provida Mater. The following documentation is required: The original documents of foundation or approval; the Constitutions so far observed; a brief account of the beginnings and of the subsequent history of the Institute; the regulations they have followed in their way of life, of their apostolate; besides which, particularly if they are of diocesan right, commendatory letters from the Ordinaries in whose dioceses they have centres.

7. It is not considered opportune to present to the Sacred Congregation, with a view to foundation as a Secular Institute, Associations of comparatively recent foundation, or those not sufficiently developed, or the new groups continually coming into existence. Such Associations may have all the marks of a good solid future Secular Institute, but as a general rule to which exception can only be made for grave reasons subject to close scrutiny, they are to remain in the care of the Bishop as simple Associations existing "de facto" rather than "de jure", then, in consecutive stages gradually be given status as Pious Unions, Sodalities or Confraternities until after a time of testing by the Ordinary they clearly qualify.

8. During this period of development and testing (no. 5) to see whether such Associations really mean to reach full consecration to perfection of life and apostolate, and really have the requisite features of a Secular Institute, care must be taken not to grant concessions, private or public, of essentially Secular Institute features not warranted by the stage they have reached, particularly such as would be difficult to rescind if the application for Secular Institute status were eventually to be turned down. Such premature concessions would give the appearance of pressure on the Authorities to grant or facilitate the permission.

9. For a practical, safe, positive assessment, namely that the Association really leads its members, as secular men and women, to a full consecration and dedication recognizable as a complete state of perfection, substantially that of Religious, the following must be carefully weighed:

a) Whether those who are enrolled as members in the stricter sense of the word "over and above the general habitual piety and self¬-denial" without which a life of perfection would be empty and illusory, are making firm and real profession of the three general evangelical counsels in one of the various forms admitted in Provida Mater (Art. III, 2). But in a broader sense there may be members, attached and incorporated in various degrees, who aspire to the perfect life of the Gospel, and try to live it in their own situation but do not, or cannot, rise to a commitment to all three counsels at the higher level;

b) Whether there is a stable, full, mutual bond between members in the specific sense of a) above, and the Association, i.e. whether the member gives himself over completely to the Association and the Association is actually or foreseeably, able and willing to take charge and be canonically responsible. (Art. III, § 3,2);

c) Whether the Association has, or is making efforts to acquire, the houses mentioned in Art. III, § 4 of Provida Mater, and under what terms, for the purposes there mentioned.

d) Whether they are steering clear of things incompatible with a true Secular Institute life, e.g. clothing and common life of a Religious type (Tit. XVII, L. II, C.I.C.) (Art. II, 1; Art. III, 4).

10. As provided in Art. II, I, 2 of the Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia, without prejudice to Art. X, and Art. II, 1,1, Secular Institutes are neither obliged nor allowed to follow the legislation general or particular, proper to Religious or Societies of Common Life. But the Sacred Congregation may adapt and apply to Secular Institutes, by way of exception, some of the rulings proper to those bodies which are equally in place in a Secular Institute context, and may, due allowance being made for all circumstances, require of Secular Institutes some well tried, more or less general, standards which in the nature of the case apply to both kinds of life.

11. In particular:

a) Can. 500, 23, strictly interpreted, is not concerned with Secular Institutes and does not, as it stands, necessarily apply to them, but it will not be unreasonable to see in these rulings a reliable criterion and a clear guideline for the approval and the framework of Secular Institutes.

b) Secular Institutes may (Can. 492 § l) by special concession be aggregated to Religious (be they Orders or other kinds of Religious) and accept their help including a degree of real though not canonical direction. Requests for closer dependence than this, implying a diminution of the self government proper to Secular Institutes, or the assumption by Religious of any degree of patronage or jurisdiction in this respect, shall not, in principle, be favorably considered. If an Institute (particularly of women) positively wishes to accept such dependence and approaches Religious with this in view, such a request shall not be granted except with appropriate safeguards and after careful consideration of the good of the Institute itself and of its spirit and of the nature and manner of the apostolate to which, as a Secular Institute, it is committed.

12. Profession of a state of perfection, in the complete sense of the word, and total consecration to apostolate these are the obligations assumed by members of a Secular Institute. From both points of view they are in the same field perfection and apostolate as members of lay associations and Catholic Action, but it is clear that more is expected of an Institute member than of workers excellent though these may be in such associations. Their call is to greater things. But while bearing this in mind they must, without prejudice to their own internal organization, so fulfil their apostolate and give their services, in accordance with the purpose for which they were founded, as to avoid all confusion in the ranks, and to give as far as in them lies a shining example to the faithful, whose eyes are upon them, of selfless, humble and reliable collaboration with the Pastors of the Church (cf. Primo feliciter no. VI).

a) On receipt of permission from the Holy See the Ordinary may proceed to raise the existing association (or Pious Union or Sodality) to the status of a Secular Institute

The status in the Institute of each of its members is to be established and the existing situation vis- à-vis the Constitutions of the Institute. In this connection the Ordinary in his discretion may decide whether steps already taken, in training for instance or acceptance for consecration, should be taken into account.

b) For the first ten years, as from the date of canonical foundation, the Local Ordinary may, for the purpose of Office or position of responsibility or seniority or other canonical effects in the Institute, dispense from constitutional requirements general or proper to a given Institute as to age, period of probation, or years of consecration and so forth.

c) By the act of canonical foundation of the Institute, houses or centres previously established with consent of the Ordinaries (can. 495 § I ) are incorporated as houses and centres of the Institute.

Rome, at the Office of the Sacred Congregation for Religious, the 19th day of March, feast of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1948.


Fr. Luke Ermenegild Pasetto, Secretary

Code of Canon Law

Part III

Institutes of Consecrated Life

and Societies of Apostolic Life

Section I

Institutes of Consecrated Life

Title I

Norms common to all Institutes of consecrated life

Can. 573

1. Life consecrated by the profession of the evangelical counsels is a stable form of living by which faithful, following Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, are totally dedicated to God who is loved most of all, so that, having dedicated themselves to His honour, the up-building of the Church and the salvation of the world by a new and special title, they strive for the perfection of charity in service to the Kingdom of God and, having become an outstanding sign in the Church, they may foretell the heavenly glory.

2. Christian faithful who profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience by vows or other sacred bonds according to the proper laws of Institutes freely assume this form of living in Institutes of consecrated life canonically erected by competent Church authority and through the charity to which these counsels lead they are joined to the Church and its mystery in a special way.

Can. 574

1. The state of those who profess the evangelical counsels in Institutes of this kind pertains to the life and sanctity of the Church and for this reason is to be fostered and promoted by all in the Church.

2. Certain Christian faithful are specially called to this state by God so that they may enjoy a special gift in the life of the Church and contribute to its salvific mission according to the purpose and spirit of the Institute.

Can. 575

The evangelical counsels, based on the teaching and examples of Christ the Teacher, are a divine gift which the Church has received from the Lord and always preserves through His grace.

Can. 576

It belongs to the competent authority of the Church to interpret the evangelical counsels, to regulate their practice by laws, to constitute therefrom stable forms of living by canonical approbation, and, for its part, to take care that the Institutes grow and flourish according to the spirit of the founders and wholesome traditions.

Can. 577

In the Church there are very many Institutes of consecrated life which have different gifts according to the grace which has been given them: they follow Christ more closely as He prays, announces the Kingdom of God, performs good works for people, shares His life with them in the world, and yet always does the will of the Father.

Can. 578

The intention of the founders and their determination concerning the nature, purpose, spirit and character of the Institute which have been ratified by competent ecclesiastical authority as well as its wholesome traditions, all of which constitute the patrimony of the Institute itself, are to be observed faithfully by all.

Can. 579

Diocesan bishops each in his own territory can erect Institutes of consecrated life by a formal decree, provided that the Apostolic See has been consulted.

Can. 580

The aggregation of one Institute of consecrated life to another is reserved to the competent authority of the aggregating Institute, always safeguarding the canonical autonomy of the aggregated Insti¬tute.

Can. 581

Dividing an Institute into parts, whatever the parts are called, erecting new ones, joining previously erected parts or defining them in another way pertains to the competent authority of the Institute, in accord with the norm of the constitutions.

Can. 582

Mergers and unions of Institutes of consecrated life are reserved to the Apostolic See alone; confederations and federations are also reserved to it.

Can. 583

Changes in Institutes of consecrated life which affect matters which have been approved by the Apostolic See cannot be made without its permission.

Can. 584

Suppressing an Institute pertains to the Apostolic See alone, to whom also it is reserved to determine what is to be done with the temporal goods of the Institute.

Can. 585

Suppressing parts of an Institute pertains to the competent authority of the Institute itself.

Can. 586

1. For individual Institutes there is acknowledged a rightful autonomy of life, especially of governance, by which they enjoy their own discipline in the Church and have the power to preserve their own patrimony intact as mentioned in can. 578 § 2. It belongs to local ordinaries to safeguard and protect this autonomy.

Can. 587

1. In order to protect more faithfully the particular vocation and identity of each Institute, its fundamental code or constitutions must contain, besides what must be observed according to can. 578, fundamental norms about the governance of the Institute and the discipline of members, the incorporation and formation of members, and the proper object of sacred bonds.

2. A code of this kind is approved by the competent authority of the Church and can be changed only with its consent.

3. In this code spiritual and juridical elements are to be suitably joined together. however norms are not to be multiplied unless it is necessary.

4. Other norms established by the competent authority of the Institute are to be suitably collected in other codes, which can moreover be fittingly reviewed and adapted according to the needs of places and times.

Can. 588

1. The state of consecrated life by its very nature is neither clerical nor lay.

2. An Institute is said to be clerical if, by reason of the purpose or design intended by its founder or in virtue of legitimate tradition, it is under the supervision of clerics, it assumes the exercise of sacred orders, and it is recognized as such by Church authority.

3. An Institute is called lay if recognized as such by Church authority, by virtue of its nature, character and purpose it has a proper function defined by the founder or by legitimate tradition which does not include the exercise of sacred orders.

Can. 589

An Institute of consecrated life is said to be of pontifical right if it has been erected by the Apostolic See or approved by a formal decree of the Apostolic See; on the other hand an Institute is said to be of diocesan right if, after having been erected by a diocesan bishop, it has not obtained a decree of approval from the Apostolic See.

Can. 590

l. Institutes of consecrated life, inasmuch as they are dedicated in a special way to the service of God and of the entire Church, are subject to the supreme authority of this same Church in a special manner.

2. Individual members are also bound to obey the Supreme Pontiff as their highest superior by reason of the sacred bond of obedience.

Can. 591

In order to provide better for the good of Institutes and the needs of the apostolate, the Supreme Pontiff, by reason of his primacy over the universal Church and considering the common good, can exempt Institutes of consecrated life from the governance of local ordinaries and subject them either to himself alone or to another ecclesiastical authority.

Can. 592

1. In order that the communion of Institutes with the Apostolic See be better fostered each supreme moderator is to send a brief report on the status and life of the Institute to the Apostolic See in a manner and at a time determined by the latter.

2. The moderators of every Institute are to promote knowledge of the documents of the Holy See which affect members entrusted to them and be concerned about their observance of them.

Can. 593

With due regard for the prescription of can. 586, Institutes of pontifical right are immediately and exclusively subject to the power of the Apostolic See in internal governance and discipline.

Can. 594

With due regard for can. 586, an Institute of diocesan right remains under the special care of the diocesan bishop.

Can. 595

l. It belongs to the bishop of the principal seat of the Institute to approve the constitutions and confirm any changes legitimately introduced into them, except in those matters in which the Apostolic See has intervened; it also belongs to him to deal with business of greater importance which affects the whole Institute and which are beyond the power of its internal authority, he does so after consulting other diocesan bishops if the Institute has spread to several dioceses.

2. The diocesan bishop can grant dispensations from the constitutions in particular cases.

Can. 596

1. Superiors and chapters of Institutes enjoy that power over members which is defined in universal law and the constitutions.

2. Moreover, in clerical religious Institutes of pontifical right, they also possess ecclesiastical power of governance for both the external and the internal forum.

3. The prescriptions of canons 13 l, l 33 and l 37 144 are applicable to the power referred to in § l.

Can. 597

l. Any Catholic, endowed with a right intention, who has the qualities required by universal and proper law and who is not prevented by any impediment can be admitted to an Institute of consecrated life.

2. No one can be admitted without suitable preparation.

Can. 598

l. Each Institute, keeping in mind its own character and purposes, is to define in its constitutions the manner in which the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience are to be observed for its way of living.

2. All members must not only observe the evangelical counsels faithfully and fully, but also organize their life according to the proper law of the Institute and thereby strive for the perfection of their state.

Can. 599

The evangelical counsel of chastity assumed for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, as a sign of the future world and a source of more abundant fruitfulness in an undivided heart, entails the obligation of perfect continence in celibacy.

Can. 600

The evangelical counsel of poverty in imitation of Christ who, although He was rich became poor for us, entails, besides a life which is poor in fact and in spirit, a life of labor lived in moderation and foreign to earthly riches, a dependence and a limitation in the use and disposition of goods according to the norm of the proper law of each Institute.

Can. 601

The evangelical counsel of obedience, undertaken in a spirit of faith and love in the following of Christ who was obedient even unto death requires a submission of the will to legitimate superiors, who stand in the place of God when they command according to the proper constitutions.

Can. 602

The life of brothers or sisters proper to each Institute, by which all members are united together like a special family in Christ, is to be determined in such a way that it becomes a mutual support for all in fulfilling the vocation of each member. Moreover by their commu¬nion as brothers or sisters, rooted in and built on love, the members are to be an example of universal reconciliation in Christ.

Can. 603

1. Besides Institutes of consecrated life, the Church recognizes the eremitic or anchoritic life by which the Christian faithful devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.

2. A hermit is recognized in the law as one dedicated to God in a consecrated life if he or she publicly professes the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by a vow or other sacred bond, in the hands of the diocesan bishop and observes his or her own plan of life under his direction.

Can. 604

l. Similar to these forms of consecrated life is the order of virgins, who, committed to the holy plan of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.

2. In order to observe their commitment more faithfully and to perform by mutual support service to the Church which is in harmony with their state these virgins can form themselves into associations.

Can. 605

Approving new forms of consecrated life is reserved to the Apostolic See alone. Diocesan bishops, however, should strive to discern new gifts of consecrated life granted to the Church by the Holy Spirit and they should aid their promoters so that they can express their proposals as well as possible and protect them with suitable statutes, utilizing especially the general norms contained in this section.

Can. 606

Whatever is determined about Institutes of consecrated life and their members applies equally to either sex, unless the contrary is apparent from the context of the wording or nature of the matter.

Chapter VIII

Conferences of major superiors

Can. 708

Major superiors can usefully associate in conference or councils so that joining forces they can work toward the achievement of the purpose of their individual Institutes more fully, always with due re¬gard for their autonomy, character and particular spirit, transact common business and foster suitable coordination and cooperation with conferences of bishops and also with individual bishops.

Can. 709

Conferences of major superiors are to have their own statutes approved by the Holy See, by which alone they can be erected, even as a juridic person, and under whose supreme governance they re¬main.

Title III

Secular Institutes

Can. 710

A secular institute is an Institute of consecrated life in which the Christian faithful living in the world strive for the perfection of charity and work for the sanctification of the world especially from within.

Can. 711

The consecration of a member of a secular institute does not alter the member's proper canonical condition among the people of God, whether lay or clerical, with due regard for the prescriptions of law affecting Institutes of consecrated life.

Can. 712

With due regard for the prescriptions of canons 598 601, the constitutions are to determine the sacred bonds by which the evangelical counsels are taken in the Institute and are to define the obligations flowing from these same bonds, while always preserving, however, in its way of life the distinctive secularity of the Institute.

Can. 713

1. The members of these Institutes express and exercise their own consecration in their apostolic activity and like a leaven they strive to imbue all things with the spirit of the Gospel for the strengthening and growth of the Body of Christ.

2. Lay members share in the Church's evangelizing task in the world and of the world through their witness of a Christian life and fidelity toward their consecration, and through their efforts to order temporal things according to God and inform the world by the power of the Gospel. Also, they cooperate in serving the ecclesial community, according to their particular secular way of life.

3. Clerical members through the witness of their consecrated life, especially in the presbyterate, help their brothers by their special apostolic charity and in their sacred ministry among the people of God they bring about the sanctification of the world.

Can. 714

Members are to lead their life according to the norm of the constitutions, in the ordinary conditions of the world, either alone or each in their respective families, or in a group of brothers or sisters.

Can. 715

1. Clerical members incardinated in a diocese depend on the diocesan bishop, with due regard for those things which pertain to consecrated life in their particular Institute.

2. If those who are incardinated in an Institute according to the norm of can. 266, 3, are appointed to particular works of the Institute or to the governance of the Institute, they depend on the bishop in a way comparable to religious.

Can. 716

1. All members are to share actively in the life of the Institute according to proper law.

2. Members of the same Institute are to maintain communion among themselves, carefully fostering unity of spirit and genuine relationship as brothers or sisters.

Can. 717

l. The constitutions are to prescribe a particular manner of governance and define the time which moderators hold their office and the way in which they are chosen.

2. No one is to be chosen supreme moderator who is not definitively incorporated.

3. Those who are put in charge of the governance of the Institute are to take care that the unity of its spirit is kept and that active participation of the members is encouraged.

Can. 718

The administration of the goods of the Institute, which should express and foster evangelical poverty, is ruled by the norms of Book V, The Temporal Goods of the Church, and by the proper law of the Institute. Likewise the proper law is to define especially the financial obligations of the Institute toward members who carry on work for it.

Can. 719

1. In order that members may respond faithfully to their vocation and that their apostolic action may proceed from their union with Christ they are to be diligent in prayer, concentrate in a fitting manner on the reading of Sacred Scripture, make an annual retreat and carry out other spiritual exercises according to proper law.

2. The celebration of the Eucharist, daily if possible, is to be the source and strength of the whole of their consecrated life.

3. They are freely to approach the sacrament of penance, which they should receive frequently.

4. They are freely to obtain necessary guidance of conscience and should seek counsel of this kind even from their moderators, if they wish.

Can. 720

The right of admission into the Institute, whether for probation or for the assumption of sacred bonds, whether temporary or perpetual or definitive, pertains to the major moderators with their council according to the norm of the constitutions.

Can. 721

1. One is invalidly admitted to the initial probation:

l° who has not yet reached the age of majority;

2° who is still bound by a sacred bond in some Institute of consecrated life or who is incorporated in a society of apostolic life;

3° who is married while the marriage lasts.

2. The constitutions can establish other impediments, even for the validity of admission, or place certain conditions.

3. Moreover, for one to be received it is necessary to have the maturity to lead the life proper to the Institute.

Can. 722

l. The initial probation is to be so arranged that the candidates may understand more fittingly their divine vocation and indeed the vocation proper to the institute and may be trained in the spirit and way of life of the Institute.

2. The candidates are to be properly formed in living according to the evangelical counsels and taught to translate this life completely into the apostolate, using those forms of spreading the Gospel which better respond to the purpose, spirit and character of the Institute.

3. The manner and time of this probation before first undertaking sacred bonds in the Institute are to be defined in the constitutions; yet it is to be no less than two years.

Can. 723

l. After the time of the initial probation has passed, the candidate who is judged worthy is either to take on the three evangelical counsels strengthened by a sacred bond or to depart from the Institute.

2. This first incorporation, no shorter than five years, is to be temporary according to the norm of the constitutions.

3. When the time of this incorporation has passed, the member who is judged worthy is to be admitted to perpetual or definitive incorporation, that is, with temporary bonds always to be renewed.

4. Definitive incorporation is equivalent to perpetual incorporation as far as certain juridic effects are concerned, to be determined in the constitutions.

Can. 724

1. After the sacred bonds are first taken formation is to be continued according to the constitutions.

2. Members are to be formed in divine and human matters equally; the moderators of the Institute are to take seriously the continuing spiritual formation of members.

Can. 725

The Institute can associate to itself, by some bond determined in the constitutions, other members of the Christian faithful who strive toward evangelical perfection according to the spirit of the Institute and share its mission.

Can. 726

1. When the time of temporary incorporation has elapsed, the member can leave the Institute freely or be excluded from renewal of the sacred bonds for a just cause by the major moderator after hearing the council.

2. For a serious reason the temporarily incorporated member can freely petition and obtain from the supreme moderator with the consent of the council an indult to leave.

Can. 727

l. The perpetually incorporated member who wishes to leave the Institute, having thought seriously about this before God, may seek an indult to leave from the Apostolic See through the supreme moderator if it is an Institute of pontifical right; otherwise from the diocesan bishop as it is defined in the constitutions.

2. If it is a question of a cleric incardinated in the Institute, the prescription of can. 693 is to be observed.

Can. 728

When the indult to leave has been legitimately granted, all bonds, rights and obligations emanating from incorporation cease.

Can. 729

A member is dismissed from the Institute according to the norm established in canons 694 and 695; furthermore, the constitutions may determine other causes of dismissal, provided they are proportionately serious, external, imputable, and juridically proven and the procedure determined in canons 697 700 shall be observed. The prescription of can. 701 applies to the dismissed member.

Can. 730

In order that a member of a secular institute may transfer to another secular institute, the prescriptions of canons 684, 1, 2, and 4 and 685 are to be observed. In order that a transfer be made to a reli¬gious institute or to a society of apostolic life or from these to a secular institute, the permission of the Apostolic See is required and its mandates are to be obeyed.

Second Vatican Council

Perfectae caritatis, 11

l. Secular Institutes are not religious communities but they carry with them in the world a profession of the evangelical counsels which is genuine and complete, and recognized as such by the Church. This pro¬fession confers a consecration on men and women, laity and clergy, who reside in the world. For this reason they should chiefly strive for total self dedication to God, one inspired by perfect charity. These Institutes should preserve their proper and particular character, a secular one, so that they may everywhere measure up successfully to that apostolate which they were designed to exercise, and which is both in the world and, in a sense, of the world

2. Yet they should surely realize that they cannot acquit themselves of so immense a task unless their members are skillfully trained in matters both human and divine, and can thus be a genuine leaven in the world for strengthening and enlarging the body of Christ. Therefore directors should give especially serious care to the spiritual training of members and to the promotion of more advanced formation as well.

Ad gentes, 40

3. Thanks to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Secular Institutes are increasing every day in the Church. Under the authority of the Bishop, their programs can be fruitful in the missions in many ways as a sign of complete dedication to the evangelization of the world.

To The First International Congress of Secular Institutes

Card. Ildebrando Antoniutti

(September 20th, 1970)

1. First of all I wish to express my sincere thanks to the organisers of this Congress who accepted the suggestion of the Congregation and organised everything with such patient thoroughness. They must be pleased and happy with the results of their labours.

2. A special word of thanks is due to the president, Professor Giuseppe Lazzati, for such a gracious reception given with such confidence and optimism.

3. Dr. Oberti, Secretary of the Organising Committee, has gained everyone's gratitude by giving so generously of his time, talent and energy to the preparation of this great occasion.

4. It is a great joy and privilege to welcome you to Rome, with the distinguished personages in your company and to extend a most cordial greeting to you all.

5. And let this be said not only to all here present but to all the members of the Secular Institutes, to all those who are associated with your work and all the many friends who admire and support you.

6. You represent a great number of men and women of many nations. The ideal you have in common sanctifying the world through an exemplary apostolate has made brothers and sisters of you all: you are today a telling force in the Church's mission to make the world more Christian, more human, more just.

7. A special word of greeting is also due to the priest members of Secular Institutes. Their great contribution, each in his own diocese, to the pastoral work of raising all the standards of the People of God is made possible by their personal consecration and selfless total commitment as faithful, devoted collaborators who work in full accord with their Bishops.

A Breath of Spring

8. I would like to make a few general remarks before coming down to the proper theme of our meeting.

9 Secular Institutes are recognised in today's Church as a beautiful springtime full of hope and promise.

10. In the history of the Church we see a long line of Associations at every stage of the Church's development and expansion. Today's new burgeoning in this field, Secular Institutes, is described and structured by the legislation in Provida Mater, Primo feliciter and Cum Sanctissimus. The first thing to note about these three documents is that they complete each other. Together they give safe and reliable orientation to what the Institutes are doing for the sanctification of each member and for the apostolate.

11 . It has been said that there is not a great deal about Secular Institutes in the documents of the Vatican Council. But it must be admitted and appreciated that the Council summarised what had been said and done by the Popes and gave us a clear, positive, solemn recognition not only of their canonical independent existence but also of what they set out to do in the apostolate, the aims and objects which inspire them and from which they take their bearings.

12. A pioneer of Secular Institutes, the late, greatly lamented Father Augustine Gemelli, author of a great historical survey of states of perfection which illustrates what they have done for the Church through the ages, laid great emphasis on the idea that the times in which we live call for special intellectual and moral qualities: at every level of society, he insisted, we must bring the good news of the Gospel.

13. Provida Mater, which is the work, above all, of the apostolic spirit and intelligent foresight of Father (now Cardinal) Larraona, shows quite clearly how in the course of history the Church has produced organisations, living organisms, which were themselves a proof that "in the world too, with the help of the call from God and of divine grace, one can reach a consecration exacting and effective enough, both in oneself and in visible form ... thus an instrument is found, just right for the circumstances, to get beneath the surface and fulfil our mission" (cf. Provida Mater, 9).

14. It may be said that the Secular Institute story is as old as the Church. Canonical recognition and the form of law have done no more than consecrate what was there.

15. One not uncongenial way of looking at it is that they are the lawful heirs of the fervent Christian communities which flourished in apostolic times and have always existed in various forms, their motive energy the same invisible actual grace, a brotherhood that can never be wanting in the Christian family.

16. Nor can we overlook the lesson of history. From the earliest times we see Christians consecrating themselves to God in the world, realising that this was a way of intensifying the life which they had first received in Baptism. The lives of many saints are also evidence of clear recognition of the fact that in the world, as well as in Religious Life, it is possible and necessary to give witness to the Gospel. The medieval Third Orders add their evidence of holy lives outside the cloister.

17. There ensued, alas, a period of some confusion in this field. To restore clarity to the situation came the work of St. Angela Merici which ensured a permanent active presence in the world of souls devoted to the apostolate.

Consecration in the World

18. The classic definition of Secular Institutes is in Provida Mater: "Societies, clerical or lay, whose members make profession of the evangelical counsels, living in a secular condition for the purpose of Christian perfection and full apostolate shall be distinguished from all other associations by the name of Institutes or Secular Institutes...".

19. So the Church recognises as members of Secular Institutes those who live their consecrated lives in the world, radiating Christ and his teaching in society.

20. As Pius XII proclaimed in Primo feliciter, the Holy Spirit has called to himself by a great and special grace many beloved sons and daughters so that, united and organised as Secular Institutes they may be salt, light and a powerful leaven in the world where it is God's will that they remain.

21. These words are echoed in the conciliar documents which reaffirmed their definition, clarified their requirements and underlined once more their differentiation, secularity. This is their badge, the justification for their existence.

22. Whereas men and women, cleric or lay, who become Religious change their canonical status and their official and social relationships within the Church, becoming subject to the Canons concerning Religious, with all the rights and duties there to attached, those who enter a Secular Institute make no such change: the lay person remains a lay person, the priest is still diocesan, more so in fact than before, as he has an additional title of obedience to his Bishop; there is no question of their ever being officially called or considered Religious.

23. The spiritual life of members of Secular Institutes is lived in the world and with the world and has a certain flexibility and independence of the forms and programs of Religious Life. Outwardly they are the same as any celibate lay person because their duties and their occupations are in the world and they may take work and responsibilities denied to Religious. If they prefer to live at home, in accordance with their Constitutions (which most of them do) or in a house of the Institute (Provida Mater, art. III § 4) they may do so, and they may enter any of the professions. That which is not of its nature sacred or eternal they must make holy and themselves within it, bringing Christ into the world. They are God's collaborators in the world of science, arts, thought, progress, social, technical, economic, cultural structures, in civil employment of every kind: at home, in the school, in the factory, on the land, in hospitals, military establishments, civil service, welfare work, the whole vast panorama of the world at work. Take it by and large, what their vocation means is to see and recognise in themselves and in all around them the mystery, the touch of the divine, which carries them to God through nature (cf. Gaudium et spes, 38). Living by this standard they see with new eyes the many faceted reality of the world in which they live.

24. It means a lot to Secular Institute people that Christ, pure, poor and obedient proclaimed his chastity, poverty and obedience to people like themselves, living in the world. And it rings true in our day as in his, for it has the simplicity, the candour of a divine word from the very heart of our Redeemer. Even if those who find room for it in their hearts are few, that is enough for a leaven, part of God's providence, preserving and propagating his gift to men.

25. The emergence of Secular Institutes is a phenomenon which illustrates the strength and vitality of the Church renewing its eternal youth with fresh and invigorating resources. The Church has given welcome and encouragement to this new thing: it signals the existence ¬of people who had a real desire in their hearts to be holy in the world by committing themselves definitely to the evangelical counsels. The Church has given authentication to this, has given the support and force of canonical status to this earnest search for an assured way of Christian perfection and apostolate. This means that to the two existing recognised states of perfection Religious Life and Common Life a third has been added, Secular Institute Life.

The Law of Secular Institutes

26. It is clear from all the existing relevant rulings that the Holy See intends to be precise and definite on the meaning of this new state of perfection.

27. The demarcation lines between Secular Institutes and Religious and Common Life are clearly drawn in "The Law of Secular Institutes" (in Provida Mater), where consecration, the nature of the bond and other features of the Institutes are described. It is at these points that we see the new kind of society created by Provida Mater. These fundamental norms for the founding and good government of Secular Institutes are clearly and briefly re stated in Cum Sanctissimus.

28. The executive norms laid down by way of approval and recognition of a given Society as Institute of Perfection imply that the society is in conformity with the Canon Law which regulates its life and work. Giving an organised form to a new state of perfection, the Church intends that the existing associations which have the essential features of this state should be structured in accordance with the norms laid down for the purpose. Only when it is established that such requirements have been met can such an association be recognised as a Secular Institute.

29. The Congregation has always been very careful to avoid any degeneration of these Institutes, has underlined the essential importance of their true nature as states of full consecration in the world, and has been strict about the exact fulfilment of all the requirements, first and foremost being "secularity", their hallmark. Secularity allow me to stress this once again is the positive constituent quality of one who lives "as a human being among human beings", "just one more Christian", who "has the feeling of being just one of the rest", and at the same time "is certain of a vocation to total and permanent consecration to God and to souls."

30. Besides consecrating the members to the following of Christ an Institute has a further effect on them. Whatever they do, all their secular activity, is pointed or directed to God and is, in its own way, consecrated, part of the total offering of oneself to God. This is the way they fulfil an apostolate "as from the world itself", which is proper to Secular Institutes (cf. Primo feliciter, II).

31. Perfectae caritatis has a beautiful summary of the Church's teaching on Secular Institutes: "profession in a Secular Institute means a true and complete profession of the evangelical counsels in the world". "Let these Institutes hold on to their proper form, i.e. the secular form".

32. This form of consecration is an enrichment of the life of the faithful, of their consciousness of being the Church and of the life¬-texture of the Institutes themselves into which it grafts the theology of the counsels.

The Gist

33. The Vatican Council officially recognised in Secular Institutes the essentials of Institutes of consecrated life and, on the lines of Primo feliciter recalled that their special features come from the three things which are the stuff of which they are made:

a) profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, obedience;

b) acceptance of these counsels as an enduring, binding commitment made by vow, promise or oath, recognised in and governed by Church Law;

c) secularity expressed in the whole of life, permeating all apostolic activities.

34. These three are complementary, equally necessary and indispensable. An association lacking any one of the three could not be a Secular Institute. Its fundamental charism would be other: it would yet have to find canonical identity and status. So the three essentials may be put into a precise: enduring commitment (bond) of profession of evangelical counsels, in the secular sphere, recognised by the Church.

35. The three essentials are both theological and canonical. They give the true and exact image of an Institute and are the demarcation lines between Secular Institutes and Religious Institutes and all the many and varied forms of association which, by God's providence, exist, flourish and multiply before our eyes in today's Church.

36. The change in the name of the Congregation for Institutes of Perfect Life to "Sacred Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes" (Apostolic Constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae, 15 August 1967), made for the purpose of distinguishing unmistakably the intrinsic difference between Religious (with their assimilated Societies) and the new forms of consecrated life in the world was therefore logical and consistent.


37. Secular Institutes are still in the first period, the first years of their history. They would not seem to be subjects for up dating renewal, to which by decision of the Vatican Council, all communities are called. This renewal in fact is to be put into effect through a return to sources and revival of the spirit of the Founders.

38. Looking at Secular Institutes from this angle, we must emphasise once more that only those associations can be recognised as Secular Institutes which measure up to the required standards of papal teaching. If therefore any Secular Institute, perhaps under the influence of local feeling about the traditional structures of Religious Life, has receded to any extent from the clear teachings of Provida Mater, Primo feliciter and Cum Sanctissimus, it should re assess the situation and return to the sources of its life which are the rulings of these three documents.

39. Any study undertaken for the purpose of looking into this matter must of course be done in conjunction with the one authority which is competent to pass judgment in matters as important as this.

40. At all events it is clear that as Secular Institutes cannot be Religious, (cf. Perfectae caritatis, 11) their laws must be couched in terms which make it impossible for anybody to take the one for the other in any way and in words which do not lend themselves to that sort of misunderstanding.

41. The difference between Religious Institutes and Secular Institutes is so clear out and precise and, as we have seen, so much a part of their nature that it is hard to imagine how the proper adaptation of Religious to the conditions of the modern world could consist in making a transit (to give it a name much in use) from the state of being a Religious to the state of being a member of a Secular Institute. The fact is that Religious (as Perfectae caritatis tells us) are to achieve renewal by returning to the spirit of their Founders in a life of prayerful poise and balance, a life altered indeed and improved, not made other. When Religious clearly do not know how to live according to the charism of their foundation one can hardly expect them to assimilate the spirit of a Secular Institute: it is not just a question of canonical structures but rather of a vocation given by God and sealed by the Church.

42. A kind of pseudo adaptation calculated to lead a Religious to take on the form, the special features, of consecrated life in the world obscures the authentic ecclesial image of Secular Institutes and which is here the most important thing of all would do great harm to the Religious Orders and Congregations. This sort of thing would in fact be the beginnings of the levelling process, the impoverishment of Religious Life referred to by Pope Paul VI in his discourse to Superiors General in November 1969. In the last analysis it would be simply asking for total secularisation of the Religious state, it would eliminate the specific features by which it is distinct from other Institutes of perfection in the Church. A secularised Religious Institute ceases to be what it was and is no longer recognisable: one cannot but wonder about the stuff of which the new creature is made. I hasten to add that there are some Religious Institutes where people are by no means at ease and there are many things hard to put up with. These should be dealt with by improvement of the conditions in which they are having to live the essentials of their religious life.

43. The Secular Institutes for their part must realise that their whole future depends on their loyalty to the vocation to be a leaven of apostolic activity in the world with their own charism different from all others.

Incomprehension. Hope for the future

44. Here I must add that Secular Institutes have not always met with the understanding and appreciation they deserve.

45. Every new thing in the Church finds on the one hand enthusiasm and hope, on the other reserve and diffidence. Religious Orders were no exception. Many of them had to be tried in the crucible of criticism and opposition before being recognised and accepted as creators of genuine spirituality and truly energetic apostolate. No wonder the Secular Institutes, which bring a breath of fresh vitality into the Church, sometimes meet with incomprehension, obstacles, even outright opposition.

46. To see them in the perspective of traditional structures and rules of Religious, and to think that they ought to conform to that way of life, is simply to fail to understand them. To lack the nerve to welcome pioneer movements which open ways to broader views on modern needs and a freer, more flexible living out of the Gospel, this too is a source of incomprehension.

47. Today men and women who want to consecrate themselves to Christ without leaving the world have the choice of Secular Institute life as a sure way of holiness and of effective, active, productive apostolate. They have the right, and they feel the need, to be understood and supported.

48. I have expatiated on secularity, the specific quality of Secular Institutes. Some of you may be thinking that I have put consecration, i.e. profession of the evangelical counsels in second place.

49. True, I have though after re affirming more than once, the intrinsic power of consecration emphasised secularity. That was because the value of this characteristic feature of Secular Institutes must be made quite clear especially in some quarters which shall be nameless--in order to avoid confusion and the sterile polemics to which confusion gives rise.

50. It is also said though not by Institute members, certainly that secularity is something of a pretence, an outward show, and that the reality underneath is very different; and this is just untrue. The sense and meaning of this word has to be the straightforward, normal, unqualified acceptation in which it is commonly used. Just as Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, do not affect the secularity of a person, neither does consecration in a Secular Institute.

51. But it is equally true, and important to have clear in your minds, that although the secularity of the Institutes does draw a necessary dividing line between them and Religious, this must not lead us to underestimate the consecration which is their common inheritance.

Consecration is the very soul of this new kind of association approved by the Church.

52. Over and above the reality of consecrated life in Secular Institutes, there is another factor which must never be overlooked the fact that members are trained to live this life in many different kinds of Institute, each with its own life style; equally at home in the canonical structure of conciliar and papal teachings.

53. For the present I simply refer to these three themes consecration, formation, variety of type but I am sure they will be on the agenda of your Congress and may then be considered as fully as they deserve and with the serious preliminary study and reflection which they call for.

Priest Members

54. But before I bring these few words to a close I must give you some of my thoughts on clerical Secular Institutes, or, more precisely, priests who become members of Secular Institutes because they consider that this is, for them, a better response to their call to consecration and to spiritual service of their brethren. They are looking for a spirituality in which Christ will hold them closer and the bond uniting them with their Bishops will be more deeply felt in their hearts and ensure that they remain his faithful and effective co workers.

55. The Vatican Council has a relevant passage in Presbyterorum Ordinis, 8: "Worthy too of high regard and zealous promotion are those Associations whose rules have been examined by competent Church authority, and which foster priestly holiness in the exercise of the ministry through an apt and properly approved rule of life and through brotherly assistance Thus these associations aim to be of service to the whole priestly order."

56. It is worth noting that one reason given by the Council for approving associations of priests, in principle, is the natural right of association which, within the framework of law, is common to all the faithful and indeed to all human beings. When the Council was discussing priests' associations, in answer to a question raised, a Response was given by the competent Commission to the following effect: "No one can deny to priests what the Council, in the light of human dignity in general, has declared to belong to the laity, being in accord with natural law". This Response was approved by the Council in General Meeting of 2nd December 1965.

57. Priests, then, have the right of such association as may be appropriate to the Clergy's needs: to intensify their spiritual life, to improve their apostolate, to foster closer relations among themselves, to strengthen their selfless dedication to the work they do for the Bishop.

58. One of the cardinal points for Priest Members is their right to choose in this way the spiritual ways and means which are most suitable for them personally in the fulfilment of their duties as diocesan priests.

59. The Hierarchy's role here is one of surveillance, assistance, general direction. But the priest may not be deprived of, or impeded in, the working out of his new, higher, spiritual condition provided, of course, that whatever he does as an Institute member is within the framework of the Church's teaching.

60. These priests are different from those of all other associations of priests: they have made a lasting commitment to live the evangelical counsels in a togetherness that has the Church's explicit approval as a right way of going about it. That is why they come under the Sacred Congregation which has watch and ward and fostering of the holy bonds of perfection.

61. Wherever they are (and they exist in nearly every country in the world) they ought to be distinguishable by their integrity and poverty, obedience to the Bishop, dedicated service, an authentic contribution of evangelical apostolate in the Church for the expansion of God's kingdom. Their fidelity to the Church makes them a secure bulwark in the diocesan Clergy against the growing dangers which lie athwart the path of their ministry.

62. Another point worth noting is that the Constitutions of Priests' Secular Institutes are explicit, even eloquent on this matter. Members are taught that they are not only united with the Bishop by the bond of their Ordination Promise but also by a second bond of obedience arising from membership of a Secular Institute. In these constitutional provisions we find it stated in so many words that in all pastoral activities members work in total and exclusive dependence on the Bishop: he may place them wherever he chooses and appoint them to any post, and they undertake to be ready and available for posts which require the highest degree of loyalty and commitment.

63. One of the most difficult things required of priests members is that they must have the spirit of poverty and detachment from earthly goods.

We talk a lot about "the Church of the poor" but we must also bear in mind that unless priests are poor, generous, devoted to the destitute and the have nots of this world, the work they do for men's souls will not produce genuine results. Secular Institutes do help a diocesan priest to be poor; in fact they bind themselves to poverty by vow, oath or a promise. The Constitutions of Secular Institutes based on Provida Mater, do provide a structure of poverty in most admirable, telling, practical terms.

64. Experience has shown that Secular Institutes also provide a reliable framework for a deep spiritual life in the midst of the vocational hazards to which every priest is subject. "If we want to maintain unimpaired in our Clergy a deep interior life", wrote the Bishop of Nantes in a letter to the Congregation, "our surest way of doing it would be to enrol them in societies which direct them in the path of perfection by the observance of the vows"

65. Finally, Institutes give their priest members a training: ascetical, ¬devotional customs, meetings, study circles; in this way they receive a sound training in holiness of life, lessons, in the teaching of papal encyclicals and Conciliar Decrees, they are able to prepare their own teaching of the faithful and similar pastoral duties.

66. We may conclude, surely, that it is a blessing of Providence for a Bishop to have priests like this in his diocese on whom he can count, without reserve, for loyalty, piety, theological competence real co-operation. That all diocesan priests should be members of a Secular Institute aiming at a life of perfection, or at least to some association of the kind, in which they can make Christ's priesthood intensely real in lives lived in imitation of his virtue this would be, to my mind, highly desirable.

67. I'm always glad to recall, as I do to you now, some words of Pope Paul VI. Speaking to the priests of the F.A.C.I. in 1965 he said: "We all know, alas, that for all Clergy, especially parochial Clergy, one of the greatest dangers can be isolation, becoming a lone wolf, a loss of contact with other priests, even with the people. The F.A.C.I. does make provision to cope with such a sad state of affairs, giving a line of action, making priests feel the need, making them realise the actual union between them not of an organised trade union togetherness but a union of brothers, all priests working together."

68. These words are a faithful reflection of the fraternal spirit of priests who belong to Secular Institutes whose simple purpose is the closest possible collaboration with the Bishop, whom they love and hold in veneration, mutual understanding between all members of the Clergy of the diocese, and the well being of the souls entrusted to their care.


69. What I had in mind in opening this conference was to explain some prerequisites which seem to me fundamental to the purposes for which the Congress is being held. Everything said by the eminent speakers who will address you in the course of the Congress will, whatever their themes, necessarily be linked with these prerequisites.

70. As the program proceeds, point by point, and in the subsequent discussions, representatives of the Institutes which are taking part in the Congress will contribute their own experience and will be able to give us the benefit of their thoughts and give free expression to their opinions. It is essential that each one should say what membership means to him personally, and what he believes he is, and achieves, as a member, and what (within the framework of the papal and conciliar teachings) he would like to see done.

71. Finally, it is a pleasant duty to express my deep appreciation of Secular Institutes in general. In these days of such anxiety and confusion they have kept to their apostolate in a spirit of discipline which one cannot but admire, in sharp contrast to some of the wild movements of protest which flood the Church and almost invade the sanctuary. This fact alone speaks volumes for the Secular Institutes.

72. Secular Institutes do have the inevitable experience of development and wise adaptation suggested by circumstances, but there is something firm and consistent about them. This way of life has not been productive of dissent, demonstrations, opposition to what they have received from their forefathers, the inheritance which has the Gospel for its guarantee and which moves them along a straight path--it means a life of perfection and of apostolic action in the world with the healthy spiritual freedom which belongs to all God's children.

73. I have given you my findings on this subject with the conclusive evidences on which they are based and with that I am happy to extend to you all, on my own behalf and that of my collaborators in the Sacred Congregation a sincere wish and hope that with the help of God "from whom all good things come" you may accomplish a fruitful work. May your vocation sink ever deeper into your hearts. May you always work together as brothers and sisters for your own perfecting in charity and for the good of the society in which it is God's will that you should live and in which you are called by the Church to diffuse the light and warmth of Christ's Gospel.

Rome, 20th September 1970.

Apostolic efficacy depends of

Personal sanctification

To the 1st International Congress of Secular Institutes
Paul VI

Beloved sons and daughters in the Lord,

1. You are welcome indeed and specially welcome because, unrecognised by the world which only sees what appears on the surface you are in fact representing the Secular Institutes, and for this you are gathered in Congress.

2. And we know what has brought you here. Two things are in your minds and hearts, confidence and generosity: confidence which makes you stand up and be counted as consecrated persons in the world; generosity which makes you give yourselves to the Church, perceiving its primary purposes which are, first, the mysterious supernatural union between mankind and God our heavenly Father, brought about by the Master and Saviour Jesus Christ through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and second, a union between men, to be achieved through serving them in all manner of ways and promoting human welfare and that higher destiny which is salvation for ever and ever.

3. This is indeed a meeting dear to mind and heart. It brings home to us the miracles of grace, the hidden riches of the Kingdom, the incalculable resources of virtue and holiness of which the Church disposes even today when, as you well know, there is, above, below, all round us, profane and profaning, a humanity drunk with its conquests in the temporal sphere, a world whose need of Christ is matched only by its unwillingness to meet him.

4. Criss cross in the Church today run currents of various kinds. As we think of them in terms of that unity, that truth which Christ wants us to long for, and jealously to guard, we see that not all of them are good and helpful. The Church is a tree, an olive of ancient growth, its old trunk twisted, lacerated with the scars of martyrdom, a picture that might not suggest youthful vitality but geriatric aches and pains. Yet you are a living proof in these our days that this same Church can burgeon fresh and vigorous, can put forth new branches full of the promise of abundant fruit of a kind we had never foreseen. You are a phenomenon of the modern Church, typical, comforting.

For this we greet you, for this we would give you new heart.

5. We could go on from here to explain to you in canonical terms what you mean to the Church, how it is that in these days the Church has come to recognise you, give you canonical existence and standing. We could speak of the theology of Secular Institutes according to the Vatican Council (Lumen gentium 44, and Perfectae caritatis 11), the canonical assessment of the institutional forms which you, living bodies of Christians consecrated to our Lord, are taking in these days, we could spell out for you the place and function of Secular Institutes in the structure of the People of God, the specific distinctive marks, the forms, the dimensions in which they are seen to live and work. But you know all this well enough.

6. We are kept informed of the Congregation's work on your behalf and of their constant concern, care, guidance and assistance. We have also gathered the substance, the gist, of those carefully prepared scholarly reports which you have drawn up at this Congress.

So we will not give you a simple replay of a record so competently made by you yourselves. If we must add a word of our own in this canonical context we prefer to speak, in the light of all the circumstances and without dramatising the subject, about the psychological and spiritual aspects of your special form of dedication to the following of Christ.

7. What is the origin of this phenomenon which is yourselves what is there inside you, personal, spiritual, what is your call? Your vocation has much in common with other vocations in the Church of God but some features make it different from all others. These must be pinpointed.

8. First of all, note the importance of conscious acts, acts of which you can say that you watch yourself doing them: they mean a lot to us Christians: they are quite fascinating, especially in youth and adolescence when they can decide the shape of things. We call these acts, done with self awareness, conscience, and everyone knows very well the meaning and value of conscience. So many people today are saying so many things about it, some talk of its distant dawn in Socratic philosophy, then of its revival due principally to Christianity (a well-known historian said that under the influence of Christianity "the soul's deep foundation is changed Taine III, 125). We ask you to think only, for a moment, of the unique point of everybody's experience at which psychological conscience, that is, self-awareness, becomes moral conscience (cf. St. Thomas I, 79,13) as it adverts to the cogency of a law proclaimed innerly, written on the heart, but binding in external conduct, in real life, with an accountability beyond the human scene and, at its topmost point, a rapport with God himself. It has then become religious conscience.

9. The Vatican Council refers to it in these terms: "In the depths of conscience man discovers a law, which he has not given himself, but which he ought to obey; its voice is always calling him to love and do good to others and to avoid evil ... Man truly has a law written by God within his heart; to give obedience to this law constitutes his dignity, and he will be judged by it (cf. Rom 2.14 16). Conscience is the most secret kernel and shrine of man, where he is alone with God." (The Council then refers to a marvellous discourse uttered by Pius XII on 23rd March 1952).

10. In conscience, this first stage of acts of self-awareness, is born the senses of accountability, of personality, man becomes aware of who and what he is and what it all means and demands. Following up this line of reflection in the light of the effects of baptism a Christian first gets the idea, deep and firm, of a theology of man, a theology of human beings who know they are children of God, members of Christ, incorporated into the body which is the Church, marked with priesthood of the faithful. From this pregnant doctrine of common priesthood recalled to our attention by Vatican II (cf. Lumen gentium, 10 11) comes the common Christian commitment to holiness (cf. ibid. 39 40) to the fullness of Christian life and to perfect charity.

11. This same conscience, this commitment, was for you, at a given moment of time, lit up by a glorious grace from God: conscience and commitment were transferred into vocation, vocation was to a total response: to a true, unreserved profession of the evangelical counsels or the priesthood (and in either case the interior magnet is perfection); vocation to consecration, your soul's way of self giving to God, supreme act of will and abandonment. Conscience has become an altar of sacrifice. "Let my conscience", says St. Augustine, "be your altar" (En. in Ps 4 9; P.L. 36, 578): it mirrors the 'Fiat ' of the Annunciation.

12. This is all in the sphere of conscious activity; we call it "the interior life"; it is now no longer one voice but a dialogue: the Lord is present. St. Augustine once more: "Devout conscience, abode of God" (En. in Ps 45, P.L. 36, 520). You speak with your Lord, but what you seek is decision, resolutions, like St. Paul near Damascus, "Lord, what will you have me to do?" (Acts 9.5). Then your baptismal consecration of grace awakes and speaks its conscious word of actual and chosen consecration, deliberately opening out to the evangelical counsels, stretching out to Christian perfection. This is the first, the capital decision, the qualifying decision, deciding what the whole of your life will be like.

13. And what is your second decision? The second decision is the new thing, the original contribution of Secular Institutes. What is it then, actually? What is your chosen way of living this consecration of yours? It is like this you say: "Shall we give up our life in the world, as we know it, or can we stay as we are? " The Church replies: "Choose. You may do either".

And you have chosen, for many reasons of your own, well weighed. You have made your decision to remain secular, to continue to be "just like everybody else " in the passing show of this world. Then comes the choice of this or that sort of life in the world and here you have, in full accord with the pluralism allowed to Secular Institutes, made your own decisions according to individual preference. Secular, then, are your Institutes, as distinct from the Religious. Both kinds of Institute have the one end in view, Christian perfection. You for your part have made a choice which does not cut you off from this world with all its desacralised life and worldly scale of values, its moral principles often threatened by pressure of temptation, enough to make a man tremble.

14. Discipline, moral discipline, eternal vigilance, is what you need: you must be fending for yourselves all the time: the plumb line straightness of your every act must come from your sense, your realisation of the consecration you have made, and this for twenty four hours of every day. 'Going without and putting up with' is a catch phrase of the moralist. This is what you will have to do all the time. It is a feature of your 'spirituality'. Here we see a new kind of attitude of conscience, a disposition of heart and mind hidden.

15. A vast field of work lies open before you. Here your twofold purpose is to be achieved, your own sanctification, and 'consecration of the world'. This fascinating commitment calls for perceptiveness and tact. The world which is your field is a world of human beings: restless, real, dazzling. It has its virtues and its passions, its opportunities for good, its gravitation to evil, its magnificent modern achievements, the inadequacies underneath it all, its inevitable sufferings. You are walking on an inclined plane. It would be easy to go down, it is hard work to go up, but a challenge. You are spiritual mountaineers with a stiff climb before you.

16. Like combat troops (to change the metaphor) you have your operation planned. Keep three things in mind. First your consecration is not only a commitment, it is also a help, a support; love it, it is a blessing and gives joy to your heart, you can turn to it always: it fills up the voids which your self denial scoops out of your human life, it is compensation, it makes you able to realise the paradox of charity: giving, giving to others means receiving, in Christ. Second, you are in the world, and not of it, but for it. Our Lord has taught us how to find in this play on words both his and our mission for the salvation of the world. Never forget that as members of a Secular Institute you have this mission in the modern world. The world needs you today, it needs in the world itself, pathfinders to salvation in Christ.

17. The third thing ever to be borne in mind is the Church. Church enters into you as part of the awareness, the conscience, which we have just been thinking about. It becomes part of your mind, a meditation unintermittent, your sensus Ecclesiae, your 'feel of the Church'. It is within you, the air which your spirit breathes. No doubt you have experienced the exhilarating effects of this inexhaustible source of inspiration, and, blending with it, you have, especially since the Council, the prompting and incentives of theology and of your own spirituality. Of these incentives there is one which should never be missing, the unique quality of your membership of the Church. To your special life as consecrated seculars belongs a special membership of the Church. The Church has every confidence in you, we want you to be quite clear on this point. The Church follows your progress, supports you, accepts you as belonging to the family, favourite children, active responsible members loyal, yet trained for flexible mission, ready for silent witness, for service and, when required, for sacrifice.

18. You are in fact lay people whose open profession of Christianity is a constructive force, supporting both mission and structure, giving life to the charity, the spiritual life of the diocese and especially of Catholic institutions.

19. You are lay people who can know at first hand, better than others, the needs of the Church on earth, and perhaps you are better placed to see its defects: these you do not take as an opportunity for biting, ungracious criticism, an excuse for standing aloof, a disdainful elite. They only serve to bring out in you a greater love, a humbler and more filial service as sons and daughters coming to her aid.

20. Secular Institutes of today's Church, take with you our greetings, our encouragement, to your brothers and sisters. To each and all of you we give our Apostolic Blessing.

Rome, 26th September 1970

A presence and an action which will

transform the world from within

On the 25th anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia
Paul VI

Dearest sons, members of the Secular Institutes.

1. It is good to be with you on a day when the Liturgy recalls the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and we have it in mind to recall the Silver Jubilee of Provida Mater.

2. The promulgation of Provida Mater Ecclesia was an event of very great importance for the life of the Church of today. It gave the acceptance, warrant and approval of our venerated Predecessor, Pius XII, who thereby laid down the lines of the canonical structure of Secular Institutes and spelt out their meaning in the life of the spirit. February 2nd means a lot to you. It was the day on which like Christ coming into the world, offering himself to the Father to do his will you were presented to God, to be a beacon for the Church, consecrated to God, a lever of the world for the glory of God our Father.

3. We share your joy today because we well remember those far off days when this historic document, your Magna Charta was reaching its final form. There had been long years of gradual growth. Secretly, slowly, the breath of the Spirit had prepared you for your emergence into the light of day. For Secular Institutes Provida Mater was a birth certificate. They were now accepted officially by the supreme Authority. It was largely due, I may add, to the work of Cardinal Larraona; and it was the signal for a new burst of energy, a boost into the future.

4. Twenty five years is a comparatively short space of time, but they have been years intensely lived like the years of youth. There has been magnificent new growth. We have only to look around us here today or to think of the projected reunion of Directors General planned for September here in Rome. So today our purpose and theme must simply be encouragement, confidence, exhortation, in the hope that this jubilee may be fruitful, that something real may come of it, for your good and for the good of all God's Church.

In Conciliar Perspective

5. A) To get a true picture of Secular Institutes you have to see them in the perspective which the Council contemplates the Church a living reality both visible and spiritual (cf. Lumen Gentium 8) whose life is lived and whose development happens within the context of history (cf. ibid. 3, 5, 6, 8). It is made up of many members and various organs, yet all are intimately united and inter communicating (cf ibid. 7), all share the same faith, the same life, the same mission, the same responsibilities of the Church itself. But each has a distinct gift, a particular charism of the life giving Spirit (cf ibid. 7, 12), given not simply for the benefit of the receiver but for the whole community.

So the anniversary of Provida Mater, the document which put into official words the charism which is yours and approved it, invites you to return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original spirit of the Institutes" (Perfectae caritatis, 2), to check on your own fidelity to the charism of your foundation.

6. Now what was the original inspiration of Secular Institutes? What was the soul, giving birth, animation, development? It was a longing, a search, deep and preoccupying, for a synthesis, a way of life combining the two characteristic features of your way of life: full consecration according to the evangelical counsels and freedom to take on the responsibility of a presence and transforming action in the world, from the inside, to shape it, to make it a better world, to sanctify it. On the one hand the profession of the evangelical counsels is a specific form of life, giving both strength and witness to that holiness which is the vocation of all the faithful. It is a sign of perfect identification with the Church, and with the Lord and Master himself and the aims and purposes which he has entrusted to the Church. On the other hand, to reside in the world implies the Christian responsibility of men and women who, themselves redeemed by Christ, are, as surely committed to "illumine and organise temporal affairs in such a way that they may always start out, develop, and persist according to Christ's mind, to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer" (Lumen Gentium, 31).

7. In this picture of the present situation there is a deep, providential, unmistakable link you might say identification between the charism of Secular Institutes and one of the clearest and most important themes of the Council, the Church's presence in the world. In fact the Council documents underline the various relationships between Church and world: the Church is part and parcel of the world, destined to serve the world, to be the leaven in the lump or the soul in the body, for the Church is called to sanctify and consecrate the world, to shed upon it the pure light of the supreme values of love, justice and peace.

Towards a New World

8. The Church is very much aware of the fact that it exists in the world and walks together with humanity and experiences the same earthly lot as the world does. She serves as a leaven and as a kind of soul for human society (Gaudium et spes, 40). So the Church has a truly secular dimension, part of its very self, and of its mission; the root ends of this secularity are deep down in the mystery of the Word made flesh; it takes many different charismatic forms in its members, priests and laity.

9. Unremittingly the Popes have called upon Christians especially in recent years to face up loyally and unequivocally to their responsibility to the world. Today the call is more urgent than ever. Mankind is at a cross roads of history. A new world is rising: men are looking for new forms of thought and action which will determine their life in the centuries to come.

10. The world believes that it can stand on its own feet and has no need of divine grace or the Church in its self development and expansion: a tragic divorce has come about between faith and life, between the two lines of progress, technology on the one hand, faith in the living God on the other. It has been said, not without good reason, that the most serious problem in current development is that of the relationship of the natural and supernatural order. The Church of Vatican II has not been deaf to this "voice of the times; she has answered, she has no doubts about her mission to the world, to society: conscious of her own nature as "the universal sacrament of salvation" the Church sees the impossibility of human fulfilment without grace, that is, without the Word of God who is "the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilisation, the centre of the human race, the joy of every heart, and the answer to all its yearnings" (Gaudium et spes, 45).

11. At a time like the present, Secular Institutes, in virtue of their charism of consecrated secularity (cf Perfectae caritatis, 11), have emerged as providential instruments to embody this spirit and to pass it on to the whole Church. Their life, even before the Council, was a kind of forging ahead in this matter, and that is the best of reasons today for giving witness as specialists in the field as models, of the Church's attitude and mission in the world.

12. Clear directives and repeated instructions are not enough, as things stand today, to accomplish those changes in the Church which are needed in today's world. We need the realities of person and community, people who embody and transmit consciously and responsibly, the spirit with which the Council required all members of the Church to be imbued. This is the mission given to you and being given it enhances your stature to be the model of untiring inward energy towards the new relationship and attitude to the world, to service of the world, which the Church seeks to embody.

Interior alchemy

13. B) How can this be done? Through that blending of two realities which is the very shape and fashion of your lives. First of all, your consecrated life in the spirit of the evangelical counsels means that you belong inseparably to Christ and the Church, that you are permanently and profoundly intent on the pursuit of holiness, and that you are fully aware that, when all is said and done, it is Christ alone who brings about by his grace the redemption and transformation of the world. It is deep down in your hearts that the world becomes something consecrated to God (cf Lumen Gentium, 34). If that is how you live, then it is quite certain that the mutual understanding and feeling between you and the world will not become worldliness or naturalism but will tell the world that Christ loves us and has been sent forth to us by the Father. Your consecration is the root of hope, which must always support you, even when visible results are scanty or non existent. Rather than by visible good works, your life is fruitful for the world above all through the love of Christ which has impelled you to make the gift of yourselves to God in a life that will give witness to him in the conditions of everyday life.

14. Seen in this light the Counsels which you follow (as do members of other forms of consecrated life) take on a new meaning, they come to mean something very topical and typical in today's world:

Chastity comes to mean being a living model of self control, life in the spirit, tending, stretching out all the time to heavenly things, and this in a world which has no thought but for itself, no rein or brake on its human instincts.

Poverty tells the world where we stand with the good and chattels of this world, and the use we make of them: your Christian attitude in this matter is the true one both for the highly developed countries, where the rat race for money is such a threat to the values we learn from the Gospel, and for the unhappy countries which have fewer resources. Here your poverty is the token of your union of spirit: you are with your brothers in their trials.

Obedience becomes witness of the humble acceptance of the mediation of the Church and, in general of the wisdom of God governing the world through created causes; today in the modern crisis of authority, your obedience becomes witness to the Christian order of the universe.

Making all creation holy

15. In the second place, because you are essentially secular you accentuate your relationship with the world (and in this you differ from Religious). Secularity is not simply your condition as people living in the world, an external condition. It is rather an attitude, the attitude of people who are aware that they have a responsibility, being in the world, to serve the world, to make it as God would have it, more just, more human, to sanctify it from within. This attitude is primarily one of respect for the world's rightful autonomy, its values, its laws (cf Gaudium et spes, 36), though of course this does not imply that the world is independent of God, Creator and final end of all. One of the important dimensions of this characteristic quality of your secularity is that you take the natural order seriously, working to bring it to perfection and to holiness so that things which are necessarily a part of life in the world may be integrated into the spirituality, the training, the ascetics, the structure, the external forms, the activities, of your Institute. Thus it will be possible to fulfil what Primo feliciter expresses in these words: "(that) your own special character, the secular, may be reflected in everything" (II) .

16. The requirements of life in the world and the options open to anyone who would work in the world with the world's own tools, are so many and various that one must expect great variety in ways of achieving the ideal: individual, corporate, private and public as was in fact envisaged by the Vatican Council (cf Apostolicam Actuositatem, 15¬-22). All these forms are available to Secular Institutes and to each one of their members. The pluralism of your forms of life (cf. the Recommendation on Pluralism World Congress of Secular Institutes Rome, 1970) allows you to set up various kinds of community, and to create and animate, within, the atmosphere and climate and surroundings of your various life situations your own ambient air climate of thought and life in which your ideal is a reality, and to make use for this purpose of various ways and means, even in situations where the only possible witness to the Church will be individual, silent and hidden

Priest Members. Where they stand

17. Now we must add a few words for Priest members: (priests who join Secular Institutes). Priests can join a Secular Institute, as is explicitly envisaged in the teaching of the Church, beginning with Primo feliciter and the Council Decree Perfectae caritatis. Both priests and laymen, as such, have an essential relationship with the world. To fulfil his own vocation the priest must translate this relationship into real life as a model to all. As Christ was sent forth from the Father (cf John, 20,21) he also is sent into the world. But as a priest he assumes a responsibility specifically sacerdotal for the shaping, the true fashioning of this perishable world. Unlike the layman he does not (except in rare cases, as described in a Recommendation of the recent Synod of Bishops) exercise this responsibility by direct contact and activity in the temporal sphere, but by ministerial action and through his role of educator in the faith (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6): this is the best and noblest way of contributing to the world's progress, day by day, in accordance with the order and the meaning of creation.

18. When a priest becomes a member of a Secular Institute, he is still a secular priest and for that reason the close bond of obedience and collaboration with the Bishop is unbroken; as with other priests of the diocese his assistance is available to this brotherhood of the diocese, this "presbyterium" in the great mission which makes them "co operators with the truth", carefully preserving the "special bonds of apostolic charity, of ministry and of fraternity" (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 8) which must be a distinguishing feature of this diocesan organism. As a member of a Secular Institute the priest finds, over and above this feature of his priestly life, help in the following of the evangelical counsels. I am well aware that this matter of priests belonging to Secular Institutes, is a problem. The implications are widely perceived and felt. It goes deep. Any solution must fully respect the "sensus Ecclesiae". I know that you are actively engaged in finding satisfactory answers to the questions raised. Persevere in your efforts: it is good work in a sensitive area.

Relations with the Bishops

19. Indeed there is a problem arising from three factors, each of the greatest importance: the "secular" aspect: the need to maintain a close personal link with the Institute from which the priest expects spiritual food, refreshment and support; and the need to remain in strict dependence upon the bishop of the diocese. I am well aware, as I said a moment ago, that you are studying the question in the hope of reconciling these apparent incompatibles. Continue this search for solutions, work freely along the lines I have indicated, make full use of the talent you have, your training, your appreciation of what is involved, your experience. I would only direct your attention to one or two points which seem to me particularly worthy of your consideration.

20. a) No solution must impinge in any way whatsoever upon the authority of the bishop, who, by divine right, is exclusively and directly responsible for the flock, the "portion of the Church assigned to him " (cf Acts, 20,28).

21. b) In this connection there is another very real factor which you must bear in mind and never lose sight of: a man is a unity, personal, psychological, practical; the distinction between the spiritual and pastoral dimension is theoretical.

22. Far be it from me to condition your research allow me to emphasise this much less do I intend to restrict it by suggesting some ready made solution. It is just that I want to suggest that you do not lose sight for a moment of two factors which to my mind are of capital importance.

23. So we come to the end of our reflections together, though there would indeed be much more to say. There are many possible options in a developing situation. But it is a great joy to tell you of my hopes and wishes for you: that your Institutes may be, increasingly, models and examples of the spirit which the Council breathed into the Church: thus may the withering threat of secularism be removed, with its merely human set of values, values cut off from their origin, God, from whom their whole meaning and purpose really comes; and through the example you give may the Church be truly the haven, the animator of the whole world.

24. The Church needs your witness, and what the whole world is looking for is more and more tangible evidence of the Church's new attitude. In you, because of your consecrated secularity, this must be very clear indeed. To speed you on your way you have the Apostolic blessing given from my heart to you and to all the members of your dear Institutes who deserve so well of the whole Church.

Rome, 2nd February 1972

A new and original form of consacration

To the Heads of Secular Institutes

Beloved sons and daughters in the Lord,

1. Once more I have an opportunity to meet you, heads of Secular Institutes, members and representatives of a portion of the Church which at this historic moment is flourishing, overflowing with vitality.

2. This time the occasion which brings you is the International Congress which you have held and are about to bring to a close here at Nemi close by this summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. In this Congress you have been giving your critical attention to the statutes of the "World Conference of Secular Institutes" which is to be created.

3. I will not attempt to assess your work. I have no doubt that you have worked with the ever attentive participation of the Department concerned, earnestly and with deep reflection. I trust you will bear much fruit and that your numbers will grow. I prefer to linger for a while on a few reflections upon a possible function of Secular Institutes in the mystery of Christ and the mystery of the Church.

4. As I look at you here and think of those thousands upon thousands of men and women that you belong to, I cannot but feel a deep sense of consolation and joy and gratitude to the Lord. The Church of Christ as seen in you, is indeed strong and flourishing! Our venerable Mother is today the object of sharp and shameless carping, and some of her own children are guilty. Some take a positive pleasure in describing what they imagine to be symptoms of decrepitude. They talk of impending collapse. Here, to give the lie to their foreboding, is a Church of new-found treasures, one after another, new paths of holiness, new holy enterprises, unforeseen, unpredictable. It had to happen, I know, it could not be otherwise: Christ is the divine inexhaustible source of the Church's vitality. Your presence here today is one more proof of it. You bring it home to us.

5. Now, peering more closely at your family likeness in the People of God, I see that (like others in other sectors of the Church's life) you are mirrors of a special way, a "way of your own", of reliving the mystery of Christ in the world, and a may, unlike anyone else's, of making the mystery of the Church visibly present in the world.

6. Christ the Redeemer is a fullness, a plenitude that we shall never be able to comprehend or completely express. He is the All for his Church, and, in it, whatever we are we are through him, simply through him, with him, in him. This means that for you, Secular Institutes, as for all of us, he is ever the ultimate model, the one from whom all inspiration comes, the well spring to which we must go.

7. With Christ the Saviour for foundation and model, you fulfil, in your own distinctive way, an important ecclesial mission. But the Church itself is also, in its own way, like Christ, a plenitude too rich for anyone, or any institution, to comprehend or fully express. Nor could we, who are members of it, ever explore it completely because its life is Christ, and he is God. So the Church and its mission can in real terms only be fully expressed in the multiplicity of its members. It is the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, the doctrine of gifts and charisms of the Holy Spirit.

8. It will not have escaped your attention that the drift of what I am saying inevitably poses the question: How do we fulfil this special role in the mission of the Church? What is your special gift, your distinctive role, the new factor you bring to today's Church? Or put it this way. What exactly is your way of "being today's Church? " You know the answer. You have made it clear to yourselves and to the Church. We can take it as said.

9. You stand at the confluence of two powerful streams of Christian life and your own life is enriched by both. You are lay people, consecrated as lay people by baptism and confirmation, but you have chosen to underline your consecration to God with the profession of the evangelical counsels, accepted as binding, and the bond is firm and enduring and recognised by the Church. You are still lay people, committed to the secular values of the lay state of life (Lumen Gentium, 31), but with you it is a matter of "consecrated secularity", you are both secular, living as lay people in the world and consecrated .

10. There is a difference between your situation and that of the other lay people. You are indeed committed, as they are, to the secular values but as consecrated persons: that is, your commitment not only asserts the authenticity of human values, it also directs them towards the evangelical beatitudes. On the other hand you are not "Religious": yet there is a similarity between your life and theirs because by your consecration you tell the world that spiritual and eschatological values count more than anything else and that Christian love is your "absolute". Indeed the greater your love the greater its power to show that secular values are but relative and at the same time to help you and everybody to make the most of those values.

11. Neither of these two aspects of your spiritual image can be overestimated without damaging the other. They are essential to each other.

12. "Secularity" means that your place is in the world. But it does not mean simply a position, a function which happens to coincide with life in the world and a "secular" job or profession. It must mean, first and foremost a realisation that you are in the world as "your very own field of Christian responsibility. To be in the world, that is, to be committed to secular values, is your way of being the Church, of making the Church present, of working out your own salvation and being heralds of redemption. The condition in which you live, your life description in human society becomes your theological self and your way of bringing salvation into the realm of reality for all the world to see. In this way you are an advance guard of the Church "in the world": you are yourselves an expression of the Church's mind: to be in the world in order to shape it and sanctify it "as from within, like leaven in the dough" (Lumen Gentium, 31) a task, remember which falls mainly on the shoulders of the laity. You are a clear, tangible, telling proof of what the Church sets out to do for the building of the world of "Gaudium et spes ".

13. "Consecration", on the other hand, indicates the personal, unseen structure supporting your inmost self and all you do. Here is the deep, hidden human potential for which the people you live with have no explanation, often no idea. Your baptismal consecration has been more deeply and strongly rooted by a greater claim of love. It is the stirring of the Holy Spirit. It is not identical with that of Religious. Nevertheless it impels you to a fundamental life option of the beatitudes of the Gospel, so that you are really consecrated and really in the world. "You are in the world and not of the world but for the world" as I said on another occasion. You live a true, genuine consecration according to the evangelical counsels but without the fullness of visibility proper to religious consecration which consists in a more strictly common way of life and the "sign" of the religious habit. Yours is a new and original form of consecration. It was the Holy Spirit that put this idea into the minds of the faithful, so that they could live in this way, still surrounded by the world's realities and that the power of evangelical counsels - the divine values of eternity - should find their way into the heart of human, space time values.

14. The poverty, chastity and obedience which you have chosen are ways of sharing the cross of Christ because like him and with him you give up the things which, without any infringement of law or precept, you could, if you wished, have and enjoy. But they are also ways of sharing the victory of the Risen Christ because they give you a new freedom. This world's values are always a threat to our openness of soul, complete availability to God.

Your vows take the sting out of it. Your poverty tells the world that it is possible to live with this life's good things and that we can make use of what makes for a more civilised life and progress without becoming slaves to any of it; your chastity tells the world of a selfless love, fathomless as God's own heart from which you draw it. Your obedience tells the world that a man can be happy without digging in his heels over the things which just suit him, and can be always completely open to God's will as seen in the daily grind, in the signs of the times and in the world's need, here and now, of salvation.

15. Hence your activity, whatever it may be, personal, professional, individual or common, is more distinctly signposted "To God": it is in fact all the time interwoven with your consecration and carried along with it. The unique providential way of things in your spirituality has given today's Church a new model secular life lived in consecration, consecrated life lived as secular. The Church is the richer for it.

16. Of all the good things brought into the world by Secular Institutes there is one upon which I would like to dwell for a moment ¬the tributary stream of consecrated ministerial priesthood which flows into the Secular Institutes carrying a goodly band of men who wish to add to their priestly life the bond of self giving which is profession of the evangelical counsels. As I think of these brothers of mine in the priesthood of Christ, I feel that I must encourage them. Here once more I see, and wonder at, the work of the Spirit ceaselessly rousing in men's hearts a restless yearning for greater perfection.

17. All I have said up to now applies to them too, yes, but in them it calls for reflection on a deeper level and careful qualification. They seek and find consecration in the evangelical counsels and commitment to "secular" values not as laymen but as clerics, channels of the sacred to the People of God.

18. Besides Baptism and Confirmation, the fundamental consecration of every lay person in the Church, they have received the differentiating sacrament of Orders and this has given them a specific ministry with regard to the Eucharist and the Mystical Body of Christ.

19. Their "secular" Christian vocation is what it was; they can now find more in it, living it as consecrated in Secular Institutes, but their spiritual life in this condition must be other than what is normally required of the member, and there will be a visible difference in the way in which they follow the Counsels and in their secular commitment

20. In conclusion I want to make a most urgent appeal, as your father: keep, before all else, keep alive and growing in your hearts, your union, communion, in and with the Church. You are living joints in the body of this ecclesial communion you too are the Church. I would never, never weaken those joints. Anything ecclesial is unthinkable outside the Church. Don't be taken off your guard in this. Keep your hearts well clear of the temptation so seductive in these days to think that you can have true communion with Christ and yet be out of tune out of accord, with the ecclesial community governed by lawful pastors. It would be a snare and a delusion. What can an individual do, or a group, with the best of intentions and the highest of ideals, outside this communion? Christ requires it of us as a condition of communion with him, just as he requires our love of each other as proof of our love of him.

21. So you are of Christ and for Christ in his Church; and Church means your local community, your Institute, your parish, but always in communion of faith, of Eucharist, of discipline and of loyal, faithful collaboration with your Bishop and the Hierarchy. Your structures and activities, be you clerical or lay, must never produce divergent orientations, as if you took your bearings from two different points of the compass. They must never create "justified non involvement ", either interior or exterior, nor (worst of all) antagonism against the pastors.

22. These are the things I put before you hopefully: they represent my wishes for your welfare. Thus I hope that you may be, in the midst of the world, true labourers for the one saving mission of the Church, in your very own way to which you have been called and invited. Thus may the Lord help you to prosper yet more, to bring forth yet greater fruit, ever with the Apostolic Blessing which I give you.

Castel Gandolfo, 20th September 1972

Opening speech to the Assembly of Directors General

Card. Eduardo Pironio

(August 23rd, 1976)

Dear brothers and friends,

1. I should like to greet you with the same words that the Apostle Paul addressed to the Romans: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" (Rom 15,13).

2. This is a heartfelt wish at the beginning of your encounter in the Lord (cfr. Mk 6,30), and it regards three attitudes that the contemporary world in which you are fully inserted by virtue of a special vocation ¬expects of you: a profound and serene peace, a contagious joy, and an irresistible and creative hope.

3 May prayer, which is the theme of your Assembly, make you artificers of peace, harbingers of joy, and prophets of hope. We stand in great need of these. And they are needed no less by the men, our brethren, to whom Christ sends us in this hour of history to announce the Good News of salvation (cf. Rom 1,16).

4. In beginning the labours of this Assembly I should like to offer you some simple reflections. This is not intended to be an opening speech, but simply some reflections that a brother and friend desires to share with you. I just want to tell you, in all simplicity, what I feel your Assembly ought to be.

5. First of all, an ecclesial event, an ecclesial fact. Indeed, it is the Church as a whole that looks to you for an answer. It is the whole of the Church that sends you to the world to transform it from within "like leaven" (L.G., 31). For the Church, you represent a new way of being "universal sacrament of salvation" in the world: you are consecrated laymen, fully incorporated in the history of men by means of your professions and your style of life that are no different from those of the others, but at the same time radically dedicated to Christ, through the evangelical counsels, as witnesses of the Kingdom.

6. Your existence and your mission as consecrated laymen would have no meaning unless they sprang from within a Church that presents herself to us as the daily renewed presence of the Christ of the Passover, as the sign and instrument of communion (L.G., 1), as the universal sacrament of salvation. When all is said and done, the Church is this: "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col 1,27). To be sign and communication of Christ for the complete salvation of all mankind - this is what gives meaning to your mission in the Church.

7. To live this Assembly as an ecclesial event must therefore mean two things: to live with joy the profundity of the mystery of the presence of Christ within her, and to feel with serenity the responsibility of responding to the expectations of the men of today. It is for this reason that we have to be open to the Word of God and, at one and the same time, have to pay heed to the needs of history. It is with fidelity and joy that we have to live this concrete moment of the Church: in her topicality of today, and in her specific physiognomy of local Church indissolubly bound to the universal Church.

8. But by very virtue of the fact that it is an ecclesial event, this Assembly is also a family event or, better still, it is the meeting of the family of Secular Institutes, with their diversity of charisms, but all with the same identity of consecrated secularity. It is a profound and fraternal encounter of all those who have been chosen in a special manner by Christ to realise their total consecration to God by means of the evangelical counsels, in the world, starting from the world, and for the transformation of the world, ordering the temporal realities according to God's design.

9. And because it is the meeting of a family brought together by the Holy Spirit from the four corners of the earth it has to take place in a climate of extraordinary simplicity, profound prayer, and sincere evangelical fraternity.

10. A climate of simplicity and poverty: all of us must be open to the Word of God, because we have great need of it, and open also to the fertile and manifold riches of brethren, all of whom are disposed to share in humility and generosity the different gifts and charisms with which the Spirit has endowed us for the common good (l Cor 12,4 7). Anyone who feels sure of himself and in exclusive possession of the whole truth, indeed, is not capable of opening to the Word of God and, consequently, incapable of a constructive Church dialogue. The Word of God, just as in the Holy Virgin Mary, calls for a great deal of poverty, much silence, and a great availability.

11. Then we need a climate of prayer, and even more than that because prayer is essential to your meeting. You have not come together for a technical reflection about prayer, but to consider, in the light of the Word of God and your own daily experience, what the prayer of consecrated laymen must be today. As far as you are concerned, this is not a case of discussing the various forms of prayer, but of seeing in practical terms, living to the very utmost your profession and your temporal commitment: how you can enter into an immediate and constant communion with God.

12. For this reason your Assembly--which is concerned with prayer as the expression of secular consecration, as the fountainhead of mission, and as the key to formation--must in the last resort be an Assembly of prayer. In other words, the primary purpose of our meeting is to pray together. And Jesus will be in our midst and assure the infallible efficacy of our prayers because we are gathered together in his name (cfr. Mt 18,20).

13. Lastly, we need a climate of evangelical fraternity: this is a truly profound meeting of brethren whom the Spirit has brought together in Jesus, each preserving his specific identity, specially faithful to the charism of his own Institute, but living to the very full the selfsame experience of Church, because we all feel ourselves members of the People of God (cfr. Eph 2,19), members of the same body of Christ (I Co 12,27), and living stones of the same temple of the Spirit (I Pet 2,5; Eph 2,20 22). For this is what the Church is: the calling of all into Christ by the Spirit, for the glory of the Father and the salvation of man.

14. This evangelical fraternity expresses itself wondrously in the simplicity and the joy of everyday life. These were the characteristics of the early Christian community: "And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts" (Acts 2, 46). When things become unduly complicated and faces become painfully sad, you may be sure that there is no authentic and constructive evangelical fraternity.

15. These, then, are the three conditions or needs of this Assembly of consecrated laymen: the simplicity of the poor, a profundity of prayer, and sincere fraternity in Christ.

16. I should now like to mention--only touch upon, mind you, because I do not want this introduction to become unduly long--three things that seem to me to be essential for this Congress that is beginning today: the Church, consecrated secularity, and prayer.

17. Permit me to do this--seeing that the Assembly is concerned with prayer--in the light of the priestly and apostolic prayer pronounced by Jesus. Indeed, let us listen together to some of the verses of our Lord's most beautiful orison: "Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee, ... Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one ... and know in truth that I came from thee... As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world... I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth: thy word is truth... And for their sake consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth" (John 17).

18. Taking as our starting point this prayer spoken by Jesus, who always illumines your fundamental activity of men who live in the world and pray, I should like to underscore the three points I mentioned before: ecclesial sense, needs of consecrated secularity, mode of praying.

19. 1° Ecclesial sense. Our prayer is realised from within the Church conceived as a fraternal communion of men with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. " I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one", this is what the Church is. And therefore our prayer, even when we are praying alone or in small groups, always has an ecclesial dimension. It is the whole of the Church that is praying in us. In short, it is Christ himself--mysteriously present in the Church (Sacrosanctum concilium, 7)--who is within us and prays to the Father with us. Through the Spirit, who dwells within us (Rom 8,9 and 11), he intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words (Rom 8,26) and cries: "Abba! Father!" (Rom 8,15).

20. This ecclesial sense ensures that our prayer will have a profoundly human and cosmic dimension, that it will be directed towards men and history. A prayer that illumines and epitomises the sorrow and the joy of man and, from within history, offers them to the Father. A prayer that tends to transform the world "saved in hope" (cfr. Rom 8,24) and to accelerate the final coming of the kingdom (cfr. I Cor 15,24 28). Indeed, in the Our Father we ask each day: 'Thy kingdom come".

21. Ecclesial sense! It is essential if we are to be Christians. It is essential if we are to be consecrated. It is essential for our prayer. When one feels fully Church or saving presence in the world of the Christ of the Passover one also feels the urgent need for prayer, just as Jesus did, starting from the Heart of Christ, Son and redeemer, the adored of the Father and servant of man.

22. This Assembly will have to reflect continually about this ecclesial sense. The Church will have to be felt here in a tangible form, as presence of the Paschal Christ, as a sacrament of unity, as universal sign and instrument of salvation. Live the Church, express the Church, communicate the Church, so that you may pray with Christ from within the Church.

23. But for this you will need the gift of the Holy Spirit, who in the Church is "the principle of unity in communion" (L.G., 13). The Holy Spirit is at the beginning of our prayer, he cries out within us with sighs too deep for words (Rom 8,26) and "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (I Co 12,3). But he is also the fruit of our prayer, the central content of the very thing we ask in prayer. " How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Lk 11,13).

24. It is the Holy Spirit that creates unity in the Church. For this ecclesial unity, the true communion of all in Christ, is the fruit of our prayers made with authenticity in the Spirit. And this unity is something urgent in our Church today, in our Church so painfully shaken and under stress, just as it is urgent also in the heart of the history of mankind that is advancing towards the final encounter through a series of contrasts and profound misunderstandings, through insensitivity and hate.

25. But this Church communion a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (St. Cyprian, quoted in L.G., 4) is sent to the world in order to be "universal sacrament of salvation" (A.G.1). It is a Church that is essentially missionary and evangelising, inserted in the world as the light, the salt and the leaven of God for the salvation of all men. "The Church"..., says the Council, "goes forward together with humanity and experiences the same earthly lot which the world does. She serves as a leaven and as a kind of soul for human society as it is to be renewed in Christ and transformed into God's family" (G.S., 40).

26. This need of the Church essentially a Church of witness and of prophecy, of the incarnation and the presence, of mission and of service presupposes that there will be an irreplaceable contemplative profundity in all the members of the Church. Faced with the urgent needs of the Church of today, as also with the expectations of the men of today, the only thing that remains possible is the simple and essential attitude expressed by the words "Lord, teach us to pray" (Lk 11,1 ) .

27. And it is precisely this that brings us together here.

28. 2. Consecrated Secularity. Your specific vocation, dear friends, is collocated precisely in this fundamental Church world relationship, in this missionary insertion of the Church in the history of mankind. Because the whole Church is missionary, albeit not in the same way; the whole Church is prophetic, but not at the same level; the whole Church is incarnated in the world, but not in the same manner. Your manner is irreplaceable, original and unique, lived with generosity and joy as a special gift of the Spirit.

29. In fact, we are here concerned with your consecrated secularity. You are fully consecrated, radically dedicated to "following Christ" through the evangelical counsels, but you continue to be laymen in the full sense of the word, living in Christ your profession, your temporal commitment, your "duties in the ordinary conditions of life" (A.A., 4).

30. The consecration to God does not remove you from the world, but rather incorporates you in it in a new way. Interiorly you give plenitude to your baptismal consecration, but you continue to live in the world, in each and all of its activities and professions, as also in the ordinary conditions of family and social life. It fully belongs to you, it is within your competence by virtue of your peculiar vocation to seek the kingdom of God by dealing with temporal things and ordering them according to God (L.G., 31). Indeed, the prayer of Jesus assumes special significance in you when he says: "I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one. And for their sake I consecrate myself (= immolate and sacrifice myself), that they also may be consecrated in truth" (Jn, 17).

31. It is a new way of the Church's presence in the world. Nobody in the Church ever ceases to be present in the world, not even the contemplative, nobody is ever estranged from history. And nobody who has been "anointed by the Holy One" in baptism (I Jn 2,20) ever ceases to be radically dedicated to the Gospel as a witness in the world of our Lord's Passover. But your special consecration to God by means of the evangelical counsels commits you to being witnesses of the kingdom in the world and incorporates you in Jesus' paschal mystery in his death and resurrection in a more profound and radical manner, but this without in any way lessening your normal responsibilities connected with your family, or social and political activities, which constitute the peculiar ambit of your vocation and your mission.

32. These then, dear friends, are the two aspects of your wondrously rich and providential vocation in the Church: your secularity and your consecration. You have to live both of them with the same intensity and fullness, inseparably united, like two essential elements of the selfsame reality: your consecrated secularity. As far as you are concerned, the only way of living your consecration is that of dedicating yourself to the radicality of the Gospel from within the world, starting from the world, remaining indissolubly faithful to your temporal tasks and to the interior needs of the Spirit as privileged witnesses of the kingdom (cfr. G.S., 43). And the only way of realising fully your secular vocation right now because the Lord has entered mysteriously into your lives and has called you in a special manner to follow him radically is to live with a daily renewed joy your fidelity to God in the fecundity of contemplation, in the serenity of the cross, in the generous practice of the evangelical counsels.

33. This world has to be transformed, it has to be sanctified from within, by living the spirit of the evangelical beatitudes to the very limit and thus preparing "new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Pt 3,13).

34. Consecrated secularity expresses and realises in a privileged manner the harmonious union between edifying the kingdom of God and constructing the earthly city, the explicit announcement of Jesus, in evangelization and in the Christian need of the full promotion of man.

35. You live the joy of this secular consecration, which in the world of today is topical more than ever before. There is great need for courageous witnesses of the kingdom. May you be faithful to the needs of the Gospel and prepare a new world from within. May you live with responsibility and strength of heart the risk of your committed secularity in a special consecration to Christ by means of the Spirit. May you be faithful to your hour, to your profession, to your temporal commitment, to the fame of Jesus and his kingdom.

36. May you fully live your consecration based on a wholly realised secularity with your hearts open to the kingdom, to the Gospel, to Jesus and may you commit yourselves to transforming the world starting from the joy of your consecration, in the spirit of the Beatitudes that you generously express and have made your own. May you be deeply contemplative to discern the Lord who is passing by in the present circumstances of our history and thus to collaborate in God's plan of salvation that wants "to bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one under Christ's headship " (Eph 1,10).

37. 3. Prayer. This introduces us to the last point of our simple reflection: prayer. This Assembly of yours is dedicated not only to thinking, to reflecting about prayer, but also and above all to celebrating it. In the restless heart of each one of us there exists an ardent and simple desire: "Lord, teach us to pray!" (Lk 11,1). This is the invocation resplendent with hope of the poor who seek in Jesus, the Master of prayer. And it is in him, too, that we as concrete men of a new age will learn to pray. "Lord, in this tormented moment of history, in this difficult period of the Church, I who am living in the world as a person radically consecrated to the Gospel, to transform the world in accordance with thy design, Lord, I who am suffering and hoping with the suffering and hope of the men of today, how must I pray? How must I pray in order not to lose the contemplative profundity, nor the permanent capacity for serving my brethren? How must I pray in order not to escape either the problems of man or to abandon the needs of my daily life, yet all the time bearing clearly in mind that thou are the only, God, that only one thing is needful (Lk 10,42) and that it is urgent to begin by seeking God's kingdom and his righteousness (Mt 6,33) ? How must I pray in the world and starting from the world? How can I find a moment of silence and a deserted spot to listen to Thee in an exclusive form and dedicate myself with joy to thy Word in the midst of a city that reverberates with the words of men and where I am pressed on all sides by activities and problems? Lord, teach us to pray !"

38. And this, my dear friends, is your desire. It is your painful preoccupation and also your serene hope. In this Assembly, a communitarian celebration of prayer, the Lord will teach you to pray. Above all, he will tell you that prayer is neither difficult nor, even less so, impossible. Because he has commanded us to pray always and untiringly (Lk 18,1) and God never asks us to do impossible things (Saint Augustin, De Natura et Gratia 43, 50).

39. I do not want to go into the details of the theme of your Assembly. I only ask you, as a brother and a friend, to permit me to suggest some outlines for your work.

40. First and foremost, the very person of Christ. In the Gospel we have to seek the figure of Christ in the act of praying: in the desert, on the mountain, at the last supper, in an agony on the Mount of Olives, and on the cross. When, how and why did Christ pray? I only want to remind you that the prayer of Jesus--so profoundly filial and redeeming was always permeated by a strong experience of the Father in solitude, by a very dear consciousness that all were seeking him, and by an untiring missionary activity as harbinger of the glad tidings of the kingdom to the humble and as spiritual physician for the all embracing cure of the sick. Saint Luke sums it all up in a passage that would merit a detailed analysis: "But so much the more the report went abroad concerning him; and great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of their infirmities. But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed" (Lk 5,1 5 1 6).

41. Secondly, I should like to remind you that the beginning of your prayer is always the Holy Spirit, but that the specific manner the only one for you is that of praying on the basis of your consecrated secularity. And this feature obliges you, in an altogether particular manner, to seek the unity of contemplation and action, and to avoid "this split between the faith that many profess and their daily lives", a split that "deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age" (G. S., 43).

42. Not only must your prayer precede your task and render it fruitful, it must wholly permeate it and give it an altogether special sense of offering and redemption. Not only can your occupation neither prevent you from praying nor cause you to suspend your prayer, it must rather serve you as a source of inspiration, of life, of contemplative realism. This certainly is not easy, and you will have to look for ways and means of doing it. I shall limit myself to suggesting just two of them: try to be truly poor, and ask this insistently of the Holy Spirit and of Our Lady of Silence and of Contemplation.

43. Lastly, I should like to underscore three evangelical conditions that are essential for every type of prayer: poverty, authenticity of silence, and true charity.

44 Poverty: to be conscious of our limits, of our inability to pray as we ought (cfr. Rom 8,26), of the need for dialogue with others, and above all of our profound thirst for God. Only the poor will have the secrets of the kingdom of God revealed to them (cfr. Lk 10,21). The poor have a simple and serene manner of praying, a manner that is infallibly effective: "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean" "I will; be clean" (Mt 8,2 3).

45. Silence: this is not easy in the world, but it is not easy even in a convent. Everything depends on an interiority that is pacified and centered on God. What opposes true silence is not external noise, activity, or words; what really opposes silence is one's own self constituted as the centre. The primary condition for praying well is therefore to forget oneself. At times, indeed, a layman committed in the world will pray better than a monastic wholly concentrated on his problem. And this is also why we speak of the "authenticity of silence". For this, at least in part, is what Jesus meant when he said: "When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Mt 6,6). The essential thing here is not the going into your room; what is really important is the fact that the Father is there and is waiting for us.

46. True charity: it seems to me that this is the secret of a fertile prayer. We have to enter into prayer with the heart of a "universal brother". Nobody can open his heart to God without a fundamental aperture to his fellows. The consequence or the fruit of a true prayer will be a more profound and joyful opening to others. One cannot feel the presence of Jesus in men unless and until one has had a profound experience of God in the fecund solitude of the wilderness. But this encounter with the Lord, an encounter in the privileged intimacy of contemplation, must lead us to the unceasing discovery of his presence in the needy (cfr. Mt. 25).

47. What I am trying to say is this: if one wants to pray well, one has to live charity at least in an elementary form; but if one prays well ¬entering with sincerity into communion with the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit one comes out of one's prayer with an inexhaustible capacity for donation and service of one's fellows. Authentic charity conceived as immolation to God and donation to one's brethren therefore stands at the beginning, the centre and the end of true prayer.

48. The prayer of a consecrated layman--if it is to be a true expression of his joyous donation to Jesus Christ, the fecund source of his mission and an essential key to his formation--must be offered "in the name of Jesus" (Jn 16,23 27), that is to say, under the infallibly effective impulse of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of Truth that guides us into all truth (Jn 16,13) and helps us, at one and the same time, to give witness of Christ (cfr. Jn 15,2627) in the concrete and daily reality ¬of our lives. He not only helps us to enter more profoundly into Christ and to cherish his Word, but also reveals to us his passage in history and causes us to listen with responsibility to the calls and the expectations of man.

49. In other words, the Holy Spirit dwells within us (Jn 14,17) and makes us understand, deep down in the profound unity of consecrated life in the world, that "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (Jn 3,16 17).

50. Secular consecration is a testimony of this intimate and universal love of the Father. The life of a consecrated layman, through the continually re-creative action of prayer, thus becomes converted into a simple manifestation and communication of the inexhaustible goodness of the Father. Because the Holy Spirit turns it into a new presence of Christ: "You are a letter from Christ..., written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on the tablets of human hearts" (2 Co 3,3).

51. May the Most Blessed Mary, model and master of prayer, accompany you and illumine you in these days of your gathering; may she introduce you into her contemplative heart (cfr. Lk 2,19) and teach you to be poor. May she prepare you for the profound action of the Spirit and make you faithful to the Word. May she repeat within you these two simple phrases of the Gospel, one spoken by herself, the other by her Son: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2,5); "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" (Lk 11,27).

A living presence

in the service of the world and of the Church

Paul VI


Dear Sons and Daughters in the Lord,

1. We accepted very willingly the request of the Executive Council of the World Conference of Secular Institutes when it duly informed us of its desire for this meeting. It offers us, in fact, the opportunity to express to you, with our esteem, the Church's hopes in the special witness the Secular Institutes are called to bear among men today.

2. It is not necessary to stop to throw light on the particular characteristics which define your vocation. For, in their fundamental features which are "a completely consecrated life, following the evangelical counsels, and a presence and an action intended in all responsibility, to change the world from within", these characteristics can now be considered a certain attainment of your institutional conscience. We recalled all this on the occasion of the twenty fifth anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater (Address on 2nd February 1972).

3. In the position that we hold, our desire is to stress rather the fundamental duty which springs from the characteristics just called to mind, that is, the duty of being faithful. This faithfulness, which is not opposition to progress, means, above all, attention to the Holy Spirit who renews the universe (cf. Rev. 21:5). Secular Institutes, in fact, are alive to the extent to which they take part in man's history, and bear witness, among the men of today, to God's fatherly love, revealed by Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 26 ) .

4. If they remain faithful to their specific vocation, Secular Institutes will become, as it were, "the experimental laboratory" in which the Church tests the concrete ways of her relations with the world. That is why they must listen to the appeal of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, as being addressed particularly to them: "Their primary task... is the implementation of all Christian and evangelical possibilities, hidden but already present and active in things of the world. The specific field of their evangelising activity is the vast and complicated world of politics, social matters, economy, but also culture, sciences and arts, international life and the mass media" (no. 70).

5. This does not mean, of course, that Secular Institutes, as such, must undertake these tasks. That normally falls on each of their members. It is therefore the duty of the Institutes themselves to form the conscience of their members to a maturity and open mindedness which drive them to prepare zealously for the profession chosen, in order to face afterwards, competently and in a spirit of evangelical detachment, the weight and the joy of the social responsibilities towards which Providence will direct them.

6. This faithfulness of the Secular Institutes to their specific vocation must be expressed above all in faithfulness to prayer, which is the foundation of strength and fruitfulness. It is a very good thing, therefore, that you have chosen, as the central subject of your Assembly, prayer as the "expression of secular consecration" and the "source of the apostolate and the key to formation". The fact is that you are in search of prayer that will express your concrete situation as persons "consecrated in the world".

7. We exhort you, therefore, to continue this search, endeavouring to act in such a way that your spiritual experience may serve as an example to every layman. In fact, for anyone who is consecrated in a Secular Institute, spiritual life consists in being able to assume one's profession, social relations, environment of life, etc. as particular forms of collaborating in the coming of the Kingdom of heaven. It consists further in knowing how to impose rest periods on oneself in order to come into more direct contact with God, to thank him and to ask him for forgiveness, light, energy and inexhaustible charity for others.

8. Each of you certainly benefits from the support of his Institute through the spiritual guidance it gives, but especially through the communion that exists among those who share the same ideal under the leadership of those responsible. And, knowing that God has given his Word, the consecrated person will set himself very regularly to listen to Holy Scripture, studied lovingly and accepted with a purified and available soul, to seek in it, as well as in the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church, a correct interpretation of his daily experience lived in the world. In a special way, based on the very fact of his consecration to God, he will feel committed to promoting the efforts of the Council for a more and more intimate participation in the sacred liturgy, aware that a well ordered liturgical life, closely integrated in the consciences and habits of the faithful, will help to keep the religious sense alert and permanent, in our times, and to give the Church a new springtime of spiritual life.

9. Prayer will then become the expression of a mysterious and sublime reality, shared by all Christians, that is, the expression of our reality as children of God. It will be an expression that the Holy Spirit purifies and assumes as his own prayer, urging us to cry with him: "Abba", that is, Father! (cf Rom 8, 14 f; Gal 4,4 f ).

10. Such prayer, if it becomes a conscious part of the very context of secular activities, is then a real expression of secular consecration.

11 . These are the thoughts, dear sons and daughters, that we wish to entrust to your reflection, in order to help you in your search for a more and more faithful response to the will of God, who calls you to be in the world, not to assume its spirit, but to bear witness in its midst in a way that will help your brothers to accept the newness of the Spirit in Christ.

With our Apostolic Blessing.

Rome, 25th August, 1976

Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes (C.R.I.S.)

Secular Institutes

(May 10th, 1976)

1. The peculiar vocation of the Secular Institutes, a vocation of presence among the values of the terrestrial realities, has led several of them to concentrate attention on the family and the "sacred value of the married state" (Gaudium et spes, 49).

2. This attention can take different concrete forms. Direct work in the cause of the Christian family is a case in point, and some Institutes have come into being with this specific aim. Another way is to permit married people to participate in the spirituality and the life of an Institute, and indeed there are some who offer them this possibility: certain Secular Institutes give them instruction and support for living an evangelical commitment in the married state, and also consider them as members in the wider sense.

3. In fact, the fundamental documents relating to the Secular Institutes, especially the Instruction Cum Sanctissimus (art. VII, a), provide for the admission of such members; but the general principle implies different applications, and problems arise in actual practice.

4. In 1973, therefore, the Section for the Secular Institutes, desiring to have a more complete appreciation of the effective situation, carried out a survey of all the Institutes whose Constitutions visualised the existence of members in the wider sense. The results of this survey have brought out a large variety of attitudes towards these members: commitments, participation in the life of the Institute in different ways and to different degrees, etc. Some Institutes even wanted to consider the possibility of accepting married people as full members.

5. The Section for the Secular Institutes did not deem it necessary to make an official statement about a disposition that is already as clear, definite and well known as the one relating to the chastity in celibacy of the Secular Institute members in the strict sense. Nevertheless, mainly in order to see whether it would be desirable to issue directives in the matter of members in the wider sense, it decided to ask its nine consultors to consider this problem. A small questionnaire was therefore drawn up that required them to reflect not only about the presence of married people as members in the wider sense, but also about the possibility of a complete integration of such people into the Secular Institutes.

6. The answers taken as a whole have brought out the need for submitting the question to the Congress with a view to possible decisions. As is known, the Congress is the collegial organ of the Congregation and is made up of the Cardinal Prefect, the Secretary, the Under-secretary, and the Section Officials. It also has the benefit of expert advice, the experts being specially consulted on the topic under consideration. The Congress has power to study, examine, and decide (cf. Informationes, Vol. I, no. 1, p. 52).

7. For the purposes of the Congress, therefore, the Section asked two experts (theologians and canon lawyers) to examine the problem here outlined and to express their motivated opinions, taking due account of the answers previously given by the consultors.

8. Below we first give a summary of the answers of the consultors, while a second part states the conclusions and decisions of the Congress.


9. Summarising the answers of the consultation, one can say that it brought out the following three assertions:

Chastity in celibacy must be absolutely affirmed for members of the Secular Institutes.
Married people can be members in the wider sense if certain measures of prudence are observed.
It would be desirable to create Associations of married people...

A. Chastity in celibacy for Secular Institute members.

10. The affirmation is based on:

a) Doctrinal and Canon Law Reasons

The charter of the Secular Institutes is sufficiently clear in this matter: "Besides the exercises of piety and self denial which are a necessary part of the search for perfection of Christian life, those who desire to be formal members in the strict sense of the word, of a Secular Institute, must in fact tend to this perfection in the distinctive ways here specified:

11. 1. By profession made before God of celibacy and perfect chastity in the form of a vow, oath, or consecration binding in conscience, according to the norms of the Constitutions"
(Provida Mater, Art. III, 2).

12. Now, subsequent developments of the doctrine have only confirmed this essential condition of the profession, made before God, of celibacy and perfect chastity. To convince oneself of this, indeed, one has to do no more than refer to the various conciliar and post conciliar texts, especially Lumen Gentium, 42-44, Perfectae caritatis, 11, Discourses by Paul VI. One of the consultors expresses this in the following terms:

13. "Even though important developments in Catholic doctrine of the laity have taken place between 1947 and the present day, this particularly as regards marriage, the evangelical distinction between the life of a married person and that of a 'celibate for the sake of the Kingdom' has not undergone any appreciable variation (nor could it have done so). Indeed, the great crisis that has come to the fore in connection with priestly celibacy has made it possible to obtain a clearer and more profound insight into this value, which occupied an 'outstanding' place among the counsels and has always been held in particular honour by the Church' (Lumen Gentium, 42)".

b) A specific Choice in Response to a Call of the Lord

14. By means of a free response to the choice of the Lord, "the called one" elects to renounce certain things, even legitimate ones, for the sake of the Kingdom. The renunciation of the legitimate quid represented by marriage is imposed on the members of the Secular Institutes who choose a life of total consecration to God.

15. This also comes out very clearly from the answers given by the consultors:

"...Deciding to live according to the evangelical counsels means that one strives towards specific values and at the same time limits oneself by renouncing other values...".

16. "...The special significance of the choice of celibacy made by the members of the Secular Institutes (does not lie) in the observance of canon law or any extrinsic reason, but exclusively in the free and spontaneous response to a special call of the Lord".

17. Again, Paul VI, speaking to the Directors General of the S.I. in 1972, made the following declaration: "The poverty, chastity and obedience which you have chosen are ways of sharing the cross of Christ because like him and with him you give up the things which, without any infringement of law or precept, you could, if you wished, have and enjoy" (20.9.1972).

18. The Lord does not require this renunciation of legitimate things of all people; indeed, He does not normally require it of those who live in the state of marriage and who, by giving and receiving, should participate in the human joys of a Christian home. This total renunciation is peculiar only of those whom God calls specially to Him to bear witness to an absolute preference and who respond to this call by consecrating themselves totally to Him.

c) The Need for avoiding Confusion

19. It follows from these different choices that married people and those who are specially consecrated to God must arrive at the perfection of Christian life, at the sanctity to which all of us are called, by different roads that befit their special situations: the former by adhering to the sacrament of marriage, in the sense that they must permit the spouses to attain the highest degree of sanctity in the married state, the latter on the basis of a "special consecration" to the Lord. The sacrament of marriage offers Christian spouses the means of sanctification and bearing witness to the glory of God in their peculiar condition of spouses, in their sublime office of being a father or a mother (cf Gaudium et spes, 48); and nothing whatsoever prevents those who desire to do so from having recourse to evangelical commitments in keeping with their state if such commitments help them to better accomplish their obligations and mission. As regards the faithful who have chosen to follow Christ in a more intimate manner, they will similarly find that their consecration by means of the profession of the evangelical counsels will give them the support and the grace to realize their total donation to the Lord. This distinction appeared very clearly in the conciliar texts, and it was equally underscored in the answers given by the consultors:

20. "We are here concerned with absolutely distinct realities, even though they tend to wards one and the same sanctity, and it would be dangerous to confuse them. It would be dangerous for the Secular Institutes, who would end up by losing the true sense of their charism; but it would be equally dangerous for married people, who would be drawn onto ground where they would eventually become subject to rules that are not in keeping with their state of life".

21. Paul VI, in his message of the 20th March 1975 on the occasion of World Vocation Day, highlights the specific witness given by the faithful consecrated to God. He begins by stressing the irreplaceable and admirable part that laymen play in the Church's faith and witness at a time that is characterised by a lack of vocations, so much so that they assume responsibilities, exercise ministries, and so on. He rejoices at the idea, and encourages this promotion of the laity. But then he adds:

22. "But all this, needless to say, cannot be a substitute for the indispensable ministry of the priest or the specific witness of the consecrated faithful. It calls these latter. Without them there would be the risk that Christian vitality might become severed from its roots, the Community sterile, and the Church secularised" .

23. Without in any way minimising the witness given by laymen who are authentic Christians, the Holy Father makes it clear that Church expects a specific witness from the consecrated, a witness that is essential for the very vitality of the ecclesial community as a whole. It is therefore desirable to avoid all possibility of confusion between the state of married people who commit themselves to the practice of conjugal chastity and the state of people who have chosen chastity in celibacy as a response to a special call of the Lord. Although it is true that both the latter and the former must tend towards the perfection of Christian charity and bear witness to the Love of Christ, it is equally true that they must do so by means of two entirely distinct roads, two states of life that are so different that one cannot possibly embrace both of them at one and the same time.

24. It therefore follows that married people cannot be admitted to full membership of Secular Institutes, since these are characterised by the fact that their members are essentially vowed to chastity in celibacy.

B. Married people as members of Secular Institutes in the wider sense

25. The Secular Institute members in the wider sense have the chance of remaining in their peculiar state of life--which may be that of married people, for example--and yet training themselves for evangelical perfection by participating in the spiritual advantages of the Institute, in its peculiar apostolate, and also in complying with some of the demands it makes on its members. It is only in this precise sense that one can speak of the admission of married people to membership of a Secular Institute. It also presupposes that certain measures of prudence should be observed in order to safeguard the value of marriage. According to the answers given by the consultors, these measures concern the following points:

a) The Reasons for the request for Membership and the Conditions for accepting it

26. One of the consultors alludes to the reasons that in the past have led Secular Institutes to admit married people as members in the wider sense: firstly, a certain primacy accorded to the "celibates for the sake of the Kingdom" and, consequently, the need for spouses to learn from their example; secondly, the vague need felt by the Secular Institutes to create a first zone of influence, this not without the hope of arousing some vocations for the Institutes themselves.

27. Only one of the answers deals in a precise and clear cut manner with the reasons underlying the request for membership and the conditions for accepting it:

28. "The reasons that cause spouses to want to enter a Secular Institute should be examined with particular care. If the underlying reason is an escape from marriage or a concept of marriage that detracts from the value of marriage, the request should be refused. If the Institute did not offer the possibility of living marriage in a Christian manner, i.e. perfectly, the entire object of such membership would be defeated.

b) The Consent of the other Spouse

29. Almost all the answers are concordant in saying that the consent of the other spouse is an essential condition for the admission of a married person to membership in the wider sense of a Secular Institute. So much so that one of them specifically says that "the lack of such consent would be in contrast with the very nature of marriage understood, first and foremost, as a spiritual community ". Only one of the consultors is of the opinion that this condition should not be imposed, but even he supposes that the two spouses will have reached a prior understanding:

30. "While I deem it desirable that the two spouses should inform each other, seek together and reach an agreement, I would not impose the condition that the one has to obtain the consent of the other.

31. This amounts to saying that, generally speaking, a married person should not be admitted to membership of a Secular Institute without the knowledge of the other spouse.

c) The Participation of a Married Member in the Government of the Institute

32. The answers given by the consultors in connection with this matter are rather more complex. All the same, they make it quite clear that the active participation of married members in the government of the Institute does not seem to be desirable. Only one of the consultors frankly visualises such a participation, but even he hints at the serious risks involved:

33. "If in fact there exist Secular Institutes who admit married people as members in the wider sense, I would be in favour of the representatives of these members participating in the government, but only in proportion to their effective numbers. In fact, if an Institute admits married people, it is only right and proper for it to accept all the consequences thereof. There are also risks: the inevitable interactions of the Institute on family life and of the family on the life of the Institute. Moreover, at a historical moment when it is becoming particularly difficult to live virginity, the celibates would have a minority representation in the government and this implies a danger of insufficient value being attributed to virginity".

34 Taking the answers as a whole, participation of the married members in the government of the married members in the government of the Institute is visualised as follows:

Three answers hold that this possibility should not be considered.
The other consultors suggest that representation of the married members in the government of the Institute could be considered, but only to deliberate questions that concern them.
According to one of these latter, it would be desirable for the married members to have a government of their own.

35. This last answer, suggesting a separate grouping with a government of its own, brings us to the third aspect of our problem.

C. The creation of associations of married people would be desirable...

36. This desire is expressed more or less explicitly in all the answers of the consultors. First of all, let us quote from two of the proposals made:

I) "I should like to state the problem differently. Let us not ask 'Some married people are interested in the Secular Institutes, what place could be accorded them in these Institutes?', but rather 'Some married people are attracted by evangelical perfection, what can be done to help them?'.

37. The second formulation would permit a freer search and would undoubtedly lead to the true solution. We are here face to face with the problem of whether it is possible to have a certain radicalism of evangelical life in marriage ".

38. 2) "It seems desirable to set up Associations for married people who want to commit themselves on a communitarian basis to following Christ in the spirit of the beatitudes and the evangelical counsels. One would thus respond to the desire of many married people for the Church to give full recognition not only to the sanctifying value of marriage, but also to the substantial equality of all the members of the People of God as regards the precept of tending to the perfection of charity. The definition of the concrete content of the commitments of obedience and poverty to be assumed by married people cannot but be the outcome of their own experiences and reflections. If this is to be done in an adequate manner, it seems absolutely essential that the experimentation and reflection should develop among married people, without being confused with other forms of life ".

The following two ideas can be abstracted from the replies as a whole

39. It would be desirable to promote Associations of married people. The reasons adduced in support can be summarised as: responding to the need felt by these people to associate in order to live their faith better; responding to their desire to see the Church recognise in full the sanctifying value of marriage and substantially the possibility of all members of the People of God to tend towards the perfection of charity; offering to these people the effective possibility of a certain radica1ism of evangelical life in marriage.

These Associations of married people would be distinct from the Secular Institutes

40. In connection with this second affirmation, however, one of the consultors suggests that the period of experimentation could be entrusted to the general management of the Section for the Secular Institutes.


41. As we already mentioned above, two experts were invited to state their motivated opinion in the course of a Congress that was held at the headquarters of this Congregation. Their arguments, retracing those of the consultors, were to be grouped around the same points, on which the collegial organ of the Dicastery took its decisions.

1. The "Special Consecration" of the Members of the Secular Institutes cannot be called into question

42. The experts base their affirmations first and foremost on doctrinal principles, but also mention the metaphysical and spiritual aspects of the question. They recall that the Secular Institutes constitute essentially a state of perfection or consecration recognised by the Church, and they draw support for their contention from the teachings of the Magisterium and the practice followed during the last few decades.

43. As regards the Secular Institutes, just as in the case of the religious Institutes, "their very nature requires the commitment to perfect chastity in celibacy and this necessarily excludes married people (formaliter ut sic) - to poverty and to obedience ".

44. " The teaching and the practice of the Church, right up to the Council and the most recent speeches of the Holy Father, very clearly determine the need for the effective profession of the three evangelical counsels, a profession that married people cannot make".

45. A further clarification is added in order to avoid all misunderstanding in connection with these counsels:

"Here we are not concerned with just any counsel of the Gospel but with the 'typical' evangelical counsels, that is to say, chastity in celibacy, poverty and obedience, assumed as a stable form of life by means of a vow or other sacred bond recognised by the Church in an Institute. This is the very thing that characterises a member of a Secular Institute in the world and distinguishes him from ordinary baptised. The constitutional texts of the Secular Institutes, i.e. Provida Mater (I, Art 13), Primo feliciter (II) and Cum Sanctissimus (VII ab.), just like the pontifical speeches, leave no doubt whatsoever as regards this 'consecration' that qualifies the Secular Institute member in the world ".

46. It is therefore essential to reaffirm this fundamental principle that the profession of the three evangelical counsels confers a " special consecration", a consecration that is rooted in baptism and completes it. Now, "perfect chastity is the essential and constitutive element of the reality that consecrates to God in the vocation of an Institute of perfection. While poverty and obedience especially in the Secular Institute can be subtly shaded, perfect chastity imposes itself as an indispensable element of belonging totally to the Lord".

47. The expert then continues: "Here we are at the very centre of the specific vocation ... that essentially characterises a Secular Institute and its members in the strict sense. If one were to exclude, even unwittingly or unconsciously, the reality that is at the very heart of the 'novelty' of the spring of grace in the world that is represented by the Secular Institutes, the 'special vocation' underlying these Institutes would no longer have any raison d'être in the Church".

48. Thus, the consultors, the experts and the Congress are wholly agreed in confirming the same conclusion: the gift of God represented by the "special consecration" imposes the profession of the evangelical counsels upon the Secular Institute members in the strict sense, and therefore the practice of perfect chastity in celibacy.

2. The Married People in the Secular Institutes are Members in the Wider Sense

49. The possibility of married people belonging to a Secular Institute cannot be called into doubt. Indeed as an expert pointed out at the Congress, even Provida Mater already admits this possibility when it says: "Associates who desire to belong to the Institute as members in the strict sense..." (P. M. III, 2). This is equivalent to saying that others can belong to the Institute as members in the wider sense. In fact, this possibility was later explicitly affirmed by the Instruction Cum Sanctissimus (Vll, a). However, these constitutional documents make it clear that there are different degrees of membership, differences that are rightly and essentially expressed by the fact that a given person embraces each of the evangelical counsels to a greater or a lesser degree. There can be no doubt that this refers in a very special manner to the counsel of chastity: although chastity in celibacy "for the sake of the Kingdom" is absolutely indispensable for the members in the strict sense, the members in the wider sense do not have to comply with this requirement and can therefore be married people. If, therefore, the mode of membership in a Secular Institute is based primarily on the effective profession of the counsel of chastity, it follows that it will never be possible to eliminate all distinctions or to make the married members in all respects equal to the celibate members. In other words, married people necessarily belong to Secular Institutes as members in the wider sense. This is a normal conclusion reached unanimously by both the consultors and by the collegial organ of this Congregation.

50. Does one have to conclude from this that the distinction in the degree of membership in a Secular Institute supposes measures so rigid that one cannot visualise a close participation of the one group in the life of the other? There are different experiences as regards this matter, and the expressed opinions are widely shaded. The conclusions of the consultors reflect different trends as regards, for example, the conditions of admission or participation in the government of the Institute. Bearing in mind this variety of views, the experts and the Congress ask that this experience of life should be prudently continued.

51. However, since it is clearly impossible to introduce married members into an Institute with "the same rights and duties" as the members in the strict sense, one could not but wonder whether it would not be better to visualise a new formula for married people. The Congress therefore examined the possibility of Associations of married people.

3. Towards Associations of Married People?

52. As was brought out by the answers of the consultors, Associations of married people or with married people correspond to a present day trend within the context of the universal call to sanctity of which the Council has spoken (Lumen gentium, Chap. 5). The experts, in turn, showed that it was desirable "to face up to this reality in a concrete manner because, there too, the breath of the Spirit was pushing or calling to the perfection of charity, choosing the means that He deemed suitable for our times ".

53. The Congress, desiring to take account of the profound and legitimate aspirations that would like to give birth to such groupings, therefore considered the problem with the greatest attention. It recognised the need for helping, supporting and possibly also guiding such Associations of a new type. In this field, however, as also in many others, only actual experience of life can suggest, clarify, and perfect. It is therefore premature to try to visualise the practical modalities that would permit the eclosion of these new "buds" in the Church. The conclusion of the Congress, in affirming that it may be desirable to give consideration to such Associations with married people, does not in any way diminish their value and raises hope for the future, and at the same time reasserts very clearly the excellence of consecration in celibacy (cf. Lumen Gentium, 42).

10th May 1976

On the 30th anniversary

of the apostolic constitution

Provida Mater Ecclesia

Paul VI

1. Today, this very day, thirty years ago, an event was celebrated in the Catholic Church which communicated to many of her sons the charism of this feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, that is the oblation of Christ to his Father's will.

2. We wish, in fact, to recall an anniversary that falls today. Thirty years ago, on 2 February 1947, the Church recognised a new form of consecrated life, when our predecessor Pius XII promulgated the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater.

3. A new form, different from that of religious life not only in its implementation of "the following of Christ" but also in its way of assuming the Church world relationship, which is also essential to any Christian vocation (cf. G.S., 1).

4. Thirty years are not that many, but already significant is the presence of secular institutes in the Church, and we ask you to join us in thanking the Father of heaven for this His gift.

5. And we wish to send to one and all, men and women, our greeting and blessing.

Rome, 2nd February, 1977

Third General Conference of Latin American Bishops


Secular Institutes

774. "Insofar as the Secular Institutes are concerned specifically, it is important to recall that their particular charism is to respond directly to the great challenge being posed to the Church by current cultural changes: they are to move toward forms of secularised life required by the urban industrial world, but without allowing secularity to turn into secularism".

775. "In our day the Spirit has brought into being this new type of consecrated life represented by the Secular Institutes. They are somehow meant to help resolve the tension existing between real openness to the values of the modern world (authentic Christian secularity) and full, thoroughgoing submission of heart to God (the spirit of consecration). Situated right in the center of this conflict, such Institutes can be valuable pastoral contribution to the future. They can help to open up new pathways of general validity for the People of God".

776. "On the other hand the very set of issues they seek to tackle, as well as their lack of roots in an already tried and tested tradition, exposes them more than other forms of the consecrated life to the crisis of our day and the contagion of secularism. The hopes and the risks entailed in this way of life should spur the Latin American episcopate to show special solicitude in fostering and supporting their growth".

Message addressed to the Second Latin American Congress of Secular Institutes

Card. Eduardo F. Pironio

(July 12th, 1979)

Dear brothers and friends:

1. Welcome to this meeting of grace! The Lord is present for you have been convened as the Church in his Name (Mt 18 20). The Spirit of God which renews all things acts deeply in the heart of each one of you, within every Secular Institute represented. You will emerge renewed and reborn: confirmed in the faith, animated by hope and strengthened by love, so as to fulfil the evangelising mission in our Latin American Continent. Allow me to greet you with the wish expressed by Paul to the Romans: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" (Rom 15,13).

2. The living God of hope! This is what Latin America needs today. This is what you all proclaim with the strength of a witnessing born of contemplation and of the cross and exercised in the original conditions of family and social life (L.G. 31), and becomes concrete in the manifestation and communication of the Paschal Christ. You are not the witnesses of a distant God, but of a God who rose again and lives and treads the path of men. Neither are you the disincarnate witnesses who indicate to others the road of salvation while you remain on the edge; but committed witnesses with the difficulties and risks of history, radically submerged in the dead and risen Christ, evangelically incorporated in the world in order to transform it, sanctify it, offer it to God, building thus the new civilisation of love. Like all other laymen but far more by reason of the consecration which animates you "in the eyes of the world you must be the witnesses of the resurrection and of the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ and signs of the true God" (L.G. 38).

3. You are meeting to reflect in the light of the Magisterium and of the requirements of a Continent in full effervescence, marked by poverty and the cross but filled with hope on the identity of Secular Institutes in this providential moment of Latin America, in terms of a full evangelization, of an integral advancement of man, of a transformation of culture in line with the civilisation of love.

4. I wish to remind you of three things: your identity, your present state as "your own way" of being Church, your profound and vital requirements.

5. 1. - Your Identity. This can be summed up very simply: "consecrated secularity". These are two aspects of a same reality, of a same divine vocation. Both are essential. This was clearly asserted by Paul VI when he said: "Neither of the aspects of your spiritual nature can be overrated at the expense of the other. They are both equally essential" (20 lX 72) .

6. In these privileged times of history and of the Church, the Lord calls upon you to live your consecration in the world, from the world and for the world. The world cannot tarnish nor decrease the wealth and fecundity of consecration, neither can consecration wrest you from the commitment and responsibility of the daily task. Totally committed with Christ, your minds are open to what is eternal, you are the witnesses of the Absolute, but always within the sphere of temporal life. The two words "consecrated laymen" must be duly stressed and indissolubly united.

7. "Consecrated". That is to say sanctified more deeply in Christ by the one and only Holy One, and by will of the Spirit, so that you may belong totally and exclusively to love. "You have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all know" (I Jn 2,20). This consecration, which deepens and brings to plenitude the consecration of baptism and confirmation, penetrates your daily life and activities, creating a total availability to the plan of the Father who wishes you to be in the world for the world. Your characteristics are those of men and women of the Absolute and of hope, exclusively open to the one and only Love; poor and disinterested, capable of understanding those who suffer and of giving yourselves evangelically to saving them and transforming the world from within. In his Address of 2 February, 1972, Pope Paul VI asserted: "Your consecrated life, in the spirit of the evangelical counsels, is the expression of your undivided loyalty to Christ and to the Church, of the permanent and radical striving towards holiness, and the awareness that, in the last analysis, it is only Christ who, with his grace, carries out the work of redemption and transformation in the world. It is deep in your hearts that the world is consecrated to God."

8. "Laymen". But this special consecration, this special way of belonging to Jesus Christ in virginity, poverty, obedience, does not detract the members of Secular Institutes from the world, nor does it paralyse their temporal action, but gives it life and dynamism, greater realism and efficacy; freeing it of dissatisfactions, interests and quests, which are somehow related to egoism. "Secular consecration": in opening man and woman to the absolute radicalism of the love of God, they are prepared for a deeper incarnation in the world, for a pure, free purifying and liberating secularity.

9. They are not of the world, but they are in the world and for the world. The characteristic of this "new way" of being Church is to live precisely in the world the radicalism of the Beatitudes as the light, salt and leaven of God. This secularity, which is far from being superficial naturalism or secularism, indicates "the proper place of your Christian responsibility", the one and only way of sanctification and apostolate the privileged scope of a vocation lived specifically for the glory of God and the service of our brothers. It calls for living in the world in contact with our brothers of the whole world, part as they are of human vicissitudes, responsible as they are for the possibilities and dangers of the earthly city, bearing as they do the weight of a day to day life committed to the construction of society, involved together with them in the most varied professions at the service of mankind, of the family and of the organization of peoples. Committed, above all to the construction of a new world according to the design of God, in justice, love and peace, as the expression of an authentic "civilisation of love". It is not an easy task. It calls for discernment, generosity, courage. Paul VI calls them "the alpinists of the spirit" (26-IX-70).

10. 2. Your Actuality. Paul VI, in the manner of his prophetic intuition, referred to Secular Institutes as "a characteristic and most consoling phenomenon in the contemporary Church" (26 IX 70). In a way which is original and proper to them, they express and achieve the presence of the Church in the world. They are a valid sign of the relationship of the Church with the world: trust and love, incarnation and presence, dialogue and change. The Council opened up to us an evangelical path, subsequently illuminated by the Magisterium of the Popes, from Paul VI to John Paul II. The Church was repeatedly defined as "the universal sacrament of salvation". For Latin America the spirit of God inspired two ecclesial events which strongly marked the redeeming presence of the Church in that Continent: Medellin and Puebla. They gave us a better understanding of the responsibility of Christians in the evangelization and transformation of the world. It is an imperative requirement of the times and a pressing invitation of the Spirit. It is a challenge of history to the commitment of the Church, and more specifically of the laity, to become part of the world so as to transform it. "In a moment such as this said Paul VI the Secular Institutes, by virtue of their charism of consecrated life in the world, appear as providential instruments to incarnate this spirit and transmit it to the whole Church. If in a certain way, they essentially manifested this aspect even before the Council, by their presence, with all the more reason must they today be specialised, exemplary witnesses to the attitude and mission of the Church in the world " (2 II 1972). And he adds immediately almost as an exhortation and a challenge: " For the ' aggiornamento ' of the Church today, clear directives or frequent documents are not sufficient: persons and communities, responsibly aware of embodying and transmitting the spirit desired by the Council are required. This is the thrilling mission entrusted to you: to be a model giving an indefatigable impulse to the new relationship that the Church is trying to embody before the world and in the service of the world".

11. Secular Institutes, if they are truly faithful to their charism of consecrated secularity, have a very important word to say in the Church today. Their mission is more than ever providential. They will be a privileged means of evangelization, of explicit proclamation of the Love of the Father manifested in Christ, of an authentic and profound human advancement and of a real evangelical liberation, effected in the spirit of the Beatitudes. They will be a concrete means to overcome the tragic dualism between faith and life, the Church and the world, God and man.

12. 3. Your Exigencies. Faithfulness to the Lord who calls us and requires everything of us. I have no doubt that this is a moment of grace for the Secular Institutes of Latin America. Consequently, it is a moment of renewed creation and of hope. There is need for "renewed creation" of our Secular Institutes in the Spirit, heeding the Word of God and constantly interpreting the signs of the times. I limit myself to stressing three requirements which in my opinion are fundamental: sense of Church, theological existence, contemplative dimension.

13. Sense of Church: live the joy of being Church today, in this privileged moment of history, in this Continent of possibilities and ¬hope, responding in an original and a specific manner to the divine call. To be fully Church in a new way (as "consecrated laymen"), in deep communion with the Pastors and participating fraternally in the evangelising mission of the People of God as a whole. Radically centered in God and evangelically as part of the world. Be Church in authentic communion and participation.

14. Theological existence: live in the world a clear and irreducible theological existence. Live the supernatural normally: live in faith, go forward building in hope, change the world by the force of un-refrained love. This you ask in the beautiful Prayer of the Congress: "confirmed in Faith, animated by Hope and strengthened by Love". The vision of Faith will help you to constantly discover the plan of God, the passing of Christ through history, the vital call of the Spirit of Love. Hope will protect you against the paralysis of discouragement or melancholy. It will be your support in the Paschal Christ, it will actively commit you in the construction of the world. Charity will lead you to live with joy the vital demands of consecration, to center your life in Jesus Christ and embrace his Cross, to serenely become part of the world without superficiality nor fear and to generously serve your brothers.

15. Contemplative dimension: in order to interpret in God the things that occur in the world, to discover the anxieties of men and the demands of God, one must be contemplative.

This means men and women of prayer, who stop in the rhythm of their work to listen to God; who, from time to time dare to retire to the desert to meet Him in solitude; who, above all, know how to create in their innermost self a deep and unchangeable area of active silence. People who experience God in work and in leisure, in anxiety and in joy, in prayer and in worldly activities. "Secular prayer" is not easy, but it is indispensable. It is the only way of life of a member of a Secular Institute: God must be the uninterrupted source of your life while you follow your profession and the hopeful sorrow of humanity. It is difficult, but at times one must have the courage to cut away from everything (in order to subsequently return to the world) and seek a moment and a place for prayer. Above all, we must pray to the Lord with the simplicity of the poor.

16. This message has become too long, but this can be explained in part by the ecclesial love I have for the Secular Institutes; their providential existence, their actual effectiveness as a sign of a hopeful Church, their special responsibility at this time of the evangelization of our Latin American Continent. In part because I have wished to make good the lack of my physical presence, and what I would have liked to say to you personally had I been able to participate in this Congress. God willed it otherwise, blessed be His will!

17. But to you go more than my written words: two beloved friends and two witnesses of the Secular Institutes Rev. Mario Albertini and Mons. Juan José Dorronsoro. They are, as St. Paul would say, "my personal visiting card". Talk with them, consult them without fear and listen to them. They will no doubt say to you the same I have said but better, more briefly, and with greater authority. Mine is the authority of service in Christ and of affection.

18. I cannot conclude without a thought for "Mary, the model of consecrated secularity, who evangelised with her presence and with her words" as so splendidly says the Prayer of this Second Congress.

19. Totally consecrated to the Lord through her poverty, virginity and obedience to the Father Mary lived in the world. She fully lived the history of her people sharing their expectations and their hopes, living their poverty and desiring their liberation. She believed in the word conveyed to her in the name of the Lord and was happy. She was a contemplative woman: she lived always "attentive" to the word of the Lord, She was the faithful Virgin, the Mother of blessed hope and of beautiful love: the Virgin who engendered Christ and surrendered him in the silence of contemplation and of the Cross. She was the figure and the beginning of the Church: the presence of Christ, the sign of communion and salvation.

20. To her, "the star of evangelization" we now recommend the work of this II Latin American Congress of Secular Institutes. We trust in Her and our hopes are centered on Her. We commit everything to the silent and faithful heart of "Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ" (Mt l,16).

With affection and hope I bless you in Christ and in the Blessed Mary.

Opening Discourse to the Second International Congress of Secular Institutes

Card. Eduardo F. Pironio

(August 25th, 1980)

Dear friends:

1. These are the simple words of hope of a person who believes to know you and who loves you; and who, in the name of Pope John Paul II, has the privilege and the responsibility of serving you. Allow me to greet you with the words of Saint Paul to the Philippians: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God for all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all, making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the Gospel, from the first day until now" (Phil 1,2 5).

2. Your Congress opens under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the protection of Mary, a model of secular consecration in a privileged moment for the mission of the Church: a world who thirsts for the Word of God, who feels the need for the transforming presence of the Church, who expects from the Church the justification of its hope, who questions the Church regarding truth and love, justice and peace, liberty and communion. The world challenges the Church in what is proper and essential to her. The explicit transmission of the Good News of Jesus for the conversion of hearts and the construction of a new society.

3. It is precisely here, in the mystery of a communion Church, that fits the providential lay ministry of the Secular Institutes: in the essential relationship of a Church made for the salvation of Man of Man as a whole and of all men and for transforming the world from within for the glory of the Father. "Inspired by no earthly ambition, the Church seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ Himself under the lead of the befriending Spirit. And Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served" (G. S., 3).

4. At the outset of this Congress which I consider of transcendental importance for the future of Secular Institutes, (their interior vitality, the effectiveness of their mission and the indispensable awakening of new vocations) allow me to remind you of three things: faithfulness to your own identity as consecrated laymen, the ecclesial sense of your life and evangelising mission, the urgency of a profound life in Christ, the Envoy of the Father and the Saviour of men.

I. Faithfulness to your own identity

5. Be fully yourselves. Do not fear to lose your unforegoable identity as laymen by fully living in the world the interior liberty and plenitude of love derived from the evangelical counsels.

6. Consecration does not separate you from the world: it only makes you more deeply part of the Paschal Christ, raising to greater maturity and plenitude the essential consecration of Baptism. For a consecrated laymen living one's Baptism fully means committing himself in a new way to be in the world a legible "letter from Christ", "written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2 Co 3,3).

7. Be faithful to your "consecrated secularity". That is to say live the unbreakable unity of this one and only and original vocation in the Church. Do not feel yourselves diminished laymen, second class laymen, clericalized laymen, a strange mixture of laymen and religious: feel yourselves fully laymen but directly committed in the construction of the world in a radical follow up to Jesus Christ. For this work of evangelization, so closely linked with the integral advancement of man and the full liberation in Jesus Christ, it is indispensable that you live generously and daily the two expressions of an indivisible vocation: "secular consecration". It is for this that you are loved and have been chosen, consecrated and sent.

II. Ecclesial meaning of your life and evangelizing mission

8. In recent years, the Church as a whole has welcomed the gift of the Secular Institutes. From Pius XII to John Paul II we recall in particular the messages of Paul VI, so enlightened and full of human warmth and of ecclesial meaning.

9. "Secular consecration" is a privileged way of being Church. Particularly Church as "universal sacrament of salvation". You therefore belong to the holiness of the Church. Not to its structure, but to its life.

10. The members of Secular Institutes must live intensely the mystery of the Church: both at the universal and at the private level. Discover, love and assume all the problems and hopes, the missionary emergencies of the various local Churches. The evangelising vitality of a Secular Institute depends on a profound and concrete sense of Church.

11 . Hence the need to move forward in the direct transmission of the Good News to the poor with the Pastors, in effective communion with their guidelines and with the demands and expectations of all the People of God.

12. The Secular Institutes are a providential way of being Church; which means two things: that their specific identity is recognised and respected and their mission is fulfilled from within a Church essentially communion and participation sent by Jesus Christ to the world to proclaim the Good News to the poor.

III. A life lived deeply in Christ, the Envoy of the Father

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2,19 20)

13. The life and growth of a Secular Institute depends essentially on two factors: on its historical realism (authentic commitment with the life of the city: family and work, culture, society and politics) and on its profound relationship with Christ. For a member of a Secular Institute, this means the following: being a radical follow up to Christ through the evangelical councils (while remaining still in the historical context of the world) and a progressive configuration with Christ through prayer, the cross, the daily fulfilment of the will of the Father.

14. Prayer takes place always in a "secular" context and not religious nor monastic. Which does not mean that it is not authentic. It is always a positive and perfect communion with the will of the Father. It takes place in the world, under the normal conditions of life. But it undergoes difficult and hard moments of separation and isolation. One cannot live in a permanent climate of contemplation, but only at special and exclusive times of prayer.

15. To live in Christ for the transformation of the world. To draw life from Christ for the clear and sound prophecy of man: Jesus "our blessed hope", is born.


16. Dear friends: your sessions are about to begin. Look at the world in which you are submerged as light, as salt, as leaven and which calls you; face the world with realism and hope.

17. Listen and welcome Christ who elects you, consecrates you and sends you. Listen to Christ with a spirit of poverty and availability. Love the Church and express its presence in the world.

18. Be sincere in love, rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer (Rom 12,9,12).

19. "May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly" (I Thess. 5,23) and may you always be accompanied by Mary, the Virgin of hope and of the road, of fidelity and of service, of radical surrender to God through Christ in the heart of the world.

August 1980

To change the world from the inside

Discourse to the 2nd International Congress of Secular Institutes

John Paul II


Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

1. "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ". These words, so frequently on the lips of the Apostle St. Paul, rise unbidden to my lips as I bid you welcome and thank you for coming to see me on this occasion of your Congress, this gathering of representatives of all the world's Secular Institutes.

2. Meeting you here today does stir me deeply. Your state of consecrated life is a special gift of the Holy Spirit given to our times to help us, as my Latin American confreres put it at Puebla, "to cope with the tension between objective openness to the values of the modern world (the authentic secular Christian attitude) and the complete and unreserved gift of the heart to God (spirit of consecration)" (cf. Final Document of the Puebla Assembly, n. 775). You actually live in the thick of the fight, the conflict which stirs and sunders men's souls today. That is why you can give "a really helping hand in forward looking pastoral work. You can open new roads, roads which are right for all men and women of the people of God throughout the world" (ibid.). So your Congress grips my mind. I pray the Lord to give you light and grace so that the work you are putting in may enable you to see quite clearly and in detail the chances and the risks of your state of life and to make decisions which will guarantee the right kind of development for this way of life of which today's Church has great expectations.

3. The theme of your Congress, "Evangelization and Secular Institutes", takes up a suggestion made by my venerable Predecessor, Pope Paul VI, in one of his discourses. For Pope Paul your hearts must be full of gratitude. He thought a lot of you. He had the practical wisdom needed to have the idea and reality of consecration in secular life accepted by the Church.

4. Speaking to Heads of Institutes on August 25th, 1976, he said: "If they remain faithful to their special vocation Secular Institutes will become the Church's experimental laboratory for the acid test of its adaptations in dealing with the world. That is why they must listen to the appeal of Evangelii nuntiandi as addressed to them, to them above all: 'Their primary and immediate task is not to establish and develop the ecclesial community this is the specific role of the pastors but to put to use every Christian and evangelical possibility latent but already present and active in the affairs of the world. Their own field of evangelizing activity is the vast and complicated world of politics, society and economics, but also the world of culture, of the sciences and the arts, of international life, of the mass media (no. 70)".

5. The emphasis these words put upon the ecclesial reality of Secular Institutes, both in what they are and in what they do, is obvious. Pope Paul enlarged upon the theme on other similar occasions.

6. There is an aspect of this, obvious enough in itself, that I would like to emphasize namely, how important it is that the life you live in this way, characterized and unified by consecration, apostolate and secularity, should be not only genuinely pluralistic that goes without saying but also a life of authentic communion with the pastors of the Church and a participation in the evangelizing mission of all the people of God.

7. I may add that this in no way detracts from the distinctive character of your consecration to Christ. My Predecessor made this point too in the Discourse I have just quoted and he called your attention to a point on which it is important to have clear ideas if you are to go about things in the right way. "This does not mean", he said, "that the Institutes as such must take these tasks upon themselves. Such commitment is normally personal, a matter for individual members. The duty of Institutes as such is to shape the conscience of their members and bring it to a maturity and openness that will make them work in real earnest to qualify in their chosen professions and cope successfully, in evangelical detachment of spirit, with the burdens and the joys of the social responsibilities they assume towards those to whom God's providence sends them."

8. In various ways during the past few years your Institutes at national and continental level have followed these guidelines and delved into the theology of evangelization.

Your present meeting is being held to see where you stand and assess the results. You want to help each individual to check his route more accurately in accord with the living Church which is "seeking by every means to study how we can bring the Christian message to modern man. For it is only in the Christian message that modern man can find the answer to his questions and the energy for his commitment of human solidarity" (Evangelii nuntiandi, N. 3).

9. In these matters lay people have duties which are their own and no one else's, as I have said and repeated and stressed times without number, and of course this is just what the Council teaches. I said, for instance, at Limerick during my pilgrimage in Ireland: "As people of God you are called to play your part in the evangelization of the modern world. Yes, lay people are 'a chosen race, a holy priesthood'. They too are called to be 'the salt of the earth and the light of the world'. It is their vocation and their proper mission to show the Gospel in their life and to put it like leaven into the world of today, the world in which they live and work.

10. Among the great forces which rule the world politics, mass media, science, technology, culture, education, industry, organized labor this is exactly where lay people are specialized missionaries working on their own ground. If these forces are directed by people who are true disciples of Christ and competent by know how and talent in their own fields, then the world will really be changed from within by the redemptive power of Christ"
(Limerick, Oct.1st, 1979).

11. Taking up these thoughts again and going a little deeper into them, I must ask you to consider three conditions of fundamental importance for effective mission: a) You must be above all disciples of Christ. As members of Secular Institutes you want truly to be his disciples by means of a commitment which goes to the very roots, the following of the evangelical counsels. You do this in a way that does not change your condition you are and you remain lay people, and this is very important but actually confirms and strengthens it. Your secular condition is now consecrated. It requires more of you. Your commitment in the world and for the world, which goes with your secular condition, is steady and permanent. Let this sink in. The special consecration which brings the consecration of your baptism and confirmation to the full height of potentiality, must impregnate your whole life and all your daily activities. It must create in you a complete availability to the will of the Father who has placed you in the world for the world. In this way your consecration will become a kind of interior touchstone for your secular life. You will not be in danger of taking life in the world to be just living in the world, gaily assuming that everything is going to be all right. You will never lose sight of the inevitable double meaning of "secular life". You will always be conscious of your commitment to discern the good things and the bad, veering all the time towards the one (clearly seen by that discerning power of your consecration) and progressively eliminating the other.

12. b) The second condition refers to the practical wisdom gained by experience, and the know how, your competence in this your own field of work. Here too you need to be up to the mark if you are to carry out, from your vantage point of actual presence in the world, the apostolate of witness and of commitment to every man, as required by your consecration and your Catholic life. Without this competence you will just not be able to put into effect the advice given by the Council to Secular Institutes: "They should make a total dedication of themselves to God in perfect charity their chief aim, and the Institutes themselves should preserve their own proper, i.e. secular character, so that they may be able to carry out effectively everywhere in and, as it were, from the world the apostolate for which they were founded" (Perfectae caritatis).

13. c) The third condition which I ask you to think over is the resolve in your hearts, hallmark of your condition as Secular Institute members, to change the world from the inside. You are in the world, but not just in the social sense, classified as secular, but put there, personally, every bit of you. Being there must be a thing of the heart, what you really mean and want. So you must consider yourselves part of the world, committed to the sanctification of the world, with full acceptance of its rights, its claims upon you, claims inseparable from the autonomy of the world, of its values. of its laws.

14. This means that you must give full weight in your minds to the natural order of things (very real and tangible philosophers sometimes talk of its "ontological density"). It means trying to see God's plan in the whole thing, the design he has chosen to trace out, and offering your collaboration in the progressive fulfillment of it as history unfolds. Your faith shows you the higher destiny which can enter into this history through Christ who made the first step in our direction, to become our Savior.

15. But divine revelation does not provide us with ready made answers to the many questions which you come up against, once you have really committed yourself to this life. You must seek, in the light of faith, adequate solutions for the practical problems which will come up from time to time; often enough you will have to take the risk of a solution which is no more than probable.

16. So you have undertaken to lend a hand in the world's progress. But there is another commitment. Faith must come into it with its own set of values. The two commitments are to become one, to blend harmoniously as integral parts of your life. Both are fundamental and they set the course you follow and guide every step on your way. If you do this you will be able to help in changing the world from within, becoming life giving leaven, fulfilling the duty laid upon you by Pope Pius XII in Primo feliciter: to be "the little yeast, always and everywhere at work, kneaded into every kind of society, from the humblest to the highest, to permeate each and all by word, by example and in every way until it forms and shapes the whole of it, making of it a new paste in Christ." (Introduction)

17. Thank you for bringing your good work to my attention. You have all my encouragement and support, all of you, priests and lay people. Persevere in your efforts to widen and deepen your understanding of temporal realities and values as they are related to evangelization: you priests, so that you may become increasingly concerned with the situation of people in the world and contribute to the diocesan clergy not only your personal experience of a life of commitment to the evangelical counsels, helped by a degree of common life, but also a fine sense of the true relation between the Church and the world; you lay people, so that you may gladly accept the special part given to you, consecrated in lay life in the service of evangelization.

18. I have been high lighting the special contribution of your lifestyle. This must not lead you to underrate other forms of consecration for the sake of the Kingdom, forms to which you too may be called. I refer to N. 73 of Evangelii nuntiandi where we are reminded that "the laity can also feel themselves called, or be called, to work with their pastors in the service of the ecclesial community, for its growth and life, by exercising a great variety of ministries according to the grace and charisms which the Lord is pleased to give them." This is no novelty, it is of a piece with very ancient traditions in the Church. It makes practical sense for some Institute members, especially, though not exclusively, those who live in the communities of Latin America and other Third World countries.

19. Dear sons and daughters, your field of action is, as you can see for yourselves, really vast. The Church expects a great deal of you. The Church needs your witness in giving to the world, hungering, whether consciously or not, after God's Word, the "tidings of great joy", the news that every truly human aspiration can find fulfillment in Jesus Christ. You must learn to rise to the occasion, the opportunities that Divine Providence is offering to you in these days, as the second millenium of Christianity draws to a close.

20. As for me, I beg the Lord once more, through the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, to give you in abundance his gifts of light, wisdom, determination, in your search after better ways of becoming, in the midst of your brothers and sisters in the world, a living witness to Christ and a quiet but compelling invitation to welcome his newness, each one in his or her own life and all together in the structures of society.

21. May the love of the Lord guide your reflections and discussions during this Congress. Then you can go forward with confidence. That is what I encourage you to do as I give, to you and to all those whom you represent, the Apostolic Blessing.

Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes(C.R.I.S.)

Formation in Secular Institutes

(April 6th, 1980)


1. In proposing these pages on formation, we should point out that they are offered simply as an aid to the Secular Institutes. In no way are they meant to be a normative directory.

2. In December, 1978, the Sacred Congregation of Religious and Secular Institutes sent to all Secular Institutes the result of a study on formation made in some constitution texts, together with a questionnaire. The answers received were then studied, the greater number accepting the study as satisfactory. Hence, the aid here presented has retained substantially the same structure, corrected, amplified and clarified according to suggestions received. Whatever could be included has been taken from those answers that were less in accord with this statement, but not material that would have demanded radical rewriting: either because they also recognised the validity of the preceding study or because the material would have otherwise been too voluminous.

3. Thus, also, we did not take up some certainly essential points, more particularly stressed by one Institute or another derived from its specific charism and experience, but varying from Institute to Institute.

4. From what has been said, the limitations of these pages will already be evident. It is worth noting that we are still dealing mainly with principles; they are repeated here, however, in the belief that they derive from concrete experiences and needs, and deserve to be put into effect in actual practice. Thus these pages are inspired with the hope that the Institutes will feel spurred on to concern themselves with formation and also to note and communicate their positive experiences so that they will be of practical use and shared in common.


5. Christian life, being theological, demands that all baptised persons be committed to the perfection of charity, according to personal vocation, within the ecclesial community.

6. The basis and aim of this growth is Jesus Christ: "so that Christ be formed in you" (Gal 4,19) so that "the great love the Father has given us, reach its perfection in us" (Jn 3,1 and 4,17); the principal agent and guide is the Holy Spirit: "He will lead you to the whole truth" (Jn 16,13); the milieu is the Church, body of Christ; essential food and support are the sacraments and the Word of God.

7. Within this vision which is universally valid and always very demanding, we have to speak of growth according to the various vocations. with their own specific features.

8. The vocation to consecration in secularity requires precisely that account be taken of its theological content, of the position in the People of God and in society of persons called to this way of life as also of the organization of the Institutes.


9. In the experience of Secular Institutes formation has to face a series of problems that can be summed up as follows:

A. General problems

These derive from:

10. 1. ever increasing rapidity of change in society at all levels, the pace of living that results, with predominant atmosphere of superficiality, difficulty in getting hold of the signs of the times and discerning value priorities;

l l. 2. identity crisis that has shaken the Catholic world in recent years phenomena of secularisation and horizontalism; the proximity of multiple cultures and life models; a certain confusion in the field of theology; diminution of the "sensus Ecclesiae" and influx of contrasting currents within the Church herself; lack of sufficiently solid Christian and doctrinal formation among youth, deriving from the crisis in traditional education patterns.

B. Problems relating more specifically to the Secular Institutes

These concern:

12. 1. the very nature of vocation to these Institutes, which demands continuous effort to synthesise faith, consecration and secular life; which would facilitate actualisation of a typically secular mission, accepting wholly the evangelical requirements of consecration to God:

13. 2. the situation of persons normally employed in secular tasks and activities: with problems of time, balance between various activities, change of place; all accentuated if we take into account that they concern the formation personnel themselves, who are also employees or professional people;

14. 3.--the ecclesial milieu in which the Secular Institutes function: this vocation is often misunderstood by the community and even priests (so that suitable spiritual direction is frequently hard to come by); and on the operative level, also very important for formation, the specific charism of these Institutes is often not perceived and valued as complementary and co responsible with other gifts in the Church.

15. This list of problems could be more detailed, and certainly, in some Institutes, for their own reasons they are accentuated. For example, international Institutes have the difficulty of the duty of respecting and assuming cultural values within which the charism of the Institute must become incarnate.

16. Nevertheless, this synthesis is enough to call attention, if it were necessary, to the formation task in the Secular Institutes.


A. Ultimate aim

17. To be of real help for a person to respond to her vocation and mission in the world, according to God's project, Secular Institute formation should encourage integral and unified development of the person according to capacities and conditions.

18. This is not easy because of the tendency to separate natural from supernatural realities, while they should be considered equally. Hence, it requires sufficient knowledge of the person, by both the subject herself and the formation personnel not merely with regard to spiritual gifts and growth in faith, but also the human aspects of intelligence, openness, sensibility, balance, affective and moral maturity, capacity for independent living, commitment, etc.

19. In fact, though, supernatural values which should be the ones to assure the sought for unity, escape to a great extent from our action. Consequently, formation should give firstly, basic education in prayer and faith, that is, personal contact with God, manifested by faithful adhesion to him at every moment of the day, enriched by the presence of our fellowmen and the whole of creation. This living and constant relationship supposes formation to fidelity to more intense moments of prayer, vigilance to live in communion with God in the very act of communion with men. Then prayer helps to patient self acceptance and acquiescence to life conditions, thus helping balance and solid growth.

20. Formation then becomes what in fact it should be: a human contribution to the invisible work of grace, to guide the person to indispensable collaboration with the main agent of formation, the Holy Spirit.

21. In this matter also, the Blessed Virgin is exemplary, and she becomes the "inspiring model" (Paul VI): she who always consented to the divine word and will and "consecrated herself totally to the person and work of her Son", who "went forward on the pilgrimage of faith and faithfully guarded her union with her Son till the Cross" (LG 56 and 58).

B. Basic Characteristics

22. The common vocation of those who belong to the same Institute demands elements of content, method in formation that are shared by all. But God calls us by name: even in its communication, the vocation is a personal one. Under these aspects formation is necessarily personal:

1. it should be actively willed and assumed by the person in formation, who should take on the responsibility of continuous striving for development in the light of God. Formation received passively would be ineffective.

23. 2. it should take into account the personality of the individual, that is, all her gifts and limitations, besides the stage she has reached through formation received or previously lacking.

24. 3. finally, it should take into account the "locus" of formation, that is, the concrete situation of the person to be formed; it matters very much that she be helped to realise her personal vocation, which expresses the specific Institute vocation in her life context and her relationship with others.

25. Hence, formation should be personal and integrated community wise: the growth of the person also depends on being able, in the various sectors of life, to enter into deep relationship with others, and the development of a sense of fraternity and authentic communion within the Institute that is united in Christ.

C. Areas

26. Formation must include all areas of life, even if the Institute does not contribute equally to each of these. In fact, some, technically speaking, escape its direct competence (professional, political, trade union fields) while on the other hand, seculars possess outside the Institute, various possibilities of formation under less technical aspects.

27. It could be asked whether the Institute's area of competence should not be restricted in formation, to transmission of the specific vocation and what concerns the charism. Or if it has not above all the obligation to supply a solid basic formation that would make up for the lack of one so often deplored in candidates.

28. But while taking these two aspects into account, it is necessary to help individuals, directly or indirectly, to acquire the personal formation they need to respond to the call of the Institute and carry out their own mission. One duty of the formation personnel will be to discern where formation is still necessary, what lacunas need to be filled up and where aggiornamento is urgent and vital. Meanwhile, the start should be from each one's concrete reality: her personal basic formation, social and professional duties, the possibilities of her milieu; after which should be offered first what is proper to the Institute, pointing out exterior means of formation, but also supplying on the Institute level, as far as possible, what cannot be found outside, while seeing to the co-ordination of the various elements so as to bring about in every subject the desired unity.

D. Particular aspects

29. Aspects and areas of formation may be dealt with separately, which does not mean separation, because they often cut across and overlay each other. To treat of each one by itself only means to bring out its essential contents.

1. Spiritual Formation

30. Under this aspect is included the basic demands of grace or the life of faith, for persons consecrated to God in the world. These demands each one should make her own in order to be inwardly renewed, to live concretely according to the evangelical counsels, to give herself entirely to God and men, in fidelity to the calling to secular consecration within her own Institute.

31. Because of the lack of spiritual training in young people who ask to enter the Institute, their formation must be very concrete; it should teach to live according to the evangelical counsels through gestures and attitudes of donation to God and in the service of men, helping towards a perception of the presence of God in the history of our times and each individual's personal history, and learning to live accepting the cross.

32. In such a way general spiritual formation enters into, and becomes specified according to the charism of the Institute and its spirituality. Elements that are repeated, though with varying intensity, are:

formation to prayer and living in God's presence;
deepening of baptismal life in the specific consecration, practice of the theological virtues and adult faith so that the whole being belongs to God;
listening to the Word of God, individually or in common, in obedient meditation;
deepening of the "sensus Ecclesiae" with awareness that through consecration the entire person is given to the Church and shares in her mission;
formation that enables the person to carry spiritual values into every human situation

2. Doctrinal formation: biblical and theological

33. Spiritual formation requires a doctrinal support, that is, study of the Bible and the teaching of the Church.

34. Holy Scripture is not only for the learned, certainly; but it is impossible to read it as the Word of God unless we take it seriously enough to study and understand it according to our capacities. The work of the Spirit in us is not impeded but rather facilitated by sustained studious efforts to open the listening spirit and heart. This biblical doctrinal study should extend to the whole of Scripture, but in any case at least the New Testament especially the Gospels.

35. The same holds for the teaching of the Church: to know and understand the Council documents, the Magisterium of the Pope and bishops, living more conscious of the faith and being more completely integrated in the ecclesial community.

36. Today, opportunities for biblical and theological studies in the various dioceses are not hard to find. The Institute should see that it profits by these possibilities, at the same time, envisaging completing studies of the teaching of the Church on Secular Institutes.

3. Psychological, moral and ascetical formation

37. This aspect of formation is not so much theoretical as to enable the person in formation to understand herself and her milieu and foresee the problems awaiting her. For the formation of a mature, responsible and humanly rich personality there should be a search for balance, self¬ control and openness to others: all this leading to better correspondence with grace through continual effort at self conversion and revision of living witness.

38. Corresponding with the intellectual aspect should go self-¬formation, where will come in abnegation and mortification behind Christ carrying his cross.

4. Formation to the secular apostolate

39. Work and professional activity and every type of presence in society must become means of personal sanctification and ways of inserting Christian values, above all charity, into a world to be sanctified from within.

40. Hence stress should be laid on the importance of members of the Institute keeping up to the changing world and Church, opening out wide horizons, and assuming with courage their own responsibilities; the urgency of forming them to grasp the "changes of attitude and structures" as they come, and "to understand ways of thinking and feeling" of the men of today so as to be able to "test and interpret all things in a truly Christian spirit" (GS 7 and 62).

41. The Institute has therefore the task of encouraging formation to secularity (the secular outlook), understood not only as a social condition but a value that is part of the life style, entering into the practice of the evangelical counsels and the carrying out of the apostolic task.

42. It is a formation to the mission as participation in the evangelising and sanctifying mission of the Church in the world; to an apostolate of presence and witness in the milieu and professional life; to a witness, too, when, for various reasons (illness, age, etc), participation in the building up of the kingdom is limited to one's daily life; as also to a visible and more direct apostolate demanded of the conscious and committed Christian. One whose particular vocation brings with it the urgency of proclaiming Christ and the love of the Father, and who knows how to make herself available for this end to the ecclesial community.

43. In short: formation to secularity that is a way of living specified by being in the world and for the world. At the same time, formation to courage, apostolic boldness and the will to be better prepared and not to yield to human respect.

5. Professional formation

44. We have already said that the Institute as such is not competent to intervene directly on the professional level. Nevertheless, it must see that competence is had in this field on which depends witnessing value.

45. It is, then, essential that the Institute draws the attention of the members to their duty to acquire the highest professional competence; to maintain suitable relationships with their work milieu and to be prepared to make valid choices in the cultural, social, political and trade union areas. These are, in fact, indispensable conditions for having an impact on a world in which culture and technical skill are at a premium and where only too frequently professional sense of responsibility is lacking.

46. Need for professional competence should be looked on as an authentic service to the world, in line with the specific Secular Institute Vocation

E. Line of unification

47. These various aspects of formation, particularly in what concerns spirituality and the apostolate, have their line of unification in the constitutions of each Institute, in so far as they are the concrete project of the vocation and contain the radical lines of the spiritual physiognomy of a person called to this vocation.

48. Constitutions that have been renewed since Vatican II have been enriched with both biblical and doctrinal theology, with ascetical sections and stimuli. If a member of a Secular Institute is formed on this basis, this formation will be complete in essentials, besides its validity being guaranteed by the Church's approval.

49. It is fundamental that an adult relationship, free with the freedom of the children of God, should exist between the person and the constitutions: the members must know and understand what they are saying; they must be in an attitude of such readiness that they read in them the truth calling them to generous action.

50. This relationship is, clearly, not limited to the period of first formation, when what the Institute seeks and offers must be well grasped. The constitutions read in the light of the Gospel and ecclesial documents, provide matter for study and revision that is permanently valid for growth in Christian maturity.

F. Formation periods

51. Formation should be systematic in the early period of life in the Institute but cannot be limited to this; the outline becomes ever clearer as choices become more precise, that is, throughout life.

52. All the elements described hold for first, as for on going formation, only the stress is different. Formation to the specific Institute charism of spirituality, which has priority at the start, must go on, because in the concrete living, the charism and spirituality have their own evolution, depending on times, places, Church directives and needs of the world. Intelligent evolution that requires continual formation.

53. The specific work of on going formation has many facets: it makes up for inevitable gaps in first formation; is an indispensable help to continuous aggiornamento, discerning authentic values and providing enlightened reading of the signs of the times; helps to rise above periods of fatigue due to intense living, isolation, age or other circumstances; sustains the constant effort for spiritual renewal when the first fervour is falling away, could lead to less fidelity; focuses attention on fresh demands of apostolic presence.

54. Between the period of first formation and what follows there might be a gap that could give rise to a crisis. The initial period is marked by the normal presence of a responsible guide devoting time to inter personal relationships and formation meetings; later on this may be lacking or very scarce and the physical community does not replace it. It is useful to prepare for this solitude through experience of independence and personal responsibility.

G. Formation personnel

55. It is therefore of extreme importance to make a careful choice of formation personnel possessing the necessary qualities. Attention should be paid to spiritual gifts, rootedness in the Institute, balance, capacity for discernment, listening, respect and understanding of persons.

56. There is also need to give a specific formation to the formation personnel, which in one sense is the same as that of all the other members, but in another is distinct. For example, the formation personnel should not only know the Gospel but also the pedagogical techniques by which it may be transmitted; they should know and live the constitutions of the Institute in such a way as to be able to communicate all their riches, know and also be capable of inventing various possible ways of living them and making them live. Besides elements of psychology indispensable for dealing with life situations, the personnel needs the capacity for judging situations so as to provide warnings required by the vocation and consecration in a Secular Institute for a particular person in a particular instance.


A. Formation planning

57. Planned formation is necessary even if it has to be sufficiently flexible to adapt to needs of persons and circumstances of time and place. Such a plan should be based on the Word of God, the Magisterium and the Constitutions, making use in its project of many contributions and be the fruit of reflection and experience.

58. Graded according to periods of formation, this plan should have a clear aim, but be very open as regards application, because it must be in function of persons. In international Institutes it is desirable that formation plans take into account the various cultural areas as long as the main lines of formation maintain unity of spirit and the specific vocation of the Institute. Once more it becomes clear that the use and deep study of the constitutions is essential in any formative plan.

B. Means of spiritual formation

59. Given the primary importance of spiritual formation, the means must be explicitly studied and explained.

60. A list might include: spiritual exercises, periodical retreats, liturgy and the sacraments, personal and communitarian listening to the Word of God, daily meditation, sharing faith sessions, reflection alone or together, on the constitutions. All these means of spiritual formation, directly used by the Institute or being a part of the milieu where the members live, do not exclude the fact that each one should feel himself personally and actively responsible for the way he makes them his own.

C. Contacts with the Institute

61. Contacts with the Institute may be many, all directed towards integral and unified formation: from exchanges between individuals or to a group or communication " from afar".

62. 1. Among person to person contacts, priority is given to those between members in formation and the formation personnel: help is there given to assume the various elements of the vocation responsibly and in line with personal gifts, thus making a life long harmonious synthesis.

63. There can be periodical colloquies, written relations and regular correspondence. It is good that the formation' personnel does not limit its action to these, but tries to meet the member in formation in the milieu of his ordinary everyday life. This will make his milieu of origin better known, the particular aspects of his personality accepted and will show how he relates to real life and to others. There are particular moments when the individual is helped to discover, reinforce, develop and deepen his sense of commitment and personal responsibility.

64. Besides contacts with the formation personnel, it is particularly important that the member in formation have fraternal contact with every other member of the Institute.

65. 2. But individual contact is not enough. This must be completed with times of community life, that is, those fraternal meetings indispensable for specific formation in the Institute and the verification of mutual support.

66. These moments of fraternal life may vary notably from one Institute to the other, but their formative efficacy is undeniable. They not only show human friendship but should, above all, be a time of confrontation with the Word of God, to incarnate it in the different but shared concrete situations. In fact, the value of dialogue, whether bilateral or on the level of the group, lies in the common search for the will of God, in reciprocal sharing.

67. At these meetings there is also the transmission of the history of the Institute (charism, foundation, first steps, developments, etc), the knowledge of which is fundamental for understanding the personal vocation and its place in the mission of the Church.

68. 3. At times, possibilities of fraternal meetings comes up against difficulties; hence the need to take into consideration written means, even if oral formation is preferable.

69. Among these instruments of formation may be listed all the Institute writings: letters, circulars, bulletins, questionnaires, reviews, etc, used according to the traditions of the Institute, but to which the members as far as they can, should contribute; and above all which should be received as a means of fraternal support.

D. Complementary means of formation

70. Is there a hierarchy of efficiency of means of formation useful to the Institutes?

71. In practice, the Institutes have to make use of different means in a complementary way, suited to the individual and actual possibilities. In this sense it can be said that all means are necessary and complement each other, in relation to the essential and permanent aim of personal growth.

72. A few suggestions for facing certain difficulties may be useful:

the remedy for isolation is the forming of groups: mutual help guarantees that there will always be a stimulus for progress in self-¬formation as well;
it can be very useful to share formation in common elements and demands between Institutes;
fraternal help between the better provided Institutes and those less gifted might also be considered.


73. The above reflections and the suggestions of the previous pages are offered, as has been said, as a help to Secular Institutes.

74. Perhaps in some Institutes the formation personnel may feel afraid, the task is too great for them.

75. It really is a heavy task, but it should lead all to feel certain that, while recognising they are "unprofitable servants" (Luke 17.10), when they have done all they can, the Lord will intervene and reach there where the formation personnel know not, nor cannot reach: "He will fulfil, with his power, all your desire for good" (2 Thess 1.11).

Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes (C.R.I.S.)

Secular Institutes and Evangelical Counsels

(Reflections on the basic teaching of the Church's Magisterium)

(May 15th, 1981)

The most painstaking activity that has to be undertaken by the "Secular Institute" Section of the Sacred Congregation is its examination of the Constitutions or Statutes, a task it absolves with the collaboration of its Consultors and Commissaries under the ultimate responsibility of the Cardinal Prefect and the Secretary.

This is not a purely technical task for which one has to do no more than apply some ready made scheme according to which the various norms can be approved or corrected.

Nor is the Section an anonymous group. Rather, its members, just like the Consultors and Commissaries, are personally called upon to render an ecclesial service, and they desire to render this service in love for Christ, the Church, and the people affected. This requires of them an effort of comprehension and a commitment of fidelity, both of which have to be continually renewed.

From the documentation it receives (and whenever possible also from a direct dialogue) the Section tries to understand, at least in its essence if not in all its nuances, the spirituality, the history and the characteristic elements of every Institute. In performing its task as an executive organ, however, the Section must take account of the Church's doctrine regarding the Secular Institutes, a doctrine that it must interpret, perfect and apply without betraying it (cfr. PM, Art. II, 2.2°).

It is in this spirit, therefore, that the Section for Secular Institutes, in order to clarify certain difficulties regarding the observance of the evangelical counsels, has made a serious study of its plan for the examination of Constitutions and Statutes. Following an initial analysis with its Consultors, the Section presents the results of its study in the conviction of providing something not necessarily new in content but useful and normative in drawing up or revising Constitutions, as well as a basis for common language in the dialogue between Institutes and the Section.

l. The novelty and the peculiar feature that the Secular Institutes constitute in the Church was and still is the Church's recognition of true consecration in secularity.

The Magisterium of the Church, by its own authority, recognises as Institutes of true consecrated life not only the religious Institutes, but also those associations that, called to an apostolate "in saeculo et ex saeculo", propose to their members as the way towards the fullness of charity (or using equivalent expressions: towards the perfection of Christian life; towards a full and authentic evangelical life) an explicit commitment on the basis of sacred bond to observe the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience in the world, in secular life. These associations it has called Secular Institutes.

In this connection see Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater of 1947, the Motu proprio Primo feliciter of 1948, and the confirmation contained in No. 11 of the Council Decree Perfectae caritatis of 1965. These texts must today be read in the light of the teachings of Paul VI and John Paul II contained in their speeches to the Secular Institutes.

The recognition of true consecration in secularity is restated, and in substantially the same terms, in the scheme of the future Code of canon law.

2. Three components concur in the reality of this peculiar consecration: God's action that calls to a specific commitment and a specific mission, the response of the person with total donation, and the recognition by the Church.

It is not the same as the consecration of baptism, but derives its origin and value from this latter, of which it is a development in depth in accordance with specific vocation: "in baptismatis consecratione intime radicatur eamque plenius exprimit (PC 5; cfr. LG 44: "intimius consecratur").

3. On the basis of the recognition by the Magisterium, the community of the Institute comes to belong to the Church by virtue of a special title.

As far as individual persons are concerned, ecclesial recognition offers the guarantee that the way proposed by the Institute is an evangelical way that leads to the fullness of charity, always provided that it is followed with fidelity and generosity. The fact that on the basis of this recognition the total and definitive donation of the members to Christ is received by the Director General of the Institute in the name of the Church provides a guarantee also of the new gift of grace that is conveyed by this peculiar consecration.

We are dealing here with a positive recognition. In other words, it obviously does not exclude that there may be other roads towards the fullness of charity in secular life: "All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and the perfection of love" (LG 40). The sacrament of marriage, for example, is given for this purpose. But the Magisterium recognises as Secular Institutes those that propose, in secularity of course, the road of an explicit commitment to observe the three evangelical counsels.

4. The road proposed by the Secular Institutes is a peculiar and characteristic road.

It is a lay road (for the lay Secular Institutes) that is specified by a special consecration. In fact, the secular character 'proper and peculiar to the laity" (LG 3l) is also "the proper and special character of these Institutes, which constitutes their whole reason for existence" (PF II).

The consecration that specifies this lay road involves an explicit commitment to observe the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, but with peculiar content and with a peculiar style.

Many evangelical counsels are given to all Christians; the road proposed by the Secular Institutes requires a special commitment to observe the three counsels in accordance with definite norms.

In fact, every road leading to fullness of charity requires that one should embrace the Gospel in its entirety as expressed by the Beatitudes. The three typical evangelical counsels in the doctrine of the Church are the ultimate consequence and the programmatic quintessence of all the evangelical counsels and the Beatitudes; they are an expression of the radicality with which the Gospel must be lived in order "to follow Christ with greater liberty and to imitate him more closely (= pressius)" (PC l). It is on account of the value of this radicality that the Magisterium requires the Secular Institutes to commit themselves explicitly to the evangelical counsels, "gift of God which the Church has received from her Lord and which by his grace she always safeguards" (LG 43).

Even in the case of Secular Institutes for priests one has to speak of a peculiar consecration, a consecration that in turn specifies the life of the priest and involves the same explicit commitment to observe the evangelical counsels.

5. An eminent expression of one's total donation to God is the vow of perfect chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom: "precious gift of divine grace given to some by the Father" (LG 42).

Sometimes the Church limits herself to requiring this particular vow before giving her recognition to a consecration; this, for example, is what happens in the case of the consecratio virginum. But in the case of the institutional forms of consecrated life, and specifically as far as the Secular Institutes are concerned, she requires that the donation should also be expressed by an explicit commitment to poverty and obedience according to certain norms.

6. The Magisterium of the Church, which has the task of "making wise laws for the regulation of the practice of the counsels whereby perfect love of God and of our neighbour is fostered in a unique way" (LG 45), leaves it to the Constitutions of the individual Institutes to draw up the appropriate directives. What she requires is:

a) that the call and the exhortation to fully live the spirit of the evangelical counsels should be supplemented by concrete and precise norm directing how this is to be done in the style of secularity and in keeping with the characteristics of the Institute; these norms in a certain way become the means and the guarantee for living the corresponding evangelical virtues;

b) that these prescribed obligations be accepted by means of a sacred bond, i.e. that the commitment be expressed before God and the Church (cfr. PM Art. III. 2);

c) that the Constitutions with these contents be submitted for verification and approval to the ecclesiastical Authorities.

For the purposes of these reflections the Section has taken into consideration what the Magisterium of the Church says today about the Secular Institutes as far as this particular topic is concerned. No effort was made to define the nature of the Secular Institutes in its entirety, nor to reflect about consecrated life in general, nor to contemplate the possibility that in the future there might be forms of consecration in full secular life different from the one now practised by Secular Institutes.

A very important point remains to be examined: the exemplification of concrete ways of living the evangelical counsels to correspond with the exigencies of secularity. The Section intends to make a further study of this matter; but it is really up to the members of Secular Institutes in the light of their experience to make a decisive contribution on this subject. The Section will in any case be extremely grateful to any Institute that would care to send in a written statement on this topic.

Rome, 15 May 1981

John Paul II

Secular Institutes, faithful expression

of the Council's Ecclesiology

Allocution to the Plenary Assembly of the Sacred Congregation for Religious

and the Secular Institutes on 6 May 1983.

Reverend brothers and beloved sons and daughters!

l. I thank you for your presence and I express to you my joy for this meeting, and my gratitude for the work that you do to inspire and foster consecrated life. The evangelical counsels, in fact, are a "divine gift which the Church has received from her Lord and which she ever preserves with the help of his grace" (LG, 43), and therefore what is done in the Congregation on behalf of their profession is extremely sound and valuable.

The plenary assembly which you are concluding today was held along this line of inspiring and fostering consecrated life. You have taken into particular consideration the identity and the mission of those Institutes which, because of their distinctive mission in saeculo et ex saeculo (Can. 713, 2 New Code), are called "Secular Institutes".

It is the first time that one of your plenary assemblies has dealt with them directly: therefore it was a timely choice, which the promulgation of the new Code has inspired. The Secular Institutes which in 1947 received ecclesial recognition with the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater issued by my predecessor, Pius XII now find in the Code their rightful place on the basis of the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council. In fact, these Institutes are intended to be faithful expressions of that ecclesiology which the Council reconfirms when it emphasises the universal vocation to holiness (cf. LG, Chap. 5), the inherent tasks of the baptised (cf. LG, Chap. 4; AA), the Church's presence in the world in which she must act as leaven and he the "universal sacrament of salvation" (LG, 48; cf. GS), the variety and the dignity of the various vocations, and the "particular honour" which the Church pays towards "total continence embraced on behalf of the kingdom of heaven" (LG, 42) and towards the witness of evangelical poverty and obedience (ibid.).

2. Quite rightly your reflection dwelled on the constitutive, theological and juridical elements of the Secular Institutes, keeping in mind the formulation of the canons dedicated to them in the recently promulgated Code, and examining them in the light of the teaching which Pope Paul VI, and I myself with the discourse of 28 August l980, have confirmed in audiences granted them.

We must express profound gratitude to the Father of infinite mercy, who has taken to heart the needs of mankind and, with the life-giving power of the Spirit, has undertaken in this century new initiatives for mankind's redemption. Honour and glory be to the triune God for this outpouring of grace which the Secular Institutes are, and with which he manifests his inexhaustible benevolence, with which the Church herself loves the world in the name of her God and Lord.
The newness of the gift which the Spirit has made to the Church's everlasting fruitfulness in response to the needs of our times is grasped only if its constituent elements in their inseparability are well understood: the consecration and the secularity; the consequent apostolate of witness, of Christian commitment in social life and of evangelization; the fraternity which, without being determined by a community of life, is truly communion; the external life style itself, which is not separate from the environment in which it may appear.

3. Now it is necessary to know and make known this vocation that is so relevant and, I should say, so urgent, the vocation of persons who consecrate themselves to God by practising the evangelical counsels and strive to immerse their whole lives and all their activities in that special consecration, creating in themselves a total availability to the Father's will and working to change the world from within (cf. Discourse of 28 August 1980).

The promulgation of the new Code will surely allow this better knowledge, but it must also urge pastors to foster among the faithful an understanding which is not approximate or yielding, but exact and respectful of the qualifying characteristics.

In this way, generous responses to this difficult but beautiful vocation of "full consecration to God and to souls" (cf. PC, no. 5) are aroused: a demanding vocation, because one responds to it by carrying the baptismal commitments to the most perfect consequences of evangelical radicalism, and also because this evangelical life must be embodied in the most diverse situations.

In fact, the variety of the gifts entrusted to the Secular Institutes expresses the various apostolic aims which embrace all areas of human and Christian life. This pluralistic wealth is also shown in the numerous spiritualities which animate the Secular Institutes, with the diversity of the holy bonds which characterise various modes of practising the evangelical counsels and the great possibilities of their incorporation in all areas of social life. My Predecessor, Pope Paul VI, who showed so much affection for the Secular Institutes, rightly said that if they "remain faithful to their vocation, they will be like an experimental laboratory in which the Church tests the concrete modes of its relations with the world" (Paul VI, Discourse to the International Congress of Secular Institutes, 25 August 1976). Therefore, lend your support to these Institutes that they may be faithful to the original charisms of their foundation recognised by the hierarchy, and be alert to discover in their fruits the teaching which God wants to give us for the life and action of the entire Church.

4. If there is a development and strengthening of the Secular Institutes, the local Churches also will derive benefit from this.

This aspect has been kept in mind during your plenary assembly, also because various episcopates, with the suggestions given with regard to your meeting, have pointed out that the relationship between Secular Institutes and local Churches is worthy of being deepened.

Even while respecting their characteristics, the Secular Institutes must understand and adopt the pastoral urgencies of the particular Churches, and encourage their members to live the hopes and toils, the projects and concerns, the spiritual riches and limitations with diligent participation; in a word, the communion of their concrete Church. This must be a point for greater reflection for the Secular Institutes, just as it must be a concern of the pastors to recognise and request their contribution according to their proper nature.
In particular, another responsibility rests on the pastors: that of offering the Secular Institutes all the doctrinal wealth they need. They want to be part of the world and ennoble temporal realities, setting them in order and elevating them, that all things may be brought into one under Christ's headship (cf. Eph l : l). Therefore, may all the wealth of Catholic doctrine on creation, incarnation and redemption be given to these Institutes that they may make their own God's wise and mysterious plans for man, for history and for the world.

5. Beloved brothers and sons and daughters!

It is with a sentiment of true esteem and also of deep encouragement for the Secular Institutes that today I have taken the opportunity offered me by this meeting to emphasise some aspects treated by you during the past few days.

I hope that your plenary assembly may fully achieve the goal of offering to the Church better information on the Secular Institutes and helping them live their vocation in awareness and fidelity.

May this Jubilee Year of the Redemption, which calls everyone to "a renewed discovery of the love of God who gives himself' (Apostolic Bull, Aperite Portas Redemptori, 8) and a renewed encounter with the merciful goodness of God, be particularly for consecrated persons also a renewed and pressing invitation to follow "with greater freedom" and "more closely" (PC, I ) the Master who calls them for the pathways of the Gospel.

May the Virgin Mary be a constant and sublime model to them, and may she always guide them with her motherly protection.

With these sentiments, I gladly impart my intercessory Apostolic Blessing to you present and to the members of the Secular Institutes throughout the world.

Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes(C.R.I.S.)

Secular Institutes:

their identity and their mission

(Document for the Plenary Assembly held in May 1983)


Since 1947 those Institutes of consecrated life whose specific character had led to their being named secular, have their own place in the Church. They have been recognised and approved by the Church in which they play an active part, according to their particular vocation, in her mission of universal sacrament of salvation.

With the conciliar doctrine in mind, Paul VI stated that the Church

"has a truly secular dimension, part of her very self and her mission; the root ends of this secularity are deep down in the mistery of the Word made flesh" (February 2, 1972).

Now within this Church, plunged and scattered among all peoples, present in the world and to the world, Secular Institutes

"have emerged as providential instruments to embody this spirit and to pass it on to the whole Church" (ibid.).

Following Christ radically while living and professing the evangelical counsels, "secular consecration expresses and carries out in a special way the harmonious union of building up the kingdom of God and the construction of the temporal city, the explicit proclamation of Jesus in evangelization and the Christian demands for integral human development" (E. Pironio, August 23, l 976).

Secular Institutes are defined by the Church through the common characteristic of union of consecration and secularity, which is to be understood within the context of the particular physiognomy of each group.

In the following pages we present an historical outline, a theological reflection, and essential juridical elements, that should provide adequate information.



Secular Institutes correspond to an ecclesiology emerging from Vatican II. This is authoritatively declared by Paul VI:

"Secular Institutes have to be seen in the perspective in which the Council contemplates the Church a living reality both visible and spiritual (cf LG 8), whose life is lived and whose development happens within the context of history... "

"There is a deep, providential, unmistakable link... between the charism of Secular Institutes and one of the clearest and most important themes of the Council, the Church's presence in the world. In fact the Council documents underline the various relationships between Church and the world: the Church is part and parcel of the world, destined to serve the world, to be the leaven in the lump or the soul in the body, for the Church is called to sanctify and consecrate the world, to shed upon it the pure light of the supreme values of love, justice and peace" (February 2, 1972).

These words not only constitute an authoritative recognition of Secular Institutes but they also provide the key to their history which we shall now present in outline.

1. Before "Provida Mater" (1947)

A pre history of Secular Institutes shows that, already in the past, efforts had been made to found associations similar to the present Secular Institutes. A kind of approval of these associations had been given by the decree Ecclesia Catholica (August 11, 1889). But they were allowed only a private consecration.

Above all, in the period from 1920 to 1940 in various parts of the world the Spirit acted on a number of groups that felt the call to give themselves unconditionally to God while remaining in the world to work for the coming of Christ's Kingdom from within.

The Magisterium of the Church became open to the spread of this ideal which by 1940 had become more clear cut when some of these groups began to meet.

Pope Pius XII had a careful study made of the whole problem and this was followed by the promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater.

2. From "Provida Mater" to Vatican II

The documents recognising associations that in 1947 were named "Secular Institutes" are:

Provida Mater: Apostolic Constitution containing a Lex peculiaris, February 2, 1947;
Primo feliciter: Motu proprio of March 12, 1948;
Cum Sanctissimus: Instruction from the Sacred Congregation of Religious, March l 9, 1948.

These documents are complementary, containing both doctrinal reflections and juridical norms, with sufficiently clear features as to warrant already a definition of the new Institutes.

These Institutes, however, were very varied, particularly in their apostolic aims.

For some this meant simple presence in a given milieu for personal witness and personal undertaking to direct temporal realities to God ("penetration" Institutes).

For others this meant more explicit apostolate that did not exclude the communitarian aspect, as well as direct ecclesial or assistential tasks ("collaboration" Institutes).

But the distinctions were not always too clear and one Institute might embrace both goals together.

3. Teaching of Vatican II

a) in the conciliar documents Secular Institutes are not often mentioned and the only text explicitly dedicated to them is Perfectae caritatis n. 11.

This text lists briefly the essential features of Secular Institutes as confirmed by the authority of the Council. These features are as follows:

Secular Institutes are not Religious Institutes: this negative definition demands that we avoid confusing the two; Secular Institutes are not a modern form of religious life but a vocation and an original form of life;

- they require "veram et completam consiliorum evangelicorum professionem": hence they cannot be reduced to associations or movements that, in response to baptismal grace, while living the spirit of the evangelical counsels, do not profess them in a recognised ecclesial manner;

in this profession the Church marks the members of Secular Institutes with the consecration that comes from God, to whom they undertake to dedicate themselves wholly in perfect charity;

the profession itself takes place in saeculo, in the world, in secular life: this element has a deep qualifying effect on the content of the evangelical counsels and determines the way they are lived;

hence the "specific and particular character" is a secular one;

finally and consequently, only fidelity to this physiognomy will enable them to exercise the apostolate "ad quem exercendum orta sunt"; that is, the apostolate particularly their own because of its aim, and which must be in saeculo ac veluti ex saeculo; in the world (cfr. Primo feliciter II; making use of the professions, activities, forms, places and circumstances that fit in with their secular condition).

Serious attention should be given to the recommendation of Perfectae caritatis n. 11, to provide careful formation "in rebus divinis et humanis", because this vocation is in reality very exacting.

b) In the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council Secular Institutes have found many statements that corroborate their basic intuition together with a number of clear directive programmes.

Among confirming statements: the recognition of the universal call to sanctity, the dignity and responsibility of the Laity in the Church, and above all that "laicis indoles saecularis propria et peculiaris est" (LG 31): the second paragraph of this section seems to take up not only the doctrine but even some expressions in the Motu proprio Primo feliciter.

Among directive programmes particularly: teaching of Gaudium et spes on the relationship between the Church and the modern world, and the task of being present in temporal realities, working respectfully and sincerely to turn them to God.

c) In brief: since Vatican II Secular Institutes have had the possibility of deepening their theological foundation (consecration in, and from, secularity) as well as of clarifying their line of action (sanctification of members and transforming presence in the world).

By the Apostolic Constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae (August 15, 1967) for the implementation of the Council, the Sacred Congregation changed its name to: "pro Religiosis et Institutis saecularibus". This is an ulterior recognition of the dignity if the Secular Institutes and their clear distinction from religious. It has led to the setting up to two sections in the Sacred Congregation (previously the Secular Institutes operated from an "office"), with two Under¬-Secretaries with separate and autonomous duties headed by one Prefect and one Secretary.

4. After Vatican II

The study of Secular Institutes has been enriched by contributions from two, to a certain extent connected, sources. The first, of an existential nature emanates from periodical meeting between the Institutes. A second, of doctrinal nature, made up mainly of various addresses the Popes directed to them. Clarifications and reflections have come from the Sacred Congregation.

A) Meetings of Institutes

Study sessions had already taken place when in 1970 the first International Congress was convoked at which all legitimately constituted Secular Institutes participated.

This congress set up a commission charged with studying and proposing statutes for a World Conference of Secular Institutes (W.C.S.I.). These statutes were officially approved by the Sacred Congregation, and with a Decree (May 23, 1974) the Conference received official recognition.

After 1970, those in charge of Secular Institutes met in assembly in 1972 and then at four yearly intervals in 1976, 1980. The 1984 assembly is already planned.

These meetings have treated of subjects directly concerning the Institutes such as: the evangelical counsels, secular prayer, evangelization as contributing to "changing the world from within".

But they have above all contributed to drawing the Institutes closer together either to share experiences or for open and sincere discussions.
Discussions have been very profitable because:

besides Institutes with totally secular apostolic goals (operating "in saeculo et ex saeculo"), there were others with institutional as well as inter ecclesial activities (e.g. catechesis).

besides Institutes which foresaw apostolic undertakings through personal witness, there were those which engaged in works or task undertaken as communitarian witness;

besides the majority of lay Institutes which defined secularity as specific to the laity, there were clerical or mixed Institutes which stressed the secularity of the Church as a whole;

with clerical Institutes which felt their presence in the local presbytery and hence incardination in the diocese as necessary to their secularity, there were others who had obtained their own incardination.

Through successive meetings, repeated on the national, and in Latin America and Asia, on a continental level, contacts had led the Institutes to accept diversity, (so called "pluralism"), while feeling the need to clarify the boundaries of this same diversity.

Hence, the meetings helped the Institutes to understand themselves better (both as a category and as single Institutes), to rectify some hesitations and further a common search.

B) Discourses of the Popes

Pius XII had already addressed some Secular Institutes and mentioned them in discourses on the life of perfection. But when the Institutes started their meetings and world assemblies, in each case the Pope delivered an allocution: Paul VI in 1970, 1972, 1976; John Paul II in 1980. To these should be added those of Paul VI in XXV of Provida Mater (February 2, 1972 and 1977).

These discourses contain rich doctrinal elements that help towards a definition of the identity of Secular Institutes. Here we recall a few among many of these statements:

a) The charism of Secular Institutes and the position of the Council with regard to the presence of the Church in the world coincide:

"They should give witness as specialists in the field, as models of the Church's attitude and mission in the world" (Paul VI, February 2, 1972).

This supposes a firm orientation towards sanctity, and a presence in the world that works for its perfection and sanctification because it takes the natural order very seriously.

b) Consecrated life in act according to the evangelical counsels should not only witness to eternal life but become a reminder and universal model: "The Counsels... come to mean something very topical and typical in today's world" (Paul VI, February 2, 1972); and their energy is implanted "into the heart of human, space time values" (id. September 20, 1972).

c) Consequently secularity, which implies immersion of these Institutes in the world, "is not simply... the condition of people living in the world, an external condition, it is rather an attitude" (Paul VI, February 2,1972), an awareness: "The condition in which you live, your life description in human society becomes your theological self and your way of bringing salvation into the realm of reality for all the world to see" (id. September 20, 1972).

d) Moreover, consecration in the Secular Institutes should be so genuine as to confirm that "deep down in your hearts the world becomes consecrated to God" (Paul VI, February 2, 1972); "directing human values... towards the evangelical beatitudes" (id. September 20, 1972). It must "impregnate your whole life and all your daily activities" (John Paul II, August 28, 1980).

It is, then, not an easy path: "You are spiritual mountaineers with a stiff climb before you" (Paul VI, September 26, 1970).

e) Secular Institutes belong to the Church: "To your special life as consecrated seculars belongs a special membership of the Church" (Paul VI, September 26, 1970). "The Church needs your witness" (id. February 2, 1972), and "the Church expects a great deal of you" (John Paul II, August 28, 1980). Secular Institutes should "keep, before all else, keep alive and growing in your hearts, union, communion in and with the Church" (Paul VI, September 20, 1972).

C) Interventions of the Sacred Congregation

In this period, the Sacred Congregation also has been in contact with Secular Institutes in various ways.

On various occasions the Cardinals Prefect, Antoniutti and Pironio, have pronounced discourses and sent messages; and the bureau has contributed subjects for reflection, particularly the following four:

a) Reflections on Secular Institutes (1976). This is a study worked out by a special commission set up by Paul VI in 1970. It is a kind of position paper, containing a number of clarifications, without making any claim to have the last word. On the two sections, the first, shorter one, consists in a few theological statements of principles explaining clearly the values of consecrated secularity. The second, longer section, describes Secular Institutes from the grassroots level of experience; it also touches on some juridical aspects.

b) Married persons and Secular Institutes (1976). The Institutes receive the result of a study made in the Sacred Congregation. It re¬confirms that the evangelical counsel of chastity in celibacy is an essential element of consecrated life in Secular Institutes. It deals with the possibility of married persons belonging in a wider sense and encourages the founding of appropriate associations.

c) Formation in Secular Institutes (1980). This document was prepared in order to assist the Institutes in the important undertaking of the formation of members. It recalls principles as well as suggesting concrete orientation based on experience.

d) Secular Institutes and the evangelical counsels (1981). This is a circular letter reminding of Church teaching on the essential nature of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience and of the need to specify the sacred bond by which they are adopted, their content and modality, that they be suitable to the condition of secularity.

5. The new Code of Canon Law (1983)

A new phase starts with the promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law which contains systematic and up to date legislation for Secular Institutes. This is contained in Book II in a section on Institutes of consecrated life. The main elements of this codified norm follow below, after a brief reminder of the theological basis which gradually emerged and became more clear cut during the brief history of Secular Institutes.



In the pontifical documents Provida Mater and Primo feliciter the theology of Secular Institutes has been dealt with at length, and this has been amplified and investigated fully in conciliar doctrine and the teaching of the Supreme Pontiffs.

Specialists have also contributed the results of their studies. Yet it must be admitted that the theological research has not by any means ended.

Therefore, what follows is a simple recalling of the main aspects of this theology, referring in substance to the study made by a special Commission and made public with Pope Paul VI approval in 1976.

1. The world as "saeculum"

It was out of love that God created the world, placing man at its centre and summit, and deeming that the created reality was "valde bona", very good (Gen. 1: 31). Man, made through the Word in the image and likeness of God and called upon to live within Christ in the intimate life of God, is given the task of leading all realities, through wisdom and action, to the attainment of this ultimate end. The destiny of the world is therefore bound up with that of man and, consequently, the word "world" is used to designate "the whole human family along with the sum of those realities in midst of which that family lives" (Gaudium et spes, 2) and in which it works.

The world, therefore, was involved in the initial fall of man and "condemned to lose its purpose" (Rom 8:20), but it also involved in the redemption brought about by Christ, Saviour of man, Who, through grace, turns him into a son of God and once again capable by virtue of participation in His Passion and Resurrection of living and working in the world according to God's plan, for the praise of His glory (cf. Eph. I :6; 1 :12 14).

It is in the light of Revelation then that the world appears as "saeculum". The "saeculum" is the present world as it results from the initial fall of man, "this world" (1 Cor. 7:31) which, subjected to the reign of sin and death, has to come to an end and is placed in antithesis to the "new era" (aion), to eternal life inaugurated by the Death and Resurrection of Christ. This world preserves its goodness, truth and essential order, qualities which derive from its condition as something created (cf. GS 36); nevertheless, tarnished by sin as it is, it cannot save itself by its own efforts, but it is called upon to share in the salvation brought about by Christ (cf. GS 2, 13, 37, 39), a salvation that is achieved when man regenerated in faith and baptism, and incorporated in the Church participates in the Paschal Mystery.

While this salvation is actuated in the course of human history, it penetrates this latter with its light and life; it enlarges and extends its action to all the values of creation, to discern them and to withdraw them from the ambiguity that has characterised them ever since original sin (GS 4), the order to re establish them in the new freedom of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:21).

2. New relationship between the baptised and the world

The Church, a society of persons reborn in Christ to eternal life, is therefore the sacrament of the renewal of the world which will be brought about by the power of the Lord once and for all in the consummation of the "saeculum", accompanied by the destruction of all the powers of the devil, of sin and death, and the subordination of everything to Him and to the Father (cf. 1 Cor. 15:20 28). Through Christ, in the Church, those marked and animated by the Holy Spirit are constituted into a "royal priesthood" (I Pet 2:9) in which they offer themselves, their activities and their world to the glory of the Father (cfr. Lumen Gentium 34).

For each Christian, therefore, baptism gives rise to a new relationship with and to the world. Together with all other men of good will, the Christian is dedicated to the task of building the world and contributing to the good of humanity, operating in accordance with the legitimate autonomy of terrestrial realities (cfr. GS 34, 36). In fact, this new relationship does not in any way alter or diminish the natural order and, even though it might involve a rupture with the world inasmuch as it is a reality opposed to the life of grace and the expectation of the everlasting kingdom, it also implies the will to work in the love of Christ for the salvation of the world, that is to say, for the leading of humanity to the life of faith and, as far as possible, reordering temporal realities according to God's design, so that they may contribute to man's growth in grace for eternal life (cfr. Apostolicam Actuositatem 7).

It is by living this new relationship to the world that the baptised cooperate in Christ for the world's redemption. Consequently, the "secularity" of a baptised person here seen as existence in this world and participation in its manifold activities can never be understood outside the framework of this essential relationship, whatever concrete form it may assume.

3. Diversity in concretely living the relationship to the world

All must live this essential relationship to the world and tend towards that sanctity that is participation in the divine life, in charity (cfr. LG 40). But there remains the fact that God distributes his gifts to each of us "in proportion to what Christ has given" (Eph 4:7).

In fact, God is sovereignly free in the distribution of his gifts. In his free initiative, the Spirit of God distributes them: "As he wishes he gives a different gift to each person" (I Cor 12:11), having in mind not only the good of the individual person but, at one and the same time, also the global interest of the entire Church and the whole of mankind.

It is in very virtue of this wealth of gifts that the fundamental unity of the Mystical Body that is the Church manifests itself in the complementary diversities of its members, who live and work under the action of the Spirit of Christ for the building up of his Body.

In fact, the universal vocation to sanctity in the Church is cultivated in the various kinds of life and in the various functions (cfr. LG 41) according to the manifold specific vocations. The Lord accompanies these different vocations with the gifts needed to enable a person to live them. Furthermore, these vocations, encountering the free response of the persons concerned, give rise to different ways of realisation. Consequently, there will also be differences in the ways in which Christians give concrete form to their baptismal relationship to the world.

4. Following Christ in the practice of the Evangelical Counsels

Following Christ signifies for every Christian an absolute preference for Him, if necessary to the point of martyrdom (cfr. LG 42). But Christ invites some of his faithful to follow him unconditionally in order to dedicate themselves totally to Him and to the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a call to an irrevocable act that implies a complete donation of oneself to the person of Christ to share his life, his mission, his destiny, and, as a condition, the renunciation of one's own self, of married life and of material goods.

This renunciation is lived by those called as a condition that enables them to adhere without hindrance to that absolute Love which centres them in Christ and thus permits them to enter more intimately into the movement of this Love towards creation: "God loved the world so much that he gave his only son" (Jn 3:16) so that, through him, the world might be saved. Such a decision, by virtue of its total and definitive response to the exigencies of love, assumes the character of a vow of absolute fidelity to Christ. It clearly presupposes the baptismal premise of living as a faithful follower of Christ, but is distinguished from it, perfecting it.

By virtue of its content, this decision radicalises the relationship of the baptised to the world, because one's renunciation of "using this world" in the usual manner bears witness to its relative and provisional value and foretells the coming of the eschatological kingdom (cfr. 1 Cor. 8:3 1 ).

In the Church the content of this donation has assumed the form of the practice of the "evangelical counsels" (consecrated chastity, poverty, obedience) concretely lived in different ways, spontaneous or institutionalised. The diversity of these forms is due to the different ways in which one can work with Christ for the salvation of the world, ways that may range from the effective separation that is peculiar to certain forms of religious life right through to the presence typical to the members of Secular Institutes.

The presence of these latter in the midst of the world signifies a special vocation to a salvific presence that expresses itself in bearing witness to Christ and in an activity that aims at ordering temporal realities according to God's plan. In relation to this activity the profession of the evangelical counsels assumes the special significance of liberation from the obstacles (pride, cupidity) that prevent one from seeing and putting into practice the order desired by God.

5. Ecclesiality of the Profession of the Evangelical Counsels

Every call to follow Christ is a call to a communion of life in Him and in the Church.

Consequently, the practice and profession of the evangelical counsels in the Church have expressed themselves not only in an individual manner, but also by insertion into communities brought into being by the Holy Spirit through the charism of their founders.

These communities are intimately linked with the life of the Church animated by the Holy Spirit and therefore entrusted to the discernment and the judgment of the hierarchy that is called to verify their charisms, to admit them, to approve them and to send them on their way, recognising their mission of co-operating in the building up of the kingdom of God.

The total and definitive donation to Christ undertaken by the members of these Institutes is therefore received, in the name of the Church as the representative of Christ and in the form approved by her, by the constituted authorities within these Institutes, so as to create a sacred bond (cfr. LG 44). In fact, by accepting the donation of a person, the Church marks that person in the name of God with a special consecration as belonging exclusively to Christ and to his work of salvation.

The sacramental and fundamental consecration of man is constituted by baptism, but this consecration can then be lived in a more or less "profound and intimate" manner. The firm decision to answer the special call of Christ, totally and freely donating to him one's whole existence and forsaking everything in the world that can create an obstacle or impediment to such an exclusive donation, offers material for the so called new consecration (cfr. LG 44) which is "deeply rooted in their baptismal consecration, and provides an ampler manifestation of it" (Perfectae caritatis 5). It is the action of God that calls the person, whom he reserves for himself through the ministry of the Church, and whom he assists with special graces to enable him or her to remain faithful.

The Consecration of the members of Secular Institutes is not marked by a setting aside, made visible by external signs but it nevertheless possesses the essential characteristic of a total dedication to Christ in a specific ecclesial community; community with which the member contracts a reciprocal and stable bond and in the charism of which he participates. From this there follows a particular consequence regarding the manner in which one must understand obedience in Secular Institutes: it involves not only a search either individually or in group - ¬for God's will assuming those duties proper to a secular life, but also the free acceptance of the mediation of the Church and the community through its authorities within the limits of the constitutive Norms of the individual Institutes.

6. The "secularity" of Secular Institutes

The following of Christ in the practice of the evangelical counsels had had the effect of creating within the Church a state of life characterised by a certain "abandonment of the 'saeculum' ": religious life. This state has therefore come to be distinguished from that of the faithful remaining in the conditions and activities of the world, faithful who are therefore referred to as "seculars".

Thus, having recognised new Institutes in which the evangelical counsels are fully professed by faithful who remain in the world and are committed to its activities, working for its salvation from within ("in saeculo ac veluti saeculo"), the Church has therefore called these Institutes "Secular Institutes".

In the quality of secular attributed to these Institutes there is what might be called a "negative" meaning: they are not religious (cfr. PC 11), so that legislation or proceedings proper to religious should not be applied to them.

But the really important meaning that brings out their specific vocation is "positive": secularity indicates either a sociological condition of being in the world , or an attitude of apostolic commitment and acts from them, in order to impregnate them with an evangelical spirit.

The commitment is lived in a different manner by lay persons and priests. The former, in fact, have a particular note that characterises their very evangelization and their witness to the faith in words and works, namely "to search for the kingdom of God by dealing with temporal realities and re ordering them according to God" (LG 31). Priests, on the other hand, except in unusual cases (cfr. LG 31, PO 8) do not exercise this responsibility towards the world by means of direct and immediate action in the temporal order, but rather through their ministerial action and by means of their role as educators in the faith (cfr. Presbyterorum Ordinis 6): this is the supreme means for making contribution towards ensuring that the world will continuously perfect itself in accordance with the order and the significance of creation (Paul VI, February 2, 1972), and for giving the laity "the moral and spiritual aids by which the temporal order can be restored in Christ" (AA 7).

Though, by virtue of their consecration, Secular Institutes are included among Institutes of consecrated life, the characteristic of secularity distinguishes them from all other forms of Institutes.

The merging in one and the same vocation of consecration and secular commitment confers an original note upon both these elements. The full profession of the evangelical counsels ensures that a more intimate union with Christ will make the apostolate in the world particularly fruitful. The secular commitment confers a special modality upon the very profession of the evangelical counsels and stimulates this profession towards an ever greater evangelical authenticity.



The juridical norms applicable to Secular Institutes were contained in the Apostolic Constitution, Provida Mater, in the Motu proprio Primo feliciter, in the instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Religious Cum Sanctissimus. The same Sacred Congregation was authorised to set up new norms for Secular Institutes "as need arises and in the light of experience 11 (PM II, 2 2).

While repealing some laws, the new Code of Canon Law, brings up-¬to date other existing norms, and presents a systematic legislative framework complete in itself, fruit of the experience of previous years and of the doctrine of Vatican II.

The essential elements of those codified norms are as follows:

1 . Institutes of consecrated life (Liber II, Pars II, Sectio I)

It is significant and important that Secular Institutes are placed in the Code, because it shows that the Code has made its own two Conciliar statements (PC 11), already contained in preceding documents:

a) Secular Institutes are truly and fully Institutes of consecrated life, and the Code speaks of them in the section De Institutis vitae consecratae;

b) but they are not religious and the Code mentions two types of Institutes under two distinct titles: II De Institutis religiosis, III De Institutis saecularibus.

It follows that "consecrated life" should no longer be made equivalent, as has, unfortunately, often been the case, to "religious life ". Title I Normae Communes, canons 573 578, contains a description of consecrated life, insufficient to define religious life since this supposes other elements (cfr. c. 607); and on the other hand wider, since the value of consecration that seals total donation to God in the following of Christ together with its ecclesial dimension, is also true of Secular Institutes.

Again, the definition of the three evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience (cfr. canons 599 601) is fully applicable to Secular Institutes even if concrete applications must take into account their special nature (cfr. c. 598).

As for other points dealt with under Title I, they refer above all to aspects of procedure. Among other matters may be noted that diocesan recognition for a Secular Institute requires also the intervention of the Apostolic See (c. 579; cfr. canons 583 584). This is so because the Secular Institute is not a transitory state leading to other canonical forms, as for example, the pious unions or associations of the preceding Code, but an authentic Institute of consecrated life that may be established as such only if it possesses all the necessary characteristics and already offers sufficient guarantee of spiritual, apostolic and numerical vitality.

To sum up: Secular Institutes have a true and specific consecrated life of their own. The fact that they fall under a separate heading with their own norms, means they are clearly distinct from every other kind of Institute.

2. Specific vocation: secular nature (canons 710 711) .

The vocation to a Secular Institute requires that sanctification and perfection of charity be pursued by living the evangelical exigencies "in saeculo" (c. 710), "in ordinariis mundi condicionibus" (c. 714); and that commitment to the salvation of the world come about "praesertim ab intus" (c. 710), "ad instar fermenti", and for the laity not merely "in saeculo" but also "ex saeculo" (c. 713 I 2).

These repeated clarifications on the specific way of living evangelical radicality show that the consecrated life of these Institutes is specially marked by their secular character. Hence the essential and inseparable union of secularity and consecration makes this vocation an original and typical form of the sequela Christi.

"Yours is a new and original form of consecration; it was the Holy Spirit that put this idea into your minds" (Paul VI, September 20, 1972).

"Neither of these two aspects of your spiritual image can be overestimated without damaging the other. They are essential to each other... You are really consecrated and really in the world"(id.). "Your secular state is now consecrated" (John Paul II, August 28, 1980).

Because of this originality, the Code (c. 711) makes a statement of great juridical weight: except for the demands of consecrated life, the lay men and women of Secular Institutes are lay folk fully and entirely (so that canons 224 231 relative to rights and duties of the laity apply to them): and priests of Secular Institutes in the same way are bound by the norms of common law for secular clerics.

For this reason too, that is, so as not to be distinguished formally from other lay folk, some Institutes require their members to observe a certain reserve as to their belonging to the Institute.

"You are still lay people, committed to the secular values of the lay state of life" (Paul VI, September 20, 1972).

"You are and you remain lay people..." (John Paul II, August 28, 1980).

"When a priest becomes a member of a Secular Institute he is still a secular priest and for that very reason the close bond of obedience and collaboration with the Bishop is unbroken" (Paul VI, February 2, 1972).

In various canons, the Code confirms that this secular character should be understood whether as situation ("in saeculo"), or under its dynamic theological aspect as indicated in Evangelii nuntiandi, that is, "the actuation of all the hidden Christian and evangelical possibilities, that are already present and acting in the reality of the world" (no.70). Paul VI stated explicitly (August 25, 1976) that Secular Institutes should also take this paragraph of Evangelii nuntiandi as addressed to them.

3. The evangelical counsels (c. 712)

When the Church approves an Institute of consecrated life she requires a free and explicit undertaking as to the way of living the three evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, "donum divinum quod Ecclesia a Domino accepit" (c. 575 1); and claims the right to interpret and legislate for them (cfr. c. 576).

The Code (canons 599, 600, 601) outlines the content of the three evangelical counsels but refers to the laws of each Institute for applications relative to poverty and obedience; it reaffirms the obligation of perfect chastity in celibacy. Married persons, therefore, cannot become members of Secular Institutes in the strict sense; c. 721 § 1 3 confirms this, stating that admission of a "coniux durante matrimonio" would be invalid.

It is for the constitutions of each Institute to define the obligations deriving from profession of the evangelical counsels, so that the life¬style of each person ("in vitae ratione") should be able to give a secular witness .

"The evangelical counsels which you share with other forms of consecrated life, take on a new meaning, they come to mean something very topical and typical in today's world" (Paul VI, February 2, 1972).

The constitutions have also to define which form of sacred bond is assumed by the evangelical counsels. The Code does not lay down precisely which bonds are considered sacred, but in the light of the Lex peculiaris annexed to the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater (art. III, 2), they may be: a vow, an oath or consecration for chastity in celibacy; the vow or promise for obedience and poverty.

4. Apostolate (c. 713)

All the faithful are called by baptism to participate in the ecclesial mission of witnessing and proclaiming that "God, in his Son, has loved the world", that the Creator is a Father, that all men are brothers (cfr. EN 26), and to strive in various ways to build up the Kingdom of Christ and of God.

Within this mission Secular Institute have a particular task. The Code dedicates three paragraphs of c. 713 to the definition of the apostolic activity to which they are sent.

The first paragraph, applies to all members of Secular Institutes, stressing the relationship between consecration and mission: consecration is a gift of God the aim of which is participation in the salvific mission of the Church (cfr. c. 574). The one called is also sent. "The special consecration... must impregnate your whole life and all your daily activities" (John Paul II, August 28, 1980).

It then states that apostolic activity is a "dynamic manner of being" directed towards the generous realization of the Father's plan of salvation; it is an evangelical presence in one's own milieu, living the radical demands of the Gospel so that life itself becomes the leaven. A leaven that members of Secular Institutes are called on to insert into the woof of the human condition: in work, family and professional life, solidarity with their fellowmen, collaboration with groups engaged in other forms of evangelization. Here the Code takes up again for all Secular Institute what the Council says to the laity. "suum proprium muns exercendo, spiritu evangelico ducti, fermenti instar" (LG 31).

"This is the resolve of your hearts, hall mark of your condition as Secular Institute members, to change the world from the inside" (John Paul II, August 28, 1980).

The second paragraph concerns lay members. Its first section lays down the specific form of lay Secular Institutes: presence and transforming action in the world from within, to complete the divine plan of salvation. Here again the Code applies what the Council states with regard to the specific mission of all the laity. "Laicorum est, ex vocatione propria, res temporales gerendo et secundum Deum ordinando, regnum Dei quaerere" (LG 31; cf. also AA 18 19).

This is, in fact, the apostolic goal for which Secular Institutes came into being as the Council also reminds us, quoting in its turn from Provida Mater and Primo feliciter: "Ipsa instituta propriam ac peculiarem indolem, saecularem scilicet, servent, ut apostolatum in saeculo ac veluti ex saeculo, ad quem exercendum orta sunt, efficaciter et ubique adimplere valeant" (PC 11).

In the second part, the paragraph affirms that members of Secular Institutes may also carry out, like all the laity, services within the ecclesial body such as catechesis, community animation, etc. Some Institutes have taken up these apostolic tasks as their end, above all in countries where service of this type done by lay men and women is more urgently needed. The Code sanctions this choice juridically with an important qualification: "juxta propriam vitae rationem saecularem".

"I have been high lighting the special contribution of your life style. This must not lead you to underrate other forms of consecration for the sake o f the kingdom, forms to which you too may be called. I refer to Evangelii nuntiandi 73, where we are reminded that 'the laity may also feel themselves called or be called to work with their pastors in the service of the ecclesial community, for its growth and life, by exercising a great variety of ministries according to the grace and charisms which the Lord is pleased to give them' " (John Paul II, August 28, 1980).

The third paragraph concerns clerical members, to whom however, what has been said in the first paragraph applies.

For these members a special relationship with the presbytery is laid down; as Secular Institutes are called to an evangelical presence in their own milieu, it is possible to speak of a witnessing mission of priests among other priests.

"To bring to the diocesan presbytery not only a life experience according to the evangelical counsels and with a supporting community, but also with a clear feeling for the Church world relationship" (John Paul II, August 28, 1980).

Furthermore, this paragraph states that the Church world relationship for which the Secular Institutes are specialised witnesses, must be noted and actuated also by priest members of these Institutes: whether by educating the laity to a right living of this relationship, or some specific priestly work.

"Both priests and laymen, as such, have an essential relationship with the world" (Paul VI, February 2, 1972).

For clerical Secular Institutes there is, besides this paragraph, c. 715 which concerns incardination, possible either in the diocese or in the Institute. C. 266 § 3, refers to incardination in the Institute, where it is stated as possible "vi concessionis Sedis Apostolicae".

The only cases in which clerical Secular Institutes have separate laws, from lay Institutes, under Section III, are two above mentioned canons (713 and 715), the clarification of c. 711 already mentioned, and the precision in c. 727 § 2, to withdrawal from the Institute. No other distinctions are made by the Code.

5. Fraternal life (c. 716)

A vocation to an Institute, that is, a call not for isolated persons, implies a fraternal life "qua sodales omnes in peculiarem veluti familiam in Christo coadunantur" (c. 602).

Communion among members of the same Institute is essential, and it is actualised in unity of the same spirit, sharing the same charism of secular consecrated life, identity of the same mission, mutual contacts and active collaboration in the life of the Institute (c.716; cfr. c. 717 § 3).

Fraternal life is cultivated through meetings and exchanges of various kinds: prayer (among these annual retreats, periodical recollections), sharing of experiences, dialogue, formation, information, etc.

This deep communion and the various means for cultivating it are the more important when concrete life styles may be very different: "vel soli, vel in sua quisque familia, vel in vitae fraternae coetu" (c. 714), it must be understood that the fraternal life of the group should not be the same as that of a religious community.

6. Formation

The nature of this vocation to secular consecration that requires continual effort to hold together the separate strands of faith, consecration secular life, the personal milieu. The fact of being usually engaged in secular work and activity and not rarely living in isolation; all this demands a very solid and adequate formation.

This necessity is recalled by various canons, in particular c. 719, where the main spiritual duties of each member are listed: assiduous prayer, reading and meditation of the Word of God, retreats, participation in the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

C. 722 gives some directives for initial formation, mainly directed to a life according to the evangelical counsels and apostolate; c. 724 deals with on going formation "in rebus divinis et humanis, pari gressu".

It follows that the formation should be proportionate to the fundamental demands of God's grace for persons consecrated to him in the world. It should be very practical, teaching the living of the evangelical counsels through acts and attitudes of self giving to God in the service of others, helping to grasp God's presence in history, training to a readiness to accept the cross with abnegation and mortification.

It must be said that individual Institutes are very much aware of the importance of this formation. They strive to help each other at the level of national and world meetings.

7. Plurality of Institutes

According to Canons 577 and 578 Secular Institutes possess a variety of gifts that allow for a positive pluralism in the way they live the common secular consecration and how they exercise their apostolate, always in conformity with the intentions and project of the founders when they have been approved by ecclesiastical authority. Very rightly, then, c. 722 insists on the necessity of making clearly understood by the candidates the specific vocation of the Institute, and of training them according to its own spirit and character.

This plurality is, in any case, an actual fact.

"The requirements of life in the world and the options open to anyone who would work in the world with the world's own tools, are so many and various that one must expect great variety in ways of achieving the ideal: individual, corporate, private and public as was, in fact envisaged by the Vatican Council (cf. AA 15 22). All these forms are available to Secular Institutes and to each one of their members" (Paul VI, February 2, 1972).

8. Other norms of the Code

The other canons referring specifically to Secular Institutes concern more technical aspects, so to speak. Many decisions, however, are left to the law of each Institute. Hence, we have a simple structure and flexible organization.

The aspects touched on by these other canons are as follows: 717: interior organization; 718: administration; 720 721: admission to the Institute; 723: incorporation into the Institute; 725: the possibility of admitting associated members; 726 729: possible separation from the Institute; 730: transfer to another Institute.

It is worth noting that the canons speak of perpetual and definitive incorporation (cfr. specially c. 723). In practice, some constitutions already approved lay down that the sacred bond (vow or promises) should always be temporary, with the determination, naturally, to renew them when they expire. But the majority of other constitutions suppose that after a certain length of time the sacred bond is, or may be taken for ever.

When the sacred bond is taken forever incorporation into the Institute is said to be perpetual with all the juridical effects that follow.

If, however, the sacred bond always remains temporary, the constitutions should foresee that after a certain length of time (not less than five years) incorporation into the Institute should be considered definitive. The most important juridical effect is that from that moment on the person possesses full rights duties within the Institute; other effects should be laid down. in the constitutions.


The history of Secular Institutes is still short; for this reason, and also by their very nature, they are wide open to aggiornamento and adaptation.

But they already possess a clear cut physiognomy and to this they should be faithful in the newness of the Spirit. Here the new Code of Canon Law provides a necessary and sure frame of reference.

The fact remains, however, that Secular Institutes are not sufficiently known and understood, for motives deriving, perhaps, from their very nature (consecration and secularity combined), maybe also from their way of acting with great reserve. Or it can happen that insufficient attention is paid to them because they still raise as yet unresolved problems.

The notes, that this document presents on their history, theology and juridical norms, may be useful to bridge the gap of this lack of knowledge and to further "among the faithful, not an approximate or diluted awareness but an exact respectful understanding of the original characteristics" of Secular Institutes (John Paul II, May 6, 1983).

It will accordingly be easier also on the pastoral level to help this specific vocation and to protect it, in order that it may remain faithful to its particular identity, requirements and mission.

Rome, January 6, 1984

Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes (C.R.I.S.)

To the Directors General of Secular Institutes

(January 18th, 1984)

Notice on the Code

The new Code of Canon Law that repeals the previous universal ecclesiastic laws, including those on Secular Institutes, entered into force on the 27th November 1983.

Secular Institutes are now governed by Canons 573 602 and 606 (provisions that apply to all Institutes of consecrated life), and by Canons 710 730.

The present Notice does not mean to be a comment nor an explanation to the Canons, but rather an answer to the following question: how should we go about revising our Constitutions in the light of the Code?


1. With regard to the Secular Institutes the Code does not introduce any substantial novelties. Their nature, as defined by "Provida Mater", "Primo feliciter", the Council documents and speeches held by the Popes, is theologically and juridically confirmed: consecration and assumption of the evangelical counsels secular condition and apostolate flexible organization.

2. The translations of the Code into the various languages, even though authorised by the Conferences, are not the official text, the latter being only the Latin edition.

3. The comments are generally very useful in order to understand the text well, however they do not represent the authentic interpretation: the latter may be given only by the Holy See.

Reference to the source (that is to previous documents and to the ecclesial precepts that are taken into account by the Code), and to the praxis of the Sacred Congregation is always of great importance.

4. When the canon speaks of "constitutions" it is the fundamental text of each Institute that is referred to, even if other terms are used, such as: statute, rules of life, or any other. It is the text approved by the competent authority of the Church.

Instead, when they speak of "own law", besides the Constitutions they include also other normative texts of the Institutes, such as: directorium, or enforcement provisions, or complementary provisions, or rules.

With regard to this, see all of canon 587.


The Code provides rules that are binding for all the Institutes: they are valid even if the constitutions do not repeat them. E.g.: requisites for membership, can. 721 § 1.

The constitutions may be more exacting than the provisions laid down by the Code; but, on the contrary, they cannot be less demanding, nor can they propose anything against the Code.

Often the Code states that it is up to the Institutes to lay down precise regulations on specific items, that are listed in the following:

1. What the constitutions must contain

A clear presentation of the Institute: nature, aim, spirituality, characteristics (can. 578, referred to by can. 587 § 1): then, all the specifications that are essential in defining a Secular Institute, and in defining in particular a given Institute.

The sacred obligations under which the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience are assumed, and the obligations they entail in a style of secular life (can. 712; this canon refers to canons 598-¬601, and in essence it takes up the final request of can. 587 § I and above all of can. 598 § 1). It is possible to choose among the bonds that were provided for by the Lex peculiaris attached to "Provida Mater": vow or oath or consecration for chastity, vow or promise for poverty and for obedience.

The fundamental provisions on government (can. 587 § 1), and in particular: the authority of the directors and of the assemblies (can. 596 § 1); form or way of governing, procedure for appointing the directors, terms of office (can. 717 § 1).

(Note: "moderator supremus" indicates the director general; "moderatores maiores" both the director general and the directors of the major subdivisions of the Institute, where these are provided for by the constitutions).

Where the constitutions provide for the subdivision of the Institute into parts, such as zones, regions, nations …: whose duty it is to set them up, define them, suppress them (can. 581 and can. 585).

The fundamental provisions regarding the various commitments undertaken by the members (can. 587 § 1; see for example can. 719 on prayer).

The fundamental provisions on incorporation and on training (can. 587 § 1), and in particular: What Superior with his Council (and the constitutions must state whether a casting vote or an advisory vote is required) has the right of admitting into the Institute, to the training, and to incorporation either temporary, perpetual or final (can. 720); how long the training period lasts, which cannot be under two years (can. 722 § 3); how long temporary incorporation lasts, which must not be under five years (723 § 2); what are the effects of final incorporation (can. 723 § 4: for this see item IV); how to make provisions for continuing training (can. 724 § 1); what other obstacles the Institute wishes to add to admission besides those provided for by the Code (can. 721 § 2).

The style of life in ordinary situations (can. 714), and the commitment of fraternal life (can. 602; see can. 716).

Where the Institute has associated members, what are their obligations (can. 725).

For dispensation from perpetual vows in an Institute or diocesan right, what Bishop is competent: the Bishop of the place where the Institute is based, or that of the place where the person involved lives (can. 727 § 1). For an Institute of pontifical right, only the Apostolic See is competent.

For resignations, what motivations does the Institute feel it should add to those provided for by the Code (can. 729).

(Canon mentioned in the foregoing, in numerical order: 578, 581, 585, 587 § 1, 596 §1, 598 § 1, 602; 712, 714, 717 § 1, 720, 721 § 2, 722 § 3, 723 §§ 2 and 4, 724 § 1, 725, 727 § 1, 729).

2. What the "own law" (thus: either the constitutions, or directoria, or other) must contain:

For admission: eventual qualities that the Institute requires besides those provided for by the Code (can. 597 § 1).

For the evangelical counsel of poverty: concrete rules on the restrictions on utilisation and availability of property (can. 600); how the property of the Institute is to be administered, and any economic obligations between Institute and members (can. 718). As to the property of the Institute, the canon makes reference to book V of the Code, because the property belonging to a public juridical person in the Church and the Secular Institutes are such is "Church property and is thus subject to special rules (can. 1257 § 1).

How participation in the life of the Institute (can. 716 § 1) is to be understood, and specifications on retreats, spiritual exercises, etc, (can. 719).

(Canon mentioned in the foregoing, in numerical order: 597 § 1, 600, 716 § 1, 718, 719; but see also 598 § 2).


In the light of what has been said so far, Secular Institutes need not revise their constitutions if the latter have been approved recently.

Instead, they are called upon to do the following:

1. Central governing bodies, either directly or through a committee working under its responsibility, are to verify whether their constitutions (or directoria) do contain what is required of them. In particular what must be checked are those items that had not been requested before, and that is: that initial training must not be less than two years, and that the duration of temporary incorporation must not be less than five years.

2. Having identified the items that are to be clarified in their constitutions (or directoria), the central governing body takes care of making the necessary changes. It is not necessary to receive in advance the approval of the general assembly; this will be done during the following meeting. Of course all members are to be informed; the Sacred Congregation must also be notified and also the Bishop, if the Institute is of diocesan right.

3. This work must be done as soon as possible. But any changes that are made in the constitutions are valid only for the future, and not for the past (the rules are not "retroactive").


(Note: this item is of concern directly for those Institutes where the sacred bond is or may always be temporary)

After the training period, a person is incorporated into the Institute on a temporary basis.

And when the sacred vows are assumed forever, for perpetual consecration to God, also the incorporation into the Institute is perpetual.

But the constitutions of some Institutes envisage that consecration to God, though being perpetual in intentions, be or may be renewed with temporary vows (usually on a yearly basis).

The Code specifies that, in the case of renewable vows, at a certain moment fixed by the constitutions not less than five years from first incorporation incorporation into the Institute becomes final (can. 723 § 3), and equivalent to perpetual incorporation (ivi § 4) for the following juridical effects:

I . On the basis of common law:

1. at the time when incorporation becomes final, a formal act of admission must be made by the competent superior (a given "higher superior"), with the vote of its Councils;

2. when incorporation has already become final, the superiors cannot decide not to admit the member to the renewal of the sacred vows except for very serious reasons; in the latter case, non admission would mean resignation;

3. individual members are however always free to leave the Institute without asking for special dispensation, if they do not renew their vows upon expiry of the time period for which they had been assumed.

II. On the basis of the own constitutions:

Along with final incorporation, the member also obtains full rights, such as that of being elected to the various offices. But the constitutions may add special conditions to be fulfilled for certain offices (e.g. minimum age) or for providing access to certain offices also to those members that have not yet been acknowledged final incorporation.

Rome, 18th January 1984

At the Third World Congress of the Secular Institutes,

held in Rome from the 26th to the 30th August, 1984.

Card. Jean Jerome Hamer

I am happy to be here with you and to have the occasion to meet you as Pro-Prefect of the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, an office I have held for four and a half months.

Before taking up the subject of the Secular Institutes, and, above all, the formation, I want to tell you that, in my opinion, there is not, in all of Rome, a function more interesting than the one I have: being the speaker of the Holy Father for the consecrated life in the Church. Being the speaker of the Holy Father, I am at the same time at your service since if the Holy Father is 'the servant of the servants of God', this is even more true for his collaborators.

I now propose to introduce the subject of formation showing that it must necessarily be conditioned by the nature and specific needs of the Secular Institutes. The Code of Canon Law, recently promulgated, and put into act, has still better evaluated the situation, the level if one can so call it of the Secular Institutes within the Church. They are a form of consecrated life which, as such, finds itself at the same standing as the religious life.

The definition of the consecrated life is realised both in the religious life and, in that of the Secular Institutes. Both are stable forms of life characterised by the profession of the counsels. A form of life that tries to follow Christ more closely and tends to perfection. The structure itself of Canon Law which deals with the consecrated life, recognises equal value to the religious life and to the Secular Institutes. Two "titles" are reserved, two parts of equal dignity within the section reserved to the Institutes of consecrated life.

The Secular Institutes have four characteristics and each of them reflects on the formation:

1. The consecration through the profession of evangelical counsels;

2. Secularity or secular condition;

3. The apostolate;

4. Fraternal life.

I ) The consecration in the Secular Institutes is total. It comprises therefore:

Chastity for the Kingdom of God: the continence in celibacy and the free giving up of genital sexuality;

Poverty; the limitation and the dependence on the use and availability of goods and that in the framework of a life that is really poor;

Obedience: the obligation to renounce one's own will for that of the legitimate superiors in as much as representatives of God.

This consecration is sanctioned with bounds that are: those of vows, oaths, consecrations, promises. Among the three evangelical counsels, chastity receives particular attention from the moment that it must be assumed as a vow, oath or with a consecration, while the promise can be enough for the other two counsels.

2) The important and determining point which has constantly been evidenced, even if not well understood, is the secularity. The members of a Secular Institute live in the world. They work for the sanctification of the world and they do so from within the world. Such sanctification is contained in the world itself and should come about from within the world rather than from outside it. On this point of secularity I would like to cite some words from the document of Pius XII, Primo feliciter. "They are secular and... this is the real nature of their calling. Everything about them must be clearly secular".

"Perfection is to be lived and professed in the world". The consecration in the Secular Institutes does not modify the canonical condition of its members, except for the dispositions of the law regarding the Institutes of consecrated life. The member remains lay or cleric and all the rights and obligations of his state are applied to him. This evidences once again an aspect of secularity.

Another aspect is the way of life. The members of the Secular Institutes live in the ordinary conditions of the world. There are three living situations: to live by oneself; to live in the family or in a group of fraternal life, according to the constitutions, but in full respect of secularity. In this way, like other lay persons, they can take the initiative to live together, if only for practical reasons. This is a very important point that highlights the difference between the Secular Institutes and Religious Institutes, since life in community is per se essential and inseparable to the religious state; essential and indispensable to live under the same roof, under the same superiors and have common activities that are specifically of the 'life together'. This difference must be underlined because it marks considerably all the formation process.

3) The other characteristic is the apostolate. The apostolate derives from consecration itself. To take up again the terms of Primo Feliciter:

"The whole life of a member of a Secular Institute must become an apostolate". And this apostolate must not only be exercised in the world and here we take up again the terms of Primo feliciter which says more explicitly than Canon Law the following "but it may almost be said to grow out of the world: its existence is in professions, activities, forms, places, circumstances of a secular nature and so it must remain".

Canon Law writes about the image used by the Council (LG 31; cf. PC 11) to show how this apostolate acts in the world, in the secular condition, 'ad instar fermenti', like leaven. The apostolate will be different, it is understood, according to whether it is a lay member or a clergyman.

For the lay people, it will come about through the witness of their Christian life and the faithfulness to their consecration. This will contribute to make the temporal realities understood and lived according to the Gospel and the world will be revivified by the Gospel. This, however, does not mean that the lay members of the Secular Institutes are more lay than other lay people. In the same way of all the laity, they collaborate in the ecclesial community in the style which they know best; they participate in the preparation of the cult; they will be catechists; they will eventually be extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, since these functions are accessible to the laity, even if sometimes they are merely a substitution to the clergy, as happens in the case of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist.

Therefore the apostolate of the lay members is above all as regards temporal realities in which they can put an anticipation of the Kingdom of God.

The apostolate of the clergy, of the priests, will consist in apostolic charity in the help to their confreres: I think, in the first place, of their confreres in the Secular Institutes. It will then be a witness to the consecrated life according to the constitutions of their Institutes; it will be the sanctification of the world through their specific sacred ministry. In fact, becoming a member of a Secular Institute, the priest remains a sacred minister. It is this ministry that he puts at the service of the sanctification of the world.

4) Last characteristic: fraternal life. We saw that community life, per se, under the same roof does not belong to the nature of a Secular Institute, but fraternal life does. Among the members of the same Secular Institute a special communion exists. Their consecration in a particular Institute creates reciprocal bonds that are manifested in different ways. A solidarity particular to the Secular Institute that is manifested in the relations with the superiors: they are the same superiors for everyone; that is manifested in life: the rules are the same and they create a similarity; it is shown in the meetings: they are recognised necessary by the constitutions in order to safeguard the fraternal life and certain strong times to pass together. There is reciprocal help under different forms, since fraternal communion does not exist without it.

These four characteristics condition the formation. It is, therefore, the task of this Congress, here assembled, to formulate information, suggestions, and in this way stimulate a beneficial emulation. Canon Law has foreseen for you the stages in formation. I would say, of the stages along the development of the consecrated life in a Secular Institute. You know them: we are speaking about basic formation, the first incorporation and then perpetual incorporation in a Secular Institute. This formation will turn at least it seems on three things:

a) it must aim to the consecrated life. The consecrated life in substance does not change. It is the result of a long spiritual tradition in the Church from which it has received its definition, its legitimacy and the conditions for its canonical recognition. Therefore, the formation to the consecrated life is of great importance.

b) Then comes the formation for professional activities about which the Holy Father called attention at your last meeting with him. If you live in the temporary reality with a view to the Kingdom of God, this reality shows specific needs that demand a technical preparation.

c) Finally comes the preparation for the apostolate.

These are the three fields it seems to me that specify formative action.

Who must lead this formation? You can tell me: what is your experience? It is obvious that for the professional formation the Institute member will not ask for this from his/her superior. He/she will ask, rather, organisms or persons who are competent, at universities, at laboratories, at professional schools. But it is important that the superiors know of this and a canon of Canon Law speaks of this that they have a particular responsibility for the spiritual formation. When one deals with the formation to the consecrated life in a particular Institute, it is here that the superior and his/her collaborators are irreplaceable.

I conclude repeating a well known expression: "the consecrated life in a Secular Institute is a very difficult choice, but it is also an important choice and of great generosity."

Rome, 27th August 1984

John Paul II

To infuse the spirit of the gospel

into the things of this world

Discourse to the 350 participants in the III Congress of Secular Institutes


Brothers and sisters!

l. I am very happy to meet you once more, on the occasion of the World Congress of Secular Institutes, convened to consider the theme: "Objectives and content of the formation of members of Secular Institutes".

This is the second meeting that I have had with you, and during the four years which have gone by since the previous one, occasions have not been lacking for me to address one Institute and then another.

But there was one particular occasion on which I spoke of you and for you. Last year, at the conclusion of the plenary meeting in which the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes considered the identity and the mission of your Institutes, I recommended, among other things, to the pastors of the Church to "foster among the faithful an understanding, which would not be approximate or generic, but exact, and respectful of the qualifying characteristics" of the Secular Institutes (AAS, LXXV, n. 9, p. 687). And I also touched on a point which concerns the subject of formation, which you have just finished considering: on the one hand exhorting the Secular Institutes to express ever more intensely their ecclesial communion, and on the other hand reminding the bishops that they have the responsibility to "offer the Secular Institutes all the doctrinal richness that they need" (ibid., p. 688).

It is a pleasure for me to address myself directly to you today, Directors of Institutes and to those of you in charge of formation, to confirm the importance and the greatness of the work of formation. It is a work of primary importance, whether understood in regard to one's own formation or with regard to the responsibility of contributing to the formation of all those belonging to the Institute, with particular care during the first years, but with prudent attention thereafter and always.

2. Before all and above all, I exhort you to turn your attention toward the Divine Master, from whom you will obtain light for this work.

The Gospel can also be read as a report on the work of Jesus in regard to his disciples. Jesus proclaims from the beginning the "good news" of the fatherly love of God, but then he gradually teaches the profound riches of this message, and he gradually reveals himself and the Father, with infinite patience, beginning over again if necessary: "After I have been with you all this time, you still do not know me?" (Jn 14,9). We can also read the Gospel to discover the method Jesus used to give his disciples the basic formation, their initial training. The "continuous formation", as it is called, will come later, and the Holy Spirit will complete it, which will bring the Apostles to an understanding of how much Jesus had taught them, will help them to arrive at the fullness of the truth, to deepen it in their lives, and to follow in the way of the freedom of the sons of God (cf. Jn 14,26; Rm 8,14 ff )

From this look at Jesus and his lesson comes the confirmation of an experience that we have all had: none of us has reached the perfection to which he is called, each of us is always in formation, is always on the way.

St Paul writes that Christ must be formed in us (cf. Gal 4:19), so that we may be able to "know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge" (Eph 3:19). But this understanding will not be full until we are in the glory of the Father (cf. 1 Cor 13:12). This knowing that we are always on the way is an act of humility, of courage and of faith, which finds confirmation and guidance in many pages of Scripture. For example, the journey of Abraham from his land to the goal unknown to him to which God calls him (cf. Gen 12:1 ff.); the pilgrim way of the people of Israel from Egypt to the promised land, from slavery to freedom (cf. Exodus); the ascent of Jesus himself to the place and the moment in which, "lifted up from the earth, he will draw all men to himself" (cf. Jn 12:32).

3. It is an act of humility which, as I said, makes us realise our own imperfection, one of courage to face toil, disappointments, the monotony of repetition and the novelty of renewal, and above all of trust, because God walks with us: indeed the way is Christ (cf. Jn 14:6), and the prime and principal author of all Christian formation is and cannot be other than he himself. God is truly the one who forms though making use of human occasions: "O Lord, you are our father, we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands" (Is 64:7).

This fundamental conviction must guide the work both of our own formation and the contribution that we may be called to make to the formation of others. To undertake the task of formation with the proper attitude means knowing that it is God that forms, and not we ourselves. We can and must become an opportunity and an instrument of formation, always respecting the mysterious action of grace.

Consequently the formation work concerning ourselves and those entrusted to us is always oriented, according to the example of Jesus, toward seeking the will of the Father: "I am not seeking my own will but the will of him who sent me" (Jn 5:30).

In fact, formation, in the ultimate analysis, consists in growing in the ability to place ourselves at the disposition of God's plans for each one and for history, in consciously offering our co-operation in his plan of redemption of persons and of creation, and in discovering and living the value of salvation contained in every moment. "Our Father, your will be done" (Mt 6:9 10).

4. This reference to the divine will brings me to recall an observation I made to you in our meeting in 1980: at every and in all your daily activities there should be achieved "a total availability to the will of the Father, who has put you in the world and for the world" (Acta Apostolicae Sedis LXXII, n. 7, p. 1021). And this, as I mentioned before, signifies for you a particular attention to three aspects that converge in the reality of your specific vocation as members of Secular Institutes.

The first aspect concerns following Christ more closely in the way of the evangelical counsels, with a total giving of oneself to the person of the Saviour to share his life and mission. This giving, which the Church recognises as a special consecration, becomes also a questioning of human security when it is the fruit of pride, and it signifies more explicitly the "new world willed by God and inaugurated by Jesus" (LG 42; PC 11).
The second aspect is that of competence in your specific field, however common or modest it may be, with "full consciousness of your own part in the building of society" (AA 13), necessary in order to "serve with greater generosity and efficacy" our brothers (GS 93).

Your witness will thus be more credible: "This is how all will know you for my disciples: your love for one another" (Jn 13:5).

The third aspect refers to a transforming presence in the world, that is, to give "a personal contribution to the realisation of the providential plan of God in history" (GS 34), animating and perfecting the order of temporal realities with the evangelical spirit, acting within the midst of these realities (cf. LG 31; AA 7:16, 19).

My wish for you, as a fruit of this Congress, is to continue to deepen your formation, above all putting into action useful helps to place special emphasis on the three aspects already pointed out, and on every other essential aspect, as for example education in faith, ecclesial communion, and evangelising action: and unifying all in a vital synthesis, necessary for growth in fidelity to your vocation and your mission, which the Church esteems and entrusts to you, because she recognises them as corresponding to her expectations and to those of humanity.

5. Before concluding I would like to emphasise a fundamental point: which is that the ultimate reality, in its fullness, is charity. "He who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (1 Jn 4:16).

Also the final goal of every Christian vocation is love; in Institutes of consecrated life, the profession of the evangelical counsels becomes the main highway, which leads to the highest love of God and leads to our brothers, who are all called to divine sonship.

Now, in the midst of the work of formation, charity finds expression and support and maturation in fraternal communion, in order to become witness and action. The Church does not ask of your Institutes that life in common which is proper to religious Institutes, because of the demands of living in the world, which are postulated by your vocation. However, she asks for a "fraternal communion rooted and founded in charity", which makes all the members "one only particular family" (can. 602); she requires that the members of one and the same Secular Institute "preserve communion among themselves, solicitously guarding unity of spirit and true fraternity" (can. 716, 2).

If the members breathe this spiritual atmosphere, which presupposes the most ample ecclesial communion, the work of formation in its fullness will not fail in its goal.

6. At the moment of conclusion, our vision returns to Jesus. All Christian formation is open to the fullness of the life of the sons of God, so that the subject of our activity is, in reality, Jesus himself: "The life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me" (Gal 2:20). But this is true only if each one of us can say: "I have been crucified with Christ", that Christ "who gave himself for me" (ibid.). It is the sublime law of that following of Christ: to embrace the Cross. The road of formation cannot leave it out of consideration.

May the Virgin Mother be an example for you in this regard. She who as the Second Vatican Council recalls "while on earth her life was like that of any other, filled with labours and the cares of the home" (AA 4), "advanced in her pilgrimage of faith and faithfully persevered in union with her Son unto the Cross" (LG 58).

And may the Apostolic Benediction, which I heartily impart to you and to all the members of your Institutes, be a pledge of divine protection.

Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes (C.R.I.S.)

Letter to the General Moderators of the Secular Institutes

(January 2nd, 1988)

Criteria for Preparing the Report on the Status and Life of the Secular Institute (to be submitted periodically to the Holy See).

The Holy See greatly supports the secular consecrated life of the Institutes and encourage their fruitful promotion, both spiritually and apostolically, and thus follows their many needs with much concern.

It is presently very important that, in its relationship with the Institutes, the Holy See be constantly availed of timely information on the status and life of these same Institutes, as is recommended in can. 592 § l. In this way, the Holy See can participate, with the Lord, in the various happenings, both auspicious and burdensome, which relate to the Institutes, and, as the case may require, can then offer its pastoral assistance.

For this purpose, the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes wishes to present some criteria for the reports which the General Moderators of the Secular Institutes must forward to Holy See.

1. The Report which the General Director must present to this Congregation may be the same as that presented to the General Assembly of the Institute, but should be prepared more concisely. The Proceedings of the same Assembly might also be attached. The General Moderators are requested to submit the first reports after the next ordinary General Assembly has been held.

2. The Report should contain the following elements:

a) statistics related to the members;

b) vocational activities and the prospect of future growth in the Institute;

c) how the following are realised: the apostolic commitment of individual members, initial and ongoing formation, fraternal communion according to the spirit of the Institute, and the relationships between Directors and members;

d) the ecclesial sense of the relationship with the Holy See and with diocesan bishops, participation in both World and National Conferences of Secular Institutes;

e) the extent to which the Institute sponsors activities or information on apostolic, social, and helping action;

f) the financial status of the Institute both general information and specific details on any foreseen for the life and apostolate of the Institute;

g) the most urgent difficulties which are foreseen for the life and apostolate of the Institute;

h) those other aspects which best describe the present situation of the Institute.

While requesting this information, the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes invokes upon the Secular Institutes, and upon their individual members, "the peace, love, and faith which comes from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 6, 23).

Rome, 2 January, Marian Year, 1988

f. Jerome M. Card. Hamer, O.P.


+ Vincentius Fagiolo

Archiep. Em. Theat. Vasten.

Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life

Practical guidelines

First steps in the foundation of a Secular Institute

1. According to the praxis established by this congregation, before beginning the canonical erection of a secular institute, the interested diocesan Ordinaries are advised to proceed in the constitution of a public association, according to canon law 312, par. 1, 3°.

2. It is important to define clearly the charism of the founder and the association's spirituality and apostolate.

3. After confirming the nature of the charism, the authenticity of the life lived, the usefulness, vitality, efficacy and stability of the group, the bishop can erect a public association even with just a few people. In the association's constituting decree it is important to insert the following phrase: "ahead of its eventual elevation to the status of a secular institute by diocesan law". With this phrase in the decree, members can live a life similar to that of members of secular institutes.

4. From the start the association must have the same hierarchical structures that it intends to have when it becomes a secular institute, following the rules of the Code of Canon Law in the part devoted to the same (canons 710-730), and taking into account, obviously, the present number of members in the association and its diffusion.

5. The members can then:

1) take private vows (promises or other bonds) which, within the association, are similar to the vows (promises or other bonds) offered in secular institutes, but they are not considered sacred and lapse as soon as the member leaves the association authorised by the local bishop;

2) organise and receive their own training;

3) set up their own administration, taking into account the number of definitive members;

4) be accepted as such in other dioceses.

6. The procedure for leaving the association follows canons 729, 694-704, with the necessary modifications; canons 726, 727 and 730 are not applied to an association.

7. This way of living in the association will facilitate the transformation into a secular institute erected according to canon law.

8. The bishop who erects the association has the right to approve its statutes, and if he sees fit, to do so ad experimentum. In the writing of the statutes it is advisable to procure the services of a canon law expert specialised in this area.

9. When the association has about 40 definitive members, the bishop of the diocese where the main headquarters is located can consult the Holy See, according to canon 579, and move ahead with the association's elevation to secular institute by diocesan law.

The conclusions of the Synod and its Consequences for Secular Institutes

Card. Jean Jerome Hamer

(August 24th, 1988)

Information and reflection

I am most happy to speak on a theme which permits me to emphasise the importance of Secular Institutes for the future of the Church. I will do so, taking into consideration the fact that the process of the Synod has not yet ended since the Holy Father has not given us the document which will be the real conclusion of the Synod: "The Vocation and Mission of the Laity in the Church and the World". Moreover, I would like to go further and attentively analyse the situation of the consecrated layperson.

The Synod

Speaking recently (last June 17th) to the members of the council of the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, John Paul II recalled: "The fathers of the seventh general assembly expressed their desire that I offer the Church a pontifical document on the theme of the Synod one based on the work of the Synod, i.e., the Lineamenta, the lnstrumentum laboris, the relations of the discussions in the plenary assembly, the reports of the 'minor circles' and, the Propositions which the Synod presented to me".

This document is not ready yet but I do not think it will be long in coming. Thus, I would like to limit my present talk to two important documents of the synodal work: the Instrumentum laboris and the Propositions.

The Instrumentum laboris is, as the name indicates, a work instrument which gathers the suggestions and reflections of the bishops on the proposed theme and presents them in logical form. In one sense, it is the fruit of the reflections and experience of the bishops, dispersed throughout the world, before their coming to Rome for the synodal assembly. So that the interest aroused by this theme be extended to the whole Christian assembly, the Holy Father allowed the document to be put at the disposition of all. Therefore, it is a document which is known to many of you, a document that you read before the opening of the Synod in October 1987. Here is what the Instrumentum laboris says on the subject we are considering.

"The unique contribution of Secular Institutes in the mission of the Church merits particular attention. Their members, while remaining laypersons, are called to consecrate themselves to God by committing themselves to the way of the evangelical counsels; this establishes them in the heart of the world as witnesses of an evangelical radicalism". Each Institute, according to its own method, way of living and Christian presence in the world, shows how faithful laypersons can generously respond to the vocation of perfect charity which is addressed to all. Living their total consecration to God in the world, laypersons belonging to Secular Institutes strive to live the eschatological dimension of the Christian vocation in an exemplary fashion.

Thus they witness to the newness which Christ introduces into the world and encourage other lay faithful to recognise their Christian vocation to live "in the world" without being "of the world" and to allow this vocation to grow in them. Thanks to the personal availability resulting from their type of life and thanks to the spiritual formation that they receive, many Secular Institute members are able to strongly encourage other lay faithful to accomplish their own task as persons and as Christians. Together they can assume important responsibilities in the midst of the community of man. This theme merits a deeper study.

"At the same time, we cannot forget that an increasing number of lay faithful, who do not feel called to found or to join a Secular Institute, consecrate themselves all the same to the radical practice of the evangelical counsels. The present life of the Church is rich in new forms of consecrated lay life, a gift which the Holy Spirit makes to the Church and to the world of our day".

I believe that this text has a good grasp of the different aspects of the Secular Institutes in their profound unity a vivifying presence in the world, an eschatological reference, an action within the Church. It also calls attention to an ever increasing existence in the lay world of other forms of commitment to the practice of the evangelical counsels. We will return to this idea. Here we simply note that, at the present time, Secular Institute members do not claim any monopoly in the Church but simply desire that their specificity be recognised. For all else, they rejoice to discover new forms in a common search. Let me add that, on the whole, the Instrumentum laboris was well received by the Synod fathers and the text that we are considering was not, to my knowledge, contested by anyone.

By the terms of the Synod, we find the same orientation in the Propositions (54 of them) which gather together the most important points held by the Synod fathers in the course of the debates which lasted over a month. Here is the text of the sixth proposition which treats of Secular Institutes and other forms of self giving.

"Since 1947, with the Constitution Provida Mater, Secular Institutes have gained a place in the canonical structure of the Church. A new possibility is given to priests and laity to profess the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience by vows or promises, while fully preserving their clerical or lay status. Thus, in the midst of the world, the laity can fully participate in the statute of consecrated life (cf. can. 573). The Holy Spirit continues to call forth other forms of self¬-giving in which persons, living fully in the lay state, can consecrate themselves".

This paragraph gives us the essentials. It is a good place to start for all further development. The Propositions, in effect, did not intend to say everything but simply to clarify some main orientations of the Synod.

Perhaps some will say: why is it that among 54 propositions, there is only one on Secular Institutes? To see things from this viewpoint is to deform them. The whole Synod interests and concerns Secular Institutes. The members of these Institutes are authentic laity. All that the Synod said and all that the post Synodal document will say is important for them. That is the way we must interpret the Synod in regard to Secular Institutes. This consideration is, in my opinion, primordial for a just valorisation of its work. To justify this affirmation, let me simply note a few points: the identity of the lay Christian, the call to holiness, the multiplicity of charisms, the ministries and services, women in the Church and in the world, the presence of the laity in the parishes, the socio political commitment, and a process of integral formation. It is with this perspective in mind that I want to continue this report.

Secular Institutes

It is important to emphasise that a lay member of a Secular Institute is a layperson in the fullest sense of the term. But to do so, it is necessary to set this question into a vaster framework.

When the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia gave official recognition and a canonical status with the title of Secular Institutes to those who make their profession to practice the evangelical counsels in the world, it was concerned with both associations of clerics and associations of laypersons. Although Secular Institutes of laypersons are much more numerous than Secular Institutes of clerics, we must not forget that the statute applies to both.

Secular Institutes of priests and Secular Institutes of laypersons, besides having in common total dedication to the apostolate, also have in common a tending to Christian perfection through the privileged means of the counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience lived in the world, i.e. remaining in the world, acting in the world.

If Secular Institute members resemble religious by the profession of the evangelical counsels, they are clearly distinguished from them by the fact that separation from the world is as proper to the religious state as is the common life or living under the same roof.

It is this life in the world ("in saeculo viventes", as can. 710 calls it) which constitutes the "secularity", the note common to all Secular Institutes but which will be received differently by the different Institutes, notably by those of the clerics and those of the laity. The secular priest and the layperson are both in the world but their rapport with the world is different precisely because of that which distinguishes them: the exercise of sacred orders. Nevertheless, in the logic of their life in the world, both contribute their part in the sanctification of the world above all from within ("praesertim ab intus").

It is necessary to measure the innovation represented by Provida Mater Ecclesia. Until the promulgation of this document, such groups were governed by the decree Ecclesia catholica, published on August 11, 1889, which praised their goal "to practice faithfully the evangelical counsels in the world and to carry out with greater freedom those duties that had become difficult or impossible for religious families to carry out because of the evils of the times" but decided at the same time that they would be simply pious associations (piae sodalitates). In 1947, the Apostolic Constitution conferred a canonical status on these groups. Let us not forget that the Code of 1917 completely ignored them. After Provida Mater Ecclesia, Secular Institutes were considered a "state of perfection" that is, an institutional and stable form in the search for the perfection of charity. This terminology was still used in the first part of Vatican II.

The new Code, promulgated in 1983, employed a different vocabulary but expressed the same reality: Secular Institutes are authentic Institutes of consecrated life; nothing is lacking for them to belong to the "consecrated life" which the Church defines in its Code:

Consecrated life by the profession of the evangelical counsels is a stable form of living by which faithful, following Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, give themselves totally to God, who is loved above all, so that having dedicated themselves to His honour, to the up-building of the Church and to the salvation of the world by a new and special title, they strive for the perfection of charity in service to the kingdom of God and having become luminous signs in the Church, they may foretell the heavenly glory (can. 573 § 1). This state of consecrated life is neither clerical nor lay, but the Institutes which make it up can be distinguished into clerics and laypersons, according to whether or not they assume the exercise of the sacrament of Orders, in keeping with the aim for which they were founded. Thus there are two great classes of Secular Institutes: clerical Institutes and lay Institutes. Because of the subject we intend to consider, we will speak of the lay Secular Institutes or rather of their members.

Consecrated Laity

Consecrated laity are therefore truly authentic laypersons. They share with other laypersons the fact of belonging neither to the clerical state nor to the religious state but on the contrary of belonging to that lay state to which is particularly confided the administration of temporal realities, with the mission of ordering them according to the will of God. All members of Secular Institutes, without distinction, belong to this lay state. The fact of renouncing the right to marry does not subtract them from this condition because no layperson is obliged to marry. In the lay world, we find married persons but also celibates. If the majority of the laity marry, we cannot deduce from this that it is necessary to be married to be truly lay. That would be absurd.

But these laypersons, members of Secular Institutes, are equally persons consecrated by the profession of the evangelical counsels. Without reservations they adopt the consecrated life as their form of stable living. Thus the consecrated life constitutes a way of life for them. Therefore is it not a contradiction to affirm that the consecrated layperson belongs equally and without restriction to two different states of life, the lay state and the consecrated state? In no way, and I insist vigorously on affirming this in order to eliminate all temptation to resolve this apparent contradiction with a compromise.

There would be a contradiction between these two states if we were to define them in rapport to a same obligation. But that is not the case.

For example, the state of life of a married man and a celibate are opposed to one another and exclude one another because they are defined in rapport to the sacrament of marriage. The married man assumes certain obligations; the celibate is exempt from them.

Now the lay state and the state of consecrated life are defined in terms of different obligations. The first in terms of obligations to the clerical state (the exercise of sacred orders) and of the religious life (separation from the world and common life) from which the laity are exempt. The second in terms of duties freely contracted by the profession of the evangelical counsels. The points of reference are therefore different. The two states, far from being opposed, are fully compatible.

We can cite other examples of belonging to two states in the unity of the same person and the same vocation. The religious priest belongs at the same time to the religious state and the clerical state without the least tension between them; on the contrary, in complete harmony as the lives of many saints demonstrate.

This same harmony can be found in the statute proper to Secular Institutes. Without leaving their lay state, consecrated persons who are members therein will know how to live their secular life according to the modalities that conform to their total gifts to the Lord. This will be noted above all in their life of prayer and personal asceticism.

On the other hand, they live the three evangelical counsels in a manner befitting persons who live in the ordinary conditions of the world.

Does not canon law say that "each Institute, keeping in mind its own character and purposes, is to define in its constitutions the manner in which the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience are to be observed for its way of living" (can. 598, §1)? And again, "the constitutions are to determine the sacred bonds by which the evangelical counsels are taken in the Institute and are to define the obligations flowing from these bonds, always, however, preserving in its way of life the distinctive secularity of the Institute" (can. 712).


Consecrated and lay: Secular Institute members are totally and inseparably the one and the other. But they are consecrated for a mission. In effect, they make a profession to practice the evangelical counsels in order to "dedicate themselves totally to the apostolate" (PME, art. 1); they express and exercise their consecration through apostolic activity" (Can. 713, 1). Since they are laypersons, their apostolate will be that of the laity and will have the same extension. They are bound by the general obligation "to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and received by all mankind." They are equally bound, each according to their condition "by a special duty to imbue and perfect the order of temporal affairs with the spirit of the Gospel. They thus give witness to Christ" (can. 225 § 1,2). This teaching of the Church is repeated in the part of the Code of canon law which treats of Secular Institutes (can. 713 § 2). "The lay members (of Secular Institutes) participate in the evangelizing mission of the Church in the world and by means of the world. " We will note that, in regard to the apostolate of lay Secular Institutes, this canon repeats a formula (in the world and as coming from the world, in saeculo et ex saeculo) from the Motu proprio Primo feliciter, published by Pope Pius XII a year after the Provida Mater Ecclesia. Here is the complete phrase: "This apostolate of the Secular Institutes is something that happens in the world, but it may almost be said to grow out of the world: its existence is in professions, activities, forms, places, circumstances of a secular nature, and so it must remain" (PF, II, 6).

If each Secular Institute participates in the apostolic mission of the Church, it is not necessary that it have an apostolate proper to it, determined by its constitutions, and even less that it have its own apostolic works. It is important to note this because a number of Institutes rightly form their members to the apostolate without their being dedicated to a particular sector of the apostolate.

The Practice of the Evangelical Counsels

Members of Secular Institutes are consecrated to God and, as we have seen, this means that they are given totally to Him whom they love above all else. Given to His service and His honour by the profession of the evangelical counsels (cf. LG, 44) in the heart of a specific Institute erected by the Church. Some of these elements cannot be missing, notably the evangelical counsels must be lived in conformity with the traditional doctrine of the Church. We have seen that the manner of observing the counsels will be different according to each Institute and they must in particular take into account the secularity proper to each one. But it is nonetheless true that all the members of Institutes of consecrated life must faithfully and integrally live these counsels (fideliter integreque servare: can. 598, § 2).

Thus, for example, the evangelical counsel of poverty cannot ask only a life poor in fact and in spirit but must also ask: "a dependence and a limitation in the use and disposition of goods according to the norm of the proper law of each Institute" (canon 600).

The evangelical counsel of obedience goes beyond the practice of this virtue as expected of all Christians: it obliges "a submission of the will to legitimate superiors who stand in the place of God when they command according to the proper constitutions" (can. 601). The imitation of Christ obedient unto death is lived therefore through a determined mediation: (under authority and the continuous moral guidance of the superiors or directors). For Secular Institute members the practice of obedience even calls for a search for this mediation. Their obedience will therefore be particularly active. Why? Because their dispersion in the world and their immersion in secular professions makes it difficult for their directors to discern the opportune moment and the best circumstances for an intervention. The initiative of each member will thus be necessary to make known concrete situations.

The exercise of authority, necessary for the practice of the evangelical counsels, will thus be different in the religious life and in Secular Institutes. In the first case, it can always be based on the structures of the common life; it is not the same in the second. Also, in Secular Institutes, a realistic service of authority will be more difficult, more exigent and will call for commitment at times deeper and more generous on the part of the directors.


Why does the legislation on Secular Institutes (cf. can. 719) give such importance to prayer and the spiritual life in general? Is prayer not a duty of all Christians? Why then this insistence and these special prescriptions? The response to this question is in consecration: it is a matter of that "particular consecration which is completely rooted in the baptismal consecration and expresses it with greater plenitude" (PC 5).

There is a direct rapport between prayer and consecration, a reciprocal relationship. The total gift of self by the profession of the three evangelical counsels is wholly in view of a greater love for God. Now prayer is at the same time the expression and the stimulant of our desire for God. It is therefore normal that to the fundamental commitment that we have taken through chastity, poverty and obedience, there correspond similar exigencies on the level of spiritual exercises.

If prayer is not the privilege only of consecrated persons, but the normal comportment I would say respiration of all those who are children of God by grace, it nevertheless occupies a notably more important place in the life of those who have taken the decisive step to follow Christ more closely (pressius, as can. 573 § 1 states). In effect, Jesus frequently slipped away from the crowds to pray and to retire into the desert or on the mountain alone or with some disciples. The life of Jesus was bound up with his prayer. It sprung from it. It animated his messianic ministry, especially during the agony and on the cross.

"I would like that you be without care," St. Paul tells us. "He who is not married has care for the things of the Lord: he seeks how to please the Lord" (I Co 7, 32). It is in a will which seeks to please the Lord a radical will which does not hesitate before the choice of means that we find the profound explanation of the option for the consecrated life. We want to give ourselves to the "affairs of the Lord. "That's why we chose celibacy for the kingdom of God but also a life of poverty and obedience. The "affairs of the Lord" (literally, "that which is of the Lord") are certainly not limited to prayer but cover the whole field of service to the Lord. Still, it is evident that prayer occupies a privileged place in it. The person who has chosen not to marry wants to belong entirely to the Lord. And it is to belong to the Lord that they took this decision. The will to belong to the Lord therefore comes first. They do not want to be "divided" (v. 33).The consecrated life thus becomes an area of availability for prayer.

The Church insists on this in its canonical code and demands that special attention be given to prayer, the reading of Holy Scripture, an annual retreat and other spiritual exercises; if possible, daily attendance at the Eucharist, a frequent reception of the sacrament of reconciliation and spiritual direction.

To illustrate what we are saying about the rapport between consecration and the exercises of the spiritual life, I would call your attention to the prescription concerning the sacrament of reconciliation. To all the faithful it is simply recommended that venial sins be confessed (can. 988 § 2). To members of Secular Institutes, frequent confession is prescribed (can. 719 §3).

It is also clear that the practice of the spiritual life must take into consideration the conditions of existence in the world. All the same this will not be to reduce their importance but only to adapt them to persons, places and circumstances. The times and places of the prayer of the laity will not necessarily be the same as those of religious who live in community with their own oratory. The texts of prayer can be different. Secular Institute members will spontaneously bring to their prayer the intentions of the world in which they live. But the nature of prayer does not change. Particular consecration to God retains all its exigencies.

Future Perspectives

The Synod on the laity clearly and forcefully reminded us that Secular Institute members are true laity. But that they are at the same time indissolubly consecrated. These Institutes are not a new variety - ¬more discreet and hidden of religious life but a distinct reality, a true elevation of the lay state by the profession of the evangelical counsels.

We have spoken little of the clerical Secular Institutes. But many things that we have said apply equally to them. In effect, belonging to a Secular Institute does not change their canonical condition within the people of God. This does not apply only to laypersons but also to secular priests (and deacons).

Today we see within the Church the rapid increase of spiritual and apostolic groups in Italy called ecclesial movements and in France, new communities. Some of them have already adopted the structure of the religious life or of Secular Institutes; others seem to be going in the same direction. But it is possible that not all will follow this way. Many of these groups have strong public and communitarian affirmation. This distinguishes them from Secular Institutes. Is it not the moment to remember that the Spirit breathes where he will and that the unity of the mystical body is made of a diversity of charisms and functions? Moreover, we know that the Church is ready to welcome new forms of consecrated life (can. 605), but also, more in general, new forms of Christian commitment. In any case this flourishing does not diminish in any way the proper role of Secular Institutes in the Church of today and of tomorrow.

"They remind us that the call to holiness is inscribed in the logic of baptism."

"They multiply the presence of authentic Christians capable of being apostles everywhere."

"They respond to the contemporary situation by providing the possibility for true Christians to be present in the profane structures of the world."

I quote these three phrases from Father J.M. Perrin, o.p. (DS, t. V col. 1783). By their nature, they are meant to give you full confidence in a form of consecrated life which you freely chose the day of your incorporation into your Institute and which has manifested itself as a work of the Spirit.

To summarise and conclude: you are consecrated and lay, you are the one and the other totally and inseparably. I repeat this once more because there is no deep understanding of Secular Institutes outside of it. In the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia the Church wanted by means of the three evangelical counsels, to give full access to the consecrated life to laity who live and work in the midst of the world. Each Secular Institute is therefore a school of sanctity, which has received the guarantee of the Church. This is the essential that we must state and repeat and that we must meditate ever more deeply.

Christifideles Laici

Apostolic Exhortation of John Paul II


The Various Vocations in the Lay State

56. The Church's rich variety is manifested still further from within each state of life. Thus within the lay state diverse "vocations" are given, that is, there are different paths in the spiritual life and the apostolate which are taken by individual members of the lay faithful. In the field of a "commonly shared" lay vocation "special" lay vocations flourish. In this area we can also recall the spiritual experience of the flourishing of diverse forms of Secular Institutes that have developed recently in the Church. These offer the lay faithful, and even priests, the possibility of professing the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience through vows or promises, while fully maintaining one's lay or clerical state. In this regard the Synod Fathers have commented: "The Holy Spirit stirs up other forms of self giving to which people who remain fully in the lay state devote themselves". We can conclude by reading a beautiful passage taken from Saint Francis de Sales, who promoted lay spirituality so well. In speaking of "devotion", that is, Christian perfection or "life according to the Spirit", he presents in a simple yet insightful way the vocation of all Christians to holiness while emphasizing the specific form with which individual Christians fulfil it: "In creation God commanded the plants to bring forth their fruits, each one after its kind. So does he command all Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each according to his character and vocation. Devotion must be exercised in different ways by the gentleman, the workman, the servant, the prince, the widow, the maid and the married woman. Not only this, but the practice of devotion must also be adapted to the strength, the employment, and the duties of each one in particular... It is an error, or rather a heresy, to try to banish the devout life from the regiment of soldiers, the shop of the mechanic, the court of princes, or the home of married folk. It is true, Philothea, that a purely contemplative, monastic and religious devotion cannot be exercised in such ways of life. But besides these three kinds of devotion, there are several others adapted to bring to perfection those who live in the secular state".

Along the same line the Second Vatican Council states: "This lay spirituality should take its particular character from the circumstances of one's state in life (married and family life, celibacy, widowhood), from one's state of health and from one's professional and social activity. All should not cease to develop earnestly the qualities and talents bestowed on them in accord with these conditions of life and should make use of the gifts which they have received from the Holy Spirit".

What has been said about the spiritual vocation can also be said - and to a certain degree with greater reason - of the infinite number of ways through which all members of the Church are employed as labourers in the vineyard of the Lord, building up the Mystical Body of Christ. Indeed as a person with a truly unique life story, each is called by name, to make a special contribution to the coming of the Kingdom of God. No talent, no matter how small, is to be hidden or left unused (cf. Mt 25: 24 27).

In this regard the apostle Peter gives us a stern warning: "As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace" (1 Pt 4: 10).

Builders of christian culture

in the mission of the new evangelization

John Paul II

On 24 July 1992 the Secretary of State sent a letter to Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo,

Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life,

expressing the Holy Father's best wishes for and spiritual participation in the Fifth World Congress of Secular Institutes.

This is a translation of the letter, which was written in Italian.

(L'Osservatore Romano in English, 2 September 1992).

Your Eminence,

The Holy Father, informed of the Fifth World Congress of Secular Institutes, has charged me to express his cordial greetings to the meeting's organisers and all the participants.

First of all, His Holiness expresses his appreciation of the choice of the theme, "Secular Institutes and evangelization today", which is most opportunely inserted within the Church's vast involvement in fostering the new evangelization. It is a process of grace which reaches its climax in the ever necessary conversion of heart, which is to be understood as a return to God, the provident and merciful Father, and availability towards one's brothers and sisters, who expect understanding, love and an unwavering proclamation of the revealed word.

Today the Church's evangelising mission must take into consideration the profound cultural and social transformations of our day, which can frequently create obstacles to evangelising activity rather than promote it. Members of Secular Institutes are quite conscious of these challenges which they are called to face, because they have received the gift of a "new and original form of consecration, suggested by the Holy Spirit to be lived in the midst of temporal realities, and to insert the power of, the evangelical counsels that is, of the divine, eternal values into the human, temporal values" (Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, X, 1972, p. 943).

The Holy Spirit has granted them the grace of being more radically conformed to Jesus in the path he walked to reconcile mankind with God, to break down the walls of enmity (cf. Heb 2:14) and to create the New Humanity. A "new ardour" is needed to bring all this about; the Secular Institutes are asked to make theirs an extraordinary involvement in witnessing to the newness of the Gospel. Without a more zealous response to the call to holiness in order to communicate the Gospel of Peace to the world which is about to enter the new millennium, every effort would be reduced to attempts lacking apostolic effectiveness. New methods are also required for communicating the newness of the Gospel to the world. Towards such an end members of Secular Institutes must be open to new forms of communication offered to them by the progress of technology. However, they must not forget that the communication must also be adapted to the newness that it is called to spread. It must be distinguished by its Gospel simplicity and the fact that it is offered freely (cf. Mt 10:8) in order to promote a free, responsible and joyful response.

The experience of seeking the living God and having a personal encounter with him is the most valuable thing that can be offered to people. Without a doubt the call to holiness is at the root of the call to the new evangelization. This requires a deep ecclesial communion which begins within the Institutes themselves and extends in an affective and effective communion with the whole People of God. The close relationship between the building of a Christian community and service to the world was clearly expressed by the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici, where he states that "a mending of the Christian fabric of society is urgently needed in all parts of the world. However, for this to come about, what is needed is first to remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself" (n.34).

The new evangelization, however, also requires a service to the world. There are many ways to bring this about, according to one's particular vocation and the concrete necessities: witness of life; dialogue and militancy; personal contact; individual and prophetic denunciation; defence of truth; and the witness of love. It is important that, in a world marked by the "culture of death" but which yearns for the values of the Spirit, Secular Institutes are able to be signs of the living God and craftsmen of the "culture of Christian solidarity".

The Holy Father, therefore, urges everyone to continue on this path, to increase the many initiatives of Christian inspiration and not to fear being present in the various "modern Areopaguses" in order to bring the Good News of the Gospel there by the word and deed. Commitment to peace and development of peoples, the defence of human rights, promotion of women and the education of young people are some of there "Areopaguses" of the modern world in which the Secular Institutes must be involved.

With these wishes, invoking the protection of Mary most holy, Queen of the Apostles and Star of Evangelization, upon all those participating in the congress and upon all members of Secular Institutes, the Supreme Pontiff cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of the most abundant heavenly favours.

I gladly take this opportunity to express my deepest regards.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano

Secretary of State

Apostolic Exhortation

Vita Consecrata

John Paul II


10. The Holy Spirit, who wondrously fashions the variety of charisms, has given rise in our time to new expressions of consecrated life, which appear as a providential response to the new needs encountered by the Church today as she carries out her mission in the world.

One thinks in the first place of members of Secular Institutes seeking to live out their consecration to God in the world through the profession of the evangelical counsels in the midst of temporal realities; they wish in this way to be a leaven of wisdom and a witness of grace within cultural, economic and political life. Through their own specific blending of presence in the world and consecration, they seek to make present in society the newness and power of Christ's kingdom, striving to transfigure the world from within by the power of the Beatitudes. In this way, while they belong completely to God and are thus fully consecrated to his service, their activity in the ordinary life of the world contributes, by the power of the Spirit, to shedding the light of the Gospel on temporal realities. Secular Institutes, each in accordance with its specific nature, thus help to ensure that the Church has an effective presence in society.

A valuable role is also played by clerical Secular Institutes, in which priests who belong to the diocesan clergy, even when some of them are recognized as being incardinated in the Institute, consecrate themselves to Christ through the practice of the evangelical counsels in accordance with a specific charism. They discover in the spiritual riches of the Institute to which they belong great help for living more deeply the spirituality proper to the priesthood and thus they are enabled to be a leaven of communion and apostolic generosity among their fellow clergy.

50. Constant dialogue between superiors of Institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life and bishops is most valuable in order to promote mutual understanding, which is the necessary precondition for effective cooperation, especially in pastoral matters. Thanks to regular contacts of this kind, superiors, both men and women, can inform bishops about the apostolic undertakings which they are planning in dioceses, in order to agree on the necessary practical arrangements. In the same way, it is helpful for delegates of the conferences of major superiors to be invited to meetings of the bishops' conferences and, in turn, for delegates of the episcopal conferences to be invited to attend the conferences of major superiors, following predetermined formats. It would be a great help if, where they do not yet exist, mixed commissions of bishops and major superiors were set up at the national level for the joint study of problems of common interest. Likewise, better reciprocal knowledge will result if the theology and the spirituality of the consecrated life are made part of the theological preparation of diocesan priests, and if adequate attention to the theology of the particular Church and to the spirituality of the diocesan clergy is included in the formation of consecrated persons. [...]

52. Fraternal spiritual relations and mutual cooperation among different Institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life are sustained and nourished by the sense of ecclesial communion. Those who are united by a common commitment to the following of Christ and are inspired by the same Spirit cannot fail to manifest visibly, as branches of the one vine, the fullness of the Gospel of love. Mindful of the spiritual friendship which often united founders and foundresses during their lives, consecrated persons, while remaining faithful to the character of their own Institute, are called to practice a fraternity which is exemplary and which will serve to encourage the other members of the Church in the daily task of bearing witness to the Gospel. [...]

53. A significant contribution to communion can be made by the conferences of major superiors and by the conferences of Secular Institutes. Encouraged and regulated by the Second Vatican Council and by subsequent documents, these bodies have as their principal purpose the promotion of the consecrated life within the framework of the Church's mission.

By means of these bodies, Institutes express the communion which unites them, and they seek the means to reinforce that communion, with respect and esteem for the uniqueness of their different charisms, which reflect the mystery of the Church and the richness of divine wisdom. I encourage Institutes of consecrated life to work together, especially in those countries where particularly difficult situations increase the temptation for them to withdraw into themselves, to the detriment of the consecrated life itself and of the Church. Rather, these Institutes should help one another in trying to discern God's plan in this troubled moment of history, in order better to respond to it with appropriate works of the apostolate. In the perspective of a communion open to the challenges of our time, superiors, men and women, "working in harmony with the bishops," should seek "to make use of the accomplishments of the best members of each Institute and to offer services which not only help to overcome eventual limits but which create a valid style of formation in consecrated life''.

I exhort the conferences of major superiors and the conferences of Secular Institutes to maintain frequent and regular contacts with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, as a sign of their communion with the Holy See. An active and trusting relationship ought also to be maintained with the episcopal conference of each country. In the spirit of the document Mutuae Relationes, these contacts should be established on a stable basis, in order to provide for constant and timely coordination of initiatives as they come up. If all this is done with perseverance and a spirit of faithful adherence to the directives of the Magisterium, the organizations which promote coordination and communion will prove to be particularly helpful in formulating solutions which avoid misunderstandings and tensions both on the theoretical and practical levels. In this way they will make a positive contribution not only to the growth of communion between Institutes of consecrated life and the bishops, but also to the advancement of the mission of the particular Churches.

54. [...] Members of Secular Institutes, lay or clerical, relate to other members of the faithful at the level of everyday life. Today, often as a result of new situations, many Institutes have come to the conclusion that their charism can be shared with the laity. The laity are therefore invited to share more intensely in the spirituality and mission of these Institutes. We may say that, in the light of certain historical experiences such as those of the secular or third orders, a new chapter, rich in hope, has begun in the history of relations between consecrated persons and the laity.

56. A significant expression of lay people's sharing in the richness of the consecrated life is their participation in various Institutes under the new form of so called associate members or, in response to conditions present in certain cultures, as people who share fully for a certain period of time the Institute's community life and its particular dedication to contemplation or the apostolate. This should always be done in such a way that the identity of the Institute in its internal life is not harmed.

This voluntary service, which draws from the richness of the consecrated life, should be held in great esteem; it is however necessary to provide proper formation so that, besides being competent, volunteers always have supernaturally motivated intentions and, in their projects, a strong sense of community and of the Church. Moreover, it should be borne in mind that initiatives involving lay persons at the decision-¬making level, in order to be considered the work of a specific Institute, must promote the ends of that Institute and be carried out under its responsibility. Therefore, if lay persons take on a directive role, they will be accountable for their actions to the competent superiors. It is necessary for all this to be examined and regulated by special directives in each Institute, to be approved by higher authority. These directives should indicate the respective responsibilities of the Institute itself of its communities, associate members and volunteers.

Consecrated persons, sent by their superiors and remaining subject to them, can take part in specific forms of cooperation in lay initiatives, particularly in organizations and institutions which work with those on the margins of society and which have the purpose of alleviating human suffering. Such collaboration, if prompted and sustained by a clear and strong Christian identity and respectful of the particular character of the consecrated life, can make the radiant power of the Gospel shine forth brightly even in the darkest situations of human life.

In recent years, many consecrated persons have become members of one or other of the ecclesial movements which have spread in our time. From these experiences, those involved usually draw benefit, especially in the area of spiritual renewal. Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that in certain cases this involvement causes uneasiness and disorientation at the personal or community level, especially when these experiences come into conflict with the demands of the common life or of the Institute's spirituality. It is therefore necessary to take care that membership in these ecclesial movements does not endanger the charism or discipline of the Institute of origin, and that all is done with the permission of superiors and with the full intention of accepting their decisions.

78. [...] The Church's mission ad gentes offers consecrated women religious brothers and members of Secular Institutes special and extraordinary opportunities for a particularly fruitful apostolate. The members of Secular Institutes, by their presence in fields more suited to the lay vocation, can engage in the valuable work of evangelizing all sectors of society, as well as the structures and the very laws which regulate it. Moreover, they can bear witness to Gospel values, living in contact with those who do not yet know Jesus, thus making a specific contribution to the mission.

97. [...] Because of the importance that Catholic and ecclesiastical universities and faculties have in the field of education and evangelization, Institutes which are responsible for their direction should be conscious of their responsibility. They should ensure the preservation of their unique Catholic identity in complete fidelity to the Church's Magisterium, all the while engaging in active dialogue with present day cultural trends. Moreover, depending on the circumstances, the members of these Institutes and societies readily become involved in the educational structures of the State. Members of Secular Institutes in particular, because of their specific calling, are called to this kind of cooperation.

99. [...] Furthermore, consecrated persons, especially members of Secular Institutes, should willingly lend their help, wherever pastorally appropriate, for the religious formation of leaders and workers in the field of public and private social communications. This should be done in order to offset the inappropriate use of the media and to promote higher quality programs, the contents of which will be respectful of the moral law and rich in human and Christian values.

Opening Address to the International Symposium to celebrate

the 50th Anniversary of the Provida Mater Ecclesia,

Card. Eduardo Martinez Somalo

January 31st, 1997.

My dear participants at this Symposium,

I thank the Lord for the auspicious opportunity to meet such a large number of members of the various Secular Institutes, gathered at the Pontifical University which, for over 400 years, has been among the leaders in prestigious, highly qualified theological research and culture.

I thank all those who worked so hard to plan this Symposium: the World Conference of Secular Institutes, whose Executive Council organised these meetings to celebrate a very significant date in the life of all Secular Institutes: the 50th anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater, promulgated on February 2, 1947 by the late Holy Father Pius XII.

It has also been fifty years since the Dicastery, to which Mons. Dorronsoro and I belong, has been responsible for this form of consecrated life. By now, it is a consolidated way of life which has determined its specific mission in the large family of the Church.

Our joy and our gratitude to the Holy Trinity are undoubtedly shared by those who, in the consoling mystery of the Communion of Saints, already live forever in God, and participate with us in the joys of the entire Church. It is herewith necessary to recall the wise and enlightened author of the event we are celebrating, the venerable Father Arcadio Larraona, of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Missionaries (Claretians). Later raised to Cardinal, Fr. Larraona at the time held the post of Under-secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Religious. His memory continues to live on in many of us. In 1941, the Supreme Pontiff Pius XII gave him the task of studying these new Institutes, creating a Commission composed of members of the former Sacred Congregations of the Holy Office and Religious, to help determine adequate legislation. This was followed by the publication of the Pontifical document that outlined the theological and juridical foundations of the Secular Institutes and the particular laws which govern them.

The following year, Pius XII also defined the doctrine concerning the new form of consecrated life in the Motu Proprio Primo feliciter. The same year, the Sacred Congregation of Religious highlighted several points in the Instruction Cum Sanctissimus .

We can say the Church has been enriched by these documents in that those people who choose to remain in the world may be recognised as being wholly consecrated, thus uniting secularity and consecration as integral elements of the new Institutes. Full consecration and complete secularity are declared not only compatible, but are also considered reciprocal aids which respond to the needs of modern times; the images of salt and yeast, which lend flavour and expand, are emphasised together with the classic evangelical references to the city on the mountain top and the light of the candelabrum.

Papal teachings later confirmed the doctrine and practices of the Secular Institutes; thus, the Second Vatican Council recommended them to preserve their unique identity and dedicate their energies to divine and human teachings (cf. PC 11). Moreover, Pontifical teachings recognised that consecrated seculars are very effective in missionary work, offering a sign of complete dedication to the evangelization of the world (cf. AG 40). And in celebrating this solemn anniversary twenty-¬five years ago, Pope Paul VI encouraged you to offer witness to consecrated secularity so that the Church may assume the new attitude or approach that the world demands today! (cf. Pope Paul VI, discourse for the XXVth anniversary of Provida Mater, Rome February 2, 1972).

The illustrious speakers who will soon present their discourses will delve deeper into these issues, tracing the main themes and events of the past fifty years which led us to the post synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Consecrated Life. In that document, the Holy Father Pope John Paul II again invites the world's consecrated persons to release into society the new energy of Christ's Kingdom, to transfigure the world with the power of the Beatitudes (cf. VC 10). In the Exhortation, the Holy Father reflects further on the magnificence of Christ's undivided succession, generating amongst us a true feeling of filial gratitude.

Not much left remains for me to say, save to offer all of you my sincerest wishes and prayers. My best wishes and prayers are with you so that the Secular Institutes may always remain faithful to their charism, aiming for the right balance between secularity and consecration; that they may tap the source of their spirituality, and accurately and courageously interpret the wishes of their Founders. It is they who responded to inspiration from the Spirit of Truth and began this holy mission adopted by the Church. All those who serve in this mission are certain to respond generously to the divine call.

I am sure that in the new evangelization marking the Third Christian Millennium all of you will be committed and active protagonists in proclaiming the world's Salvation through Jesus Christ, Who remains the same yesterday, today and forever, and Whom we glorify and offer thanks !

Rome, 31st January 1997

John Paul II

Bearing witness to Christ in Secular Life

On the occasion of the International Symposium to mark the 50th anniversary

of the Provida Mater Ecclesia

Your Eminence, venerable brothers and sisters,

1. I welcome you with great affection at this special audience to recall and celebrate an important date for Secular Institutes. I thank Cardinal Martinez Somalo for his words which shed the proper light on the meaning of this meeting, which gathers together in this hall countless people from all over the world. I also thank your representative who spoke after the Cardinal.

The Church's motherly concern and wise affection for her children who dedicate their life to Christ in the various forms of special consecration was expressed 50 years ago in the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia, which was meant to give a new canonical structure to the Christian experience of Secular Institutes (cf. AAS 39, 1974, 114 124).

With good insight and anticipating several themes that were to be suitably formulated by the Second Vatican Council, Pius XII, my predecessor of venerable memory, confirmed with his apostolic authority a way and form of life that had already been attracting many Christians for a century, men and women committed to following Christ chaste, poor and obedient, while remaining in the state of life proper to their own secular status. In this first phase of the history of Secular Institutes, it is beautiful to recognise the dedication and sacrifice of so many brothers and sisters in the faith, who fearlessly faced the challenges of new times. They offered a consistent witness of true Christian holiness in the most varied conditions of work, home and involvement in the social, economic and political life of the human communities to which they belonged.

We cannot forget the intelligent passion with which several great men of the Church accompanied this process in the years immediately preceding the promulgation of Provida Mater Ecclesia. Among the many, in addition to the Pope just mentioned, I like to remember with affection and gratitude the then Substitute of the Secretariat of State, the future Pope Paul VI, Mons. Giovanni Battista Montini, and the Undersecretary of the Congregation for Religious at the time of the Apostolic Constitution, venerable Cardinal Arcadio Larraona, who played an important role in elaborating and defining the doctrine and in making the canonical decisions this document contains.

2. Half a century later we still find Provida Mater Ecclesia very timely. You pointed this out during your international symposium's work. Indeed this document is marked by a prophetic inspiration which deserves to be emphasised. In fact, today more than ever, the way of life of Secular Institutes has proved a providential and effective form of Gospel witness in the specific circumstances of today's cultural and social conditions, in which the Church is called to live and carry out her mission. With the approval of these Institutes, crowning a spiritual endeavour which had been motivating Church life at least since the time of St Francis de Sales, the Constitution recognised that the perfection of Christian life could and should be lived in every circumstance and existential situation, since it is the call to universal holiness (cf. Provida Mater Ecclesia, n. 118). Consequently, it affirmed that religious life - understood in its proper canonical form - was not in itself the only way to follow the Lord without reserve. It desired that the Christian renewal of family, professional and social life would take place through the presence and witness of secular consecration, bringing about new and effective forms of apostolate, addressed to persons and spheres normally far from the Gospel, where it is almost impossible for its proclamation to penetrate.

3. Years ago, in addressing those taking part in the Second International Congress of Secular Institutes, I said that they were "so to speak, at the centre of the conflict that disturbs and divides the modern soul" (Insegnamenti, vol. III/2, 1980, p.469; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 29 September 1980, p. 4). With this statement I meant to re examine several considerations of my venerable predecessor, Paul VI, who had spoken of Secular Institutes as the answer to a deep concern: that of finding the way of combining the full consecration of life according to the evangelical counsels and full responsibility for a presence and transforming action within the world, to mould, perfect and sanctify it (cf. Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, vol. X, 1972, p. 102).

In fact, on the one hand we are witnessing the rapid spread of forms of religious expression offering fascinating experiences, which in some cases are exacting and demanding. The accent however is on the emotional and perceptible level of the experience, rather than the ascetical and spiritual. We can acknowledge that these forms of religious expression are an attempt to respond to a constantly renewed desire for communion with God, for the search for the ultimate truth about him and about humanity's destiny. They display the fascination of novelty and facile universalism. However these experiences imply an ambiguous concept of God which is far from that offered by Revelation. Furthermore, they prove to be detached from reality and humanity's concrete history.

This religious expression contrasts with a false concept of secularity in which God has nothing to do with the building of humanity's future. The relationship with him should be considered a private decision and a subjective question which at most can be tolerated as long as it does not claim to have any influence on culture or society.

4. How, then, should we face this terrible conflict which divides the heart and soul of contemporary humanity? It becomes a challenge for the Christian: the challenge to bring about a new synthesis of the greatest possible allegiance to God and his will, and the greatest possible sharing in the joys and hopes, worries and sorrows of the world, to direct them towards the plan of integral salvation which God the Father has shown us in Christ and continually makes available to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The members of Secular Institutes are committed precisely to this and express their full fidelity to the profession of the evangelical counsels in a form of secular life full of risks and often unforeseeable demands, but rich in a specific and original potential.

5. The humble yet daring bearers of the transforming power of God's kingdom and the courageous, consistent witnesses to the task and mission of the evangelization of cultures and peoples, the members of Secular Institutes, in history, are the sign of a Church which is the friend of men and can offer them comfort in every kind of affliction, ready to support all true progress in human life but at the same time intransigent towards every choice of death, violence, deceit and injustice. For Christians they are also a sign and a reminder of their duty, on God's behalf, to care for a creation which remains the object of its Creator's love and satisfaction, although marked by the contradictions of rebellion and sin and in need of being freed from corruption and death.

Is it surprising that the environment with which they have to contend is often little inclined to understand and accept their witness?

The Church today looks to men and women who are capable of a renewed witness to the Gospel and its radical demands, amid the living conditions of the majority of human beings. Even the world, often without realising it, wishes to meet the truth of the Gospel for humanity's true and integral progress, according to God's plan.

In such a condition, great determination and clear fidelity to the charism proper to their consecration is demanded of the members of Secular Institutes: that of bringing about the synthesis of faith and life, of the Gospel and human history, of total dedication to the glory of God and of unconditional willingness to serve the fullness of life of their brothers and sisters in this world.

Members of Secular Institutes are by their vocation and mission at the crossroads between God's initiative and the longing of creation: God's initiative, which they bring the world through love and intimate union with Christ; the longing of creation, which they share in the everyday, secular condition of their fellow men and women, bearing the contradictions and hopes of every human being, especially the weakest and the suffering.

Secular Institutes in any case are entrusted with the responsibility of reminding everyone of this mission, witnessing to it by a special consecration in the radicalness of the evangelical counsels, so that the whole Christian community may carry out with ever greater commitment the task that God, in Christ, has entrusted to it with the gift of his Spirit (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata, nos. 17 22).

6. The contemporary world appears particularly sensitive to the witness of those who can courageously assume the risk and responsibility of discerning the times and of the plan for building a new and more just humanity. Our time is one of great cultural and social upheaval.

Thus it seems ever more apparent that the Christian mission in the world cannot be reduced to giving a pure, simple example of honesty, competence and fidelity to duty. All this is presupposed. It is a question of putting on the mind of Jesus Christ in order to be signs of his love in the world. This is the meaning and the goal of authentic Christian secularity, and thus the purpose and value of the Christian consecration lived in Secular Institutes.

In this regard, it is all the more important that members of Secular Institutes intensely live fraternal communion within their own Institute and with the members of different Institutes.

Precisely because they are dispersed like leaven and salt in the midst of the world, they should consider themselves privileged witnesses to the value of brotherhood and Christian friendship, so necessary today, especially in the great urban areas where the majority of the world's population now lives. I hope that each Secular Institute may become this burning hearth from which many men and women can draw light and warmth for the life of the world.

7. Lastly, I ask Mary to bestow on all the members of Secular Institutes the clearness of her vision of the world's situation, the depth of her faith in the word of God and the promptness of her willingness to fulfil his mysterious designs for an ever more effective collaboration in the work of salvation.

Entrusting to her motherly hands the future of Secular Institutes, a chosen portion of God's people, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to each one of you present here, and I willingly extend it to all the members of Secular Institutes scattered throughout the five continents.

To the participants in the World Congress of Secular Institutes
Trainig for discerniment

John Paul II
Monday, 28 August 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of your congress; the Jubilee celebration currently taking place gives it an orientation and a special encouragement. I greet you all with deep cordiality, extending a particular greeting to Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, who has warmly expressed your sentiments.

In the Year of the Great Jubilee, the Church invites all the laity, but especially the members of secular institutes, to engage in spreading knowledge of the Gospel and in bearing a Christian witness in secular realities. As I said at our meeting for the 50th anniversary of Provida Mater Ecclesia, by your vocation and mission you are at the crossroads between God's initiative and the longing of creation: God's initiative, which you bring to the world through love and intimate union with Christ; the longing of creation, which you share in the everyday and secular condition of your fellow men and women (cf. Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, vol. XX/1, 1997, n. 5, p. 232). Consequently, as consecrated lay people you must live contemporary realities with active awareness, because the following of Christ, which gives meaning to your lives, seriously involves you in that world which you are called to transform according to God's plan.

2. Your world congress focuses attention on the theme of the formation of the members of secular institutes. They must always be able to discern in the complexity and variability of the signs of the times God's will and the paths of the new evangelization in every "today" of history.

In my Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici, I amply covered the theme of the formation of Christians with their historical and secular responsibilities as well as their direct collaboration in building the Christian community; and I indicated the indispensable sources of this formation: "a receptive listening to the Word of God and the Church, fervent and constant prayer, recourse to a wise and loving spiritual guide, and a faithful discernment of the gifts and talents given by God, as well as the diverse social and historic situations in which one lives" (n. 58).

Thus formation embraces the whole life of the consecrated person. It is also nourished by the analyses and reflections of experts in sociology and the other human sciences, but cannot disregard, as its vital centre and criterion for the Christian evaluation of historical phenomena, the spiritual, theological and sapiential dimension of the life of faith, which provides the ultimate, crucial keys to the interpretation of the human condition today and to the choice of the priorities and styles of an authentic witness.

The gaze we turn to the realities of the contemporary world, which we would like always to be filled with the compassion and mercy that our Lord Jesus Christ taught us, does not pause to identify errors and dangers. Of course, it cannot ignore the negative and problematic aspects but is immediately directed to identifying ways of hope and pointing out prospects of fervent commitment for the person's integral advancement, liberation and full happiness.

3. In the heart of a changing world in which unheard-of injustices and sufferings persist and are worsening, you are called to give a Christian interpretation to events and to historical and cultural phenomena. In particular, you must be harbingers of light and hope in contemporary society. Do not let yourselves be deceived by ingenuous optimism, but remain faithful witnesses of a God who certainly loves this humanity and offers it the necessary grace to work effectively building a better world, more just and more respectful of the dignity of every human being. The challenge to the faith of contemporary culture seems precisely this: to give up the facile tendency to paint dark and negative scenes, in order to mark out possible paths that are not deceptive, of redemption, liberation and hope.

Your experience as consecrated people in secular conditions demonstrates that one must not expect a better world to come about only from the choices of higher responsiblities and from the top of great institutions. The Lord's grace, which can also save and redeem this historical epoch, is born and grows in believers' hearts. They accept, support and encourage God's initiative in history and make it grow from below and from within simple human lives, which thus become true messengers of change and of salvation. It is enough to think in this regard of the action of countless throngs of saints, even those who have not been officially declared as such by the Church, who made a deep mark on the time in which they lived, contributing to it values and energies of goodness whose importance escapes the instruments of social analysis, but is clearly visible to God's eyes and to the thoughtful reflection of believers.

4. Formation in discernment cannot ignore the basis of every human project which is and remains Jesus Christ. The mission of secular institutes is to "make present in society the newness and power of Christ's kingdom, striving to transfigure the world from within by the power of the Beatitudes" (Vita consecrata, n. 10). The faith of disciples thus becomes the spirit of the world, according to the well-chosen image of the letter "To Diognetus", and gives rise to a cultural and social renewal which should be made available to humanity. The more distant and alien to the Gospel humanity is, the stronger and more convincing the proclamation of the truth about Christ and man redeemed through him must be.

Of course, attention must always be paid to the methods of this proclamation so that humanity does not feel it is an intrusion and imposition on the part of believers. On the contrary, it will be our task to see that it is ever clearer that the Church, which carries out Christ's mission, cares lovingly for human beings. She does not do so for humanity in the abstract, but for this real, historical human being, in the conviction that "this man is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission ... the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption" (Redemptoris hominis, n. 14; cf. Centesimus annus, n. 53).

5. Your initial and continuous formation, dear superiors and members of secular institutes, should be nourished by these certainties. It will yield abundant fruit to the extent that it continues to draw from the inexhaustible riches of revelation, interpreted and proclaimed by the Church with wisdom and love.

I entrust your journey on the routes of the world to Mary, Star of evangelization, who is an image of the Church beyond compare. May she be close to you, and may her intercession make the work of your congress fruitful and give enthusiasm and renewed apostolic dynamism to the institutions which you represent here, so that the Jubilee will mark the beginning of a new Pentecost and a profound interior renewal.

With these wishes I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all, as a pledge of constant affection.

Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI
to the participants in the International Symposium
of Secular Institutes

Clementine Hall
Saturday, 3 February 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters

I am pleased to be with you today, members of Secular Institutes whom I am meeting for the first time since my election to the Chair of the Apostle Peter. I greet you all with affection. I greet Cardinal Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and I thank him for his words of filial devotion and spiritual closeness, also on your behalf. I greet Cardinal Cottier and the Secretary of your Congregation.

I greet the President of the World Conference of Secular Institutes, who has expressed the sentiments and expectations of all of you who have gathered here from different countries, from all the continents, to celebrate an International Symposium on the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia.

Sixty years have passed, as has already been said, since that 2 February 1947, when my Predecessor Pius XII promulgated this Apostolic Constitution, thereby giving a theological and juridical basis to an experience that matured in the previous decades and recognizing in Secular Institutes one of the innumerable gifts with which the Holy Spirit accompanies the Church on her journey and renews her down through all the ages.

That juridical act was not the goal but rather the starting point of a process that aimed to outline a new form of consecration: the consecration of faithful lay people and diocesan priests, called to live with Gospel radicalism precisely that secularity in which they are immersed by virtue of their state of life or pastoral ministry.

You are here today to continue to mark out that path plotted 60 years ago, which sees you as increasingly impassioned messengers in Jesus Christ of the meaning of the world and of history.

Your fervour is born from having discovered the beauty of Christ and of his unique way of loving, healing and meeting the needs of life and of enlivening and comforting it. And your lives aim to sing the praise of this beauty so that your being in the world may be a sign of your being in Christ.

Indeed, it is the mystery of the Incarnation that makes your integration in human events a place of theology: ("God so loved the world that he gave his only Son", Jn 3: 16). The work of salvation was not wrought in opposition to the history of humankind but rather in and through it.

In this regard, the Letter to the Hebrews notes: "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son" (1: 1-2a).

This redeeming act was itself brought about in the context of time and history, and implies obedience to the plan of God inscribed in the work that came from his hands.

It is once again this same text from the Letter to the Hebrews, an inspired text, which points out: "When he said, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings' - these are offered according to the law -, he then added, "Lo I have come to do your will'" (Heb 10: 8-9a).

These words of the Psalm and the Letter to the Hebrews, expressed through intra-Trinitarian dialogue, are words of the Son who says to the Father: "I have come to do your will". Thus, the Incarnation comes about: "Lo, I have come to do your will". The Lord involves us in his words which become our own: here I am, Lord, with the Son, to do your will.

In this way, the process of your sanctification is clearly marked out: self-sacrificing adherence to the saving plan manifested in the revealed Word, solidarity with history, the search for the Lord's will inscribed in human events governed by his Providence.

And at the same time, the characteristics of the secular mission are outlined: the witness to human virtues such as "righteousness and peace and joy" (Rom 14: 17), the "good conduct" of which Peter speaks in his First Letter (cf. 2: 12), echoing the Teacher's words: "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven" (Mt 5: 16).

Also part of the secular mission is the commitment to build a society that recognizes in the various environments the dignity of the person and the indispensable values for its total fulfilment: from politics to the economy, from education to the commitment to public health, from the management of services to scientific research.

The aim of every specific reality proper to and lived by the Christian, his own work and his own material interests that retain their relative consistency, is found in their being embraced by the same purpose for which the Son of God came into the world.

Therefore, may you feel challenged by every suffering, every injustice and every search for truth, beauty and goodness. This is not because you can come up with the solution to all problems; rather, it is because every circumstance in which human beings live and die is an opportunity for you to witness to God's saving work. This is your mission.

On the one hand, your consecration highlights the special grace that comes to you from the Spirit for the fulfilment of your vocation, and on the other, it commits you to total docility of mind, heart and will to the project of God the Father revealed in Jesus Christ, whom you have been called to follow radically.

Every encounter with Christ demands a profound change of attitude, but for some, as it was for you, the Lord's request is particularly demanding: you are asked to leave everything, because God is all and will be all in your lives. It is not merely a question of a different way of relating to Christ and of expressing your attachment to him, but of an option for God that requires of you constant, absolute and total trust in him.

Conforming your own lives to the life of Christ by entering into this words, conforming your own life to the life of Christ through the practice of the evangelical counsels, is a fundamental and binding feature which, in its specificity, demands the concrete and binding commitment of "mountaineers of the spirit", as venerable Pope Paul VI called you (Address to Participants in the First International Congress of Secular Institutes, 26 September 1970; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 8 October, p. 5).

The secular nature of your consecration brings to the fore, on the one hand, the means you use to fulfil it, that is, the means proper to every man and woman who live in ordinary conditions in the world, and on the other, the form of its development, that is, a profound relationship with the signs of the times which you are called to discern personally and as a community in the light of the Gospel.

Your charism has been authoritatively recognized several times precisely in this discernment in order for you to be a workshop of dialogue with the world, that "experimental workshop in which the Church ascertains practical ways for her relations with the world" (Pope Paul VI, Address to the Council of the Sacred Congregation for Religious and the International Union of Male and Female Superiors General, 6 November 1976; cf. ORE, 18 November, p. 3).

The enduring timeliness of your charism derives precisely from this, for this discernment must not take place from outside reality but from within it, through full involvement. This takes place in the daily relationships that you can weave in family and social relations, in professional activity, in the fabric of the civil and ecclesial communities.

The encounter with Christ and the act of following him, which impels and opens people, "must necessarily be reflected "ad extra' and expand naturally" in an encounter with one and all, for if God fulfils himself only in communion, it is also only in Trinitarian communion that human beings are fulfilled.

You are not called to establish special forms of living, of apostolic commitment or social intervention, but rather, forms that can come into being through personal relations, a source of prophetic riches. May your lives be like the yeast that leavens all the dough (cf. Mt 13: 33), sometimes silent and hidden, but always with a positive and encouraging outreach capable of generating hope.

The place of your apostolate is therefore the whole human being, not only within the Christian community - where the relationship materializes in listening to the Word and in sacramental life from which you draw to sustain your baptismal identity - I say the place of your apostolate is the human being in his entirety, both within the Christian community and in the civil community, where relationships are formed in the search for the common good, in dialogue with all, called to witness to that Christian anthropology which constitutes a sensible proposal in a society bewildered and confused by its multicultural and multireligious profile.

You come from different countries and the cultural, political and even religious situations in which you live, work and grow old are different. In all of these situations, may you be seekers of the Truth, of the human revelation of God in life. We know it is a long journey, distressing at the present time, but its outcome is certain. Proclaim the beauty of God and of his creation.

Following Christ's example, be obedient to love, be men and women of gentleness and mercy, capable of taking to the highways of the world, doing only good. May yours be a life that is focused on the Beatitudes, that contradicts human logic to express unconditional trust in God, who wants human beings to be happy.

The Church also needs you to give completeness to her mission. Be seeds of holiness scattered by the handful in the furrows of history. Rooted in the freely given and effective action with which the Lord's Spirit guides human events, may you bear fruits of genuine faith, writing with your life and your witness trajectories of hope, writing them with the actions suggested by "creativity' in charity" (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 50).

With these hopes, as I assure you of my constant prayers in support of your apostolic and charitable projects, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you.


Vatican City, 18 July 2012

+Tarcisio Card. Bertone

Secretary of State

Dear Miss President,

I am pleased to send the members of secular institutes this message from the Holy Father on the occasion of the Congress taking place in Assisi and organized by the World Conference of Secular Institutes to discuss the theme Listening to God ‘in the furrows of history’: secularity speaks to consecration.

This theme of capital importance places the stress on your identity as consecrated persons, who in the world live the interior liberty and fullness of love stemming from the evangelical counsels and are men and women capable of a profound gaze and sterling witness within history. The times we are living pose profound questions to life and to the faith, but at the same time render manifest the mystery of God’s spousehood. In fact, the Word who became flesh celebrates the marriage of God with humankind of all times. The mystery hidden for centuries in the mind of the Creator of the universe (cf. Eph 3:9), and which became manifest with the Incarnation, is projected towards future fulfillment, but is already present in the here and now of today as a redemptive and unifying force.

Animated by the Holy Spirit you are able to grasp the discrete and at times hidden signs of God’s presence within journeying humankind. Only by virtue of grace, which is a gift of the Spirit, are you able to see the way along the often rugged and twisted pathways of human events to the fullness of overabundant life; a dynamism, which, above and beyond appearances, represents the true sense of history according to the plan of God. Your vocation is to be in the world, taking upon yourselves all burdens and yearnings with a human gaze that always coincides with the divine gaze, and is grounded in the awareness that God writes the history of salvation in the unfolding of events that take place in our history.

In this sense your identity also projects an important facet of your mission in the Church, and that is to help the Church realize its being in the world in the light of the words of Vatican Council II: “Inspired by no earthly ambition, the Church seeks but a solitary goal: to carry forward the work of Christ under the lead of the befriending Spirit. And Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served” (Gaudium et Spes, 3). The theology of history is an important and essential aspect of the New Evangelization because the people of our time need to rediscover an overall look at the world and at time, a truly free, peaceful look (cf. Benedict XVI, Homily at the Holy Mass for the New Evangelization, 16 October 2011).The Council likewise reminds us how the relationship between the Church and the world is to be lived under the hallmark of reciprocity, whereby it is not just the Church giving to the world, contributing to render the family of humankind and its history more human, but also the way to give to the Church, thereby enabling it to better understand itself and live its mission all the better. (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 40-45).

The work you are about to embark upon will hence concentrate on the specificity of secular consecration in the search for how secularity speaks to consecration, for just how the characteristic features of Jesus – the chaste, poor and obedient one –become constantly ‘visible’ in the midst of the world (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, n°1) in and through your daily life. His Holiness wishes to bring to your attention three ambits upon which to focus.

Firstly, the total donation of your life as the response to a personal and vital encounter with the love of God. You have discovered God is everything for you; you have decided to give everything to God and do so in a special way: remaining laypersons among laypersons, priests among priests. This calls for special watchfulness so your life styles may ever reveal the richness, beauty and radicality of the evangelical counsels.

Secondly, the spiritual life; an ever-present and absolutely necessary point, a sure reference for nourishing that desire to forge unity in Christ that is the underlying tension in the life of each and every Christian, and all the more so in the life of those who respond to a call for the total giving of self. The measure of the depths of your spiritual life is not the extent of your many activities, which nonetheless call for resolute commitment, but rather the ability to seek God in the heart of each event and to bring all things back to Christ. It is the “recapitulating” all things in Christ of which the Apostle Paul speaks (cf. Eph 1:10). Only in Christ, the Lord of history, do history and all histories take on sense and unity.

Therefore, in prayer and listening to the Word of God is this yearning to be nourished. In the celebration of the Eucharist you find the root for becoming the bread of Love broken for all. Deeply set in contemplation and in the gaze of faith enlightened by grace are to be the roots for the commitment to share with each man and women the profound questions abiding in one and all so hope and trust may be constructed.

Thirdly, formation, which disregards no one, no matter what their age may be, because it is a matter of living one’s life in fullness, educating self to that wisdom which is ever aware of human creaturehood and the greatness of the Creator. Look for contents and modes of formation that may make you laypersons and priests able to let yourselves be questioned by the complexity of the world in which we are now living, to remain open to the entreaties issuing forth from the relationship you live with the brothers and sisters you meet along the pathways of life, and to engage in a discernment of history in the light of the Word of Life. Together with the seekers of truth be prepared and willing to construct itineraries of common good neither prefabricated solutions nor fear of the questions that remain questions, but ever ready to put your life on the line with the conviction that if the kernel of grain falls upon the round and dies, it bears abundant fruit (cf. Jn 12:24). Be creative, because the Spirit brings forth new things; nourish gazes embracing the future and roots firmly planted in Christ the Lord, so you may voice to our time as well the experience of love that lies at the very foundations of the life of each person. With charity embrace the wounds of the world and the Church. Above all, live a life which is joyful and full, receptive and forgiving because it is founded upon Jesus Christ, the definitive Word of God’s Love for man.

In sending you these thoughts the Holy Father assures you that your Congress and Assembly will be remembered in his prayers in a special way, invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who in the world lived perfect consecration to God in Christ, and he wholeheartedly bestows his Apostolic Blessing upon you and all the participants.

In adding my personal expression of best wishes for your work, allow me to take advantage of this occasion to extend my most sincere regards.

Note from the CMIS: the original text is in Italian.



ASSISI – 23-28 July 2012

(Domus Pacis – Santa Maria degli Angeli, Assisi – Italy)




Joao Braz Cardinal DE AVIZ

Prefect of the CIVCSVA

Dearest consecrated laywomen, consecrated laymen and priests of secular institutes,

I am pleased to be here with you at the outset of these days abounding with expectations, days when you will first be involved in the Congress, a time and place for listening, discussing and digesting food for thought, and then your Assembly. This year the Assembly is particularly important because you will be approving the new Statutes. My hope in this regard is that the effort to delve deeply with your mind’s eye into the norms that regulate your journey in common in order to delineate its forms may help you live communion in full, not so all differences may be eliminated, but to journey together, each at his or her own pace, within the same furrow: the furrow of consecrated secularity. This is indeed a far from smooth pathway, but only at this price will the fruits of good able to see the light of day.

My presence here is an expression of that communion binding the World Conference of Secular Institutes to the Hoy Father through the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life. This is the Sentire cum Ecclesia to which the Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata dedicated N° 46, whose opening words read as follows: “A great task also belongs to the consecrated life in the light of the teaching about the Church as communion, so strongly proposed by the Second Vatican Council. Consecrated persons are asked to be true experts of communion and to practice the spirituality of communion as "witnesses and architects of the plan for unity which is the crowning point of human history in God's design”. The sense of ecclesial communion, developing into a spirituality of communion, promotes a way of thinking, speaking and acting which enables the Church to grow in depth and extension. The life of communion in fact "becomes a sign for all the world and a compelling force that leads people to faith in Christ ... In this way communion leads to mission, and itself becomes mission"; indeed, "communion begets communion: in essence it is a communion that is missionary".

Bear with me if I quote the words of Benedict XVI addressed to Ms Ewa Kusz, president of the Executive Council, sent through the good offices of the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Cardinale Bertone and read a few moments ago:

“The work you are about to embark upon will hence concentrate on the specificity of secular consecration in the search for how secularity speaks to consecration, for just how the characteristic features of Jesus – the chaste, poor and obedient one –become constantly ‘visible’ in the midst of the world (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, n°1) in and through your daily life. His Holiness wishes to bring to your attention three ambits upon which to focus.

Firstly, the total donation of your life as the response to a personal and vital encounter with the love of God. You have discovered God is everything for you; you have decided to give everything to God and do so in a special way: remaining laypersons among laypersons, priests among priests. This calls for special watchfulness so your life styles may ever reveal the richness, beauty and radicality of the evangelical counsels.

Secondly, the spiritual life; an ever-present and absolutely necessary point, a sure reference for nourishing that desire to forge unity in Christ that is the underlying tension in the life of each and every Christian, and all the more so in the life of those who respond to a call for the total giving of self. The measure of the depths of your spiritual life is not the extent of your many activities, which nonetheless call for resolute commitment, but rather the ability to seek God in the heart of each event and to bring all things back to Christ. It is the “recapitulating” all things in Christ of which the Apostle Paul speaks (cf. Eph 1:10). Only in Christ, the Lord of history, do history and all histories take on sense and unity.

Therefore, in prayer and listening to the Word of God is this yearning to be nourished. In the celebration of the Eucharist you find the root for becoming the bread of Love broken for all. Deeply set in contemplation and in the gaze of faith enlightened by grace are to be the roots for the commitment to share with each man and women the profound questions abiding in one and all so hope and trust may be constructed.

Thirdly, formation, which disregards no one, no matter what their age may be, because it is a matter of living one’s life in fullness, educating self to that wisdom which is ever aware of human creaturehood and the greatness of the Creator. Look for contents and modes of formation that may make you laypersons and priests able to let yourselves be questioned by the complexity of the world in which we are now living, to remain open to the entreaties issuing forth from the relationship you live with the brothers and sisters you meet along the pathways of life, and to engage in a discernment of history in the light of the Word of Life. Together with the seekers of truth be prepared and willing to construct itineraries of common good neither prefabricated solutions nor fear of the questions that remain questions, but ever ready to put your life on the line with the conviction that if the kernel of grain falls upon the round and dies, it bears abundant fruit (cf. Jn 12:24). Be creative, because the Spirit brings forth new things; nourish gazes embracing the future and roots firmly planted in Christ the Lord, so you may voice to our time as well the experience of love that lies at the very foundations of the life of each person. With charity embrace the wounds of the world and the Church. Above all, live a life which is joyful and full, receptive and forgiving because it is founded upon Jesus Christ, the definitive Word of God’s Love for man.”

I would like to dwell with you today precisely on ecclesial communion. I do this not in order to lessen the importance of the specific theme of your Congress, upon which you will be able to reflect and meditate during these days, but almost as a context, as an horizon of sense and meaning for your discussions and reflections.

Your vocation only has meaning if you begin from its being rooted in the Church, because your mission is the mission of the Church. In the priestly prayer we read in the Gospel according to John the intensity of the relationship between the Father and the Son is one and the same with the force of the mission of love. It is by bringing about this communion of love that the Church becomes a sign and an instrument able to create communion with God and among men (cf Lumen Gentium 1).

It is in such terms that Paul VI exhorted you: “Do not be taken off guard. Keep your hearts well clear of the temptation – so seductive these days – to think you can have true communion with Christ and yet be out of tune, out of accord, with the ecclesial community governed by lawful pastors. It would be a snare and a delusion. What can an individual do, or a group, with the best of intentions and the highest of ideals, outside this communion? Christ requires it of us as a condition of communion with Him, just as He requires our love of each other as proof of our love of Him.” (Paul VI, ‘Once more’; address to the Heads of Secular Institutes delivered on 20 September 1972)

And all the more so did the heart of Benedict XVI cry out when he said to you: “The Church also needs you to give completeness to her mission. Be seeds of holiness scattered by the handful in the furrows of history” (Benedict XVI to the participants in the international symposium, 3 February 2007). There is no communion that does not open constantly to the mission, nor is there mission that does not spring forth from communion. These two aspects touch the living and throbbing heart of the entire Church, enabling it to undertake a new reading of reality, a search for meaning and perhaps even solutions that seek to be a response, albeit a partial one, but flowing forth from an ever more authentically evangelical heart.

A further consideration driving me to focus on this theme is as follows: one of the first concerns brought to my attention as Prefect in encounters with secular institutes has been this: “In the Church we are little known or ill known”.

The profound bond between knowledge and communion strikes me as fundamental in a dual sense. Only through knowledge, which means listening, attention and harmony of hearts can there be communion, which in its turn generates authentic knowledge precisely because it goes to the roots of what is essential and fosters encounter.

This is why I will dwell on a few considerations linked to ecclesial communion, leaving aside for the time being the issue of communion within each institute (a topic that would deserve discussion on its own). I do so on the basis of the document sent by the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes to Episcopal Conferences after the Plenary Meeting held in March 1983.

When retracing the origins of this vocation I was able to note how immediately coming together in the new form legally recognized with the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater were realities vastly different from one another, especially because of differences in their respective apostolic aims. The meetings organized by what would later become the World Conference of Secular Institutes were what provided for and permitted mutual knowledge, which, as I read in the aforementioned document, “led the Institutes to accept diversity (so-called pluralism), while feeling the need to clarify the boundaries of this same diversity” , (Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, Secular Institutes: their identity and their mission, 3-6 May 1983, n. 4).

This strikes me as a fundamental point. I also believe this work of mutual acceptance is still underway, and never to be lost sight of is the importance of keeping ever alive the positive tension to continue exploring this pathway. It is also important to keep forging ahead in the comprehension of what the aforementioned document refers to as “the boundaries of this same diversity”. Boundaries, or confines as well, with roots in both the essence of the Spirit, who never ceases to shower new gifts upon the earth, and the moment now being lived by the Church. Looking ahead as well to the Year of the Faith convened by Benedict XVI on the 50th anniversary of Vatican Council II, this is a moment in the life of the Church when the people of God, consecrated persons, priests, pastoral experts, canonists and everyone at large are called to collaborate so that constructed together may be new pathways of evangelization and companionship for the men and women of our time.

You well understand that such discernment means you must have a fundamental attitude: that of not claiming to know the true (and hence unique) identity of a secular institute. What is actually needed is an essential openness that enables you to discover how others, in their own spirituality and with their own mission and way of life, decline the synthesis between consecration and secularity; and how in the various social, cultural and ecclesial ambits it may be possible, albeit in different ways, to manifest the originality and uniqueness of their vocation.

Only though this dynamic process of listening and being receptive, which calls for sapiential discernment, will you discover yourselves to be all the richer. And this because you will thereby be able to experience the greatness of God, who, in order to manifest His great love for the world, does not let Himself be circumscribed within the littleness of our human itineraries or endeavors, but knows how and when to give rise to responses that may well strike us as bizarre, but most certainly have something to say and give to the life of each person. Therefore, beginning from what you share in common you will be able to engage in open discussion not only about diversities, but likewise about the ever new challenges the world poses in particular to you, called as you are to spend your life in the ‘frontier of the world’. In the face of new questions and issues you are urged and prompted to seek new itineraries that project the timeliness of your mission, ever ready to revisit them in open discussion when times and places so demand.

Coming to mind is one of the questions asked of me during my encounter with the Polish Conference of Secular Institutes in November 2011. I was asked to share my thoughts about the need for a member of a secular institute to remain discreet or reserved about his/her vocation. What I said in response was less of an answer and more of an invitation to individual institutes to undertake some serious thinking and discussion among their own members about the reasons for this discretion or reserve, and ask themselves: “Why was this felt to be necessary? What does it mean to the Church and the world?” There may well be different answers to these questions for each institute, each country and each period in history, but in order to verify the timeliness and efficacy of an instrument it is always necessary to begin from the foundation, from the value intended to be realized and expressed.

I do believe this may be a possible method or way to activate that knowledge that can lead to communion, and which issues forth from communion.

Therefore, listen to one another without any preset positions or ideas both within institutes and in fora of discussion in order to reach a goal, which, as you know so very well, is but one stage in the journey of the Spirit!

Realize that you are not alone in this work: the Church is accompanying you through the words of the Pontiffs and the service of the Congregation I represent.

At this point I would like to bring to your attention yet another aspect, and that is communion with the local Church. Here as well I will cite the words spoken by Blessed John Paul II at the end of the aforementioned Plenary: “If there will be a development and strengthening of secular institutes, the local Churches will benefit from that as well”.

Following this is a dual invitation addressed to secular institutes and pastors. While respecting their characteristics, secular institutes must understand and take upon themselves the pastoral urgencies of the local Churches and urge their members to live with attentive participation the hopes and the hardships, the plans and the concerns, the spiritual riches and the limits: in brief, communion with their concrete local Church.

Moreover, pastors are to be solicitous in acknowledging and seeking their contribution according to the nature proper to them. In particular, incumbent upon pastors is yet another responsibility: that of offering secular institutes all the spiritual richness they need. They want to be part of the world and ennoble temporal realities by ordering and uplifting them so everything may tend to Christ as head (cf, Eph 1:10). Therefore, to be given to these institutes is all the wealth of Catholic doctrine regarding creation, the incarnation and redemption so they may assume God’s wise and mysterious designs for man, history and the world as their own.

The following question is compulsory today: where do we stand along this journey?

Quite naturally I am addressing you here today, urging you to think about and discuss the journey you have traveled so far. But it is also a question posed to the pastors of the Church, who are summoned “to foster among the faithful neither approximate nor complaisant understanding, but an exact and respectful comprehension of the qualifying features . . .of this difficult yet beautiful vocation (words addressed by Blessed John Paul II to the Plenary).

Let us never forget something: the communion of which we speak is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and this gift creates unity in the love for and mutual acceptance of diversities. Prior to concrete expressions in terms of communication and structures, it “calls for a spirituality of communion, without which”, Blessed John Paul II clearly reiterated, “we must have no illusions. Unless we follow this spiritual path, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul, ‘masks’ of communion rather than its means of expression and growth”. (Novo millennio ineunte, n. 43).

Each one of you feels challenged as person, as institute and as Conference to identify ways and means whereby the ideal of a full ecclesial communion projected in so many of the Church’s documents may become real communion in history.

The priority here as well is a fundamental attitude: never succumb to the temptation to abandon the task at hand. It may happen at times that your efforts fail to bear fruit and the journey is at a standstill; in such cases as well do not give up the goal! Do not stop in the face of failures, but from them draw new force and strength to activate creativity; know how to move from resentment to availability, from suspicion to openness. Bring the wounds of ecclesial communion into your prayers; read your responsibilities with truthfulness; leave nothing untried, and in discernment resume the toilsome journey towards communion.

In March of this year we had an encounter at the Congregation with the Executive Council of CMIS, and the council members raised a few topics we could tackle together: mutual knowledge, criteria for the discernment of the identity of secular institutes, the role of the CMIS.

We as dicasterium very willingly accepted the proposal and indicated a way it could be implemented: that this Assembly identify the first topic upon which to begin joint reflection, and above all determine the ways whereby all the institutes could take part in this effort. An example of ecclesial communion we are in the process of constructing!

In closing I would like to extend another invitation to you: be promoters of communion with the other expressions of consecrated life and other ecclesial realities that share with you some aspects of your identity or mission. I have in mind the other forms of consecrated life with which you have in common consecration for the profession of the evangelical counsels in the canonical sense. I am also thinking about those associations and movements with which you share an evangelical presence in the world, while ever conserving a profoundly different mission and style of life. This may strike you as a somewhat audacious proposal, but it is suggested by your selfsame vocation, which leads you to experience the richness of diversity within your respective institutes and makes your living ‘a laboratory of dialogue’.

Be willing to learn about and know these realities, and above all let yourselves be known by them. You have nothing to defend yourselves against; you have but to show the beauty of your vocation, which, together with those of so many other brothers and sisters, is an expression of the richness and constant workings of the Trinitarian Love; that surprising and creative Love so far beyond anything we may imagine, and which makes the Church a magnificent garden where the multitude of flowers and plants enables each person to savor the variety of scents and colors, and therein experience the depth and the joyfulness of full and good life.

NB.: I wish to thank Ms Daniela Leggio, a staff member of the CICSVA, for her research work on documents regarding secular institutes.

Note from the CMIS: the original text is in Italian.

Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
to participants in the General Assembly
of the Italian Conference of Secular Institutes

Consistory Hall
Saturday, 10 May 2014

The Pontiff spoke extemporaneously:

I wrote an address for you, but something happened today. It’s my fault because I granted two audiences not quite at the same time, but almost. Thus, I would rather consign this text to you, because reading it now would be tedious, and I will just say two or three small things that might help you.

From the time in which Pius XII thought of it, Provida Mater Ecclesia was a revolutionary gesture in the Church of that day. Secular institutes are themselves an act of courage that the Church made at that moment; such as to give structure, to institutionalize XX secular institutes. And from that time up to now, the good you do for the Church is very great, it is done with courage; for one needs great courage to live in the world. Many of you are alone, many come and go in your apartment; some of you live in small communities. Everyday you live the life of a person in the world, and, at the same time, retain contemplation. This contemplative dimension with the Lord and in relation to the world, to contemplate reality, to contemplate the beauty of the word as well as the great sins of society, its deviations, all these things, and always in spiritual tension.... This is why your vocation is so fascinating, because it is a vocation which is spot on, where the salvation not only of people but of the institutions are at stake. And a great many lay institutions are necessary in the world. That is why I think that Provida Mater Ecclesia was a truly revolutionary step for the Church!

I hope that you will always retain this attitude of going beyond, not only beyond, but beyond and in between. There, where everything is at stake: politics, the economy, education, family... precisely there! Perhaps you are tempted maybe to think: “But what can I do?”. When you are tempted like this, remember that the Lord spoke to us about the grain of wheat! Your life is like a grain of wheat... precisely; it is like leaven... precisely. Doing everything possible so that the Kingdom may come, grow and be great, and also so that it may shelter many people, like the mustard tree. Think about this. Small life, small gesture; normal life with a leaven, a grain that produces growth. And this may reward you. The outcome of the Kingdom of God cannot be foreseen. Only the Lord allows us to divine something... We shall see the results in heaven.

Therefore it is important that you foster great hope! It is a grace which you must always ask the Lord for. Hope never disappoints. It never disappoints! A hope that moves forward. I would advise you to read often Chapter 11 of the Letter to the Hebrews, that chapter of hope. And to learn that many of our forefathers took this path and did not see the results, but they anticipated them beforehand. Hope.... This is what I wish for you. Many thanks for all you do in the Church; many thanks for your prayers and work. Thanks for the hope. And do not forget: be revolutionary!

Prepared address of the Holy Father:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I welcome you on the occasion of your Assembly and I greet you saying that I understand and value your vocation! It is one of the most recent forms of consecrated life the Church has recognized and approved, and perhaps that is why it is not yet fully understood. Do not be discouraged: you are part of that poor Church which goes out and which I dream of!

As a vocation, you are lay and priestly like others and among others, you lead an ordinary life, free from outward signs, without the support of community life, without the visibility of an organized apostolate or specific works. Your only wealth is the all encompassing experience of God’s love and thus you are able to understand and share the toils of life in its many expressions, infusing them with the light and power of the Gospel.

May you be a sign of that Church in dialogue of which Paul VI speaks in his Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam: “Since the world cannot be saved from the outside”, he stated, “we must first of all identify ourselves with those to whom we would bring the Christian message like the Word of God who Himself became a man. Next we must forego all privilege and the use of unintelligible language, and adopt the way of life of ordinary people in all that is human and honourable. Indeed, we must adopt the way of life of the most humble people, if we wish to be listened to and understood. Then, before speaking, we must take great care to listen not only to what men say, but more especially to what they have it in their hearts to say. Only then will we understand them and respect them, and even, as far as possible, agree with them. Furthermore, if we want to be men’s pastors, fathers and teachers, we must also behave as their brothers. Dialogue thrives on friendship, and most especially on service” (nn. 90-96).

The theme of your Assembly, “At the heart of human events: the challenges of a complex society”, indicates the scope of your mission and of your prophetic scope. You are in the world but not of the world, carrying within you the essence of the Christian message: the love of the Father who saves. You are at the heart of the world with the heart of God.

Your vocation makes you interested in every man and in his deeper issues which are often left unexpressed or masked. By the strength of the love of God which you have encountered and come to know, you are capable of sympathy and tenderness. Thus, you can be close enough to touch the other, his wounds and his expectations, his questions and his needs, with the tenderness that is an expression of care that erases all distances. As the Samaritan who passes by, sees and takes compassion. This is the action to which you are committed by your vocation: pass by every man and make yourself a neighbour to every person you meet. Because your permanence in the world is not simply sociological, it is a theological reality that calls you to be aware, attentive, that can perceive, see and touch the flesh of his brother.

If this does not happen, if you are distracted, or worse still, if you do not know today’s world but you know and experience only the world which suits you best or that you feel more drawn to, then conversion is urgently needed! Yours is an outward reaching vocation by nature, not only because it brings you into contact with others, but also and especially it demands that you live where every man lives.

Italy is the country with the largest number of secular institutes and members. You are a leaven that can produce good bread for many, the Bread for which there is so much hunger: listening to people’s needs, aspirations, disappointments, hopes. Like those who have preceded you in your vocation, you can restore hope to young people, help the elderly, open roads to the future, spread love in every place and in every situation. If this does not happen, if your ordinary life lacks witness and prophecy, then, I repeat to you, there is an urgent need for conversion!

Never lose the momentum of walking the streets of the world, aware that walking, even with an uncertain step or limping along, is always better than standing still, withdrawn in your own questions or sense of security. The missionary passion, the joy of the encounter with Christ that urges you to share with others the beauty of faith, reduces the risk of becoming stuck in individualism. The line of thought that proposes man as self-reliant, guided only by his own choices and desires, often vested in the seemingly beautiful garment of freedom and respect, threatens to undermine the foundations of consecrated life, especially of lay people. There is an urgent need to reevaluate your sense of belonging to your vocational community which, precisely because it is founded on community life, finds its strengths in its charisma. For this reason, if each of you are a precious opportunity for others to meet with God, it is about rediscovering the responsibility of being prophetic as a community, to seek together, with humility and patience, a word of sense that can be a gift for the country and for the Church, and to bear witness to it with simplicity. You are like antennas ready to receive the smallest innovations prompted by the Holy Spirit, and you can help the ecclesial community to take on this gaze of goodness and find new and bold ways to reach all peoples.

Poor among the poor, but with a burning heart. Never still, always on the move. Together and sent out, even when you are alone, because your consecration makes of you a living spark of the Church. Always on the road borne along by the virtue that is of pilgrims: joy!

Thank you, dear friends, for what you are. May the Lord bless you and Mary keep you. And pray for me!



A message from the teachings of Pope Francis

A letter to consecrated men and women in preparation for the year dedicated to Consecrated Life (Prot. n. Sp.R. M 1/2014)

“I want to say one word to you and this word is joy. Wherever consecrated people are, there is always joy!”

Pope Francis


Dear brothers and sisters

I. Be glad, rejoice, radiate joy


This is the beauty In being called

Found, touched, transformed In the joy of the faithful ‘yes’

II. Comfort, comfort my people


To bring God’s embrace

Tenderness is good for us Closeness as companionship The restlessness of love

III. For reflection

Questions of Pope Francis

Hail, Mother of Joy

Dear brothers and sisters,

“The joy of the Gospel fills the heart and lives of all who encounter Jesus. With Jesus Christ joy is constantly born anew.”1

The beginning of Evangelii Gaudium, within the fabric of the teaching of Pope Francis, rings out with surprising vitality, proclaiming the wonderful mystery of the Good News that transforms the life of the person who takes it to heart. We are told the parable of joy: our meeting with Jesus lights up in us its original beauty, the beauty of the face on which the Father’s glory shines (cf. 2 Cor 4:6), radiating happiness.

This Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life invites us to reflect on the graced time we have been given to live, at the special invitation that the Pope addresses to those in consecrated life.

To accept this teaching means to renew our existence in accordance with the Gospel, not in a radical way understood as a model of perfection and often of separation, but by adhering wholeheartedly to the saving encounter that transforms our life. “It is a question of leaving everything to follow the Lord. No, I do not want to say ‘radical’. Evangelical radicalness is not only for religious: it is demanded of all. But religious” follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way. It is this witness that I expect of you. Religious should be men and women able to wake the world up.”2

In their finite humanity, on the edge, in their everyday struggles, consecrated men and women live out their fidelity, giving a reason for the joy that lives in them. So they become splendid witnesses, effective proclaimers, companions and neighbours

for the women and men with whom they share a common history and who want to find their Father’s house in the Church.3 Francis of Assisi, who took the Gospel as his way of life “made faith grow and he renewed the Church, and at the same time

he renewed society, he made it more fraternal, but he always did it with the Gospel and by his witness. Always preach the Gospel and if necessary use words!”4

Numerous suggestions come to us from listening to the words of the Pope, but we are particularly challenged by the absolute simplicity with which Pope Francis offers his teaching, in tune with the appealing sincerity of the Gospel. Plain words disseminated from the open arms of the good sower, who trustingly does not discriminate between one sort of soil and another.

An authoritative invitation is offered to us with gentle trust, an invitation to do away with institutional arguments and personal justifications. It is a provocative word that questions our sometimes apathetic or sleepy way of life, as we often live on the sidelines of the challenge: if you had faith as big as this mustard seed (Lk 17:5). It is an invitation that encourages us to impel our spirits to acknowledge the Word living among us, the Spirit who creates and continues to renew the Church.

This Letter is motivated by this invitation, in the hope of initiating a shared reflection. It is offered as a simple tool for examining our lives honestly in the light of the Gospel. This Dicastery therefore presents a shared itinerary, a space for personal, communal and institutional reflection as we journey towards 2015, the year the Church has dedicated to consecrated life, with the desire and the intention of making courageous evangelical decisions leading to revitalization, bearing fruits of joy. “The primacy of God gives full meaning and joy to human lives, because” men and women are made for God, and their hearts are restless until they rest in him.”5

Be glad, rejoice, radiate joy

Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her all you who mourn over her.

For this is what the Lord says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees.

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.

When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the Lord will be made known to his servants.”

Isaiah 66: 10-14


In sacred Scripture the term joy (in Hebrew: śimḥâ/śamaḥ, gyl) is used to express a multiplicity of collective and personal experiences connected in a particular way to religious ceremonies and feasts, and to recognise the sense of the presence of God in the history of Israel. There are indeed 13 different verbs and nouns found in the Bible to describe the joy of God, of people and also of creation itself, in the dialogue of salvation.

In the Old Testament, these recurrences are most numerous in the Psalms and in the prophet Isaiah. With creative and original linguistic variations, there are many invitations to joy. The joy of the nearness of God is proclaimed, the delight for what God has created and made. Hundreds of times in the Psalms there are effective expressions to indicate that joy is both the fruit of the benevolent presence of God and the jubilant echoes that it gives rise to, as well as a declaration of the great promise that lies in the future for the people. As for the prophet, it is the second and third parts of the scroll of Isaiah that pulse with this frequent call to joy, pointing to the future: it will be overflowing (cf. Is 9:2), the heavens, the desert and the earth will leap for joy (Is 35:1; 44: 23; 49:13), the liberated prisoners will enter Jerusalem shouting for joy (Is 35:9f; 51:11).

In the New Testament the preferred vocabulary is linked to the root kar (kàirein, karà), but other terms are found such as 'agalliáomai, euphrosyne’. It usually implies total exultation embracing the past and the future together. Joy is the messianic gift par excellence, as Jesus himself promised: … that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete (Jn 15:11; 16:24; 17:13). Starting with theevents that precede the birth of the Saviour, it is Luke who signals the exultant diffusion of joy (cf. Lk1:14, 44, 47; 2:10; cf. Mt 2:10) and then accompanies the spread of the Good News with this effect that expands (Lk 10:17; 24: 41, 52) and is a typical sign of the presence and the spread of the Kingdom (cf. Lk 15:7, 10, 32; Acts 8:39; 11:23; 15:3; 16:34; cf. Rom 15:10, 13; etc.).

According to Paul, joy is a fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22) and a typical, constant feature of the Kingdom (cf. Rm 14:17) that is strengthened by trials and tribulations (cf. 1Titus 1:6). The source of joy must be found in prayer, charity and unceasing thanksgiving (cf. 1 Titus 5:16; Phil 3:1; Col 1:11f). In his difficulties the apostle to the gentiles felt full of joy and a sharer of the glory that we all await (cf 2Cor 6:10; 7:4; Col 1:24). The final triumph of God and the marriage of the Lamb will complete every joy and exultation (cf Rev 19:7), setting off an explosion of a cosmic Alleluia (Rev 19:6).

Let us look at the meaning of the text: Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her (Is 66:10). This is the end of the thirdpart of the prophet Isaiah. It is necessary to be aware that chapters 65-66 are closely united and mutually complementary, as was already evident in the conclusion of the second part of Isaiah (chapters 54-55).

In both these chapters the theme of the past is evoked, sometimes with crude imagery, as if to invite them to forget it because God wants to make a new light shine out, a trust that will immediately heal infidelity and cruelty. The curse, a result of their disregard for the Covenant, will disappear because God is about to make Jerusalem a delight and its people a joy (cf Is 65:18). This will be demonstrated inthe experience that God's answer comes even before the request is voiced (cf. Is 65:24). This context persists through the first verses of Isaiah 66, resurfacing here and there through signs showing the insensitivity of their hearts and ears in the face of the Lord’s goodness and his Word of hope.

Here the likeness of Jerusalem as mother seems evocative. It is inspired by the promises of Isaiah 49:18-29 and 54: 1-3: the land of Juda is unexpectedly filled with those returning from the diaspora, after their humiliation. It is as if you might say that the rumours of “liberation” had “made Sion pregnant” with new life and hope, and that God, the lord of life, will bring this gestation to fulfilment, effortlessly giving birth to new children. Thus mother Sion is surrounded by new-born children and generously nourishes and tends them all. This gentle image fascinated St. Therese of Lisieux, who found it a crucial key for the interpretation of her spirituality.6

An accumulation of intense terms: be glad, rejoice, radiate, as well as consolation, delight, abundance, prosperity, caresses, etc. The relationship of fidelity and lovehad failed, and they had ended in sadness and sterility. Now the power and holiness of God restores meaning and fullness of life and happiness, expressed in terms that belong to the affective roots of every human being, arousing unique feelings of tenderness and security.

It is a gentle but true profile of a God who radiates maternal vibrations and deep, contagious emotions. A heart-felt joy (cf Is 66:14) that comes from God – with maternal face and supportive arm - and radiates through a people who have been crippled, whose bones have become brittle through a thousand humiliations. It is a freely-given transformation that spreads out joyfully to the new heavens and the new earth (Is 66:27), so that all the people might come to know the glory of the Lord, thefaithful redeemer.

This is the beauty

This is the beauty of consecration: it is joy, joy”.7 The joy of bringing God’s consolation to all. These are the words spoken by Pope Francis during his meeting with seminarians and novices. “There is no holiness in sadness”,8 the Holy Father continued. Do not grieve like others who have no hope, wrote St. Paul (1 Thess 4:13).

Joy is not a useless ornament. It is a necessity, the foundation of human life. In their daily struggles, every man and woman tries to attain joy and abide in it with the totality of their being.

In the world there is often a lack of joy. We are not called to accomplish epic feats or to proclaim high-sounding words, but to give witness to the joy that arises from the certainty of knowing we are loved, from the confidence that we are saved.

Our short memories and flimsy experiences often prevent us from searching for the ‘lands of joy’ where we can relish God’s reflection. We have a thousand reasons for remaining in joy. Its roots are nourished by listening with faith and perseverance to the Word of God. In the school of the Master we hear: may my joy be in you and may your joy be complete (Jn 15:11) and we are taught how to practise perfect joy.

“Sadness and fear must give way to joy: “Rejoice ... be glad ... rejoice with her in joy,” says theprophet (Is 66:10). It is a great invitation to joy. [..] Every Christian,and especially you and I, we are called to be bearers of this message of hope giving serenity and joy, God’s consolation, his tenderness towards all. But if we first experience the joy of being consoled by him, of being loved by him, then we can bring that joy to others. [...] I have occasionally met consecrated persons who are afraid of the consolations of God. They were tormented, because they were afraid of this divine tenderness. But be not afraid. Do not be afraid, because the Lord is the Lord of consolation, the Lord of tenderness. The Lord is a Father and he says that he will be for us like a mother with her baby, with a mother’s tenderness. Do not be afraid of the consolations of the Lord.”9

In calling you

“In calling you God says to you: ‘You are important to me, I love you, I am counting on you’. Jesus says this to each one of us! Joy is born from that! The joy of the moment in which Jesus looked at me. Understanding and hearing this is the secret of our joy. Feeling loved by God, feeling that for him we are not numbers but people; and we know that it is he who is calling us.”10

Pope Francis directs our attention to the spiritual foundations of our humanity, to see what is given to us gratuitously by free divine sovereignty and free human response: Then Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mk 10:21).

The Pope recalls: “Jesus, at the Last Supper, turns to the Apostles with these words: You did not choose me, but I chose you (Jn 15:16). They remind us all, not onlythose of us who are priests, that vocation is always an initiative of God. It is Christ who called you to follow him in the consecrated life and this means continuously making an “exodus” from yourselves in order to centre your life on Christ and on his Gospel, on the will of God, laying aside your own plans, in order to say with St Paul: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20). 11

The Pope invites us on a pilgrimage in reverse, a pathway of knowledge to discover ourselves on the streets of Palestine or near the boat of the humble fisherman of Galilee. He invites us to contemplate the beginnings of a journey or rather, of an event initiated by Christ, when the nets were left on the lake shore, the tax-man’s bench by the side of the road, the ambitions of the zealot among former plans. All are inappropriate means for staying with him.

He invites us to remain for a long time, on an interior pilgrimage, before the dawn, when, in a warm environment of friendly relationships, the intellect is led to open itself to mystery, the decision is made that it is good to set out to follow this Master who alone has the words of eternal life (Jn 6:68). He invites us to make our whole “life a pilgrimage of loving transformation.”12

Pope Francis calls us to pause at that opening scene: “the joy of the moment when Jesus looked at me”13 and to recall the important and demanding, underlying meaning of our vocation: “It is a response to a call, a call of love”.14 To stay with Christ requires us to share our lives, our choices, the obedience of faith, the happiness of the poor, the radicality of love.

It is about being reborn through vocation. “I invite all Christians [...] at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ today, at least to an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.”15

Paul brings us back to this fundamental vision: no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid (1 Cor 3:11). The word‘vocation’indicates a free gift, likea reservoir of life that never ceases renewing humanity and the Church in the depths of their being.

In the experience of vocation, God is indeed the mysterious subject of an act of calling. We hear a voice that calls us to life and discipleship for the Kingdom. Pope

Francis in recalling: “You are important to me”, uses direct speech, in the first person, so that awareness might emerge. He calls to consciousness my opinion and my judgement, requiring behaviour consistent with my self-awareness, with the call that I hear addressed to me, my personal call. “I would like to say to those who feel indifferent to God or to faith, and to those who are far from God or who have distanced themselves from him, and to us also, with our “distancing” and our “abandonment” of God, that may seem insignificant but are so numerous in our daily life: look into the depths of your heart, look into your own inner depths and ask yourself: do you have a heart that desires something great, or a heart that has been lulled to sleep by things? Has your heart maintained a restlessness search or have you let it be suffocated by things that will finally harden it?”16

The relationship with Jesus Christ asks to be nourished by the restlessness of seeking. This makes us aware of the gratuity of the gift of a vocation and helps us to explain the reasons for our initial choice and for our perseverance. “Letting Christ make us his own always means straining forward to what lies ahead, to the goal of Christ (cf. Phil 3:14)”.17 To continue listening to God requires that these questions become the coordinates guiding the rhythm of our daily life.

This inexpressible mystery, leading us within, sharing in the indescribable mystery of God, can only be interpreted in faith. “Faith is our response to a word that engages us personally, to a "Thou" who calls us by name”18 and “as a response to a word which preceded it, would always be an act of remembrance. Yet this remembrance is not fixed on past events but, as the memory of a promise, it becomes capable of opening up the future, shedding light on the path to be taken”.19

“Faith contains our own memory of God’s history with us, the memory of our encounter with God who always takes the first step, who creates, saves and transforms us. Faith is remembrance of his word that warms our heart, and of his saving work which gives life, purifies us, cares for and nourishes us. [...] The one who is mindful of God, who is guided by the memory of God in his or her entire life is able to awaken that memory in the hearts of others.”20 It is the memory of being called here and now.

Found, touched, transformed

The Pope asks us to re-read our own personal story and to scrutinize it in the light of God’s loving gaze, because if a vocation is always his initiative, it is up to us to

freely accept the divine-human economy as a relationship of life in agape, the path of discipleship, the “beacon on the Church’s journey”.21 Life in the spirit is never completed, but is always open to mystery, as we discern in order to know the Lord and to perceive reality beginning with him. When God calls us he lets us enter into his rest and invites us to repose in him, in a continuous process of loving understanding. We hear the Word you are worried and upset about many things (Lk 10:41). On the path of love we go forward through rebirth: the old creation is born anew. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).

Pope Francis points out the name of this rebirth. “This path has a name and a face: the face of Jesus Christ. He teaches us to become holy. In the Gospel he shows us the way, the way of the Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:1-12). This is the life of the Saints, people who for love of God did not place conditions on him during their life”.22

Consecrated life is a call to incarnate the Good News, to the following of Christ, the crucified and risen one, to take on Jesus' way of living and acting as the Incarnate Word in relation to the Father and in relation to the brothers and sisters”.23 In practical terms, it is a call to take up his way of life, to adopt his interior attitude, to allow oneself to be invaded by his Spirit, to absorb his surprising logic and his scale of values, to share in his risks and his hopes. “Be guided by the humble yet joyful certainty of those who have been found, touched and transformed by the Truth who is Christ, ever to be proclaimed”.24

Remaining in Christ allows us to grasp the presence of the Mystery which lives in us and expands our hearts to the measure of his Son’s heart. Those who remain in his love, like the branch attached to the vine (cf. Jn 15:1-8), enter into intimacy with Christ and bear fruit. “Remain in Jesus! This means remaining attached to him, in him, with him, talking to him”.25

“Christ is the seal on our foreheads, he is the seal on our hearts: on the forehead because we always profess him; on the heart because we always love him; he is the seal on our arms because we are always working for him.”26 Consecrated life is in fact a continuous call to follow Christ, and to be made like him. “Jesus’s whole life, his way of dealing with the poor, his actions, his integrity, his simple daily generosity, and finally his complete self-giving, all this is precious and relates to our personal lives.”27

Meeting the Lord gets us moving, urges us to leave aside self-absorption.28 A relationship with the Lord is not static, nor is it focused on self. “Because when we put Christ at the center of our life, we ourselves don’t become the center! The more that you unite yourself to Christ and he becomes the center of your life, the more he leads you out of yourself, leads you from making yourself the center and opens you to others”.29 “We are not at the center; we are, so to speak, relocated. We are at the service of Christ and of the Church”.30

Christian life is defined by verbs of movement. Even when it is lived in the context of a monastery or contemplative cloister it is a life of continual searching.

“It is impossible to persevere in a fervent evangelization unless we are convinced from personal experience that it is not the same thing to have known Jesus as not to have known him, not the same thing to walk with him as to walk blindly, not the same thing to hear his word as not to know it, and not the same thing to contemplate him, to worship him, to find our peace in him, as not to do so. It is not the same thing to try to build the world with his Gospel as to try to do so by our own lights.

We know well that with Jesus life becomes richer and that with him it is easier to find meaning in everything”.31

Pope Francis recommends for us the restlessness of the search, as it was for Augustine of Hippo: a “restlessness in his heart which brought him to a personal encounter with Christ, brought him to understand that the remote God he was seeking was the God who is close to every human being, the God close to our heart, who was more inward than our innermost self”. This is an on-going search. “Augustine did not stop, he did not give up, he did not withdraw into himself like those who have already arrived, but continued his search. The restlessness of seeking the truth, of seeking God, became the restlessness to know him ever better and of coming out of himself to make others know him. It was precisely the restlessness of love.”32

In the joy of the faithful ‘yes’

Anyone who has met the Lord and follows him faithfully is a messenger of the joy of the Spirit.

“Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption”.33 When we are called, we are called to ourselves, that is, to our capacity for being. Perhaps it is not unwarranted to say that the crisis of consecrated life results from the inability to recognize such a profound call, even in those who are already living this vocation.

We are experiencing a crisis of fidelity, understood as a conscious adherence to a call that is a pathway, a journey from its mysterious beginnings to its mysterious end.

Perhaps we are also in a crisis of humanization. We are experiencing the limitations of complete consistency, wounded by our incapacity to lead our lives as an integrated vocation and as a faithful journey.

This daily journey, both personal and communal, marked by discontent and a bitterness that encloses us in remorse almost a permanent longing for unexplored paths and unfulfilled dreams, becomes a lonely road. Our call to live in relationship, in the fulfilment of love, can be transformed into an uninhabited wildness. At every age we are invited to revisit the deep center of our personal life, where the motivation of our life with the Master, as disciples of the Master, finds its meaning and truth.

Faithfulness is the awareness of a love that points us towards the “Thou” of God and towards every other person, in a constant and dynamic way when we experience within ourselves the life of the Risen One. “Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness”.34

Faithful discipleship is grace and love in action; it is the practice of sacrificial charity. “When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly. We may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord”.35

To persevere all the way to Golgotha, to experience the lacerations of doubts and denial, to rejoice in the marvel and wonder of the Paschal event, up to the manifestation of Pentecost and the evangelization of the peoples, these are milestones of joyful fidelity because they are about self-emptying, experienced throughout life, even in the sign of martyrdom, and also sharing in the life of the risen Christ. “And it is from the Cross, the supreme act of mercy and love, that we are reborn as a “new creation” (Gal 6:15).36

In the theological locus in which God, in revealing himself, reveals us to ourselves, the Lord asks us to return to the search, fides quaerens. Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Tm2:22).

The interior pilgrimage begins with prayer. “The first thing for a disciple is to be with the Master, to listen to him and to learn from him. This is always true, and it is true at every moment of our lives. [...] If the warmth of God, of his love, of his tenderness is not in our own hearts, then how can we, who are poor sinners, warm the heart of others”.37 This is a life-long journey, as in the humility of prayer the Holy Spirit convinces us of the Lordship of Christ within us. “The Lord calls us to follow him with courage and fidelity; he has made us the great gift of choosing us as his disciples; he invites us to proclaim him with joy as the Risen one, but he asks us to do so by word and by the witness of our lives, in daily life. The Lord is the only God of our lives, and he invites us to strip ourselves of our many idols and to worship him alone”.38

The Pope identifies prayer as the source of the fruitfulness of the mission. “Let us cultivate the contemplative dimension, even amid the whirlwind of more urgent and heavy duties. And the more the mission calls you to go out to the margins of existence, let your heart be the more closely united to Christ’s heart, full of mercy and love”.39

Being with Jesus shapes a contemplative approach to history which knows how to see and hear the presence of the Spirit everywhere and, in a special way, how to discern the Spirit’s presence in order to live in time as God’s time. When the insight of faith is lacking, “life itself loses meaning, the faces of brothers and sisters are obscured and it becomes impossible to recognize the face of God in them, historical events remain ambiguous and deprived of hope”.40

Contemplation opens out to prophetic aptitude. The prophet is one “whose eye is opened, and who hears and speaks the words of God; [...] a person of three times: the promise of the past, the contemplation of the present, the courage to point out the path toward the future”.41

Fidelity in discipleship occurs through and is demonstrated by the experience of community, a theological reality in which we are called to support each other in our joyful ‘yes’ to the Gospel. “It is the Word of God that inspires faith and nourishes and revitalizes it. And it is the Word of God that touches hearts, converting them to God and to his logic which is so different from our own. It is the Word of God that continually renews our communities”.42

The Pope invites us to renew our vocation and to fill it with joy and passion, so that the increase in loving activity is a continuous process - “it matures, matures, matures”43 - in a permanent development in which the ‘yes’ of our will to God’s will unites will, intellect and feeling. “Love is never finished and complete; throughout life it changes and matures, and thus remains faithful to itself”.44

Comfort, comfort my people

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.

Isaiah 40:1-2


Using a stylistic peculiarity, also seen later in the text (cf Is 51:17; 52:1: Awake, awake!), the oracles of the second part of Isaiah (Is 40-55) make a plea to come tothe help of Israel in deportation, that tends to close itself inside the void of a failed memory. The historical context clearly belongs to the prolonged deportation of the people to Babylon (587-538 BC), with all the consequent humiliation and the sense of powerlessness to escape. However, the disintegration of the Assyrian empire under the pressure of the new emerging power of the Persians, guided by the rising star of Cyrus, enabled the prophet to foresee that an unexpected liberation might come about. And so it would. The prophet, inspired by God, voiced this possibility publicly, interpreting the political and military developments as actions guided mysteriously by God through Cyrus. He proclaimed that liberation was at hand and that the return to the land of their fathers was about to take place.

The words that Isaiah uses: Comfort ... speak tenderly, are found regularly in the Old Testament. These recurrences are of particular value in dialogues of tenderness and affection. Thus Ruth recognizes that Boaz has “comforted me and spoken kindly” (Ruth 2:13), or in the famous page of Hosea who announces to the woman,Gomer, that he will “allure her and bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her” (Hos 2:14) for a new period of fidelity. There are other similar parallel passages: the dialogue of Shechem, son of Hamor, who was in love with Dinah (cf Gen 34:1-5) and that of the Levite of Ephraim speaking to the concubine who had abandoned him (Judg 19:3).

This is a language to be interpreted in the context of love. Thus action and speech together, delicate and encouraging, remind us of the intense emotional bonds of God, the ‘spouse’ of Israel. This comfort must be an epiphany of reciprocal belonging, an interplay of intense empathy, ferment and vital connection. These are not superficial, cloying words, therefore, but mercy and deep-seated concern, an embrace giving strength and patient accompaniment in the rediscovery of faithful pathways.

To bring God’s embrace

“People today certainly need words, but most of all they need us to bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord which warms the heart, rekindles hope, and attracts people towards the good. What a joy it is to bring God’s consolation to others!”45

Pope Francis entrusts this mission to consecrated men and women: to discover the Lord who comforts us like a mother, and to comfort the people of God.

Service in the Church arises out of the joy of meeting the Lord and from his call. This mission is to bring to the men and women of our time the consolation of God, to bear witness to his mercy.46

In Jesus’ view, consolation is a gift of the Spirit, the Paraclete, the Consoler who comforts us in our trials and awakes a hope that does not disappoint. Thus Christian consolation becomes comfort, encouragement, hope. It is the active presence of the Spirit (cf Jn 14:16-17), the fruit of the Spirit. And the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal5:22).

In a world of distrust, discouragement and depression, in a culture in which men and women are enveloped by fragility and weakness, individualism and self-interest, we are asked to introduce belief in the possibility of true happiness, in the feasibility of hope that does not depend solely on talent, superiority or knowledge, but on God. All are given the possibility of encountering him, if they only seek him with a sincere heart.

The men and women of our time are waiting for words of consolation, the availability of forgiveness and true joy. We are called to bring to everyone the embrace of God, who bends with a mother’s tenderness over us – consecrated women and men, signs of the fullness of humanity, facilitators and not controllers of grace,47 stooped down in a gesture of consolation.

Tenderness is good for us

Since we are witnesses of a communion beyond our vision and our limits, we are called to wear God’s smile. Community is the first and most believable gospel that we can preach. We are asked to humanize our community. “Build friendship between yourselves, family life, love among you. May the monastery not be a Purgatory but a family. There are and there will be problems but like in a family, with love, search for a solution with love; do not destroy this to resolve that; do not enter competitions. Build community life, because in the life of a community it is this way, like a family, and it is the very Holy Spirit who is in the middle of the community. [...] And community life always with a big heart. Let things go, do not brag, be patient with everything, smile from the heart. And a sign of this is joy.48

Joy is confirmed in the experience of community, that theological space where each one is responsible for their fidelity to the Gospel and for the growth of all. When a community is fed by the same Body and Blood of Jesus, it gathers around the Son of God, to share the journey of faith, guided by the Word. It becomes one with him, together in communion, experiencing the gift of love and festive celebration in freedom and joy, full of courage.

“A joyless community is one that is dying out. [...] A community rich in joy is a genuine gift from above to brothers and sisters who know how to ask for it and to accept one another, committing themselves to community life, trusting in the action of the Spirit”.49

In these days when fragmentation justifies widespread sterile individualism and when the weakness of relationships breaks up and ruins the care of the human person, we are invited to humanize community relationships, to encourage communion of heart and spirit in the Gospel sense, because “there is a communion of life among all those who belong to Christ. It is a communion that is born of faith” that makes “the Church, in her most profound truth, communion with God, intimacy with God, a communion of love with Christ and with the Father in the Holy Spirit, which extends to brotherly communion”.50

For Pope Francis, the sign of fraternity is tenderness, a “Eucharistic tenderness” because “tenderness is good for us”. Fraternity has “an enormous power to call people together. [...] Fraternity, with all its possible diversity, is an experience of love which goes beyond conflicts”.51

Closeness as companionship

10. We are called to undertake an exodus out of our own selves, setting out on a path of adoration and service.52 “We must go out through that door to seek and meet the people! Have the courage to go against the tide of this culture of efficiency, this culture of waste. Encountering and welcoming everyone, solidarity and fraternity: these are what make our society truly human. Be servants of communion and of the culture of encounter! I would like you to be almost obsessed about this. Be so without being presumptuous”.53

“The ghost to fight against is the image of religious life understood as an escape and consolation in face of an ‘external’ difficult and complex world”.54 The Pope urges us to “leave the nest”,55 to live the life of the men and women of our times, to hand ourselves over to God and to our neighbour.

“Joy is born from the gratuitousness of an encounter! [...] And the joy of the encounter with him and with his call does not lead to shutting oneself in but to opening oneself; it leads to service in the Church. St Thomas said: bonum est diffusivum sui. Good spreads. And joy also spreads. Do not be afraid to show the joyof having answered the Lord’s call, of having responded to his choice of love and of bearing witness to his Gospel in service to the Church. And joy, true joy, is contagious; it is infectious... it impels one forward”.56

Faced with this contagious witness of joy, serenity, fruitfulness, the testimony of tenderness and love, humble charity, without arrogance, many people feel the need to “come and see”.57

Many times Pope Francis has pointed out the path of attraction, of contagion, the path for the growth of the Church, the path of the new evangelization. “The Church must be attractive. Wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of acting, of living! It is possible to live differently in this world. [...] It is this witness I expect from you”.58

Entrusting to us the task of waking up the world, the Pope urges us to approach the stories of the men and women of today in the light of two pastoral categories that have their roots in the newness of the Gospel: closeness and encounter, two ways through which God himself is revealed in history up to the Incarnation.

On the road to Emmaus, like Jesus with his disciples, we welcome in daily companionship the joys and sorrows of the people, giving them ‘heart warmth’,59 while we tenderly care for the tired and the weak, so that our journey together has light and meaning in Christ.

Our journey together “matures towards pastoral fatherhood, towards pastoral motherhood, and when a priest is not a father to his community, when a sister is not a mother to all those with whom she works, he or she becomes sad. This is the problem. For this reason I say to you: the root of sadness in pastoral life is precisely in the absence of fatherhood or motherhood that comes from living this consecration unsatisfactorily, which on the contrary should lead us to fertility”.60

The restlessness of love

As living icons of the motherhood and of the closeness of the Church, we go out to those who are waiting for the Word of consolation and we bend down with motherly love and fatherly spirit towards the poor and the weak.

The Pope invites us not to privatize love, but with the restlessness of the seeker: “tirelessly seeking the good of the other, of the beloved”.61

The crisis of meaning of the modern person and the economic and moral crisis of western society and its institutions are not temporary phenomena of the times in which we live but they outline an historical moment of outstanding importance. We are called now, as the Church, to go outside in order to arrive at the margins, geographic, urban and existential – the margins of the mystery of sin, pain, injustice and misery, - to the hidden places of the soul where each person experiences the joys and sufferings of life.62

“We live in a culture of conflict, a culture of fragmentation, a culture of waste [...]. The discovery of a tramp who has died of cold is not news”. Yet poverty for us is a theological category, “because our God, the Son of God, abased himself, he made himself poor to walk along the road with us. [...] A poor Church for the poor begins by reaching out to the flesh of Christ. If we reach out to the flesh of Christ, we begin to understand something, to understand what this poverty, the Lord’s poverty, actually is”.63

To experience in one’s own life the beatitude of the poor means to be a sign that the anguish of loneliness and limitation has been conquered by the joy of the person who is indeed free in Christ and has learned how to love.

During his pastoral visit to Assisi, Pope Francis was asked what the Church must strip away. And he replied: “[Strip away] every action that is not for God, is not of God; strip away the fear of opening the doors and going out to encounter all, especially the poorest of the poor, the needy, the remote, without waiting. Certainly not to get lost in the shipwreck of the world, but to bear with courage the light of Christ, the light of the Gospel, even in the darkness, where one can’t see, where one might stumble. Strip away the seeming assurance structures give, which, though certainly necessary and important, should never obscure the one true strength it carries within: God. He is our strength!”64

This resonates like an invitation for us “to not be afraid of the newness the Holy Spirit works within us, not to be afraid of the renewal of structures. The Church is free. She is sustained by the Holy Spirit. It is this that Jesus teaches us in the Gospel: the freedom we need always to find the newness of the Gospel in our life and in structures, the freedom to choose new wineskins for this newness”.65

We are invited to be audacious, frontier men and women: “Ours is not a ‘lab faith,’ but a ‘journey faith,’ an historical faith. God has revealed himself as history, not as a compendium of abstract truths. [...] You cannot bring home the frontier, but you have to live on the border and be audacious.”66

Besides the challenge of the beatitude of the poor, the Pope invites us to visit the frontiers of thought and culture, to promote dialogue, even at the intellectual level, to give reasons for hope on the basis of ethical and spiritual criteria, questioning ourselves about what is good. Faith never restricts the space for reason, but opens it to a holistic vision of the human person and of reality, and defends it against the danger of reducing the human person to “human material”.67

Authentic culture, constantly called to serve humanity in all its conditions, opens unexplored paths, opens doors to allow hope to breathe, strengthens the meaning of life and watches over the common good. An authentic cultural process “promotes an integral humanism and the culture of encounter and relationship: this is the Christian way of promoting the common good, the joy of living. Here, faith and reason unite, the religious dimension and the various aspects of human culture – art, science, labour, literature…”.68 Authentic cultural research encounters history and opens up ways of seeking the face of God. The places where knowledge is developed and communicated are also the places where a culture of closeness, of encounter and dialogue can be created that lowers defenses, opens doors and builds bridges.69

For reflection

As a global network in which we are all connected, where no local tradition can aspire to a monopoly of the truth, where technologies affect everyone, the world throws down a continuous challenge to the Gospel and to those who shape their lives in accordance with the Gospel.

In this historical process, through choices and ways of living, Pope Francis is building up a living hermeneutic of the dialogue between God and the world. We are introduced to a style of wisdom rooted in the Gospel and in human eschatology, which interprets pluralism, searches for equilibrium, invites us to facilitate the capacity of being responsible for change so that the truth of the Gospel might be better communicated, while we move “within the limits of language and of circumstances”.70 Aware of these limits each one of us becomes weak with the weak ... all things to all people (1 Cor 9:22)”.

We are invited to promote a generative, not simply administrative, dynamic to embrace the spiritual events present in our communities and in the world, movements and grace that the Spirit works in each individual person, viewed as a person. We are invited to commit ourselves to dismantle lifeless models, to describing the human person as marked by Christ, who is never revealed absolutely in speech or actions.

Pope Francis invites us to a wisdom that should be demonstrated by flexible consistency, the ability of consecrated people to respond in accord with the Gospel, to act and to choose in accord with the Gospel, without losing ourselves among the different spheres of life, language or relationships, maintaining an awareness of responsibility, of the networks that bind us together, of the finitude of our limits, of the infinite number of ways in which life is expressed. A missionary heart is a heart that has known the joy of Christ’s salvation and shares it as consolation: “[This heart] realizes that it has to grow in its own understanding of the Gospel and in discerning the paths of the Spirit, and so it always does what good it can, even if in the process, its shoes get soiled by the mud of the street.”71

Let us welcome the encouragement that the Pope offers us to see ourselves and the world with the eyes of Christ and to remain concerned about it.

Questions from Pope Francis

I want to say one word to you and this word is “joy”. Wherever there are consecrated people, seminarians, men and women religious, young people, there is joy, there is always joy! It is the joy of freshness, the joy of following Jesus; the joy that the Holy Spirit gives us, not the joy of the world. There is joy! but — where is joy born?72

Look into the depths of your heart, look into your own inner depths and ask yourself: do you have a heart that desires something great, or a heart that has been lulled to sleep by things? Has your heart preserved the restlessness of seeking or have you let it be suffocated by things that end by hardening it?

God awaits you, he seeks you; how do you respond to him? Are you aware of the situation of your soul? Or have you nodded off? Do you believe God is waiting for you or does this truth consist only of “words”?73

We are victims of this culture of the temporary. I would like you to think about this: how can I be free, how can I break free from this “culture of the temporary”?74

This is a primary responsibility of all adults, of educators: to set an example of consistency to the youngest. Do we want consistent young people? Are we consistent? On the contrary, the Lord will say to us what he said to the

People of God about the Pharisees: “Do what they say but not what they do!” Consistency and authenticity!75

We may ask ourselves: am I anxious for God, anxious to proclaim him, to make him known? Or do I allow that spiritual worldliness to attract me which impels people to do everything for love of themselves? We consecrated people think of our personal interests, of the functionality of our works, of our careers. Well, we can think of so many things.... Have I, so to speak, made myself ‘comfortable’ in my Christian life, in my priestly life, in my religious life, and also in my community life? Or do I retain the force of restlessness for God, for his Word that makes me “step out” of myself towards others?76

Do we feel the restlessness of love? Do we believe in love for God and for others? Or are we unconcerned by this? Not in an abstract manner, not only in words, but the real brother we come across, the sister who is beside us! Are we moved by their needs or do we remain closed in on ourselves, in our communities which are often “comfortable communities” for us?77

This is a beautiful, beautiful way to holiness! Do not speak badly of others.

“But father, there are problems”. Tell the superior, tell the Bishop, who can rectify them. Do not tell a person who cannot help. This is important: brotherhood! But tell me, would you speak badly of your mother, your father, your siblings? Never. So why do you do so in the consecrated life, in the seminary, in your priestly life? Only this: think, think.... Brotherhood! This brotherly love.78

At the foot of the Cross, Mary is at the same time the woman of sorrow and of watchful expectation of a mystery far greater than sorrow, which is about to be fulfilled. It seemed that everything had come to an end; every hope could be said to have been extinguished. She too, at that moment, remembering the promises of the Annunciation could have said: they did not come true, I was deceived. But she did not say this. And so she who was blessed because she believed, sees blossom from her faith a new future and awaits God’s tomorrow with expectation. At times I think: do we know how to wait for God’s tomorrow? Or do we want it today? For her the tomorrow of God is the dawn of Easter morning, the dawn of the first day of the week. It would do us good to think, in contemplation, of the embrace of mother and son. The single lamp lit at the tomb of Jesus is the hope of the mother, which in that moment is the hope of all humanity. I ask myself and I ask you: is this lamp still alight in monasteries? In your monasteries are you waiting for God’s tomorrow?79

The restlessness of love is always an incentive to go towards the other, without waiting for the other to manifest his need. The restlessness of love gives us the gift of pastoral fruitfulness, and we must ask ourselves, each one of us: is my spiritual effectiveness healthy, is my apostolate fruitful?80

An authentic faith always involves a profound desire to change the world. Here is the question we must ask ourselves: do we also have great vision and impetus? Are we also daring? Do our dreams fly high? Does zeal consume us (cf. Ps 68:9)? Or are we mediocre and satisfied with our “made in the lab” apostolic programmes? 81

Hail, Mother of Joy

Rejoice, full of grace (Lk1:28), “the greeting of the angel to Maria is an invitation to joy, to a deep joy, announcing the end of sadness [...]. It is a greeting that marks the beginning of the Gospel, the Good News”.82

Alongside Mary joy expands. The Son she carries in her womb is the God of joy, of contagious, engaging delight. Mary throws open the doors of her heart and runs to Elizabeth.

“Joyful in achieving her desires, sensitive in her duty, thoughtful in her joy, she hurries towards the mountain. Where, if not towards the summit, should she set out so kindly, she who was already full of God?83

She went in great haste (Lk 1: 39) to bring the happy news to the world, to bring all the uncontainable joy she held in her womb: Jesus, the Lord. In great haste: it is not only the speed with which Mary went. We are told of her diligence, the careful attention with which she undertakes the journey, her enthusiasm.

Behold the servant of the Lord (Lk 1: 38). The Lord’s servant ran in great haste, tobecome the servant of all people.

In Mary the Church is all who journey together: in the love of those who go out to the most fragile; in the hope of those who know that they will be accompanied in their going out and in the faith of those who have a special gift to share. In Mary each one of us, driven by the wind of the Spirit, fulfils our own vocation to move out!

Star of the new evangelization,

help us to bear radiant witness to communion, service, ardent and generous faith,

justice and love of the poor, that the joy of the Gospel

may reach to the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of the world.

Mother of the living Gospel,

Wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones,

Pray for us. Amen. Alleluia!84

Rome, 2 February 2014, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

João Braz Card. de Aviz


X José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM

Archbishop Secretary

1 FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 24 November 2013, LEV, Città del Vaticano, 2013, n. 1.

2 ANTONIO SPADARO, "Wake up the World!”. Conversation with Pope Francis about the Religious Life, in: La Civiltà Cattolica, 165 (2014/I), 5. (English translation by Fr. Donald Maldari SJ)

3 Cf. FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 24 November 2013, LEV, Città del Vaticano, 2013, n. 47.

4 FRANCIS, Meeting with the Young People of Umbria, Assisi, 4 October 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Sunday 6 October 2013, CLIII (229), p. 7.

5 JOHN PAUL II, post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata, (25 March 1996), n. 27, in: AAS 88 (1996), 377-486.

6 Cfr. S. TERESA DI GESÙ BAMBINO, Opere complete, Libreria Editrice Vaticana-Ed. OCD, Città del Vaticano-Roma, 1997: Manoscritto A, 76v°; B, 1r°; C, 3r°; Lettera 196.

7 FRANCIS, Meeting with Seminarians and Novices, Rome, 6 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 8-9 July 2013, CLIII (155), p. 6.

8 Ibid.

9 FRANCIS, Homily for Holy Mass with Seminarians and Novices, Rome, 7 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 8-9 July 2013, CLIII (155), p. 7.

10 FRANCIS, Meeting with Seminarians and Novices, Rome, 6 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 8-9 July 2013, CLIII (155), p. 6.

11 FRANCIS, Address to the Participants at the Plenary Assembly of the International Union of Superiors General, Rome, 8 May 2013, in: AAS 105 (2013), 460-463.

12 FRANCIS, Message to the Carmelites on the Occasion of the General Chapter, Rome, 22 August 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Friday 6 September 2013, CLIII (203), p. 7.

13 FRANCIS, Meeting with Seminarians and Novices, Rome, 6 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano,

Monday-Tuesday 8-9 July 2013, CLIII (155), p. 6.

14 Ibid.

15 FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 24 November 2013, LEV, Città del Vaticano, 2013, n. 3.

16 FRANCIS, Homily for the Opening of the General Chapter of the Order of St. Augustine, Rome, 28 August 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Friday 30 August 2013, CLIII (197), p. 8.

17 FRANCIS, Homily at the Holy Mass in the Gesù on the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, Rome, 31 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Thursday 1 August 2013, CLIII (175), p. 8.

18 FRANCIS, Encyclical Letter Lumen fidei, (29 June 2013), n. 8, in: AAS 105 (2013), 555-596.

Ibid, n. 9.

19 FRANCIS, Homily at the Holy Mass for the Day for Catechists, Rome, 29 September 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano 30 September-1 October 2013, CLIII (224), p. 7.

20 FRANCIS, Address to the Participants at the Plenary Assembly of the International Union of Superiors General, Rome, 8 May 2013, in: AAS 105 (2013), 460-463.

21 FRANCIS, Angelus, All Saints Day Rome, 1 November 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Saturday-Sunday 2-3 November 2013, CLIII (252), p. 8.

22 JOHN PAUL II, Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata (25 March 1996), n. 22, in: AAS 88 (1996), 377-486.

24 FRANCIS, Homily at the Holy Mass with Bishops, Priests, Religious and Seminarians on the XXVIII World Youth Day, 27 July 2013, Rio de Janeiro, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 29-30 July2013, CLIII (173), p. 4.

25 FRANCIS, Address to the Participants at the International Congress on Catechesis, Rome, 27 September 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Sunday 29 September 2013, CLIII (223), p. 7.

26 AMBROSE, De Isaac et anima, 75: PL 14, 556-557.

27 FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 24 November 2013, LEV, Città del Vaticano, 2013, n. 265.

28 Cf. Ibid, n. 8.

29 FRANCIS, Address to the Participants at the International Congress on Catechesis, Rome, 27 September 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Sunday 29 September 2013, CLIII (223), p. 7.

30 FRANCIS, Homily at the Holy Mass in the Gesù on the Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, Rome, 31 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Thursday 1 August 2013, CLIII (175), p. 8.

31 FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 24 November 2013, LEV, Città del Vaticano, 2013, n. 265.

32 FRANCIS, Homily for the Opening of the General Chapter of the Order of St. Augustine, Rome, 28 August 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Friday 30 August 2013, CLIII (197), p. 8.

33 FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 24 November 2013, LEV, Città del Vaticano, 2013, n. 8.

34 Ibid, n. 1.

35 FRANCIS, Homily at the Holy Mass with the Cardinals, 14 March 2013, in: AAS 105 (2013), 365-

36 FRANCIS, Homily for Holy Mass with Seminarians and Novices, Rome, 7 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 8-9 July 2013, CLIII (155), p. 7.

37 FRANCIS, Address to the Participants at the International Congress on Catechesis, Rome, 27 September 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Sunday 29 September 2013, CLIII (223), p. 7.

38 FRANCIS, Homily at the Eucharistic Celebration at St. Paul Outside the Walls, Rome, 14 April 2013], in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday15-16 April 2013, CLIII (88), p. 8.

39 FRANCIS, Homily for Holy Mass with Seminarians and Novices, Rome, 7 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 8-9 July 2013, CLIII (155), p. 7.

40 CONGREGATION FOR INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE AND SOCIETIES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE, Instruction Starting Afresh from Christ: A Renewed Commitment to Consecrated Life in the Third Millennium (19 May 2002), n. 25, in: EnchVat 21, 372-510.

41 FRANCIS, Daily Meditation in the Chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae, 16 December 2013, in: L'Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 16-17 December 2013, CLIII (289), p. 7.

42 FRANCIS, Meeting with the Clergy, Consecrated People and Members of Diocesan Councils, Assisi, 4 October 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Sunday 6 October 2013, CLIII (229), p. 6.

43 FRANCIS, Meeting with Seminarians and Novices, Rome, 6 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 8-9 July 2013, CLIII (155), p. 6.

44 BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus caritas est (25 December 2005), n. 11, in: AAS 98 (2006), (217-252).

45 FRANCIS, Homily for Holy Mass with Seminarians and Novices, Rome, 7 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 8-9 July 2013, CLIII (155), p. 7.

46 Cf. FRANCIS, Meeting with Seminarians and Novices, Rome, 6 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 8-9 July 2013, CLIII (155), p. 6.

47 Cf. FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 24 November 2013, LEV, Città del Vaticano, 2013, n. 47.

48 FRANCIS, Address to the Cloistered Nuns, Assisi, 4 October 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Sunday 6 October, CLIII (229), p. 6.

49 CONGREGATION FOR INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE AND SOCIETIES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE, Instruction: Fraternal Life in Community. "Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor", (2 February 1994), n. 28: in EnchVat 14, 345-537.

50 FRANCIS, General Audience, Rome, 30 October 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Thursday31 October 2013, CLIII (250), p. 8.

51 ANTONIO SPADARO, "Wake up the World!”. Conversation with Pope Francis about the Religious Life, in: La Civiltà Cattolica, 165 (2014/I), 13. (English translation by Fr. Donald Maldari SJ).

52 Cf. FRANCIS, Address to the Participants at the Plenary Assembly of the International Union of Superiors General, Rome, 8 May 2013, in: AAS 105 (2013), 460-463.

53 FRANCIS, Homily at the Holy Mass with Bishops, Priests, Religious and Seminarians on the XXVIII World Youth Day, 27 July 2013, Rio de Janeiro, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 29-30 July2013, CLIII (173), p. 4.

54 ANTONIO SPADARO, "Wake up the World!”. Conversation with Pope Francis about the Religious Life, in: La Civiltà Cattolica, 165 (2014/I), 10. (English translation by Fr. Donald Maldari SJ).

55Cf. ibid, 6.

56 FRANCIS, Meeting with Seminarians and Novices, Rome, 6 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 8-9 July 2013, CLIII (155), p. 6.

57 Cf. FRANCIS, Morning Meditation in the Chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae, 1 October 2013, in: L'Osservatore Romano, 2 October 2013, CLIII (225), p. 8.

58 ANTONIO SPADARO, "Wake up the World!”. Conversation with Pope Francis about the Religious Life, in: La Civiltà Cattolica, 165 (2014/I), 5. (English translation by Fr. Donald Maldari SJ).

59 Cf. FRANCIS, Meeting with the Brazilian Bishops, 27 July 2013, Rio de Janeiro, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 29-30 July 2013, CLIII (173), pp. 6-7.

60 FRANCIS, Meeting with Seminarians and Novices, Rome, 6 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 8-9 July 2013, CLIII (155), p. 6.

61 FRANCIS, Homily for the opening of the General Chapter of the Order of St. Augustine, Rome, 28 August 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Friday 30 August 2013, CLIII (197), p. 8.

62 Cf. FRANCIS, Vigil of Pentecost with the Movements, New Communities, Associations and Lay Groups, Rome, 18 May 2013, in: AAS 105 (2013), 450-452.

63 Ibid.

64 FRANCIS, Meeting with the Poor Assisted by Caritas, Assisi, 4 October 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Saturday 5 October 2013, CLIII (228), p. 7.

65 FRANCIS, Morning Meditation in the Chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae, 6 July 2013, in: L'Osservatore Romano, Sunday 7 July 2013, CLIII (154), p. 7.

66 ANTONIO SPADARO, Interview with Pope Francis, in: La Civiltà Cattolica, 164(2013/III), 474.

67 Cf. FRANCIS, Meeting with the World of Culture, Cagliari, 22 September 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 23-24 September 2013, CLIII (218), p. 7.

68 FRANCIS, Meeting with the Brazilian Leaders, Rio de Janeiro, 27 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, 29-30 July 2013, CLIII (173), p. 4.

69 Cf. FRANCIS, Address to the Community of Writers ofLa Civiltà Cattolica", Rome, 14 June 2013, in: L'Osservatore Romano, Saturday 15 June 2013, CLIII (136), p. 7.

70 FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 24 November 2013, LEV, Città del Vaticano, 2013, n. 45.

71 Ibid.

72 FRANCIS, Meeting with Seminarians and Novices, Rome, 6 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 8-9 July 2013, CLIII (155), p. 6.

73 FRANCIS, Homily for the opening of the General Chapter of the Order of St. Augustine, Rome, 28 August 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Friday 30 August 2013, CLIII (197), p. 8.

74 FRANCIS, Meeting with Seminarians and Novices, Rome, 6 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 8-9 July 2013, CLIII (155), p. 6.

75 Ibid.

76 FRANCIS, Homily for the Opening of the General Chapter of the Order of St. Augustine, Rome, 28 August 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Friday 30 August 2013, CLIII (197), p. 8.

77 Ibid.

78 FRANCIS, Meeting with Seminarians and Novices, Rome, 6 July 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Monday-Tuesday 8-9 July 2013, CLIII (155), p. 6.

79 FRANCIS, Celebration of Vespers with the Community of Camaldolese Benedictine Nuns, Rome, 21 November 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Saturday 23 November 2013, CLIII (269), p. 7.

80 FRANCIS, Homily for the Opening of the General Chapter of the Order of St. Augustine, Rome, 28 August 2013, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Friday 30 August 2013, CLIII (197), p. 8.

81 FRANCIS, Homily at the Holy Mass in the Church of the Gesù on the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, Rome, 3 January 2014, in: L’Osservatore Romano, Saturday 4 January 2014, CLIV (02), p. 7.

82 BENEDICT XVI, General Audience, Rome, 19 December 2012, in: L'Osservatore Romano, Thursday 20 December 2012, CLII (292), p. 8.

83 AMBROSE, Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam, II, 19: CCL 14, p. 39.

84 FRANCIS, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 24 November 2013, LEV, Città del Vaticano, 2013, n. 288.