Pope Francis to Secular Institutes: You are revolutionary!
Pope Francis has told the men and women of Italy’s Secular Institutes that their establishment was a revolutionary and courageous act that revealed how his predecessor Pius XII knew how to read the signs of the times.
Handing his prepared text to the 200 consecrated lay men and women present, the Pope preferred to speak to them from the heart. He began by describing Pius XII’ apostolic constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia as an act of courage that the Church of the time needed. It institutionalized the reality of communities of lay consecrated men and women, and since then – the Pope said – “you have done great good for the Church, with great courage because we need courage to live in this world”.
“Many of you – he noted – life alone or in community, you come and go. You live everyday life in the world, but at the same time custody this contemplative dimension; contemplation of the Lord and the world; the reality and beauty of the world; the great sins of society, its deviations, all of these things…”
“This is why your vocation is fascinating – Pope Francis continued – because it takes place right there, where the salvation of man is played out and not just of man but of the institutions too no? “. “May you always safeguard this attitude, to go beyond things…and not just beyond… but to the very heart of things, where everything is played out: politics , economy , education , the family … there! …Don’t be tempted to think…but what can I do? Remember the Lord spoke to us about the grain of wheat, eh! Your life is like the grain … wherever you are do everything you can for the Kingdom to come. A simple life, a simple gesture but be yeast, be the grain, which makes [the Kingdom] grow. Thank you so much for what you do in the Church; thank you so much for your prayers and actions. Thank you for the hope and do not forget , eh! : Be revolutionary !”
Below please find a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s prepared text:
Dear Brothers and Sisters ,
I welcome you on the occasion of your Assembly and greet you by saying: I know and I appreciate your vocation! It is one of the newer forms of consecrated life recognized and approved by the Church, and perhaps one that is not yet fully understood. Do not be discouraged: you are part of that poor and outward reaching Church that dreams!
By vocation you are laity and priests like others in the midst of others, you lead an ordinary life, without outward signs, without the support of a community life, without the visibility of an organized apostolate or specific works. Your only wealth is the all-encompassing experience of love of God and for this you are able to know and share life’s trials in their many forms, maturing them with the light and power of the Gospel .
You are a sign of the Church in dialogue spoken of by Paul VI in the Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, ” Since the world cannot be saved from the outside, 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 honorable. 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. All this we must remember and strive to put into practice on the example and precept of Christ”(n.87).
The theme of your Assembly , “At the heart of human events: the challenges of a complex society”, points to the scope of your mission and your prophecy. You are in the world but not of the world, carrying within you the essentials of the Christian message: the Father’s love that saves. You are in the heart of the world with the heart of God.
Your vocation makes you interested in every individual and his or her deepest issues that often remain unspoken or masked. By virtue of the love of God that you have encountered and known, you are capable of closeness and tenderness. So you can be so close as to touch others, their wounds and expectations, their questions and needs, with a tenderness that is an expression of care that erases all distance. Like the Samaritan who walked by and saw and had compassion . This is the movement to which you have committed your vocation: to journey alongside each person and be close to every person you meet; because your being in the world is not simply a sociological condition, but it is a theological reality that calls you to be aware, to care for, recognize, see and touch the flesh of your brethren.
If this does not happen if you become distracted , or worse still, do not know this contemporary world but know and visit only the world that you are more comfortable with or more drawn to, then conversion is urgently needed! Yours is an outward reaching vocation by nature, not only because it brings you to others, but also because it asks you to live where every man lives.
Italy is the country with the largest number of secular institutes and members. You are a yeast that can produce good bread for many, the Bread of which there is so much hunger: someone to listen to people’s needs, desires, disappointments, hopes. Like those who has 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, is always better than standing still, locked within your questions or securities. The missionary passion, the joy of 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 creator of himself, 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 re-evaluate 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 prophecy 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 seize the seeds of innovation 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 [in community] and sent out [into the world], even when you are alone, because your consecration makes you a living spark of the Church. Always on the road with 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!