By Jonah McKeown
In a letter on Wednesday, Pope Francis commemorated the 75th anniversary of the first papal recognition of secular institutes, and encouraged the consecrated men and women involved in secular institutes to be “radical and at the same time free and creative, so as to receive from the Holy Spirit the most opportune way of living your Christian witness.”
“Consecrated secularity is called to put into practice the Gospel images of leaven and salt. Be a leaven of truth, goodness and beauty, fermenting communion with the brothers and sisters around you, because only through fraternity can the virus of individualism be defeated,” Pope Francis wrote in a Feb. 2 letter to Jolanta Szpilarewicz, president of the World Conference of Secular Institutes. Since 1997, the day has been observed as the World Day for Consecrated Life.
“And be salt that gives flavour, because without flavour, desire and wonder, life remains insipid and initiatives remain sterile. It will help you to remember how proximity and closeness have been the ways of your credibility, and how professionalism has given you ‘evangelical authority’ in working environments.”
Secular institutes were first given papal recognition in 1947 by Venerable Pius XII in his apostolic constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia. Members of secular institutes profess the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but live in the world, unlike members of religious institutes, who live in communities.
Pope Francis noted the importance of baptism, calling the sacrament “the source of every form of consecration.” At the same time, he called the vows that secular consecrated people make “the seal of your commitment to the Kingdom.”
The pope also cautioned against “a certain self-referential and closed religious mentality, disembodied and indifferent.”
“I think of you as an antidote to this,” he wrote.
“Consecrated secularity is a prophetic sign that urges us to reveal the Father’s love with our lives rather than with words, to show it daily on the roads of the world. Today is not so much the time for persuasive and convincing discourses; it is above all the time for witnessing because, while apologia is divisive, the beauty of life attracts. Be witnesses who attract!”
“You are in the world to testify that it is loved and blessed by God. You are consecrated for the world, which awaits your witness to a freedom that gives joy, that nourishes hope, that prepares the future. For this I thank you and I bless you from my heart, asking you to continue to pray for me,” the pope concluded.
(SOURCE: CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY)