Pope Benedict XVI has sent his greetings to the congress of the World Conference of Secular Institutes underway in Assisi.
Signed by his Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the message encourages the particular vocation of consecrated lay men and women, which is rooted and centred in Christ, but lived within wider society.
“For many, many centuries,” says Archbishop Gérald Lacroix of Quebec, “if you wanted to consecrate your life to God, you either became a priest, a nun, or a monk. But in the last centuries we’ve seen more and more people wanting to be lay men and women in the midst of the world in their working profession, but consecrated to God.”
Archbishop Lacroix has been a member of the Secular Institute of St. Pius X since 1975. He says that, as far back as 1947, Pope Pius XII recognised the special vocation of lay people witnessing to Christ while living in the world.” “More than sixty years ago! It’s new, and yet, not that new.” Now he says, “there are over 200 institutes in the world right now, men and women, most are lay people, some are priests, who live out their vocation through their profession in the midst of daily life.”
Archbishop Lacroix speaks fondly of his own experience as a layman in a secular institute: “I was very happy to be a witness of Christ in the working world, and being a witness to my fellow co-workers . . . but I would say that the experience of being in the working world gives a whole new perspective . . . But it’s quite a challenge to be out there.”
The Congress of the World Conference of Secular Institutes concludes this weekend with a General Assembly.