INTERNATIONAL MEETING OF THE COMPANY OF SAINT URSULA
SECULAR INSTITUTE OF SAINT ANGELA MERICI
ROME 22-26 JULY 2009
Mons. Adriano Tessarollo, The Ecclesiastical Assistant of the Council of the Federation
“… It is not eating and drinking that make the Kingdom of God but the saving justice, the peace and the joy brought by the Holy Spirit. It is the person who serves Christ in these things that will be approved by God and respected by everyone. (Rm 14, 17 – 18).
The value of consecrated lives
When addressing the participants at the International Conference for Secular Institutes in 1970, Pope Paul VI said, among other things:
”In this way, the path leading to your holiness is clearly outlined: the offering, for which the consent was freely given as part of the plan of salvation, as revealed by the word of God, the acceptance of what life has in store for us,
- accepting the will of God as a gift, in all the events that take place in world.
At the same time we can clearly make out the characteristics which define your mission as secular lay people:
- such as testimonies of human virtues, like “justice, peace and joy” (Rm 14, 17)
- “the moral lives you lead”, (1 Pt.2,12) as quoted by Peter in his first letter, echo the words of Our Master found in the gospel of Saint Matthew: “In the same way, your light must shine in people’s sight, so that seeing your good works, they may give praise to Your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5, 16).
It is also your duty and mission, as secular lay persons, to strive hard in order to build a society where every individual is treated with dignity and respect; where there are sound moral values to achieve it; in politics, economics, education, health or scientific research.
Our experiences in life, our work and personal interests, while forming part of our daily routine have a different meaning because our ultimate aim is to unite ourselves with the will of the Son of God, who entered this world for our salvation”. And he urged us on saying:
”Therefore involve yourself in every painful situation, in every act of injustice, in the constant struggle for truth, beauty and goodness, not because you have a solution for all the problems, but because in all that concerns the well being of mankind, you can be a living testimony of God’s plan of Salvation. This is what you were called for. Your consecration is a testimony of the graces given by the Holy Spirit, to help you live your vocation to the full; on the other hand, you willingly and submissively commit yourself to God’s plan, revealed through His Son Jesus Christ, whom you were called to follow”.
Secular consecration reflects the two aspects of Christian life. Firstly, the relationship with God, that is, belonging completely to Him, by means of the consecration and with the help of the word of God. Secondly the relationship with our fellow men, this can be seen from our behaviour in daily situations. Above all, it is the second aspect which will be dealt with in this meeting. We belong personally to the Heavenly Kingdom by means of our vocation and our consecration, and our mission is we help others to form part of this Kingdom. The definition of vocation and mission can be found in Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans.
“A privilege of yours must not be allowed to give rise to harmful talk…For it is not eating and drinking that make the kingdom of Heaven, but the serving justice, the peace and the joy brought by the Holy Spirit. It is the person who serves Christ in these things that will be approved by God and respected by everyone “. Rm 14, 17-19
The words of Saint Paul help us to understand that man is not an island but is in constant relationship with God and man. He who serves Christ in these things will be approved by God and respected by everyone. What are these things and which are the ways that help us to serve Christ and are acceptable to God and allow us to attain the respect of our fellow human beings? I am not sure, says Paul; some laws, traditions and particular customs come from men but with the help of the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul mentions the peace, the justice and the joy brought by the Holy Spirit.
These are the gifts which make up the Kingdom of God on earth.
The lay consecrated person builds a relationship with others and influences them by his behaviour. Therefore, our private religious life carries less weight than the evidence we give by our examples of sound moral values, which belong to the Kingdom of God, because they are the blessings of the Holy Spirit. The service and solidarity we render to our fellow men, is itself a service rendered to Christ and can only be achieved through obedience, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul emphasises that this can only be achieved by “the help of the Holy Spirit”. It is for this reason that a steady spiritual life, sustained by prayers and the Sacraments, helps the Christian to lead a life similar to Christ’s because, if a person allows the Holy Spirit to lead him, his actions become the result of the Holy Spirit.
One can attain the heavenly kingdom of God while still living on earth, by serving Christ through the help and intersession of the Holy Spirit who gives justice, peace and joy.
Saint Paul’s way of seeing things is very enlightening and of vital importance to the way of life the consecrated secular person leads, it is, above all, how a Christian should live. The words justice, peace and joy complement one another and should not be separated. In Saint Paul’s letter the word “justice” is considered first and foremost the action of God: it is a merciful justice which was rendered to us through the Redemption of Jesus Christ and by means of which He has reconciled us to Him, thus bringing back the lost peace. As a result of the justice of God, peace reigns within our hearts. Together with the word peace, Saint Paul adds the word “joy” because justice correlates to peace and joy, that is, to the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The virtues which are characteristic of the life of every Christian are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit urges us on to do good deeds in our Christian life. If we have faith and allow God’s “justice” to lead us, we can perform good deeds because His justice offers freedom, forgiveness and holiness. Thanks to the Holy Spirit we are saints, sons of God, temples of the Holy Spirit and new beings, capable of performing good deeds. The instability in our spiritual life comes from our continuous struggle to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us on to do good and the possibility to withdraw from the actions of the Holy Spirit and give in to the “weaknesses of the flesh”.
This will help us understand the importance of receiving the grace from God, the importance of prayer which enables us to receive it, and the strengthening of our faith, as we become more apt and submissive to the will of the Holy Spirit. In this way we will be able to win our inner struggle between the strength of the grace of God and our personal freedom, so that we will be able to lead a life of sound moral values. We read again in Saint Paul’s letter “Each of us must consider his neighbour’s good, so that we support one another. Christ did not indulge His feelings either” (Rm 15, 2-3).
In order to be “the new man”, in order to lead a real, mature Christian life, which is deep rooted in our intelligence and freedom of will, it is necessary that we change from within. Faith helps the Christian to accept God’s gift which will gradually change him and help him to understand, discover and contemplate on the mystery of God’s plan. Furthermore, Pope Paul VI said that the consecration reflects the special graces which are given by the Holy Spirit, to help you fulfil your vocation and bind you completely, willingly and submissively to the will of God the Father, revealed through His Son Jesus Christ, whom you were called to follow. Every time we meet Christ we have to change our way of thinking but for some, as was in your case, His request was more demanding; leave everything behind, because God is all and He will be your all in life. This does not mean that you will relate differently to Him or bind yourself to Him; it means that God has chosen you and He asks you to put your full trust in Him. To shape one’s life on that of Christ, keeping these words in mind, to adapt to Christ’s life, through the advice given in the Holy Scriptures, is fundamental and binding and requires zeal and tangible example.
This new way of looking at things establishes in us a deep ray of hope and with it the joy of being able to announce and share it with others. This is made possible by the help of the word of God and by our way of living according to the Gospels.