Every created reality has a specific role in creation. Every human being is called to holiness in a personal way. God calls every Christian to that holiness of God the Father as revealed by Jesus. Whether lay-married or unmarried, religious, priest or bishop, all take part in this universal call. Every one is called to share Christ’s messianic mission as it is delineated in his manifesto. (Lk.4: 16-21) The way one takes part in this mission differs according to one’s state of life. To each one is given a special gift, a charism to be at the service of the people of God. Each one is called to respond to God’s Grace in a unique way and to contribute to the realization of Jesus’ mission. Life in a Secular Institute is one of the ways, a way of life recognized by the church recently though historically Secular Institute dates back to the sixteenth century.
Need of Secular Institutes
Secular institutes arose as response to a need of consecrated persons living in the ordinary conditions of life. They are the result of “ a longing, a search for a synthesis, a way of life combining 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.” (SIODpg.84). According to Pope Paul VI “Secular Institutes live the secular life as consecrated persons and the consecrated life as lay persons”. He further calls them as a mysterious confluence between two powerful streams of Christian life, consecration and secularity. By their consecrated secularity they are inserted in the very heart of history, and, from within, they renew the world. With their life they project a diversity which is solidarity and sharing, not detachment; a diversity which according to Pope Benedict XVI, is a “bomb” of faith, love and evangelical radically. (Dialogue 149 pg.21.)
Secular Institutes in Church documents
Secular Institutes were formally recognized by Pope Pius XII as a form of consecrated life in the church by the promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution Prova Mater Ecclesia on 2nd February, 1947. One year later, on 12th March 1948, the motu proprio Primo Feliciter more clearly expressed the uniqueness of the institutes’ character and their role as Christian leaven in the world. Immediately after, on 19th March 1948, the Instruction Cum Sanctissimus further developed points particularly from Provida Mater Ecclesia. Later Perfectae Caritatis (11), Vita Consecrata (10), Christifideles Laid (56) and various discourses of Popes clarified the vocation of Secular Institutes.
The New Code of Canon Law defines Secular Institute as, “An Institute of consecrated life in which Christ’s faithful, being in the world, strive for the perfection of charity and endeavour to contribute to the sanctification of the world especially from within.” (CC.710)