Secular and Spiritual: Contradiction in Terms?
Not for St. Angela Merici in 1535, when she founded the Company of St. Ursula. She spoke (in Italian) of the “secolo”: the ordinary circumstances of lay life.
Not for Pope Pius XII on February 2, 1947, when he issued the document that gave “secular institutes” this title and recognized their place in the Church as a form of consecrated life.
“The fullness of life that I wanted to live and that I felt myself called to,” is how Réjeanne, the leader of the Company of Canada, describes her vocation. She found a path of “full consecration of my life according to the evangelical counsels, with a full responsibility of active presence in the world, to live this Gospel dynamic close to the people of my milieu.”
“Immersed in the life of the world,” is where Thérèse, another Canadian secular Ursuline, was drawn to give herself to God as a “lay woman in today’s missionary evangelization.” She lets herself be guided by God through the “signs of the times, in their complexity,” and finds encouragement in the “profound riches hidden in the daily life of the people around me.”
Elena, a new member, thought that she would be limping along in ill-fitting shoes if she tried to follow Jesus. To her surprise, “My shoes fit! They are the shoes of a bride, made for walking through the world, right next to Jesus, hand in hand, with so many other holy souls.”
They share Saint Angela’s recognition of the sacred in the secular world, where
- God’s creative action continues,
- Jesus’ mission unfolds,
- the laity are the Church at work, and
- we secular Ursulines follow our particular path in fidelity to the Baptismal vocation shared by all Christians.
The Company of St. Ursula is the original secular institute. (https://www.companyofstursula.org/our-global-family/secular-institutes) St. Angela led the way! In 1947 the rest of the Church caught up with her. We celebrate this 70th anniversary in gratitude for her spirit, her teaching, and her example.