By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Be confident in God like Mary and imitate her by listening and accepting his will, Pope Francis told members of the secular institute of the Missionary Oblate Cooperators of the Immaculate Conception.

“May you do everything with joyful dedication like Mary, so as to be truly Oblate missionary co-workers of the Immaculate. Go forward with courage and boldness, without concern for numbers,” he said.

The institute is like yeast, “small, hidden, but full of faith. The larger the dough to be leavened, the richer the quality of the leaven must be,” the pope said in a speech to members of the institute during an audience Nov. 20 at the Vatican.

The secular institute for women was celebrating the 70th anniversary of its founding by Oblate Father Gaetano Liuzzo and the 20th anniversary of its pontifical approval. It held its missionary congress in Rome Nov. 19-21.

“If mission is dedicating oneself to God’s plan in history, secularity consists in living it,” the pope told the women. “And the prophecy of secular consecration is incompatible with the fear of places and situations at risk.” It is in these situations that members of secular institutes can make their contribution, “with humility and courage, to the history of salvation, wherever people suffer exclusion and marginalization, and their dignity is violated.”

He encouraged the members to be “completely given to God and to your brothers and sisters. Not when there is applause and success, no, life is much more than that. It is being in the world to the full, in the truth and freedom of the children of God and in a relationship of brotherhood with others.”

These relationships are nourished by prayer, which “allows God to be close to us, it frees us from solitude and infuses hope. Prayer oxygenates life: just as one cannot live without breathing, one cannot be a Christian and live as a Christian, let alone as a consecrated person, without prayer,” he said.

Being “Oblate co-workers,” they are “totally given — oblate — to Christ in order to identify spiritually with him,” who came to be a servant among humanity and to die on a cross between two sinners, the pope said.

Jesus shows that life is “love that asks for love, grace that asks for gratuitousness” and it is a journey that “is not easy, it is not comfortable, it requires payment in person. But it is the path of peace and joy,” the pope said.

Finally, the pope told them to be “confident in God like Mary: imitating her in listening to and accepting God’s will, so that his Word may also become flesh in us.”

“Your vocation is love, your law is love, your medicine is love,” he said.