Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The role of the laity -- revisited

I decided to resurrect and old post that I think is very important for each and every member of the laity to understand. I would also recommend reading the documents of Vatican II that deal with the role of the laity. I am teaching about Lumen Gentium at the moment which brings this issue to the fore in Chapter IV & V. What I wrote about earlier is primarily from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

(First posted in April 2010):

All of us, by virtue of our Baptism and Confirmation have a share in these offices, not just the ordained clergy and religious.

Recognizing that the laity often don't realize that they have rights and responsibilities in this area, I thought I would offer some excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). I really suggest that read through the entire section to see what you can expect and what is expected of you.


Participation in Christ's Priestly Office

"Hence the laity, dedicated as they are to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and prepared so that even richer fruits of the Spirit maybe produced in them. For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit - indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born - all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives." (CCC, 901)

In a very special way, parents share in the office of sanctifying "by leading a conjugal life in the Christian spirit and by seeing to the Christian education of their children."(CCC, 902)


Participation in Christ's Prophetic Office

"Christ . . . fulfills this prophetic office, not only by the hierarchy . . . but also by the laity. He accordingly both establishes them as witnesses and provides them with the sense of the faith [sensus fidei] and the grace of the word."

To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer. (CCC, 904)

Lay people also fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization, "that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life." For lay people, "this evangelization . . . acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world."

This witness of life, however, is not the sole element in the apostolate; the true apostle is on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful. (CCC, 905)


Participation in Christ's Kingly Office

By his obedience unto death, Christ communicated to his disciples the gift of royal freedom, so that they might "by the self-abnegation of a holy life, overcome the reign of sin in themselves":

That man is rightly called a king who makes his own body an obedient subject and, by governing himself with suitable rigor, refuses to let his passions breed rebellion in his soul, for he exercises a kind of royal power over himself. And because he knows how to rule his own person as king, so too does he sit as its judge. He will not let himself be imprisoned by sin, or thrown headlong into wickedness. (CCC, 908)

"Moreover, by uniting their forces let the laity so remedy the institutions and conditions of the world when the latter are an inducement to sin, that these may be conformed to the norms of justice, favoring rather than hindering the practice of virtue. By so doing they will impregnate culture and human works with a moral value." (CCC, 909)

These sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church contain further explanation about lay participation in Christ's offices of priest, prophet and king. I particularly like CCC 909 because of the recent negative media barrage on Pope Benedict XVI and the Church. If you read carefully you'll see that we are to unite forces, meaning to bring our voices together in peaceful chorus, and then the laity will turn the tide on the institutions and conditions in the world.

In light of the scandals, it is up to us to make our voices heard, to both the bishops and the pastors, that we want our seminaries and religious communities reformed and returned to conformity to the Heart of Christ. We deserve to be taught what is true, and to be able to trust those who are in authority.

The laity does have a voice, indeed, we have an obligation according to our participation in these offices to give Sacred Worship; to spread the Kingdom; to practice Christian governance in the Church and in the world.

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