Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Putting an end to foolishness in all quarters

It is said that when Blessed John Henry Newman was asked by his Bishop what he thought of the laity, he replied that the clergy would look foolish without them.

I wanted to write something on the role of the laity because it seems to me that there is a great deal of confusion about what laypeople are supposed to do in the Church and the world. People spend a lot of time waffling on about the role of women in the Church, but a lot of the time I think that ignorance and confusion about the role of women stem from ignorance and confusion about the role of the laity. Commission of lay funeral ministers and (frequent) liturgical abuses involving Extrarodinary Ministers of the Eucharist don't really help, although sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether they are the symptom or the cause of this widespread ignorance and misunderstanding.

I can give references for the things in this list if required (Conciliar or post-Conciliar documents) but for now, this is my understanding of the role of the laity:

Personal Holiness
In a larger font because it is the most important. The universal vocation of all the baptised is holiness.
Frequent the sacraments, especially make regular, frequent Confession and Holy Communion.
Develop a prayer life (eg. visiting the Blessed Sacrament, praying the rosary - no study or special training required, reading the Bible, praying lectio divina...there are a lot of elements you can include according to the amount of time you have, your state of life etc.).

It might also be helpful to:
-get a spiritual director
-join an ecclesial movement (or another group where you can forge community and friendship with other Catholics)
-Form yourself - read the Catechism, listen to what the Pope says..., do a course of study (a Catholic course, obviously). This won't just help your personal holiness, but will also prepare you for apostolate.

This is not an exhaustive list. Do whatever it takes: only saints will change the world (LFF).

Quite possibly no-one has ever told you this (I was in my late twenties when I found out) but by virtue of your baptism you are also called to be an apostle. Apostolate can take the form of:

-Evangelisation - by witness of life AND by announcing Christ. That means not just being nice to your colleagues but also telling them why.
-Renewal of the temporal order - transforming everything which is in contrast with the gosepl, in your workplace, through your work, in your school, in your neighbourhood, in your home, in the bank queue, at the supermarket, outside your local abortion clinic...
-Charitable works and social aid - probably this is the one most people know about, but look how far down the list it is!

What else?
Well, really everything is covered by the above, but for the sake of clarification, the laity are called to "develop and make effective all those latent Christian and evangelical possibilities which already exist and operate in the world" (EN70) and "co-operate with pastors in the service of the ecclesial community" (EN72) in keeping with our proper state as laypeople, including:

-Catechesis - the first place of catechesis is the family, the domestic Church. Teach your children (and your spouse) Christian values, form them in the faith, take them to mass, teach them to be holy.
-Sacramental preparation
-Serving in your parish - in an administrative capacity, visiting the housebound and elderly, cleaning the church...
-Praying for your priests

If you're still unclear about any of this, there are plenty of beatified and canonised laymen and women. Read about their lives and follow their example.

Do not try to substitute for or replace your priest. You are not a priest, you are a layperson.

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