Lay people — on the front lines

27 Oct


The very future of the world is at stake. Morality is collapsing without which juridical and political structures cannot function. … The very future of the world is at stake. (Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas message, 2010)

 Following Vatican Council II, lay people became deeply involved in ecclesial ministries with little or no emphasis on their evangelistic duties in the world. Too often “evangelizing” was limited to social justice works and issues. It still is not generally known that Pope Paul VI calls on lay Catholics to witness their faith by a holy life that will blossom into vocal proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead.

Pope Paul’s words were proclaimed again by the Council:

The witness of (a holy) 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 to draw them toward the faith, or to the faithful to instruct them, strengthen them, incite them to a more fervent life; “for Christ’s love urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14), and in the hearts of all should the apostle’s words find echo: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16). (Decree on the Apostolate or Lay People, No. 6)

The Council had dramatic impact on the Church, to be sure, but it had a far-reaching effect on secular society and international relations. As dear friend Ed Wall recently commented:

When the Council began, the world was in danger of a final wipeout because of Moscow’s hold on so much of the planet – as seen, for example, in its awful threat during the Cuba crisis. One of the products of the Council was John Paul II, who had more to do with the end of world communism than any other figure. He built upon the inspired leadership of Paul VI in New York: “War no more!” The Council’s reach has gone far beyond the Church itself.

Pope Benedict’s call to the entire Church during this Year of Faith is to embrace again this world view of the Church’s mission. In our mission to bring souls to salvation, we must influence the entire world – those who are oppressed and the oppressors; the starving child and the stingy fat cat; the ignorant and the well-educated.

Catholics need to become convinced that evangelization is everyone’s job and privilege. Here’s what the Catechism has to say:

Since, like all the faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty … to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by men throughout the earth. This duty is more pressing when it is only through them that men can hear the Gospel and know Christ. Their activity … is so necessary that, for the most part, the apostolate of the pastors cannot be fully effective without it. (No. 900)

 (Next: Okay, I’m not convinced yet)


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